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The Ecology of Magic

The Ecology of Magic is the abbreviated first chapter of David Abram's Spell of the Sensuous. Abram explores the intersection of phenomenology, synesthesia and linguistics to discover the magic of the alphabet, the sacred winds, and ultimately, the root of animism. Abram finds the locus of these superstitions not in an imagined metaphysical sphere, but rooted in our sensuous experience of the world around us. He attributes much of our cavalier attitude towards our environment to our separation from our own experience, and ultimately, our loss of magic. "The fate of the earth depends on a return to our senses."
posted by jefgodesky on Aug 29, 2006 - 21 comments

T-Shirt Censorship: Beginnings of a Deadly Sentiment?

Raed Jarrar was coming home from Jordan wearing a T-shirt with the phrase "We will not be silent" in Arabic script and English. Other JetBlue passengers who could not read the Arabic were "offended" and she was apprehended by security and asked to replace it. She also had her seat changed to the back of the plane. Variations on T-shirt airline censorship have happened before, but, taken to extremes, the fear of foreign language has spawned some unpleasant nights. Where is the line drawn? And where is the path to multicultural reconciliation?
posted by ed on Aug 21, 2006 - 70 comments

Learning and Loving it

Next step: English Video helping kids learn roman script
posted by kozad on Aug 20, 2006 - 5 comments

Type, handwriting, and lettering

Type, handwriting, and lettering
posted by persona non grata on Aug 20, 2006 - 17 comments

Inflamed what?

In Wales, signs are bilingual. Sometimes, they get it very wrong
posted by handee on Aug 17, 2006 - 50 comments

ground becomes figure

Fascination with ground and figure carries on in various fields after The Rubin vase / face Illusion, M.C. Escher, and Marshall McLuhan. Besides being extremely important in the fields of photography and poetry, the figure/ground relationship is important to physicist Paul Davies, who says "the true miracle of nature is to be found in the ingenious and unswerving lawfulness of the cosmos, a lawfulness that permits complex order to emerge from chaos, life to emerge from inanimate matter, and consciousness to emerge from life." Also, Peter Grundy and Yiang Yan discuss how contextual ground relates to linguistic figure in Bill Clinton's famous apology, Andrew Graydon plays with the distinction between sound as environment and sound as music, and W.C. Richardson creates paintings in which "positive and negative spaces seem unstable; figure becomes ground, ground becomes figure."
posted by Aghast. on Aug 12, 2006 - 3 comments

The Origins and Evolution of Intelligence

The origins and evolution of human intelligence: parasitic insects? viruses? mushrooms? neural darwinism? foraging? machiavellian competition? emergence? or something else?
posted by MetaMonkey on Jul 24, 2006 - 26 comments

¡Soy loco por McDonald's!

NJ Mayor calls Spanish-language ad "offensive." Linguistics professor Geoffrey Pollum says "Wtf, mate?"
posted by Bizurke on Jul 23, 2006 - 63 comments

Coming soon to a cinema near you

The Human Speechome Project - "A baby is to be monitored by a network of microphones and video cameras for 14 hours a day, 365 days a year, in an effort to unravel the seemingly miraculous process by which children acquire language.". Selected video clips. Paper (PDF, 750KB). To test hypotheses of how children learn, Prof Deb Roy's team at MIT will develop machine learning systems that “step into the shoes” of his son by processing the sights and sounds of three years of life at home. Total storage required: 1.4 petabytes.
posted by Gyan on Jul 23, 2006 - 21 comments

Scots' speech for the glaikit

Losh! That's a stoater of a web site!
posted by persona non grata on Jul 21, 2006 - 20 comments

Griko, Ladino and ethnolinguistics

Griko is a language used by the descendents of ancient Greek colonists in southern Italy that still has thousands of speakers. Pennsylvania Dutch, the only German language native to North America, was used as a first language until well into the twentieth century. Ladino ia a variant of medieval Spanish written in the Hebrew alphabet that florished among refugees from the Spanish Inquisition in modern Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece. Welcome to the world of ethnolinguistics.
posted by huskerdont on Jul 20, 2006 - 22 comments

A podcast for learning Italian.

learnitalianpod - a thoroughly archived podcast that can teach you to speak Italian. RSS
posted by nthdegx on Jul 15, 2006 - 26 comments

Celebrities A La Mode

Max Factors: What do Tom Hanks, Patrick Swayze, and Sigourney Weaver have in common? Well, let's just say that da Vinci isn't the only code featuring Tom Hanks these days. (Previously, on MetaFilter) (Some text may be NSFW)
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson on Jul 10, 2006 - 18 comments

'What words say does not last. The words last. Because words are always the same, and what they say is never the same.'

The Phrontistery presents A Compendium of Lost Words
posted by anastasiav on Jul 1, 2006 - 14 comments

"I was robbed by two men!"

"Spare me my life!" In the innocuous early '90's, Fuji TV came up with Zuiikin English, a television program which combined quirky language lessons with bradykinetic exercise. Was Zuiikin English ahead of its time? Or is it merely enjoyable bunk? (More here and here.)
posted by ed on Jun 22, 2006 - 16 comments

Backs to the future?

New analysis of the language and gesture of South America's indigenous Aymara people indicates they have a concept of time opposite to all the world's studied cultures -- the past is ahead of them and the future behind. The morphologically-rich language, of which you can hear samples here, may also prove useful to computer scientists due to its unique ternary logic system.
posted by youarenothere on Jun 12, 2006 - 42 comments

Meet the newspeak, same as the oldspeak

When taking lessons in English from the BBC, be sure to follow up with remedial "playground-speak"
posted by Mr. Six on Jun 12, 2006 - 198 comments

Terror and the language.

I would have thought that these charges could fairly be represented as terrorism, yet in 108 links in Google News, there is no mention of "terror" or any of its derivations. Has the word been hijacked?
posted by Neiltupper on Jun 9, 2006 - 104 comments

Nehmen Sie meine Frau, bitte!

Lost in translation. British Comedian Stewart Lee explores comedy in Germany and finds it stymied by the peculiarities of language and sentence construction. Mark Liberman at Language Log disagrees. And an extended essay by Josh Schonwald explores in greater depth how the German comedy scene is transitioning (PDF) from the more traditional kabernett to a burgeoning stand-up comedy scene, which is characterized by one observer as being in "the Bob Hope phase of comedy."
posted by madamjujujive on May 26, 2006 - 72 comments

This is fiction

Writing has been around for a long time, but that doesn't mean we've mastered it yet. Want to make fiction? Perhaps it makes itself, perhaps it makes you... Self reference breeding infinite hyperrealities. Which world will you choose?
posted by 0bvious on May 10, 2006 - 9 comments

Live here and now.

Living without Numbers or Time...
The Pirahã people have no history, no descriptive words and no subordinate clauses. That makes their language one of the strangest in the world -- and also one of the most hotly debated by linguists. [via aldaily.com]
posted by moonbird on May 10, 2006 - 43 comments

Honey, get elua beers out of the fridge, would you?

It is an official language in this US State, and if somebody writes you a check in it while you're here, you better know your numbers. Although its usage fell after a sharp decrease in the native speakers' population and a later 'ban', (not really) in the late 19th century, it is now making a comeback. Wikipedia gets its name from the language. Sadly, though there are almost 4 million Wikipedia articles, a scant 27 of them are written in it. Of course, if you just need a dictionary, it's not hard to find.
posted by onalark on Apr 25, 2006 - 20 comments

Und, natürlich, ein Elfmetertor in der letzten Minute

And you thought football itself was the universal language. The London chapter of the Goethe Institute jumps on the opportunity and offers a £35 crash course in German for the World Cup. Start out with these handy play scenario charts (pdf). Or, take the easy route and turn to AskMen for guidance.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane on Apr 12, 2006 - 16 comments

Actually Useful French

Phrases you'd really like to know before you go to France. Special bonus how to be an obnoxious lover in French.
posted by BuddhaInABucket on Apr 6, 2006 - 25 comments

The BBC profanity index

The BBC uses a survey, apparently, to rank words by their perceived offensiveness.
posted by Kirth Gerson on Mar 30, 2006 - 63 comments

The Routes of English

The Routes of English on BBC Radio 4 tells the story of spoken english. If that's not enough for you, you can test your knowledge, learn about the spread of the language, play games (Do you know where 'ketchup' originates?) Check out the Q&A. Learn about Churchill's roar. Then check out the related links. Most sound clips are in RealPlayer format. Real Alternative here.
posted by blue_beetle on Mar 28, 2006 - 9 comments

Princess Caraboo

In April of 1817, a distraught, exotic, bizarre young lady wearing a black turban appeared in the village of Almondsbury, England. She spoke an unintelligible language, and mystified villagers brought her to see the local magistrate. Linguistic experts of the day were baffled: until a Portuguese sailor appeared, who claimed to be able to translate. He explained that she was kidnapped royalty from the island of Javasu. She called herself Princess Caraboo.
posted by Count Ziggurat on Mar 18, 2006 - 11 comments

The Shavian adjective

So where here the b****y hell are you? has been banned from UK TV screens by the BACC (Thanks a b****y lot) for being offensive even though a study (Language and Sexual Imagery in Broadcasting: A Contextual Investigation) [PDF] released by Ofcom in September 2005 found that b****y was "Not really offensive to any group, seen as everyday sort of language". This from the nation that brought us Little Britain [NSFW]. Some banned advertising still lives on though.
posted by tellurian on Mar 9, 2006 - 41 comments

Words, People, Play.

Babies, Footsies, Holdies. Carry, Foul, Slam. Tea Parties, Fairbacks, Cherry Bombs. Double Taps, Underhand, Blackjack. Bitch Serving, Jedi, Extreme. Chicken Drops, Peppermint Sticks, Kamikazes. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus. Land Mines, Demons, Black Magic.
posted by bardic on Feb 20, 2006 - 18 comments

Dude!

Dude!...Dude. [via AIR]
posted by bigmike on Feb 4, 2006 - 22 comments

Lost in translation

What's the Korean for thanatophany or the Icelandic for snoek? J M Coetzee writes about the problems and delights of translation. [via languagehat]
posted by johnny novak on Feb 2, 2006 - 15 comments

It'll end in tears

Colloquial phrases endure, even after their meaning is no longer understood. Some are surprising and others are surprisingly malevolent. Some of my favorites are of exactly that theme. Do you have any favorites?
posted by uni verse on Jan 24, 2006 - 47 comments

[six + fish] [man] [rings] [head of a cow?]

The Indus Script Mystery: The ancient people of the Indus Valley left behind a mystery in their trash heaps -- the Indus script: a set of stylized characters (possibly a logophonetic script), which may or may not have been recently deciphered. (Probably not.) Some now believe (.pdf file) it is not even a written 'language' as we understand the term.
posted by anastasiav on Jan 11, 2006 - 11 comments

also featuring the mystery of chicken tikka masala

Were you a minger, sporting a mullet, looking a bit naff when you were getting mullered while out on the pull, anytime before 1988? Or were you posh and minted, looking snazzy after spending your dosh to get a nip and tuck before 1980? If so, the Oxford English Dictionary and the BBC need you for their Wordhunt – a call to help find the earliest verifiable usages of a list of words from the past decades whose origin is still uncertain.
posted by funambulist on Jan 9, 2006 - 28 comments

Aargh!

Aargh!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane on Jan 7, 2006 - 37 comments

language

The Passivator. A passive verb and adverb flagger for Mozilla-derived browsers, Safari, and Opera 7.5, with caveats.
posted by semmi on Jan 6, 2006 - 54 comments

Naxi Language

The script of the Naxi (or Nakhi) people of China's Yunnan province is the only extant pictographic language. The Naxi script, known as Dongba, has traditionally been the domain of spiritual leaders, and despite preservation efforts, is in danger of extinction.
posted by feathermeat on Dec 28, 2005 - 12 comments

Women, Men, Coffee

The women's petition against coffee and the mens answer to the petition against coffee circa 1674. The Humble Petition and Address of several Thousands of Buxome Good-Women, Languishing in Extremity of Want.[more stuff inside]
posted by KevinSkomsvold on Dec 22, 2005 - 32 comments

19th Century

A Dictionary of Amercanisms by John Russell Bartlett, published 1848. A "vocabulary of the colloquial language of the United States" during the mid-19th century. As noted by jmorrison at the nonist (the source for this link), it is interesting to see much of what we find so common today " called out as 'americanisms' not yet included in the dictionary." The site has other goodies too, such as The Slave's Friend, a Christian anti-slavery tract, and Memoirs of a Captivity Among the Indians of North America, by John Dunn Hunter, published in 1823 and 1824 and recounting his life after being captured as a young boy and raised by Native American tribes. It provides an intimate, inside look at their societies, customs and battles.
posted by caddis on Dec 17, 2005 - 17 comments

Nári jámashaki

Tzintzuntzan was the capital city of the Purépecha Empire (also known as Tarascan). Culturally (scroll to middle of page) isolated from the rest of precolumbian Mexico, the origins of the Purépecha is still unknown. Their language is one that is not even provisionally linked with any other language and is still spoken by about 200,000 natives around Michoacan. The Purépechas were the only state to become an empire in the Western Mexico cultures.
posted by ozomatli on Dec 13, 2005 - 18 comments

Dictionary

Merrian-Webster open dictionary "Have you spotted a new word or a new sense for an old word that hasn't made it into the dictionary yet? Well, here's your chance to add your discovery (and its definition) to Merriam-Webster's Open Dictionary"
posted by robbyrobs on Dec 11, 2005 - 22 comments

LanguageFilter

Orwell: Politics and the English Language. Some timely links in the fast changing world of instant communication. Alistair Cooke Needles the Jargonauts in Assessing the State of the English Language. The Electronic Revolution by William S. Burroughs. On Wittgenstein's Concept of a Language Game. The Economist Looking for a sign. John Zerzan Language: Origin and Meaning. Hakim Bey: Aimless Wandering: Chuang Tzu's Chaos Linguistics also Chaos Linguistics. The Language of Animals. John C Lilly on Interspecies Communication. Language Log: Natural language and artificial intelligence. Natural Language Processing AI News.
posted by MetaMonkey on Dec 1, 2005 - 22 comments

WOOUUIIIIII: The sound that a radio makes while being tuned

Ka-BOOM! :: A Dictionary of Comicbook Words on Historical Principles, Based on the Latest Conclusions of the Most Dubious Wordologists & Comprising Many Hundreds of New Words which Modern Literature, Science & Philosophy have Neglected to Acknowledge as True, Proper & Useful Terms & Which Have Never Before Been Published in Any Lexicon
posted by anastasiav on Nov 21, 2005 - 17 comments

The Image Culture

The Image Culture - a discussion of the history, manipulation, desensitization and supplanting of language skills by the ubiquity of images. And no, there are no pretty pictures.
posted by peacay on Nov 19, 2005 - 38 comments

A MERLE TIFT

We are a LAME FITTER, FALTER ITEM and A FELT TIMER. We need some MATT RELIEF. Fun with anagrams.
posted by KevinSkomsvold on Nov 18, 2005 - 56 comments

May you grow like an onion- with your head in the ground!

"May you be like a lamp: hang by day, burn by night and be snuffed out in the morning." Welcome to the long tradition of Yiddish curses. According to one scholar of insults: Curses in other languages differ from Yiddish in both content and style...Anglo-Saxon cultures prefer insults dealing with excrement and body parts, Catholic countries are partial to blasphemy, and cultures of the Middle and Far East go for ancestor insults, while Yiddish curses have a baroque splendor. A bunch more examples are here (keep scrolling).
posted by blahblahblah on Nov 18, 2005 - 33 comments

A whole nother newt..

A whole other newt with an ekename. I was looking up the origin of "nother" and learned about the phenomenon known as word misdivisions. Color me educated.
posted by KevinSkomsvold on Nov 16, 2005 - 24 comments

Bonanza of articles and interviews on communication

Forbes special report on communication. A truckload of excellent articles and interview excerpts! Noam Chomsky on the spontaneous invention of language. Carl Zimmer on talking chimps. Jane Goodall on why words hurt. Arthur C. Clarke on the planetary conversation. Kurt Vonnegut on telling a story. Desmond Morris on symbolic gestures. Sid Meier on communicating with video games. David Copperfield on keeping secrets. Stan Lee on the superpower of comics. Steven Pinker on why we have language. Walter Cronkite on the language of news. Daniel Libeskind on the language of design. And much more!
posted by painquale on Nov 2, 2005 - 14 comments

Why does Albanian need 27 words for 'moustache'?

Charming and unexpected vocabulary from many languages. Why did Persians need a word, alghunjar, to express 'the feigned anger of a mistress'? Could there really have been that many insincere mistresses in Persia? Why does Russia need a word meaning, 'dealer in stolen cats'? Or 'someone with six fingers'? And who can resist the Chinese xiaoxiao, meaning, 'the whistling and pattering of rain or wind'? "These are more than funny foreign vocabularies; they are tiny windows into the way other people live, and the obsessions that drive them." [via]
posted by Slithy_Tove on Oct 2, 2005 - 89 comments

A Sub by any other name....

A Sub by any other name.... Professor Vaux has put together a little survey of American as she is spoke. The survey covers a myriad of areas and the results wind up on some really interesting maps. It's on going, so feel free to take the challenge
posted by IndigoJones on Sep 23, 2005 - 15 comments

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