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the language boom

Language tree rooted in Turkey.
posted by the fire you left me on Dec 7, 2003 - 28 comments

Ever wonder who still speaks latin?

Ever wonder who still speaks latin? So it seems like the vanishingly small number of native latin speakers seem to work all for one outfit. They all also seem to be British.
posted by MrLint on Dec 1, 2003 - 22 comments

The Continuing Adventures of Alex The African Grey Parrot

So we put a number of differently colored letters on the tray that we use, put the tray in front of Alex, and asked, ''Alex, what sound is blue?'' He answers, ''Ssss.'' It was an ''s'', so we say ''Good birdie'' and he replies, ''Want a nut.'' Well, I don't want him sitting there using our limited amount of time to eat a nut, so I tell him to wait, and I ask, ''What sound is green?'' Alex answers, ''Ssshh.'' He's right, it's ''sh,'' and we go through the routine again: ''Good parrot.'' ''Want a nut.'' ''Alex, wait. What sound is orange?'' ''ch.'' ''Good bird!'' ''Want a nut.'' We're going on and on and Alex is clearly getting more and more frustrated. He finally gets very slitty-eyed and he looks at me and states, ''Want a nut. Nnn, uh, tuh.'' - That Damn Bird - A Talk with Irene Pepperberg. Referential Communication with an African Gray Parrot. Irene Pepperberg says that Arthur, an African Gray parrot, is so smart that she and a group of students at the Media Lab are teaching him to go online. A more subjective take on some more African Grey parrots here. The Alex Homepage. Alex interviewed. languagehat on talking parrots.
posted by y2karl on Nov 29, 2003 - 34 comments

No Food Says Fun Like 'Happy Crak' Popcorn!

Rude Food - from that old English classic spotted dick to more unusual offerings like bum bum bananas, Erektus energy drink, and Prick potato crisps, here's a wonderful collection of worldwide food items that bring out the giggling 12-year-old boy in all of us.
posted by anastasiav on Nov 26, 2003 - 9 comments

... Shenanigans ... Antidisestablishmentarianism ... Medulla Oblongata ... Zog ...

Dave's List of Words That Are Fun To Say
posted by anastasiav on Nov 25, 2003 - 141 comments

Politically correct hardware terminology:

LA County, leading the charge: Equipment vendors who do business with Los Angeles County received a message in November 2003 from the county's Internal Services Department (ISD) informing them that "based on the cultural diversity and sensitivity of Los Angeles County," labeling or describing equipment with the term 'master/slave' is no longer acceptable. (via snopes.com)
the slashdot comments on this...
posted by sixtwenty3dc on Nov 25, 2003 - 145 comments

How To Attract The 18-34 Crowd: Say

Oh fuck! Are you interested? Let me guess: you're 18 to 34 years old, right? Oh it's a dandy little word, for sure. But is it enough? Here's yet another brilliant marketing idea dreamt up by the 35-50 thoroughly fucked-up Texan reader-research crowd! [Via Arts and Letters Daily.]
posted by MiguelCardoso on Nov 22, 2003 - 23 comments

Santorum

Santorum. Dan Savage is a man on a mission: he wants his coinage of "santorum" to go all the way to the top of a Google search for "santorum", and he's calling on bloggers to help him do it. The comments of Senator Santorum (R-Homophobia) on the Supreme Court's anti-sodomy case were previously discussed here.
posted by UKnowForKids on Nov 20, 2003 - 25 comments

Bowlingal - Dog bark analyser

Bowlingal is a dog bark translator. Discuss. (Flash link)
posted by omidius on Nov 17, 2003 - 33 comments

Who deserves a break today?

McDonalds CEO Puts McJob in Mainstream. By taking Merriam-Webster to task for including McJob ("low paying and dead-end work") in its latest Collegiate Dictionary, McDonald's CEO Jim Cantalupo has ensured that yet another disparaging fast-food web-fed meme joins the venerable "You want fries with that?" If this had been Fox, I would have said it was intentional.
posted by mischief on Nov 8, 2003 - 39 comments

Semantic web : Lost in Translation

Clay Shirky smacks syllogism around. Nice criticism of the semantic web and the present (and increasing) hype of the "semantic web revolution". The most damning part of the essay is the part about languages and categories being deeply intertwined with worldview and with culture—if there's no good definition for the word "bachelor" (see), how can there be an encoding of "friend", "lover" (see article for the classic AI example of "John loves Mary") or anything else that isn't zipcode?
posted by zpousman on Nov 8, 2003 - 62 comments

the demise of the fuck

Further verification that fuck is fucked. The gradual emasculation of a word once obscene.
posted by the fire you left me on Oct 22, 2003 - 54 comments

old NYer goodness

I was plussed. It was concerting to see that she was communicado... An 1994 New Yorker story chock full of presumably sensical words that look wacky without their negating prefixes. A Smackeral from the great beebo.org
posted by stupidsexyFlanders on Oct 22, 2003 - 24 comments

Speak Proper!

mumbo jumbo... BBC journalist John Humphrys bemoans the abuses suffered by the English language. At the risk of becoming a Grumpy Old Man before my time I can't help but agree with him, in particular about the Management Speak. I recently came across the verb "to hero" which set my teeth on edge. And just what the hell does "to leverage" mean?
posted by jontyjago on Oct 20, 2003 - 73 comments

I just can't think of a witty title, sorry!

Need an Idiom? Check out The Idiom Connection. Think certain phrases are such cliches that they should be banned? Before you condemn or mock them, take a moment to learn more about the origin of some of these phrases.
::via The Tower of English::
posted by anastasiav on Oct 7, 2003 - 8 comments

Alphabet Evolution

Alphabet Evolution
See the evolutionary progression of alphabets through time and cultures. Examples include Cuneiform, Phoenician, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, modern Cyrillic and the Latin character sets. The Latin is the best documented character set and requires a wide screen to see all the evolutionary events (especially Y and Z)
posted by Irontom on Oct 7, 2003 - 9 comments

Anguish Languish

It’s not what you say, it's the way you say it--Part 2. This observation was cleverly illustrated by Prof. Howard L. Chace in Anguish Languish, an exercise to demonstrate to his French Language students that intonation is key to understanding spoken language. Here is the complete text. You can read his best known Furry Tell about a Wicket Woof and a Ladle Gull or hear it read.(Warning-has sound.) I first found out about Howard Chace from an article in The Whole Earth Catalog and certain phrases have rattled around my head ever since. Here is a discussion of Anguish Languish if you want to write your own. Like this version of Gender Cyst from the Homely Babble.
posted by lobakgo on Sep 22, 2003 - 5 comments

Accents In English

It's Not What You Say, It's The Way That You Say It: George Bernard Shaw famously remarked that every time an Englishman opens his mouth it's guaranteed that another Englishman will despise him. This website offers a motley and unintentionally hilarious collection of the many, ever-growing pronunciations of the English language. The variety is so wide you could almost be listening to different languages. But is a particular accent still an anti-democratic barrier, strictly revealing your position on the socio-geographic ladder, as it was in the days Nancy Mitford discussed U and non-U vocabulary? Or have upper-class accents in the U.K. and U.S. (note the Boston Brahmin samples), once coveted and preferred, now become the opposite: unforgivable impediments? Does posh speech exist in Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand as it does in the U.K. and U.S.? In other words: Does it still matter? (Quicktime Audio for main and fourth link; Real Audio for third.)
posted by MiguelCardoso on Sep 20, 2003 - 50 comments

Pirates of the Common Media

It's OK to Talk Like a Pirate, Just Don't Pirate Words!
from Dan Gillmor and David Weinberger, found via The Boingers, who disabled comments.
posted by wendell on Sep 18, 2003 - 19 comments

Multibabel

The First Rule of Multibabel Club is you do not talk about MultiBabel Club (French & back:) The first rule of the club of Multibabel is you do not speak about the club of Multibabel.
(German & back:) The first guideline the association of Multibabel is not you speaks about the association of Multibabel.
(Italian & back:) Before the guide of reference that the association of Multibabel is not you speaks about the association of Multibabel.
(Portuguese & back) Before the guide of the reference that the association of MultiBabel is not you speak on the association of MultiBabel.
(Spanish & back:) Before the guide of the reference that is not the association of MultiBabel you speak in the association of MultiBabel. (Japanese & back:) Multibabel club without having expressed, there is a first rule of Multibabel club.
(Chinese & back:) The Multibabel club has not been expressed, has the Multibabel club first rule.
(Korean & back:) The Multibabel the club under expressing is highland Anh and a Multibabel club first rule.

posted by me3dia on Sep 7, 2003 - 27 comments

You will learn something, I guarontee!

The Encyclopedia of Cajun Culture features everything from Acadiana to Zydeco. Two of the more interesting entries I've found are the Un-Cajun Committee and the unknown to me genre of Swamp Pop
posted by Ufez Jones on Sep 4, 2003 - 15 comments

Lost Words

The Compendium of Lost Words
posted by ttrendel on Sep 3, 2003 - 9 comments

"But please - call me Larry."

"Hello, Neo. I am the Architect." For those of us who liked The Matrix Reloaded but got lost shortly after the Architect opened his mouth, here's a handy annotated transcript of his entire scene. Great for people who want to delve into the deeper meanings of what he's going on about, and also great for people (like me) who are interested in the way he talks. [Warning: Geocities site. Mirrored here if it goes down]
posted by Monster_Zero on Aug 22, 2003 - 25 comments

Compendium of lost words

Compendium of lost words You may have been wondering what "triclavianism" means. You may have been disappointed when dictionary.com couldn't help. Look no further.
posted by adamrice on Aug 16, 2003 - 19 comments

Speech Accent Archive

The Speech Accent Archive, with 264 audio clips of native and non-native English speakers reading the same paragraph. Wonderful sounds if you love languages (and who doesn't?), including Bambara, Vietnamese, Uzbek, Quechua and the instantly recognizable Synthesized. [via Tara Calishan's invaluable ResearchBuzz]
posted by mediareport on Aug 14, 2003 - 22 comments

String theory

String and Knot, Theory of Inca Writing An article today in the NY Times (you know the drill, I think it's metafi/metafi, no?) regarding a new theory to do with the decoding of the "cryptic knotted strings known as khipu".
If khipu is indeed the medium of a writing system, Dr. Gary Urton of Harvard says, this is entirely different from any of the known ancient scripts, beginning with the cuneiform of Mesopotamia more than 5,000 years ago. The khipu did not record information in graphic signs for words, but rather a kind of three-dimensional binary code similar to the language of today's computers. Dr. Urton, an anthropologist and a MacArthur fellow, suggests that the Inca manipulated strings and knots to convey certain meanings. By an accumulation of binary choices, khipu makers encoded and stored information in a shared system of record keeping that could be read throughout the Inca domain.
More information about Urton's book, which is to be published this month, here; more information about the Khipu themselves and further linkage here (note: this link is to an angelfire page, popups and limited bandwidth are to be expected). From Cornell, detailed descriptions of 200 Khipu, with photographs.
posted by jokeefe on Aug 11, 2003 - 11 comments

Blogstop

BlogStop. Where the last word of an entry must be used as an acronym for the next entry. Simple.
posted by coudal on Jul 30, 2003 - 1033 comments

The language of threatening letters to King David

Czech linguist Bedrich Hrozny first identified Hittite in 1915. It's an extinct Indo-European language that I thought would be of limited interest when I mentioned it in a previous post. However, I've been urged to share some related links, like this one which explains why Hittite is a black sheep in the IE family, this one, which contrasts the phonetics of Hittite and its relatives, a morphology page with many examples in Hittite and a short description of the relationship between Hittite and Sanskrit. If you haven't gotten your fill, there's Translated Hittite texts
posted by Mayor Curley on Jul 29, 2003 - 20 comments

an unveiling

Qur’an in Aramaic? Virgins become raisins, veils become belts. "Luxenberg’s chief hypothesis is that the original language of the Qur’an was not Arabic but something closer to Aramaic. He says the copy of the Qur’an used today is a mistranscription of the original text from Muhammad’s time, which according to Islamic tradition was destroyed by the third caliph, Osman, in the seventh century. But Arabic did not turn up as a written language until 150 years after Muhammad’s death, and most learned Arabs at that time spoke a version of Aramaic."
posted by four panels on Jul 29, 2003 - 16 comments

Calling all Grammar Schoolmarms

"Even a brilliant piece of writing will have difficulty finding a publisher if the author has neglected to dress his manuscript decently." 'The Chicago Manual of Style' enters the 21st century. Calling all MeFi Schoolmarms! (Also: CSM New Questions & Answers)
posted by ColdChef on Jul 24, 2003 - 26 comments

Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky and the neuronaut's guide to the science of consciousness

We are because of others. We are born into this world with minds as naked as our bodies and we have to rely on others to feed, clothe us, and to teach us to think of ourselves as selves. The key is language -- grammatical speech and human culture build upon the brain's biological capacities to create a mind that is something different again than that with which we are born. We are conscious because we can speak to others and ourselves, because we can speak of ourselves to others and ourselves. Language gives us as individuals, memory, and as groups, culture, the social memory. Or so thought Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky, among others. Welcome to the the neuronaut's guide to the science of consciousness.
posted by y2karl on Jul 11, 2003 - 36 comments

Will French surrender to English?

Are the days of French as a world language numbered? The French language is still considered a "world language," but it is slowly losing its relevance in an English-dominated world. "What is at stake is the survival of our culture. It is a life or death matter," said Jacques Viot, head of the Alliance Francaise in Paris. Will French finally surrender to English?
posted by laz-e-boy on Jul 7, 2003 - 58 comments

Google calls in the 'language police'

Google calls in the 'language police': "Google is now a verb, meaning to search. It sounds like the ultimate compliment to the company, so why do its lawyers want to keep the word out of our dictionaries?"
posted by eclectica on Jun 24, 2003 - 19 comments

SpellingReform

The Simplified Spelling Society. Finally, a cause I can really get behind. More.
posted by srboisvert on Jun 9, 2003 - 63 comments

New feature for MetaFilter?

Login, check out a link, post a comment, find out what gender you are... By noting the subtle differences in the words used by men and women, a new computer programme identifies the sex of an author. By implementing this new software, MetaFilter could potentially become even more informative than it already is.
posted by orange swan on May 30, 2003 - 25 comments

Fo shizzle my MeFi'ers.

Fo shizzle my nizzle! At last, the lingustic puzzle is solved, or at least attempted. Over and over. And over. Definition - "for the sizzle" of tasty burgers on the grill. Often used by members of lower classes because they cannot taste the tasty burgers, nor enjoy the sizzle.
posted by xmutex on May 23, 2003 - 33 comments

Machine Traslation

Is really effective machine traslation just around the corner? Up 'til now computerized language translation has been as amusing as it been useful. Getting the gist of text composed in a different language has been about the most one can hope for. Will this company's efforts with statistical analysis be the breakthrough? Statistical analysis might be the key to stopping spam too. This is changing the way I think about my own communication.
posted by bendybendy on May 15, 2003 - 13 comments

When Bad Words Do Good Things

Shut Up! Due to a linguistic phenomenon called amelioration, we're losing a lot of those nice, bad words that are so useful for expressing anger. Nice once meant stupid and bad's good today. "Shut up!" increasingly means an affectionate "Get outta here!"; No is becoming Yes and even "Fuck off!", with the right intonation can mean something like "I don't believe it! How very interesting, Carruthers!" Where will it end? And it's not as if any good words are making the opposite journey, except perhaps "You can kiss my ass", which is easily imagined as a term of endearment back in old Babylon. What really bad words and expressions will survive the nicification onslaught? And what unnecessary good words could be put to better use as insults?
posted by MiguelCardoso on May 8, 2003 - 54 comments

Words fail me.

"Bling Bling" has been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. To be classified as a noun, pronounced "B to the Izz-L...."
posted by XQUZYPHYR on May 1, 2003 - 27 comments

When you eat grapes, don't spit the grape skins out.

Explore a Chinese Language. The Ting Chinese English Center is a database of tools to learn Mandarin or English, and it's fun to boot. Don't miss the tongue twisters, and try to guess how to pronounce the color before clicking on the sound file.
posted by frykitty on Apr 30, 2003 - 11 comments

K is for Kookie. And Kompressor.

Just in: Jakob Nielsen Declares the Letter “C” Unusable.
posted by Su on Apr 29, 2003 - 28 comments

Learn English.

Learn English.
posted by xmutex on Apr 17, 2003 - 15 comments

Where White-Collar Jobs Are Going

Elocution lessons are helping staff working at call centres in India neutralise their accents and make their sales pitch more effective
call-center workers, computer programmers, these and other positions are being transferred to countries like India. We all know why. Only one reason, they call it Tight labor markets.

This is great news for India, but what exactly will the current call-center workers, programmers and other white collar workers in US do if their jobs will be gone to India ?
Are you worried that your position will one day be replaced by someone on the other side of the world working for 1/3 of your salary ?
posted by bureaustyle on Apr 15, 2003 - 43 comments

Foreigners' common pronunciation mistakes in Eenglish

Ough!* I pronounce the English language unpronounceable: Arriba! Arriba! Arriba! Speedy Gonzales here. When will you make up your minds and stop making fun of pestering us poor foreigners? I mean, it's not as if you yourselves can agree on how to pronounce almost anything... [*As in "plough". Not as in through, , thought, thorough, thought, hiccough, lough or enough already!]
posted by Carlos Quevedo on Apr 11, 2003 - 84 comments

Separated By A Common Language And All That Jazz

Do Most Of You Yanks Really Understand What The Brits Here Are On About? Although the cultural mistranslations are probably more a question of tone and habits of irony and understatement, Jeremy Smith's online American·British British·American Dictionary, to be published next September, might be of some assistance. Although I still prefer Terry Gliedt's older but pithier United Kingdom English For The American Novice and even Scotsman Chris Rae's English-to-American Dictionary. Here's a little BBC quiz to test your skills. It seems that Canadians, Australians and [another cute quiz coming up!] New Zealanders are the only Metafilterians to completely capture all the varieties of English usage here. Perhaps it all comes down to the fact that non-U.S. users know much, much less about England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand et caetera than vice-versa? Does anyone else get the occasional feeling we're not exactly speaking the same language here?
posted by MiguelCardoso on Apr 5, 2003 - 66 comments

kichi kichi!

Japanese Sound Effects and what they mean. Spotted on Gen Kanai's blog: this rather comprehensive list of sound-effect words from manga - the Japanese equivalent of BAM! WAP!, OOF! (and possibly even D'OH!), but covering a wider range of social and emotional terrain. Lest you surmise that these are more or less arbitrary, I "tested" ten or so on my fiancee and found that she knew every single one. Aaaa!
posted by adamgreenfield on Apr 3, 2003 - 12 comments

Pronouncing words

Qatar Home of Central Command and Al Jazzera television, it's a small oil-rich country we've all heard of, and that's the problem: I hear Qatar called Cutter, Gutter, Katar, and Kwatar. How do the Qataris' pronounce it; is it possible to accurately pronounce foreign words in English? Who decides? More inside...
posted by Mack Twain on Mar 29, 2003 - 32 comments

Orwell on political language

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

Words are to be likely casualties of the next few hours/days/weeks/months - time to double-check George Orwell's informative field medicine manual for the English Language...
posted by klaatu on Mar 20, 2003 - 6 comments

Pain In The English

Picky, picky, picky. What a great place to quibble over the fine points of English usage, such as where commas go, or the proper way to use the phrase "a lot of". Focus all that pre-war nervous energy into refining your speech and writing, maybe?
posted by majcher on Mar 17, 2003 - 27 comments

New OED Words

Dungeons and Dragons, bigorexia, arse-licker, bass-ackward... The online OED (Oxford English Dictionary) quarterly adds a host of new words to the canon of what has become the standard dictionary of the english language(s). Some of the new and spicey words are: arsehole, arseholed, arse-lick,arse-licker, ass-backward, ass-backwards, bass-ackward, bass-ackwards, dragon lady, Dungeons and Dragons, telenovela, and transgenderist!! Thank the gods of language for these new words! So what is you favorite new word and why?
posted by mfoight on Mar 17, 2003 - 26 comments

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