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State of the State of the Union

The State of the Union Parsing Tool is an interactive transcript and visualization of the last five State of the Union addresses, and a special address given to Congress on Sept. 20, 2001. Noteworthy features are a great interface and the ability to highlight the use of arbitrary and specific phrases. For instance: Iraq vs. Afghanistan, liberty vs. freedom, health care vs. social security, and the lone appearance of 'axis of evil.'
posted by fatllama on Feb 3, 2005 - 10 comments

Multilingual Swearing

Malu cachu (that's Welsh, I'll leave the interpreting to you) - a comprehensive guide to swearing in 165 languages. This probably offers the most appeal to the younger crowd, subverting classroom etiquette undetected--but it's not without its draw for the inebriated. It may also be a good idea to cross check your business name before going global. A representative of AmaCorp visiting Japan is likely to catch a few odd looks.
posted by ThePrawn on Jan 27, 2005 - 14 comments

Dialecty goodness

Do you speak American? The companion website to a PBS series, full of interactive language and dialect tools. You can map your attitudes about regional correctness, guess the speaker's home, learn about American varieties, track the history of certain words, hear samples of regional dialects, and more.
Further reading: Dialect Map of American English [image], Slanguage's local terms, and this collection of local phrases.
Previously on MetaFilter: The Dialect Survey (and results), The Speech Accent Archive, Pop vs. Soda.
posted by stopgap on Jan 20, 2005 - 13 comments

A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.

Looking for ohibitutic and purspermal words, but need something a little more rhymmeal? Cromulac might just be the tingulen you're spranning for.
posted by Robot Johnny on Jan 7, 2005 - 17 comments

International Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia around the world. Wonder no more how a cow's moo sounds in Japan, or a car's engine revs in China.
posted by Oriole Adams on Dec 26, 2004 - 14 comments

Es wie wie dies und wie das und wie dies, und..

Es wie wie dies und wie das und wie dies, und. Vibrant demonstration of why your favorite hip-hop artist is unlikely to be German. Link via little black dada cat.
posted by dickumbrage on Dec 25, 2004 - 24 comments

A need for new punctuation?

Josh Greeham argues on Slate that we're in need of the Sarcasm point. In this new internet world of smilies and bad grammar there seems to be a need for new ways to express oursleves. So much so, that people are even patenting the questioning comma. Even the humorists are getting in on the act.. And whatever you do, don't tell interrobang.
posted by seanyboy on Dec 22, 2004 - 48 comments

No Fucking Tenure For You!

Professor Stephen Roberds, Southern Utah University's controversial Professor of the Year 2003-2004, you're fucking fired.
posted by mr_crash_davis on Dec 16, 2004 - 89 comments

Pro-nuance

A right that ends in sorrow, aka the difficulty of standing up for something that really sucks. (via Amy Sullivan)
posted by alms on Dec 16, 2004 - 73 comments

Word play

Collins Word Exchange "At Collins we pride ourselves on reflecting current language, used by real English speakers across the world." Collins have launched a public forum designed for (amongst other things) discussing 'new' words and the legitamacy of their inclusion in official dictionaries. Chav is probably on its way, but I'm no intellectual snob, but bounce-backability? Even I'd balk at that one.
And, just remember kids, flip-flopper is not valid for use in scrabble
posted by qwerty155 on Dec 16, 2004 - 8 comments

To the French, it is the flower that thinks; what do the English call it?

Etymology-wise, which hormone is an island? What word both denotes a prime and euphemizes Satan? What word denotes "the future" and abbreviates the unknown? Is urine pith? These are some of the questions from "Moot: The World's Toughest Language Game," a homemade and little-known board game for lovers of words. Some puzzles are available online; there are a few more available on a page detailing the interesting story behind the game's creation. You can sign up to have a new language puzzle e-mailed to you every week.
posted by painquale on Dec 4, 2004 - 8 comments

Slanguage

Safire's latest list of slang
posted by srboisvert on Dec 3, 2004 - 91 comments

Awkwardfulness is. Long is not

Pentasyllabic is. Edible is not. Some words refer to themselves, some do not - an introduction to the paradox of language and a way to amaze your easily-amazed friends. In a similar vein, you may already test yourself by using e-prime, but do you know the thirty-two eskimo words for snow?
posted by blahblahblah on Nov 30, 2004 - 98 comments

Losing Languages

Losing Languages. It's estimated that between one and four languages are lost every year, the result of the only remaining speakers dying off. Many have been actively surpressed in the past, such as the Mayan and Ryukyu languages - some of which are said to be further from Japanese than English is from German. Is it worth the effort to preserve languages? Are languages and culture intristically linked?
posted by borkingchikapa on Nov 28, 2004 - 57 comments

A Mother for Your Mind

The British Council polls non-English speakers for the seventy most beautiful English words. Mother comes out on top (as ever), with lullaby, oi (my favourite), and — bizarrely — hen night also appearing. I much prefer the examples of Wilfred Funk (and others): dawn, chalice and gossamer, for instance [source origin]. Beautiful words can be combined to form beautiful phrases and sometimes more. German words are also beautiful; habseligkeiten (meaning property), and such. Words can also be curious, people have observed; but also be truly awful, as a quick search of the phrases "global experience" and "leading edge" will attest.
posted by nthdegx on Nov 25, 2004 - 58 comments

More on arithmetic in the Amazon

More on arithmetic in the Amazon The 10/15 issue of Science has the official publication of Peter Gordon's work on numerical cognition among the Pirahã, and a companion article by Pierre Pica et al. on similar research among another Amazonian tribe, the Mundurukú. What with the U.S. election and the discovery of H. Floresiensis, this is not getting nearly as a much play as the pre-publication back in August of Peter Gordon's work. Brian Butterworth has an piece in the Guardian about both articles, and I've put some links, quotes and diagrams here. Compared to the reports on the Pirahã, the Mundurukú people, language, and experiments are all somewhat different, although the conclusions are broadly similar.
posted by myl on Oct 31, 2004 - 19 comments

It all starts by looking a baby right in the eyes

Language started with emotional signaling. That's the thesis of a new book, The First Idea: How Symbols, Language, And Intelligence Evolved From Our Primate Ancestors To Modern Humans, by Stanley I. Greenspan and Stuart G. Shanker.
Lived emotional experience is key to language learning, the authors suggest. "Mathematicians and physicists may manipulate abstruse symbols representing space, time, and quantity, but they first understood those entities as tiny children wanting a far-away toy, or waiting for juice, or counting cookies. The grown-up genius, like the adventurous child, forms ideas through playful explorations in the imagination, only later translated into the rigor of mathematics."
The book is very ambitious, and I don't think we'll ever know where language came from, but this sounds like a more fruitful line of thinking than Chomsky's deus ex machina "language gene" mutation.
posted by languagehat on Sep 29, 2004 - 32 comments

English to English

The Internet's Most Accurate English-to-English Dictionary This internet service will translate any English word, phrase or passage into English, or vice versa. Your original grammar, style, and spelling are left intact!
posted by adampsyche on Sep 29, 2004 - 21 comments

Gleemail

Grind. Endless drudgery. Too much in your in-tray, not enough in your out-tray. You put your headphones on, but it doesn't really help. You want a distraction - just for a moment or two. "A happy employee is a productive employee" you justify to yourself, although you're not convinced. Then it happens. A 24 carat nugget of plain text escapism lands in your in-box. You're an alt-tab, double-click away from sheer bliss. DNRC; A.Word.A.Day; FlipFlopFlyin Newsletter; The Plain Text Gazette; and the previously mentioned Snowmail and Newsnight Newsletters, which take a less formal but equally sharp look at the day's news, with anecdotes and observations thrown in. What other quality plain text mail lists are around?
posted by nthdegx on Sep 29, 2004 - 6 comments

For those of you in the 'Anyone but Bush' camp.

Slate translates Kerry to English. A lot of the argument lately is that Kerry doesn't really offer up a concete stand on his viewpoint. This article from William Saletan sums up what he believes Kerry is trying to say based on the speech he gave in New York earlier, and how he really stands in opposition to President Bush. Thoughts?
posted by daHIFI on Sep 21, 2004 - 32 comments

Willy Safizzle discovers the izzle; milkshake not far behind?

William Safire on "the izzle": "And now, in the pages of The New York Times, there it is — a word modified with the ubiquitous izzle. Some clever Times copy editor, for a June article about Chrysler's new 300C sedan, created the headline, "Fo' Shizzle, That Big Bad Chrysler Really Does Sizzle". So now that the gray lady herself has been izzled from the inside, is it time for everyone to wish one last fond farewizzle and shed the shizzle? (MTV interview mentioned in the article is here.)
posted by taz on Sep 21, 2004 - 33 comments

The birth of a [sign] language

Experts Study New Sign Language System A new system of sign language developed by deaf children in Nicaragua may hold clues about the evolution of languages. When the country's first school for the deaf was established in 1977, children were not taught sign language but developed a system of signs to communicate. Childhood learning may determine linguistic rules ...They found that older students used hand signals resembling the gestures employed by hearing people, mimicking the entire event physically. But younger pupils - who had interacted with other deaf children from an early age - used a more complex series of signs. They split the scene into component parts and arranged these sequentially to convey the incident. The constructions resemble the way words and sentences are built in verbal languages, using segments structured in a linear fashion. This indicates that way the younger children learnt the sign language helped reshape it according to these linguistic rules.
............... Fascinating... /Mr. Spock
posted by y2karl on Sep 18, 2004 - 20 comments

Verbal, if not literate.

Sure, it's just more Bush-bashing, but it's gussied up durn pretty. Philip Gourevitch on Bushspeak.
He is grossly underestimated as an orator by those who presume that good grammar, rigorous logic, and a solid command of the facts are the essential ingredients of political persuasion, and that the absence of these skills indicates a lack of intelligence. Although Bush is no intellectual, and proud of it, he is quick and clever, and, for all his notorious malapropisms, abuses of syntax, and manglings or reinventions of vocabulary, his intelligence is—if not especially literate—acutely verbal.

posted by grrarrgh00 on Sep 10, 2004 - 87 comments

Eggcorn-ucopia

Just a hand-few of eggcorns grows a forest? Among the pursuits of linguistics blog Language Log is the examination of certain quasi-spelling errors appropriately dubbed eggcorns. Not quite results of folk etymology, they nonetheless possess a certain inner logic that invites their recurring use as well as their analysis.

No proper repository exists yet; enter 'eggcorn' into the site's search engine to view the growing harvest.
posted by LinusMines on Aug 26, 2004 - 31 comments

DO - YOU - SPEAK - ENG-LISH...

It's our language, not yours. So, you were born in an English-speaking country founded by the English, speak English, have a degree in English, write and publish in English, have lived in England for years, and would like to become an English citizen? Sorry, you failed our English test to determine whether you have workable English, so you can't be English.
posted by rory on Aug 19, 2004 - 38 comments

By Gum, I divvent!

English Accents and Dialects. The British Library has compiled an online archive of northern speech dating back to the 19th century. The recordings range from from audio from Victorian cylinder dictaphones to 1950s football fans chanting.
posted by Masi on Aug 1, 2004 - 10 comments

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. -- Mark Twain

Oxymorons
posted by anastasiav on Jul 23, 2004 - 36 comments

One for the cybersouses

Drunk Talk. Modern Drunkard's new crop of bar slang.
posted by Ufez Jones on Jul 21, 2004 - 14 comments

Sequoyah's Cherokee Syllabary

Sequoyah's Cherokee Syllabary
The history of a man who single-handedly invented a new and unique writing system which made the literacy rate of his nation shoot from 0% to 90% in just a few years.

Original source
posted by magullo on Jul 15, 2004 - 4 comments

Blissymbolics ~ Handywrite ~ Teeline ~ Gregg ~ Pitman

A Guide to Alternative Handwriting and Shorthand Systems
posted by anastasiav on Jul 5, 2004 - 8 comments

N-I-G-G-E-R

Cable channel Trio drops the N-bomb An original documentary, premiering tonight, takes a close look at a troublesome word.
posted by LinusMines on Jul 4, 2004 - 21 comments

Bhí Pádraig agus Michéal sa teach tabhairne

Should Gaelic be an official EU language? As a happy member of the SCA I promise to revise all my past snarkiness and negative thinking about the EU if this happens. I will read (ploddingly and with a dictionary) all those speeches by Chirac and Schroder--as soon as they're translated into Gaelic. If Maltese can be an EU language of diplomacy, why not Gaelic? While the world around us rages, we'll return to the Middle Ages. (From crookedtimber)
posted by jfuller on Jun 25, 2004 - 27 comments

The Hills Are Alive With The Semantics of Music

Tunes create context like language : "musical notes are strung together in the same patterns as words in a piece of literature". Full paper. On a related note, hone your musical comprehension by playing with Impromptu. Better yet, co-ordinate it with this MIT OpenCourse - Developing Musical Structures.
posted by Gyan on Jun 22, 2004 - 21 comments

One person’s gaffe is another’s peccadillo

Common Errors In English :: an internet guide
posted by anastasiav on Jun 20, 2004 - 117 comments

The Limerick packs jokes anatomical ...

Wordcraft, an on-line community of linguaphiles, best known for its extensive collection of eponyms, has taken on a new and fairly ambitious project -- they're trying to rewrite the entire Oxford English Dictionary -- in limerick form. So far they're only on the a's, but they do seem optimistic.
Shamelessly stolen from languagehat's blog
posted by anastasiav on Jun 18, 2004 - 7 comments

The Web's #1 Axe In My Head Page

"Oh my god! There's an axe in my head"
posted by anastasiav on Jun 15, 2004 - 21 comments

Kiitos, Kalevi!

Europe's oldest language? Kalevi Wiik makes the argument that most of Europe may have spoken a proto Finno-Ugric language before the appearance of Indo-European speakers in the region. It's still controversial a few years after the paper was published (and likely always will be).

Modern European derivitives of the language in question are Hungarian, the Ugric branch's sole representative in Europe, (although it has relatives in central Asia), as well as the Finnic Finnish, Estonian, Karelian (which is considered by some to be a dialect of Finnish and not a separate language), Izhora and Veps (which are both disputed in language v. dialect and are nearly dead), Vod (which is dead), Liv (which is dead and doesn't Google well), and the Saami languages, which have about 10 dialects and a sufficiently different grammar and lexicon that it gets the "strange cousin" title.
posted by Mayor Curley on Jun 15, 2004 - 58 comments

Speak Deutsch?

Being Bilingual Protects Against Some Age-related Cognitive Changes.
Full paper link.
posted by Gyan on Jun 14, 2004 - 20 comments

Onomatopoeia, gee it's good to see ya!

If you don't like dictionary posts, look away, NOW!
But if you like to play with words, the dictionarians at Merriam-Webster have announced the winners in their poll for the Ten Favorite Words for 2004:
defenestration, serendipity, onomatopoeia, discombobulate, plethora, callipygian, juxtapose, persnickety, kerfuffle and flibbertigibbet
Also, a list of runners-up with more of my personal faves: oxymoron, copacetic, curmudgeon, conundrum, euphemism, superfluous, and of course, Smock! Smock! Smock!
[more inside] Via vidiot.
posted by wendell on Jun 12, 2004 - 41 comments

Head-butt

Give me a Glasgow kiss! The OED's newest English words. Glasgow kiss, n. [ Glasgow, the name of a city in west central Scotland + KISS n., in humorous allusion to the reputation for violence accorded to some parts of the city. Cf. earlier Liverpool kiss s.v. LIVERPOOL n.] A head-butt.
posted by mfoight on Jun 10, 2004 - 19 comments

Here's one for Languagehat

Double-Tongued Word Wrester :: Words from the fringes of English
posted by anastasiav on Jun 4, 2004 - 5 comments

And you thought your mother was naughty

Racial Slurs have been around for centuries, and this website attempts to collect them all (2,295 so far) and explain their origins. May not be SFW if someone is reading over your shoulder.
posted by whoshotwho on May 27, 2004 - 18 comments

Ye Olde Writings

AncientScripts.com : discover introductions to more than 70 ancient and modern writing systems, from LinearB to hPhags-pa to Cherokee. View languages by type, family, or region. Many links to further reading on each subject, plus other goodies.
posted by falconred on May 7, 2004 - 3 comments

It's a sign!

Baby Sign Language. Hearing children can learn to sign before they can talk. Parents can use ASL, or make up their own language.
posted by Karmakaze on May 4, 2004 - 67 comments

Forthright's Phrontistery

Forthright's Phrontistery: English word lists and language resources.
posted by hama7 on May 3, 2004 - 4 comments

Jingle Bells! Batman smells!

The Online Dictionary of Playground Slang. Includes not just slang words, but also all those obnoxious rhymes we sang. "My little Pony, skinny and bony..."
posted by Robot Johnny on Apr 29, 2004 - 4 comments

How NOT to write metaphors

"She was as easy as the Daily Star crossword," and other allegedly actual similes and metaphors from student essays, mangled like pigeons on Baltimore light rail tracks.
posted by brownpau on Apr 22, 2004 - 29 comments

TPM on the importance of words

This is precisely the sort of inane mumbojumbo that will -- perhaps literally -- get us all killed....The importance of words is a conceit of wordsmiths, certainly. But they are important -- especially when they bleed through into thought and action, which happens more often than you'd think.,

TPM is becoming almost too widely-read to be postworthy, but Josh really puts things into perspective with this post. For an example of what all this jingoistic gibberish can result in, see the post below it.
posted by jpoulos on Apr 15, 2004 - 63 comments

"I am of Ireland, and the Holy Land of Ireland..."

CELT, the Corpus of Electronic Texts, "brings the wealth of Irish literary and historical culture to the Internet, for the use and benefit of everyone worldwide. It has a searchable online database consisting of contemporary and historical texts from many areas, including literature and the other arts." It has texts in Irish, Latin, Anglo-Norman French, and English, ranging from the annals of the fifth century to the Agreement reached in the Multi-Party Negotiations in Northern Ireland of 1998. "Great my glory/ I that bore Cuchulainn the valiant..."
posted by languagehat on Apr 11, 2004 - 5 comments

Fetchi

A dictionary of Japanese pornography terms. After you've mastered the theory, you can read about it in greater detail, then test your knowledge. (First link SFW if no one's reading over your shoulder, others N.)
posted by kenko on Apr 11, 2004 - 9 comments

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