914 posts tagged with Language.
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The IKEA Dictionary

The IKEA dictionary explains the origin of over 1200 IKEA product names.
posted by jedicus on Nov 28, 2015 - 48 comments

So what’s your solution?

Professor of Mathematics Izabella Laba's "A Response to … " Scott Aaronson's "Words Will Do". An exchange between a mathematician and a computer scientist, on the use of terms including: privilege, hegemony, false consciousness, mansplaining, etc., and the general problem of clear communication, when the social sciences are applied towards political causes. [more inside]
posted by polymodus on Nov 21, 2015 - 111 comments

Dominicans speak only one word. And it is all of the words.

Joanna rants: Types of Spanish Accents [more inside]
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey on Nov 16, 2015 - 44 comments

English is not normal

English is not normal. "No, English isn’t uniquely vibrant or mighty or adaptable. But it really is weirder than pretty much every other language." (Aeon via Longform).
posted by pravit on Nov 15, 2015 - 103 comments

Kink left severity 4

Looking for a new esoteric language to learn? Try rally notes. Learn the symbols or study these sample rally notes. Not esoteric enough? Try the Jemba Inertia Notes System. [more inside]
posted by Foci for Analysis on Nov 14, 2015 - 10 comments

A place where our language lives

A short film: The winter stories of the Ojibwe are vital narratives that offer a historical and moral guide for understanding the environment and our people’s place within it. One of these stories tells of the first maple sugar gathering. A tree offered its life-force (sap) for use by the people to help keep them alive through a difficult winter when many were starving to death. This tree asked to be cared for in return and to be thanked properly for this gift. Each spring the students at Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Immersion School open the school sugar bush with a retelling of this story and an opening feast of thanks.
posted by rtha on Nov 9, 2015 - 6 comments

Translating gender: Ancillary Justice in Five Languages

In Ann Leckie’s novel Ancillary Justice (Orbit Books: 2013), the imperial Radch rules over much of human-inhabited space. Its culture – and its language – does not identify people on the basis of their gender: it is irrelevant to them. In the novel, written in English, Leckie represents this linguistic reality by using the female pronoun ‘she’ throughout, regardless of any information supplied about a Radchaai (and, often, a non-Radchaai) person’s perceived gender. This pronoun choice has two effects. Firstly, it successfully erases grammatical difference in the novel and makes moot the question of the characters’ genders. But secondly, it exists in a context of continuing discussions around the gendering of science fiction, the place of men and women and people of other genders within the genre, as characters in fiction and as professional/fans, and beyond the pages of the book it is profoundly political. It is a female pronoun. When translating Ancillary Justice into other languages, the relationship between those two effects is vital to the work.
posted by sciatrix on Nov 8, 2015 - 95 comments

Recurrent neural network for generating stories about images

This experiment explores how to generate little romantic stories about images, using neural-storyteller, a recently published experiment by Ryan Kiros.
posted by signal on Nov 6, 2015 - 10 comments

"I don't know what that is." "You know... Gabagool."

How Capicola Became Gabagool: The Italian New Jersey Accent, Explained.
posted by bondcliff on Nov 6, 2015 - 105 comments

Rejecting the gender binary: a vector-space operation

“Word Embedding Models let us take a stab formalizing an interesting counterfactual question: what would the networks of meaning in language look like if patterns that map onto gender did not exist?” [more inside]
posted by Rangi on Nov 1, 2015 - 17 comments

Argots and Ludlings

"Though there appears to be no definitive research on gender and gibberish, it became clear to me that girls are drawn to gibberish and the dozens of other secret languages and language games, also called argots and ludlings, because using them builds social bonds." Jessica Weiss, "The Secret Linguistic Life of Girls: Why Girls Speak Gibberish." [more inside]
posted by MonkeyToes on Oct 25, 2015 - 58 comments

Digital poetry - Leaving the ivory tower

The challenge: if people would only know, hear, and see what poets did, then at least some of them would realize too how cool literature can actually be. - Three projects which engage in popularizing, mediating, and digitally archiving contemporary Hungarian poetry. [more inside]
posted by Wolfdog on Oct 25, 2015 - 0 comments

“This was a brilliant innovation,”

Unfinished story… [The Guardian] [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Oct 23, 2015 - 4 comments

Totally Texas

On behalf of the MeFites of Norway: It has come to our attention that somebody has let slip that "totally Texas" (in Norwegian "helt texas") is used as an expression to convey that some event is crazy or totally out of control. After decades, the Americans now know. An investigation into the leak will be made. Thank you.
posted by Harald74 on Oct 22, 2015 - 132 comments


There are at least three emoji-based programming languages: 🍀 (aka 4Lang; bubblesort example), Emojinal, and HeartForth (stack-based, for extra obscurity; factorial example). [more inside]
posted by jedicus on Oct 15, 2015 - 29 comments

"I'm sorry, Mikhail, if I could? Didn't mean to cut you off there."

...or, how a woman would have to ask Gorbachev to tear down this wall.
posted by nightrecordings on Oct 15, 2015 - 37 comments

Ooo wee ooooo, baby baby...

Why ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ Sound So Similar in So Many Languages
posted by Johnny Wallflower on Oct 13, 2015 - 25 comments

Lucidibeet hubcar

You've seen @everyword. Now here's every nonword.
posted by nebulawindphone on Oct 6, 2015 - 33 comments

The latest battleground in language shaping culture

His daughter died as a result of a car "accident". He and others argue that they should be called "crashes". An academic exercise, or the latest battle in changing the way people think about car culture?
posted by Automocar on Oct 4, 2015 - 232 comments

You're saying "Khaleesi" wrong.

Building the languages of Game of Thrones.
posted by curious nu on Oct 2, 2015 - 15 comments

Priyanka Chopra’s Accent Is Helping Me Solve My Biggest Identity Crisis

"What’s hardest to explain, especially to those who’ve grown up within one unshakeable cultural universe, is that none of us are faking it."
posted by stoneweaver on Sep 30, 2015 - 36 comments

A visual dictionary of the vocalizations of Mongolian herders.

Or, what to say to your cow on the steppe. Visual anthropologist Natasha Fijn presents this short video of shouts and moos as an appendix to her book, Living With Herds.
posted by gusandrews on Sep 28, 2015 - 12 comments

Breaking the communication barrier between dolphins and humans

“Head trainer Teri Turner Bolton presses her palms together over her head, the signal to innovate, and then puts her fists together, the sign for “tandem.” Comparative psychologist Stan Kuczaj records several seconds of audible chirping between [the dolphins] Hector and Han, then his camera captures them both slowly rolling over in unison and flapping their tails three times simultaneously. [...] Either one dolphin is mimicking the other [...] or it’s not an illusion at all: When they whistle back and forth beneath the surface, they’re literally discussing a plan.[more inside]
posted by Rangi on Sep 15, 2015 - 38 comments

A Corpus of Corpora

corpora is a Github repository containing machine-readable lists of interesting words and phrases that "are potentially useful in the creation of weird internet stuff." The corpora range from the mundane (common English words, animals, corporations, pizza toppings) to the obscure (types of knot, wrestling moves, Lovecraftian deities) to the absurd (states of drunkenness, deceased Spinal Tap drummers, unrhymable words).
posted by schmod on Sep 12, 2015 - 40 comments

Does Your Language Shape How You Think?

new research has revealed that when we learn our mother tongue, we do after all acquire certain habits of thought that shape our experience in significant and often surprising ways.
posted by bq on Sep 9, 2015 - 104 comments

If every state had an official word, what would it be?

Slate presents The United Slang of America, a state by state map of popular regionalisms. I'll take jojos over a quakenado any day.
posted by redsparkler on Sep 2, 2015 - 179 comments

Things That Make You Go HURRRGGGHH

Do recipes for moist cakes make your skin clammy? Did that article about hardscrabble pugilists leave you nauseated? Do you feel super-embarrassed (YT) when you have to say completely innocent words like onus or cunning or bean curd out loud? Or even in writing? If so, you are far from alone! Word aversion, or logomisia, is an extremely common phenomenon that affects up to one in five (links to PDF) of us, and it's extremely contagious. [more inside]
posted by jake on Aug 28, 2015 - 226 comments

You Be Illein'

Why do some people refer to themselves in the third person? asks Vanessa Barford, in a BBC News Magazine article. Misteraitch doesn’t know. The act of referring to oneself in this way is known as Illeism (Wikipedia) (apparently from the Latin ille meaning “he, that”). At Language Log, Arnold Zwicky writes on Illeism and its Relatives, and maintains that illeism in young children ought not be blamed on Elmo. [more inside]
posted by misteraitch on Aug 28, 2015 - 37 comments

correctness rests upon usage; all usage is relative

"What of those grammar rules that were entirely dreamt up in an age of moral prescriptivism, reflecting nothing of historical or literary usage, to encourage the poor English language to be more like an entirely different (and entirely dead) language, namely Latin? Wait, which rules are those? It seems pretty crazy but the popular grammar rules familiar to most of us may in fact be completely fake and have no basis in linguistic reality. The English language didn't change to make those rules obsolete, they were simply fictional from the start." || Dear Pedants: Your Fave Grammar Rule is Probably Fake, by Chi Luu.
posted by divined by radio on Aug 25, 2015 - 170 comments

You need both sides of your brain to speak whistled Turkish

Whistled Turkish is a non-conformist. Most obviously, it bucks the normal language trend of using consonants and vowels, opting instead for a bird-like whistle. But more importantly, it departs from other language forms in a more fundamental respect: it's processed differently by the brain.
posted by MartinWisse on Aug 21, 2015 - 9 comments

Ghosts at the Banquet

Martin Gusinde documented the life and rituals of the Selk'nam people of Tierra del Fuego, off the southern tip of South America from 1918-24. They had been nearly wiped out by a genocide led by Julius Popper, the Tyrant of Tierra del Fuego, their numbers reduced from an estimated four thousand to only a few hundred. Now a book has been published containing hundreds of Gusinde's photos. Forty-five photos are available on the National Library of Chile's website. The last native speaker of Selk'nam, Herminia Vera Illioyen, died in 2014. That same year, linguist Luis Miguel Rojas-Berscia completed a reference grammar of Selk'nam. His friend Joubert Yanten Gomez, a young Selk'nam, has taught himself the language. Selk'nam and efforts to preserve it are one of the languages profiled in Judith Thurman's A Loss for Words, an essay about whether dying languages can be saved.
posted by Kattullus on Aug 18, 2015 - 5 comments

That's intelligent design, not Intelligent Design.

Daniel Dennett, known for having previously explained thinking, religion, and consciousness, recently spoke at the Royal Institution where he did a most excellent job of explaining memes [1-hour video].
posted by sfenders on Aug 17, 2015 - 22 comments

On becoming African-American

I knew that my sister was smarter than her husband; I also knew that she knew this. But I also knew that her husband thought little of women, and nothing of their intelligence. Yet, here he was losing a shouting match on his home court. He was embarrassed. After seeing how the French language had betrayed him, a bittersweet subtlety slipped from his lips like licorice. In plain-vanilla English he said, “This is exactly why I shouldn’t have married a black girl.”
--Coming to America
posted by almostmanda on Aug 14, 2015 - 58 comments

The Many Origins of the English Language

An Interactive Visualization.
posted by lemuring on Aug 8, 2015 - 11 comments

The word 'Pajubá' mean 'gossip' or 'news'.

"Pajubá is one of the many queer anti-languages of the world. People study them in 'Lavender Linguistics'. It's hard to study those languages because their usefulness vanishes if they are not secret anymore. Pajubá is a moving target, evolving so rapidly that it can't be documented." — Pajubá: The secret language of Brazilian trans women [via mefi projects]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Aug 3, 2015 - 6 comments

D'ya get me, bruv?

A new London accent strikingly different from Cockney has emerged in the last few years. Linguists call it "Multicultural London English" (or MLE) and although it has obvious roots in the London black community it's now displacing Cockney to become a universal accent for working class London youth, regardless of race. Change is spreading so fast that London teens often have radically different accents from their own parents. [more inside]
posted by w0mbat on Jul 28, 2015 - 71 comments


The International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA) is a free, online archive of primary-source dialect and accent recordings of the English language. Founded in 1997 at the University of Kansas, it includes hundreds of recordings of English speakers by natives of nearly 100 different countries. To find an example of an accent or dialect, use the Global Map, or select a continent or region at the Dialects and Accents page. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Jul 27, 2015 - 15 comments

"You don't know my name, do you?"

A translator's struggle to export Seinfeld to Germany. How could she possibly translate the episode where Jerry doesn't know the name of the woman he's dating, but only knows it "rhymes with a female body part"? [more inside]
posted by John Cohen on Jul 24, 2015 - 67 comments

Hwæt a minute mister postman

Check it! We may have been mistranslating the first word of Beowulf for 200 years.
posted by Iridic on Jul 23, 2015 - 64 comments

Read from left to right, top to bottom, and outside to inside

Pyroglyphics and The Secret Language of Cattle Branding
posted by a lungful of dragon on Jul 21, 2015 - 21 comments

all technical problems are people problems that manifest technically

The Life Cycle of Programming Languages, by Betsy Haibel [previously] for Model View Culture. [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Jul 15, 2015 - 115 comments

A Tart My Dears, A Tart

How British Gay Men Used To Talk: A short film featuring Polari, the cult language of UK homosexuals derived from theatre and circus slang, popularized in the 1960s by the camp radio characters Julian and Sandy. Need a dictionary? Or a translated Polari scene from Velvet Goldmine?
posted by The Whelk on Jul 8, 2015 - 48 comments

The Curse of Knowledge

Why is good writing on technical subjects so hard to find? A popular explanation is that bureaucrats, scientists, doctors, and lawyers who write dense prose are intentionally obfuscating their writing to appear more intelligent than they are. After all, no one likes reading hashes of passive clauses salted with jargon and acronyms--not even fellow specialists. Stephen Pinker, however, has an alternate take on the issue. What if knowing a lot about a topic directly interferes with your ability to effectively communicate it?
posted by sciatrix on Jul 3, 2015 - 56 comments

The alphabet of months: a year of living with multiple sclerosis

I write a lot of notes to myself these days, but this one is different. Remember the body. A strange thought. How could I forget it? And yet I do.
I have had MS for a little over a year and this has been the surprising, sometimes embarrassing challenge in my particular case: where does the disease end and where do I begin? What is the illness and what is just my maddening response to it?
Games writer Christian Donlan (previously) writes about neurology, language and life since his diagnosis with multiple sclerosis.
posted by Otto the Magnificent on Jun 30, 2015 - 11 comments


Taming of the Fuckery is graduate design student Sneha Keshav's 100 day project to identify colorful alternatives to the formerly taboo but now all too ubiquitous 'F-Word' and display them creatively. If you don't like it, you can Go Hug a Porcupine, because I Don't Give a Tiny Rat's Buttcrack.
posted by oneswellfoop on Jun 19, 2015 - 63 comments

"Huffle: a piece of beaʃtiality too filthy for explanation"

The Tumblr blog "Over the Hills and Far Away", aka "Beggars Opera: History, Fashion, Romance and Deadpan Snarking" has researched and collected the Best of A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1st and 2nd editions (1785 and 1788 - source material from Google Books).
Part One: Admiral of the Narrow Seas - Breeches ; Part Two: Cackling Farts - Duck F-ck-r ; Part Three: Flash Lingo - Goose Riding ; Part Four: Hopkins - Medlar ; Part Five: Member Mug - Potato Trap ; Part Six: Punk - Sugar Stick ; Part Seven: Tallywags - Welch Rabbit ; All Parts in Reverse Order .
Come for the "Queen Dick", stay for the lower-case 's' that looks like 'f'. ("Boʃom"! "Teʃticles"!)
posted by oneswellfoop on Jun 15, 2015 - 34 comments

Sing with more terror!!!

The Average Fourth Grader Is a Better Poet Than You (and Me Too) [more inside]
posted by casarkos on Jun 8, 2015 - 18 comments


But the final item on the meeting’s agenda underscored what all those virtual Esperantists were missing. After the speeches, Neil got up and passed out sheets printed with the lyrics to "Fremdaj en la Nokt," the Esperanto version of the Sinatra hit "Strangers in the Night." He explained that a particular Italian Esperantist had an extensive YouTube presence and a habit of jumping into worldwide Esperanto forums and Facebook groups to plug his singing. This was one of his better songs. Neil settled back down behind his banquet table, counted out the time, and the eight attending members of the New York Esperanto Society started to sing.
posted by growabrain on May 29, 2015 - 14 comments


From plitter to drabbletail: a few writers choose the words they love. [The Guardian] [Books]
Dialect terms such as yokeymajig or whiffle-whaffle; all-time favourites like cochineal, clot or eschew; antiquated phrases such as ‘playing the giddy ox’ … leading writers on the words they cherish.
[more inside] posted by Fizz on May 29, 2015 - 32 comments

What I post, I post.

The game is the game, what's done is done, and it is what it is.
The Wire: Tautology Supercut [SLYT, NSFW]
posted by Room 641-A on May 29, 2015 - 20 comments

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