“Je Suis La Jeune Fille.” “Yes, that’s French they’re speaking. But no, these children aren’t French – they’re American!” If you grew up in the late 1980s and early 1990s, or watched children's TV programming from that era in the US or UK, no doubt you saw that commercial for Muzzy (formally titled Muzzy in Gondoland). The show was first produced by the BBC in 1986 to teach English as a second language, as seen in this playlist of five videos, and later expanded with Muzzy Comes Back in 1989 (six episode playlist). The shows were both translated in to French, German (playlist), Spanish (and the Spanish vocabulary builder), and Italian (Muzzy in Gondoland, Muzzy Comes Back).
A Linguist on the Story of Gendered Pronouns. Gretchen McCulloch talks about why we have pronouns, why gender is a thing in English, and how gender is a thing in other languages. [more inside]
Samantha Peterson slams her case for having a fat body in this world. No metaphor necessary. (SLHP)
The Egyptian singer Nesma Mahgoub, in the song’s chorus, sings, “Discharge thy secret! I shall not bear the torment!” and “I dread not all that shall be said! Discharge the storm clouds! The snow instigateth not lugubriosity within me…” From one song to the next, there isn’t a declensional ending dropped or an antique expression avoided, whether it is sung by a dancing snowman or a choir of forest trolls. The Arabic of “Frozen” is frozen in time, as “localized” to contemporary Middle Eastern youth culture as Latin quatrains in French rap.So Disney used to translate its movies into Egyptian Arabic but recently switched to Modern Standard Arabic, which is somewhat more formal.
Genius in a tiny mother bird, who learned to give her babies a password so they wouldn't die. A musical password. The Superb Fairy Wren sings to her eggs. The unborn baby birds, still in the egg, learn that musical password and sing it on being hatched.
A Dictionary of Navy Slang Compiled From Various Sources 67 pages of history and hilarity.
A number of different languages utilize compounded words, but German has a number of fun examples in the animal kingdom: how to name animals in German (Compounding German words, previously)
Decades of scientific research suggests that beneath dogs' seemingly frivolous fun lies a hidden language of honesty and deceit, empathy and perhaps even a humanlike morality.
Visualize a comic book, in your language, and imagine what would be written in the text balloon coming from the mouth of an animal. Now translate it. Derek Abbott of The University of Adelaide (previously) has compiled "the world’s biggest multilingual list" of animal sounds, commands, and pet names.
The Three Languages of Arts and Cultural Funding : It is a truth universally acknowledged that the public funding of arts and culture will cause political strife. Reasonable people just do not agree on this, and can be surprisingly quick to accuse others of ideological warmongering. An Australian application of The Three Languages of Politics [interview: podcast and transcript] by Arnold Kling. Via The Conversation.
Math or Maths? A few minutes with Dr Lynne Murphy (an American linguist in England) should clear this right up. Via Numberphile.
A Browser Extension That Replaces "Literally" With "Figuratively". Built by a programmer named Mike Walker, it’s an extension for Google’s Chrome browser that replaces the word “literally” with “figuratively” on sites and articles across the Web, with deeply gratifying results. Previously.
The Ket from the Lake Munduiskoye (2008, 30 min.) The Ket people are an indigenous group in central Siberia whose population has numbered less than two thousand during the past century. Although mostly assimilated into the dominant Russian culture at this point, a couple hundred of them are still able to speak the Ket language, the last remaining member of the Yeniseian language group. Recent scholarship has proposed a link between Ket and some Native American language groups.
In the Spanish province of Burgos, Castile y León, about 200 kilometers north of Madrid, is a tiny little village named Castrillo Matajudíos (pop. 60). The village is considering changing its name. [more inside]
Dr. Pierre Capretz, who taught French at Yale University for several decades, passed away at the age of 89 on April 1st of this year, qu'il repose en paix. Capretz is best known for his 1987 PBS series of half-hour French-language lessons, French in Action, which combined language immersion using to a simple romantic-comedy narrative followed by a classroom-style review, featuring Professeur Capretz, of the narrative with emphasis on the concepts, vocabulary, and grammar. [more inside]
We may not speak with the butter-toned exchanges of the characters on “Downton Abbey,” but in substance our speech is in many ways more civilized.... We are taught to celebrate the idea that Inuit languages reveal a unique relationship to snow, or that the Russian language’s separate words for dark and light blue mean that a Russian sees blueberries and robin’s eggs as more vibrantly different in color than the rest of us do. Isn’t it welcome, then, that good old-fashioned American is saying something cool about us for once? - John McWhorter on colloquial American English (SLNYTIMES) [more inside]
In Defense of Talking Funny: an examination of dialects and how people deal with them.
This book deals with the Dialect of the English Language that is spoken in Ireland. As the Life of a people—according to our motto—is pictured in their speech, our picture ought to be a good one, for two languages were concerned in it—Irish and English. ... Here for the first time—in this little volume of mine—our Anglo-Irish Dialect is subjected to detailed analysis and systematic classification.P.W. Joyce's 1910 work, "English as We Speak it in Ireland," is a fascinating chronicle of a language's life, and no mistake. [more inside]
Hieu Nguyen, at the 2013 National Poetry Slam, on losing your language and your culture.
Victor Wooten discusses being born into a musical family in a TED talk entitled Music as a Language. In contrast, Alex Lifeson as a teenager clashes with his parents about choosing music over school in an excerpt from the documentary Come On Children.
This cartoon by graphic designer and cartoonist 阿塗 (Ah To) contains 81 Cantonese proverbs and idioms in one image. It was originally published on the Hong Kong website Passion Times, and was inspired by a 1559 oil painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder called Netherlandish Proverbs. [more inside]
A Defense of Internet Linguistics --because "sometimes “AODEHwhddhwdwebw” is far more eloquent than saying “I’m so overtaken with emotion, I can barely type so I smashed the keyboard with my forehead.” [more inside]
"Finlayson’s attitude to language can be related to his politics. As an admirer and advocate of free market capitalism, he considers human society nothing more than the sum total of the actions of an aggregate of free and rational individuals. Just as these free and rational individuals are wholly responsible for their beliefs and choices, so they are entirely responsible for the meanings of the language they use. If there is any ambiguity in a piece of language, then this is the result of some individual’s failure to stop splitting infinitives, or breaking some other rule. " -- At Reading the Maps, Scott Hamilton rejects New Zealand's Attorney General and Minister of Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson's reductionist calls for "clear" language, in favour of the more complex approach to English as articulated by H. W. Fowler.
The Made Up Words Project is an on-going undertaking by illustrator Rinee Shah (who you may remember from her Seinfood poster series.) The goal is to collect and catalog the made up words that we share with family and friends.
Learn how to read Sanskrit, Hittite, Avestan, Old Persian, Classical Greek, Latin, Koine Greek, Gothic, Classical Armenian, Tocharian, Old Irish, Old English, Old Norse, Old Church Slavonic, Old French, Old Russian, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Albanian in ten lessons apiece.
The new chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary discusses its future. "My idea about dictionaries is that, in a way, their time has come. People need filters much more than they did in the past."
A thesaurus only lists adjectives. English Synonyms and Antonyms takes the time to explain the small distinctions of meaning and usage between, for example, example, archetype, ideal, prototype, type, ensample, model, sample, warning, exemplar, pattern, specimen, exemplification, precedent, and standard--or, at least, such distinctions as author James C. Fernald, L.H.D., perceived in 1896.
12 Old Words that Survived by Getting Fossilized in Idioms. We generally know what the idioms we use every day mean, but do we give much thought to the individual words that make them up, or why we rarely, if ever, see some of them out of that context? Maybe they're just plain outdated. [more inside]
In 25 questions, it will tell you where you are from (in the US), using results from the Harvard Dialect Survey [prev, now closed]. Don't peek, but this is an answer key of sorts, showing the full results of the survey. Come for the highly accurate maps, stay for the interesting variations - apparently, over 6% of people call a sunshower "the devil is beating his wife," and a small group calls it a "fox's wedding." [more inside]
Please enjoy this smattering of Word of the Day sites and pages: OED (RSS), Wordsmith (RSS), Wordnik, The Free Dictionary (RSS), Merriam-Webster (RSS), WordThink (RSS), Urban Dictionary (RSS), Macmillan (RSS), NY Times Learning Network Blog (RSS), Scrabble, Wordsmyth (RSS), Easy Speak (Toastmasters), Wiktionary, Wiktionary "Foreign", OLDO (RSS: Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, all in OLDO), Arabic (RSS), Japanese (RSS), Nahuatl, ASL, History, Geology, Theology (RSS), and Sesame Street (not daily, unfortunately).
The PLT Games are a monthly programming language competition. At the beginning of every month, a new theme is picked and developers begin work on a language that they think best fits the theme. At the end of every month, developers submit their projects and entries are submitted during the next month. [more inside]
When did our plainest punctuation mark become so aggressive? (New Republic) “In the world of texting and IMing … the default is to end just by stopping, with no punctuation mark at all,” Liberman wrote me. “In that situation, choosing to add a period also adds meaning because the reader(s) need to figure out why you did it. And what they infer, plausibly enough, is something like ‘This is final, this is the end of the discussion or at least the end of what I have to contribute to it.’”
The Panamanian golden frog that lives near loud waterfalls and the people of both Kuşköy (a small village in Turkey) and La Gomera (an island off the coast of Morocco) have something in common: creative communication in challenging situations. Where the golden frogs communicate by waving, the people of Kuşköy and La Gomera overcome difficult terrain by whistling. The Turkish people call their language "kuș dili" or "bird langage," as it originated in Kuşköy, which itself means "bird village," and the Silbo Gomero language is so organized and thorough that every vowel and consonant can be replaced with a whistle. [more inside]
A Textual Analysis of The Hunger Games (and Twilight, and Harry Potter)
English Has a New Preposition, Because Internet. The word "because," in standard English usage, is a subordinating conjunction, which means that it connects two parts of a sentence in which one (the subordinate) explains the other. In that capacity, "because" has two distinct forms. It can be followed either by a finite clause (I'm reading this because [I saw it on the web]) or by a prepositional phrase (I'm reading this because [of the web]). These two forms are, traditionally, the only ones to which "because" lends itself. I mention all that ... because language. Because evolution. Because there is another way to use "because." Linguists are calling it the "prepositional-because." Or the "because-noun."
A simple guide to how compound words work in German. (SLYT, rudimentary German makes it funnier but probably not essential)
Why H is the most contentious letter in the alphabet is a quick overview of the letter H. Though the visual form of the letter has been pretty stable in Medieval writing, it's the pronunciation of the letter that has caused issues, from Catullus' poem mocking Arrius's addition of H's to words, to the Irish clash of Protestants and Catholics including how each group pronounced H. Such regional and generational shifts in pronunciation were of interest to the British Library, as documented in their Evolving English exhibit, which includes an online "mapped" catalog of sound clips (previously).
'I like the rhythm and intent of "pathetic prehistoric rage-filled inbred assclown," but that's a lot to ask of a hashtag.' Joss Whedon talks about the word feminist at an Equality Now dinner.
"Unspeak is language that deliberately loads the dice. War on Terror. Weapons of mass destruction. Climate change. Failed asylum seekers. File sharing. Austerity measures. Oil spill. Erectile dysfunction. Once we tune in to unspeak we start seeing and hearing it everywhere" -- UK journalist Steve Poole's book Unspeak has been turned into a six part interactive documentary series by Dutch new media group Submarine Channel, narrated by Poole himself. [more inside]
I’ve always written high-quality sentences, prepared with the finest grammatical ingredients. In the coming year, I’m raising the bar even higher: I’ll be offering only artisanal words, locally grown, hand-picked, minimally processed, organically prepared, and sustainably packaged... - by Michael Erard, reprinted at Medium
From the New-York Mirror of February 24, 1883:
“. . . a new and valuable addition has been made to the slang vocabulary. … We refer to the term “Dood.” For a correct definition of the expression the anxious inquirer has only to turn to the tight-trousered, brief-coated, eye-glassed, fancy-vested, sharp-toes shod, vapid youth who abounds in the Metropolis at present. … The Dood is oftenest seen in the lobbies of our theatres on first-nights. He puffs cigarettes or sucks his hammered-silver tipped cane in the entr actes, and passes remarks of a not particularly intellectual character on the appearance and dresses of the actresses. His greatest pleasure lies in taking a favorite actress or singer to supper at Delmonico’s or the Hotel Brunswick—places he briefly calls ‘Dels’ and the ‘Bruns’—where he will spend his papa’s pelf with a lavish hand. … ”[more inside]