English that looks like Chinese. "At first glance, Square Word Calligraphy appears to be nothing more unusual than Chinese characters, but in fact it is a new way of rendering English words in the format of a square so they resemble Chinese characters. Chinese viewers expect to be able to read Square Word Calligraphy but cannot. Western viewers, however are surprised to find they can read it. Delight erupts when meaning is unexpectedly revealed." (Britta Erickson, The Art of Xu Bing.) [more inside]
A girl upon the shore did ask a favour of the sea;For nearly 20 years, Newfoundland group Great Big Sea have been creating acoustic Celtic folk-rock covers and interpretations of traditional Newfoundland and Labrador sea shanties, folk, fishing and party songs, which draw from the island's rich 500-year-old multicultural (Irish, English, Scottish and French) heritage. [more inside]
"Return my blue eyed sailor boy safely back to me.
Forgive me if I ask too much, I will not ask for more,
but I shall weep until he sleeps safe upon the shore."
What If Other Authors Had Written The Lord Of The Rings?...Wilde, Wodehouse, and more.
...it's true that the progressive passive first appeared in the English language in the second half of the 18th century, replacing what historians of English grammar call the passival.
"Not since Saturday Night Live’s Emily Litella thundered against conserving natural racehorses and protecting endangered feces has a polemicist been so incensed by her own misunderstandings." - Harvard Psychology Professor Steven Pinker responds to Joan Acocella's New Yorker piece, The English Wars [more inside]
The myth of English as a global language One would have to say that English, far from being a pure maiden, looks like a woman who has appeared out of some distant fen, had more partners than Moll Flanders, learned a lot in the process, and is now running a house of negotiable affection near an international airport
Li Yang, founder of the most popular English-language school in China, Crazy English, (previously on MeFi) is now found to have beaten his American wife multiple times. Domestic violence is found in some 25% of Chinese marriages (!) but the actions of Li's wife Kim Lee to publicize the abuse has raised the profile of spousal abuse in a country where this was not often publicly discussed previously.
Is the English language becoming another factor of inequality? How English shaped the academic world? (pdf). Is this linguistic imperialism?
The Mind is a Metaphor. A database of thousands of metaphors organized by category, like 18th century, Liquid, or Jacobite. It's maintained by University of Virginia English Professor Brad Pasanek.
The Lonely Planet has come up with a list of thirty travel terms that aren't in the dictionary.
The Beatles and the Bolsheviks. An excellent essay on the decline of the college student. How much of the professor's frustration can be linked to selective memory?
The Corpus of American Historical English is a searchable index of word usage in American printed material from 1810 to 2009. Powerful complex searches allow you to trace the appearance and evolution of words and phrases and even specific grammatical constructions, see trends in frequency, and plenty more. Start with the 5-Minute Tour.
"If you can pronounce correctly every word in this poem, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world. After trying the verses, a Frenchman said he’d prefer six months of hard labour to reading six lines aloud."
Here are fan-translated Game Center CX (previously) Episodes on YouTube: #1: Atlantis No Nazo, #2: Challenger, #3: Ghosts 'N Goblins, #4: Konami Wai Wai World, #5: Metroid, #6: Solomon's Key, #7 & #8: Prince of Persia: Part 1 - Part 2, #9: Mega Man II, #10: Super Mario 3. Much more after the break.... [more inside]
George Whitman, founder of the Parisian landmark bookstore Shakespeare And Company, has died at the age of 98
American Woman: Vocal fried. On the partial glottalization of speech in young English speaking American women.
How new words are created - just one section of a site that charts 'How English went from an obscure Germanic dialect to a global language'.
It has long been noted that style manuals and other usage advice frequently contain unintended examples of the usage they condemn. (This is sometimes referred to as Hartman's law or Muphry's law - an intentional misspelling of Murphy.) Starting from this observation, Joseph Williams' paper The Phenomenology of Error offers an examination of our selective attention to different types of grammatical and usage errors that goes beyond the descriptivism-prescriptivism debate. (alternate pdf link for "The Phenomenology of Error") [more inside]
Emory University English professor Mark Bauerlein (previously) argues that the majority of research by literary academics has no meaningful value. [more inside]
Gullah—the African-influenced dialect of Georgia’s Sea Islands—has undergone few changes since the first slave ships landed 300 years ago, and provides a clear window into the shaping of African-American English. This classic PBS program traces that story from the west coast of Africa through the American South, then to large northern cities in the 1920s. Studying the origins of West African pidgin English and creole speech—along with the tendency of 19th-century white Southerners to pick up speech habits from their black nursemaids—the program highlights the impact of WWI-era industrialization and the migration of jazz musicians to New York and Chicago.
The Awl takes a look at how Twitter has allowed local slang to go global, and the unhappiness this causes for some.
Skwerl is a short film in which the dialogue sounds like what a person who speaks very little English might hear. Be sure to turn on the closed captioning and choose "Transcribe Audio". (Previously)
"The Beatles and the Rolling Stones rule pop music, Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world...and me and my brother ruled London." Reginald "Reggie" Kray and his twin brother Ronald "Ronnie" Kray were the foremost perpetrators of organized crime in London's East End during the 1950s and 1960s. [more inside]
Last summer the BBC did a series on "Americanisms," or how American English was "infecting" the Queen's English. Ben Yagoda responds and documents how in fact it's the other way around. He documents "Britishisms" on his blog.
Ten insulting words you should know. And a good deal of words you may wish you didn't. (SFW unless mild swear words count).
In 1989, invited to an open air theatre, late at night, I first experienced the 6 hour long screening of Peter Brook's Mahabharata, a much revered Hindu epic which includes the complete Bhagavad Gita as a central part of its narrative. Brook's multiracial casting and innovative treatment received criticism yet its impact has been acknowledged anyone who sat through the 9 hour play, the 6 hour TV serialization or only the 3 hour DVD. [more inside]
Chinese-English Ambigrams [Previously] [Wikipedia]
David Moser and William James (Wm Jas) Tychonievich
David Moser and William James (Wm Jas) Tychonievich
Samosapedia "The definitive guide to South Asian lingo". Eg., Enthu Cutlet: An enthu cutlet is an earnest eager beaver who is able to muster up inordinate amounts of energy, inspiration and enthusiasm towards a variety of things. (via)
There are more than 700 curious tunnel networks in Bavaria, but their purpose remains a mystery. Were they built as graves for the souls of the dead, as ritual spaces or as hideaways from marauding bandits? Archeologists are now exploring the subterranean vaults to unravel their secrets. [more inside]
"I accept that sometimes American phrases have a vigour and vivacity. A relative of mine told me recently he went to a business meeting chaired by a Californian woman who wanted everyone to speak frankly. It was 'open kimono'. How's that for a vivid expression?" The BBC explores Americanisms, but they're not the first: The Telegraph, Daily Mail, and the Economist have also weighed in on the debate. (Somewhat previously.)
The History of English in Ten Minutes (Chapter I: Anglo-Saxon), from Open University. [via] [more inside]
We all know beloved fantasy author Terry Pratchett has a sword, but did you know he has his own Coat of Arms?
Linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts, check out free Q&A site English Language and Usage. [more inside]
"English As She Is Spoke is a broken Portuguese-to-English phrasebook written by two translators, José da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino. Sort of. You see, in reality, translator Pedro Carolino wanted to create a phrasebook on his own. Not knowing English, he took José da Fonseca’s French-to-English phrasebook and then used a Portuguese-to-French phrasebook to translate that. It’s sort of like what you and your friends do on Google Translate, but with a poor, mislead Portuguese man doing it by hand in candlelight." [more inside]
The "King of English", H.W. Fowler wrote A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. Although "modern linguists are almost by definition incapable of understanding the function of a book like Fowler’s Dictionary", the "half-educated Englishman of literary proclivities" who just wants to know: "Can I say so-&-so?’" may now buy the classic first edition of the Dictionary again. An earlier book, The King's English, is free for anyone seeking advice on Americanisms, Saxon words, the spot plague, archaism or split infinitives.
"What's Your English?" - A Youtube rhyme-off between the British Professor Elemental and the Canadian Baba Brinkman regarding the commonalities and differences between variations on the English language, courtesy of the Macmillan Dictionary. (Previous Brinkman, Previous Elemental)
Evolving English: The British Library's Evolving English exhibition runs until 3rd April but if you can't make it to London you can view the English language timeline, map your voice, or try this quiz on the website.
Online Corpora. In linguistics, a corpus is a collection of 'real world' writing and speech designed to facilitate research into language. These 6 searchable corpora together contain more than a billion words. The Corpus of Historical American English allows you to track changes in word use from 1810 to present; the Corpus del Español goes back to the 1200s.
A quite ugly but intriguing map of English dialects in North America.
"It is of such stiff stuff that the upper lip of the British phonetician should be fashioned, giving short shrift to chauvinism."
Howjsay.com is a unique online speaking dictionary that offers clear pronunciations of English words, phrases, slang terms, technical terms, brand names, proper names, profanity, and many foreign words, including common variations and alternatives. Astoundingly, the sound files are not computer-generated -- every single one of the site's 138,152 entries are enunciated in the dignified tones of British academic and polyglot Tim Bowyer, who has steadily expanded its glossary over the years using logs of unsuccessful searches and direct user suggestions. The site is part of Bowyer's Fonetiks.org family of language sites, and is also available as a browser extension and as a mobile app for iPhone/iPod and Blackberry.