In 1948, when John was five, Guy Burgess came to stay for a holiday. John's mother resented Burgess and his close relationship with her husband, and began staging accidents to claim attention; she once reported being mugged in her car, and on another occasion set fire to the living room, suffering serious burns. She was later sent to a Swiss clinic for treatment. Philby was posted to the United States the following year. The strange life of John Philby, the son of "the most hated man in England", Kim Philby, a member of the notorious Cambridge Five spying ring. (via)
The Worst Date Ever is the new book by Jane Bussmann. She starts as a celebrity journalist in LA and ends up breaking a massive story about the political situation in Uganda from a scary bit of Africa. Ms. Bussmann also wrote the first internet sit-com: The Junkies (parts 1, 2, 3) , and had a hand in South Park, Brass Eye and Jam. The wonderful Sally Phillips directed the Edinburgh stage show that became the book and Chris Morris says it's "Genuinely confusing to rapists". [more inside]
The influence of Edmund Spenser across two and a half centuries as traced through 25000 different texts
Spenser and the Tradition: English Poetry 1579-1830 is a mammoth database of English poetry and other writings that traces the influence of the great 16th-Century poet Edmund Spenser on English poetry across 250 years. There are roughly 25000 different texts on the site, over 6000 poems from famous classics to obscure ephemera, and further thousands of biographies and commentaries. Since it would take years to read all the material I am happy to say that there is a guide to navigating the database, an overview of its contents, a statistical summary and an essay on tradition and innovation. The immense database, which started life as a pile of index cards, was compiled largely by Virginia Tech Professor David Hill Radcliffe over the course of 17 years.
400 years ago today, Thomas Thorpe entered into the Stationers' Register a book titled "Shake-Speares Sonnets". However, Clinton Heylin argues that - like Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes - the Sonnets were never intended for a wide audience. "In both cases, they were killing time and at the same time dealing with huge personal issues in a private way, which they never conceived of coming out publicly."
Nihongodict is an AJAXy online Japanese-English dictionary. The list of matches auto-updates as you type. You can enter (or paste in) romaji, Kanji or kana, and use character maps for hiragana and katakana. Results can be bookmarked. [more inside]
The Gawain Project is an ongoing translation of the late 14th century anonymous poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (originally written in Middle English) into Modern English, for the amusement of Arthurians and anyone who likes a good story. [via mefi projects]
A tale of two countries Some time ago, the french & German tv channel Arte had created an internet extension devoted to audio only, Arteradio. This website contains hours of audio creations. This is the place where you can listen to The first radio drama /la première fiction radio /in two languages and one version /en deux langues et une seule version /a BBC-ARTE Radio coproduction /enregistrée à Paris et London /recorded on location /diffusée en hertzien /broadcasted on BBC Radio 4 on February, 4th, 2009 /online on arteradio.com. You can also listen to McKenzie Wark, or to the moment of silence created on September the eleventh 2002, to Steve, to English pupils in Paris, to Susan George, to Dean Hurley commenting his work, and then dive into the complete unknown, and pure French sounds, like these testimonies about masturbation, or about la chanson, like a Paris postcard, or even a street snapshot.
As Orwell said, "another English characteristic which is so much a part of us that we barely notice it,... is the addiction to hobbies and spare-time occupations". Of those, trainspotting must be the most misunderstood. But now you can try it yourself with the online trainspotting simulator and join in the fun!
Blandings is "a guide and companion to the books, stories, plays and musicals of P. G. Wodehouse, probably the finest craftsman of the English language in the 20th Century." It has lists of his works (and advice on collecting them), a miscellany (old English counties, money and words, JPs, younger sons, sport, public schools and much more), a gazetteer (with notes on real places and maps), and other amenities, but what really put a jaunty spring in my step was the detailed notes for the works. If you go, say, to the Something Fresh page and click on the Notes & Quotes tab, you will find, well, Notes and Quotes. The first thing your bright, expectant orb will encounter: "Arundell Street - no longer exists but it was close to Leicester Square and held both the Hotels Mathis and Previtali (also gone). See West End for a sketch map showing its location." It's a blooming marvel! (Via Wordorigins.org; Wodehouse previously on MetaFilter.)
Ron English Interview "How come you're allowed to have private property on public space?" A great nine minute interview with Ron English talking about art, advertising, and censorship and creating work that includes footage of English in action. (via Juxtapoz)
A visualization of all the nouns in the English language arranged by semantic meaning. [NSFW words included!] [more inside]
Charlie Corcoran, Bagman of the Morris Ring, believes that Morris dancing (previously) may be on the "brink of extinction". This is what the world would miss. Not everyone is that troubled by the news, however - as assistant librarian at the English Folk Dance and Song Society Elaine Bradtke argues, there are more obscure types of English folk dancing, including (but probably not limited to) Long Sword dancing (a serious-looking dance), Molly dancing (not a very serious dance at all), Rapper dancing (the Welsh miner kind, not the hip-hop kind), Step clog (which needs no introduction), and the English ceilidh (aka barn dancing).
International House of Logorrhea, at The Phrontistry, a free online dictionary of weird and unusual words to help enhance your vocabulary. Generous language resources, 2 and 3 letter Scrabble words l The Compass DeRose Guide to Emotion Words l all kinds of glossaries for color terms, wisdom, love and attraction, scientific instruments, manias and obsessions, feeding and eating, carriages and chariots, dance styles and all kinds of fun word stuff. [more inside]
"Conquer English to Make China Stronger!" is the philosophy of Li Yang, founder of the Crazy English school (and style) of language, described by some as "English as a Shouted Language" for its main method of shouting English words in public to overcome shyness. Li Yang has achieved Elvis-like popularity in China, not just through his public lectures but also through the sales of books, media, teaching materials, and a memoir titled "I am Crazy, I Succeed". Li Yang's unorthodox methods - which include encouraging students to "lose face" and cope with embarrassment on the way to success - have earned him fame and fortune, including headlining the 5th Beijing Foreign Language Festival and being the main English teacher for China's Olympic volunteers. Li Yang's secret to success: "... to have them continuously paying—that’s the conclusion I’ve reached."
In 2009, a remarkably gifted politician, confronting a remarkably difficult set of challenges, will have to learn to say "No we can't", Guantánamo will prove a moral minefield, economic recovery will be invisible to the naked eye, governments must prepare for the day they stop financial guarantees, we will judge our commitment to sustainability, scientists should research the causes of religion, we will all be potential online paparazzi, English will have more words than any other language (but it's meaningless), Afghanistan will see a surge of Western (read: American) troops, Iran will continue its nuclear quest while diplomacy lies in shambles, the sea floor is the new frontier, we should rethink aging, (non-)voters will continue to thwart the European project -- but cheap travel will continue to buoy it -- though it has some unfinished business to attend to, and a Nordic defence bond will blossom.
The Economist: The World in 2009. [more inside]
The Economist: The World in 2009. [more inside]
Ever wonder what a quocker-wodger was? Just what did they mean when they said that you were all kippers and curtains? Worldwidewords.org has the answer. "More than 1600 pages on the origins, history, evolution and idiosyncrasies of the English language worldwide." Word geeks, say goodbye to the rest of your afternoon.
A Brief History of English, with Chronology by Suzanne Kemmer is one of many articles at Words in English, a website designed as "a resource for those who want to learn more about this fascinating language – its history as a language, the origins of its words, and its current modern characteristics."
Fan-diddly-damn-tastic! The whirly-twirly-leapy-flippy world of nonce words. When something is crappy, do you ever yearn for synonyms such as crapitudinous, crapfestacular, and craposcopic? (via ADS-L)
Japes for Owre Tymes is a blog that translates one newspaper comic strip a day into Middle English. "Why? Because it can..." If you want to try reading the translated strips but need a bit of help here's a Middle English dictionary.
Ed Rondthaler on english pronounciation. (Quicktime Video)
Puzzled by sugary J-Pop bands and their eccentric (and failed) TV shows? Frustrated and confused by the complexity of Japanese and want to see what your inchoate blustering looks like from the other side? Then join "perennially unpopular" gaijin celebrity Thane Camus (grand-nephew of Albert Camus), as he walks a class of fellow pop star clichés through an endearingly awkward English conversation class.
The 100 Most Common Words In The English Language see how many you can guess in 5 minutes
The Grammar Curmudgeon makes up for all of those snarky grammar comments we refrain from posting.
Did you know the BBC has extensive pages on learning English?
It's what's for breakfast. But, according to the Times, anyone with a college degree is too intelligent to eat a fry-up. [more inside]
"Speak English" sign at cheesesteak shop not discriminatory. A split three-member panel of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations ruled that a sign in Genos Steaks the South Philadelphia cheesesteak shop did not convey a message that service would be refused to non-English speakers. [more inside]
to ascertain what degree of resolution was necessary in order to place one’s self in formal opposition to the most sacred laws of society
Stand and Deliver! Dick Turpin was the quintessential highwayman, perhaps not as flamboyant as "Swift Nick" Nevison or as low profile as Jerry Abershaw, but legends abound about his exploits. He was buried (several times) in York after throwing himself off the gallows. 'Course, he's got his own heavy metal band, and his own swashbuckling t.v. adventure series (from 1979 to 1982) in which breathless maids said with heaving breasts "Dick 's been taken" (but of course, you can't hold Dick for long).
Over the years millions of children have been introduced to a foreign language by Big Muzzy [wiki], a friendly, green, clock-eating monster. Here's the complete British English version of Muzzy in Gondoland on YouTube: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20.
Open Yale Courses provides free and open access to seven introductory courses taught by distinguished teachers and scholars at Yale University:Astronomy, English, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Religious Studies: a full set of class lectures produced in high-quality video, syllabi, suggested readings, and problem sets. [more inside]
The Imagined Village [promoting an album too but plenty of interesting free stuff] Several luminaries of a now more globalised British music scene reinterpret the folk heritage and pose questions about a modern English identity. There's Benjamin Zephaniah's version of Tam Lyn and a retelling of Hard Times in Old England; even our American cousins get in on the act, for instance remixes like Doghouse Riley's doo-wop Cold Hailey Rainy Night. There's also a few thinky pieces explaining what it's all about.
In the 19th century, English author Favell Mortimer wrote several books describing various countries to children. Apparently she didn't travel much. [more inside]
Increase your pronunciation skills and your vocabulary by checking out 6000 English words recorded by a native speaker. Not enough for you? Then would you believe 20,000 English words recorded by a native speaker?
Single Japanese Male. Rather than yammering in Meta about what "best of the web" means, let's have an object-lesson in astonishing obscure excellence. Introducing every last one of you to the Virtual Wilbye Consort.
100 words every high school graduate should know (according to the editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries).
a fascinating short timely rectangular (due to the CSS box model) white-on-blue American pixel-based educational post (about adjectives)
"The old, mean man" vs. "The mean old man." Here's an aspect of English (and other languages) I've never thought of before. If you're using a string of adjectives, there's a natural order for them to appear in: "opinion :: size :: age :: shape :: color :: origin :: material :: purpose". (Although I find "old, mean," due to it's strange order, sort of striking.) [more info: 1, 2, 3]
Some movie villains aren't necessarily bad, they're just accented that way. But what criteria do we use to determine a truly, uniquely bad film accent? Obviously, it helps if an actor or movie annoys you to begin with, but some bad accents are simply indisputably painful to watch. Kind of like a mashup of everything in The Speech Accent Archive with a little bit of Received Pronounciation thrown in here and there. Yes it's true, even the average American enjoys trying to rock a ridiculously fake British tone once in a while (there are dialects?). But believe it or not, there are average people in this world actually trying to learn how to sound American too! OK well, on second thought, it's more likely that they're just trying to sound less "foreign" while they're here so we don't mock them.
Now here's the obligatory Fun Quiz portion of the post: what American accent do YOU have? Previously.
Now here's the obligatory Fun Quiz portion of the post: what American accent do YOU have? Previously.
BBC News: "Gee, I just love your accent." The American nation may be more wary of crossing borders, but their love affair with the British accent continues unabated. Despite the fact that there are multiple variants therein, and what may be considered a "low-class" accent in the UK is still considered a "high-class" posh accent in the US. Naturally, the Brits will play this up to the hilt - and it may help in getting them jobs, credibility, Oscars and Emmys, by no less an authority than Stephen Fry.
...Historians teach that they are mostly descended from different peoples: the Irish from the Celts and the English from the Anglo-Saxons who invaded from northern Europe and drove the Celts to the country’s western and northern fringes. But geneticists who have tested DNA throughout the British Isles are edging toward a different conclusion. Many are struck by the overall genetic similarities, leading some to claim that both Britain and Ireland have been inhabited for thousands of years by a single people that have remained in the majority, with only minor additions from later invaders like Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Normans. The implication that the Irish, English, Scottish and Welsh have a great deal in common with each other, at least from the geneticist’s point of view, seems likely to please no one.A United Kingdom? Maybe
See also Myths of British ancestry
In the words of one well known Basque cultural icon: HA Ha!
28-year-old Tomomi Kunishige has created a new form of Japanese calligraphy, dubbed Eikanji (literally 'english kanji'), which uses the Roman alphabet to represent Japanese characters. Even if you don't study Japanese her calligraphy is still worth admiring, though it must be said that some of the paintings involve a fairly relaxed usage. (taken from Mainichi Daily News)
With malice towards all, Khushwant Singh has been one of the most ascerbic tongues in the English language, particularly in his editorship of the venerable yet now deceased Illustrated Weekly of India. Filled with Goan cartoonist Mario Miranda's stunning illustrations, short stories, photojournalism, scholarly articles and humor, I miss the touch of Indian society it kept for desis abroad.
Webcameron. David Cameron, leader of the Conservative party in the UK, reaches out to the Youtube generation.
St Custard's is an English preparatory school set in bracing downland country. Find out more about its teachers, the headmaster and his predecessors, the discipline, and its star pupil Nigel Molesworth. As a bonus you can find out more about how Kennedy captured the gerund and led it into captivity. If you're still confused, click here, here and here for the background to Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle's satire on a certain part of 1950s England.