As you can see, the [Chinese] typewriter is extremely complicated and cumbersome. The main tray — which is like a typesetter's font of lead type — has about two thousand of the most frequent characters. Two thousand characters are not nearly enough for literary and scholarly purposes, so there are also a number of supplementary trays from which less frequent characters may be retrieved when necessary. What is even more intimidating about a Chinese typewriter is that the characters as seen by the typist are backwards and upside down! [more inside]
posted by Trurl
on Feb 27, 2012 -
If you use Americanisms
just to show you know them, people may find you a tad tiresome, so be discriminating.
You may have to think harder if you are not to use jargon
, but you can still be precise.
Use all metaphors
, dead or alive, sparingly, otherwise you will make trouble for yourself.
Some words add nothing but length
to your prose.
(Notes from The Economist
's style guide
posted by Joey Bagels
on Feb 24, 2012 -
I ﬁnd that speakers of languages with little to no grammatical distinction between the present and future (weak-FTR ["Future Time Reference"] language speakers) engage in much more future-oriented behavior. Weak-FTR speakers are 30% more likely to have saved in any given year, and have accumulated an additional 170 thousand Euros by retirement. I also examine non-monetary measures such as health behaviors and long-run health. I ﬁnd that by retirement, weak-FTR speakers are in better health by numerous measures: they are 24% less likely to have smoked heavily, are 29% more likely to be physically active, and are 13% less likely to be medically obese. [more inside]
posted by gauche
on Feb 11, 2012 -
After years of work, New Zealand scholar Sally-Ann Lambert just released volume 2 of her 9-volume linguistics series. “Hlingit Word Encyclopedia: The Origin of Copper”
is a 630-page encyclopedia of the SE Alaskan native language Tlingit. She traveled to Sitka for a mid-January book release and found one little problem: none of the Tlingit native speakers or scholars there recognized the language in it. [more inside]
posted by msalt
on Feb 8, 2012 -
is a map based newspaper browser. Filter by category, language, time or region or use the heatmap. [blog]
posted by unliteral
on Jan 9, 2012 -
The Corpus of American Historical English
is a searchable index of word usage in American printed material from 1810 to 2009. Powerful complex searches allow you to trace the appearance and evolution of words and phrases and even specific grammatical constructions, see trends in frequency, and plenty more. Start with the 5-Minute Tour
posted by Miko
on Jan 7, 2012 -
is blog dedicated to "map-illustrated analyses of current events and geographical issues", run by Martin W. Lewis, a Stanford senior lecturer. For the past week, they've been posting a series of articles on imaginary geography
. See below for a list of the posts so far: [more inside]
posted by daniel_charms
on Jan 6, 2012 -
A decade on, the Coen brothers' woefully underrated O Brother, Where Art Thou? [alt]
is remembered for a lot of things
: its sun-drenched, sepia-rich cinematography
(a pioneer of digital color grading
), its whimsical humor
, fluid vernacular
, and many subtle references
to Homer's Odyssey
. But one part of its legacy truly stands out: the music
Assembled by T-Bone Burnett
, the soundtrack is a cornucopia of American folk music, exhibiting everything from cheery ballads
and angelic hymns
to wistful blues
and chain-gang anthems
. Woven into the plot of the film through radio and live performances, the songs lent the story a heartfelt, homespun feel
that echoed its cultural heritage, a paean and uchronia of the Old South
Though the multiplatinum album was recently reissued
, the movie's medley is best heard via famed documentarian D. A. Pennebaker
's Down from the Mountain
, an extraordinary
concert film focused on a night of live music by the soundtrack's stars (among them Gillian Welch
, Emmylou Harris
, Chris Thomas King
, bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley
) and wryly hosted by John Hartford
, an accomplished fiddler
, riverboat captain
, and raconteur
whose struggle with terminal cancer made this his last major performance. The film is free in its entirety on Hulu
-- click inside for individual clips, song links, and breakdowns of the set list
's fascinating history. [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi
on Dec 22, 2011 -
A Pattern Language explores the living structure in good and bad buildings, human artifacts, and natural systems, discussing the presence of the same living order in all systems. [Christopher] Alexander proposes that the living order depends on features which make a close connection with the human self. The quality of works of art, artifacts, and buildings is defined not merely in terms of living structure, but also in their capacity to affect human growth and human well-being.
posted by Trurl
on Dec 15, 2011 -
It has long been noted that style manuals and other usage advice frequently contain unintended examples of the usage they condemn. (This is sometimes referred to as Hartman's
law or Muphry's
law - an intentional misspelling of Murphy.)
Starting from this observation, Joseph Williams' paper The Phenomenology of Error
offers an examination of our selective attention to different types of grammatical and usage errors that goes beyond the descriptivism-prescriptivism debate. (alternate pdf
link for "The Phenomenology of Error") [more inside]
posted by nangar
on Nov 28, 2011 -
Gullah—the African-influenced dialect of Georgia’s Sea Islands—has undergone few changes since the first slave ships landed 300 years ago, and provides a clear window into the shaping of African-American English. This classic PBS program
traces that story from the west coast of Africa through the American South, then to large northern cities in the 1920s. Studying the origins of West African pidgin English and creole speech—along with the tendency of 19th-century white Southerners to pick up speech habits from their black nursemaids—the program highlights the impact of WWI-era industrialization and the migration of jazz musicians to New York and Chicago.
posted by cthuljew
on Nov 15, 2011 -
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba!
It's been nearly two decades since that glorious savanna sunrise, and once again The Lion King
is at the top of the box office
. It's a good chance to revisit what made the original the capstone of the Disney Renaissance
, starting with the music. Not the gaudy show tunes or the Elton John ballads, but the soaring, elegiac score by Hans Zimmer which, despite winning an Oscar, never saw a full release outside of an unofficial bootleg
Luckily, it's unabridged and high-quality, allowing one to lay Zimmer's haunting
tracks alongside the original video
), revealing the subtle leitmotifs and careful matching of music and action.
In addition, South African collaborator Lebo M
wove traditional Zulu chorals into the score, providing veiled commentary
on scenes like this
; his work was later expanded
into a full album
, the Broadway stage show
, and projects closer to his heart
. Speaking of expanded works, there were inevitable sequels -- all of which you can experience with The Lion King: Full Circle
), a fan-made, three-hour supercut of the original film and its two follow-ups.
Want more? Look... harder... [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi
on Oct 1, 2011 -
In the late Sixties and early Seventies several experiments were begun to test whether or not a non-human primate could construct a sentence. Several species were involved in these various experiments including the chimpanzees Washoe
, a gorilla named Koko
, and later in the Eighties work began with a bonobo named Kanzi
. While great progress was made in teaching these primates a vocabulary, it would be difficult to see any of these experiments as a success. And all of these projects raised important questions about the ethics
of such experiments. [more inside]
posted by Toekneesan
on Aug 20, 2011 -
Do you have a favorite kanji character?
I like this one: 峠
because it reminds me of a poem by Christina Rossetti:
Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men
(what I mean is, it’s terribly nice to have the radicals for mountain, up and down form the character).
I’m very fond of 競 because it makes me think of two men skating with their arms behind their backs in a Dutch painting, wearing black frock coats and breeches.
明 is not very exotic, of course, but it’s nice to have the word for ‘bright’ represented by the sun and moon – this is a bit like certain German words, where the elements of a phenomenon are put together for the word: there’s Morgengrauen (morning grey) for the sky lightening to grey just before dawn, and Morgenröte (morning red) for the sky when it first turns red, similar sort of thing.
with Helen DeWitt,
author of The Last Samurai
, Your Name Here
, a novel written with Ilya Gridneff,
and the forthcoming Lightning Rods.
DeWitt will be in New York September 8 - 11.
posted by xod
on Aug 19, 2011 -
An Era in Ideas.
"To mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, The Chronicle Review
asked a group of influential thinkers to reflect on some of the themes that were raised by those events and to meditate on their meaning, then and now. The result is a portrait of the culture and ideas of a decade born in trauma, but also the beginning of a new century, with all its possibilities and problems." [Via]
posted by homunculus
on Aug 13, 2011 -