The BBC uses a survey, apparently, to rank words by their perceived offensiveness.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What's the Korean for thanatophany or the Icelandic for snoek? J M Coetzee writes about the problems and delights of translation. [via languagehat]
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?
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.
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.
The Passivator. A passive verb and adverb flagger for Mozilla-derived browsers, Safari, and Opera 7.5, with caveats.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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"
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.
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
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.
"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).
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.
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!
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]
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
Explosion Over the N-Word When Kanye West blasted President Bush’s treatment of poor black people in New Orleans after Katrina hit, the rapper unintentionally set off a hurricane of words in Florida. The Independent Florida Alligator, the student newspaper, ran a cartoon last week that criticized West’s statements by showing him holding a large playing card marked “The Race Card,” and having Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, exclaim with scorn at West: “Nigga Please!”
Weasel words 'Spare Don Watson, author of Death Sentences from all of these weasely, wishy-washy, and worst of all, ugly bits of management-speak that have drifted out of consulting sessions and into the social realm.' Forbes.com..................... Your favourite spin doctoring ?
Communication Breakdown is a problem that often prevents doctors from treating immigrant patients effectively. Language and cultural barriers prevent patients from understanding doctors instructions, sharing their symptoms of illness, and even from being examined by the doctor in cases where religious beliefs prohibit contact with someone of the opposite gender.
English as she is spoke : Infamous as the world's most ludicrously inept foreign phrasebook, the misbegotten work of Jose da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino was revived in a new edition by the Collins Library in March 2002. Some background.
Language Corner by Columbia Journalism Review, is incredibly helpful when it comes to learning the English language's subtle nuances and rather obvious rules.
Subtitles on the radio. Last night Radio 1, the BBC's flagship youth station, broadcast an hour of Welsh language music and chat. The webcast includes subtitles.
A picture of English nouns is a map of 33,000 English nouns. Each tiny rectangle corresponds to a noun. The color of the rectangle has been assigned a color, based on an internet image search for that noun. The words are clustered so that similar words are near each other. Gallery. (Java required)
As of today, the German language has changed, ending a 10 year state of flux which has seen new spelling rules mixed with the old ones. Under the new system, "extremely long compound words have been broken up, comma rules have been simplified, and in many cases a double-S replaces the old letter sign for the sound, which resembles a capital B." But given the strong resistance to the new rules from some in the German community, it may be a little premature to add the old German language to to the list of lost languages (previously discußed here) just yet. Anyway, for Mefite linguaphiles interested in this significant and now seemingly permanent change to the German language, check out the German spelling reform timeline.
Walter Miller's homepage Picked up recently via kottke.org, this is a years-old webpage (not updated recently) detailing the miserable details of poor Walter's white trash existence. It deserves to be read by a whole new generation. The art of misspelling is taken to new heights.
There are 7 words you can't say in kindergarden. Caution: contains foul language and political thought.
El Indio in Hispanic proverbial speech "The proverbial speech of Hispanic America preserves, even today, numerous traces of the interaction between explorers, conquerors, or settlers and the native populations they found in the various regions of the so-called New World"
The use of "y'all" is slowly but steadily gaining acceptance in standard English far outside . . . 'the South'. Why is it becoming so popular, when other . . . southernisms show no such acceptance? Language is a fluid thing.
cli·ché :: 1 : a trite phrase or expression; also : the idea expressed by it; 2 : a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation; 3 : something (as a menu item) that has become overly familiar or commonplace
Are dictionaries the realm of the elite and the educated? For a change of pace, there is an extensive dictionary of Russian swears with hundreds of words translated into French and German .. Oh and it's also two way - French swears and German swears are both translated into Russian. [More Inside]
What Does That Mean explains what it means to be having a blue or to be loaded for bear. This is a newish wiki site, so could use some more content. Me? I'm off to get something from the chilly bin and then I may add some regional idioms of my own...
the naming of a thing or action by a vocal imitation of the sound associated with it (as buzz, hiss)
International Onomatopoeic Sounds
[Note: You must have sound for this to be cool]
[Note: You must have sound for this to be cool]
Why's (Poignant) Guide to Ruby So you’ve got to know that synergy doesn’t actually mean synergy in this book. I can’t do normal synergy. No, in this book, synergy means cartoon foxes. What I’m saying is: this book will be starting off with an exorbitant amount of cartoon foxes. And I will be counting on you to turn them into synergy. Possibly the funniest computer programming book ever written.
Could I interest you in a Chocolate Collon? And would you like a cool can of Plussy to wash it down? If you're looking for a fun book to read, or anything else, Engrish has it in stock.
Learn Brit-Speak British Airways wants to help Americans understand "Brit-Speak". Of course you've always wanted to know what pants, snog, squiz and lurgy mean, but as a marketing strategy? annoying flash interface, but all 72 items inside
The Vepsa are a distinct ethnic people who live in the Russian territory of Karelia, on the border with Finland. They are also scattered throughout the Leningrad and Vologda regions of Russia. Before many were assimiliated to Russian, the Vepsa spoke their own distinct variant of Finno-Ugric. [See more inside]
French In Action is now available for free, online. (click on the "VoD" link to the right of each episode; free registration required ) Long a staple of high school French classes and late-night PBS broadcasts, French In Action is notable for teaching French without translating it; meaning is made clear through context and repetition. It's an approach some people find useless and others consider "so excellent it almost justifies the invention of television ". If you'd rather learn Spanish, there's Destinos and for German, there's Fokus Deutsch--but neither one features Valérie Allain, subject of intense fascination (and occasionally creepy obsession.) ( Unfortunately, free streaming of French in Action doesn't seem to be available outside the US and Canada; Destinos and Fokus Deutsch have no such restrictions.)