897 posts tagged with Language.
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Linguistic Time Travel

"The discovery advances UC Berkeley’s mission to make sense of big data and to use new technology to document and maintain endangered languages as critical resources for preserving cultures and knowledge. [...] it can also provide clues to how languages might change years from now."
posted by batmonkey on Feb 11, 2013 - 21 comments

Could be worse. Whatever.

How To Speak Minnesotan [slyt]
posted by cthuljew on Feb 10, 2013 - 45 comments

From Shag Point to Humptulips

Vaguely Rude Place Names of the World. [more inside]
posted by Horace Rumpole on Feb 10, 2013 - 58 comments

The bLogicarian

"The name "bLogicarian" may be one of the the most pretentious conglomerations of philhellenic puns I could concoct." A blog on language, poetry and translation. [more inside]
posted by frimble on Feb 5, 2013 - 1 comment

Like pornography, you know it when you see it ...

International Art English (IAE) with its pompous paradoxes and plagues of adverbs is not to be confused with actual English.
posted by philip-random on Jan 29, 2013 - 64 comments


We've all been there: you need a portentous motto for your new liberal arts college, crack military unit, or world-encompassing secret society, but you just don't speak Latin. No problēma! If the grand list of Latin phrases doesn't have what you're looking for, there's always the Latin Motto Generator. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Jan 29, 2013 - 67 comments

A world accidentally full of triggers

Rhiannon Lucy Coslett, one of the women behind The Vagenda, writes on the phenomenon of the trigger warning.
posted by mippy on Jan 29, 2013 - 101 comments

Christ, What an Asshole: an NPR hour on a word they can't say on-air

To the Best of Our Knowledge does a program on assholes. Much bleeping/blanking ensues, along with a lot of use of "a-word" to describe both word and the persons it names. [more inside]
posted by Mngo on Jan 27, 2013 - 34 comments

"...an enormous erect phallus, and piles of lettuce in the background."

First noticed on tumblr but now available to all, Alex Clayden's paper "Same-Sex Desire in Pharaonic Egypt" which, among other things, tells you about the connection between lettuce and semen and the Ancient Egyptian for "You have a nice ass."
posted by The Whelk on Jan 25, 2013 - 26 comments

Now all they need is a replica of "The Wire"

"Almost a decade since the end of the hit American TV series Friends, the show — and, in particular, the fictitious Central Perk cafe, where much of the action took place — is enjoying an afterlife in China's capital, Beijing. Here, the show that chronicled the exploits of New York City pals Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe and Joey is almost seen as a lifestyle guide."
posted by vidur on Jan 23, 2013 - 37 comments

I help students learn how to study all types of rocks.

Complex scientific concepts explained using only the thousand most used words in the English language. In the spirit of xkcd's Up-Goer Five comic. (Previously.) Use the Up-Goer Five Text Editor to make your own contributions.
posted by Cash4Lead on Jan 18, 2013 - 108 comments

Learn Korean Easy!

Learn Korean Easy!
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Jan 17, 2013 - 46 comments

“colorful etymologies...are almost always wrong".

The Whole Nine Yards: Seeking a Phrase’s Origin
When people talk about “the whole nine yards,” just what are they talking about? For decades the answer to that question has been the Bigfoot of word origins...But now two researchers using high-powered database search tools have delivered a confident “none of the above,” supported by a surprise twist: Before we were going the whole nine yards, it turns out, we were only going six.
posted by anazgnos on Jan 15, 2013 - 53 comments

How to talk Minnesota Nice

I grew up in Minnesota, home of a particular passive-aggressive communication style which is summed up nicely by this chart and subsequent comments. Of particular import is the difference between "that's different" and "that's sure different" (though there isn't mention of "that's real different," which I think means just about the same thing) and examples of Minnesota Enthusiastic Neutral. Also worth noting is the classic book by sometime A Prairie Home Companion regular Howard Mohr, How to Talk Minnesotan. [more inside]
posted by larrybob on Jan 13, 2013 - 170 comments

You Can't Say That In English

Approximately 375 million people speak English as their first language, and 470 million to over a billion people speak it as a second language (to varying degrees). Even so, there are some words that do not exist in English, even with new word entries periodically being added to the Oxford Dictionary. 25 words that do not exist in English. [more inside]
posted by anya32 on Jan 10, 2013 - 134 comments


New letter and word frequency counts Peter Norvig has used Google books data to generate new lists of letter frequency, the most common English words and their frequencies, and lots of other fun stuff (though I don't know if forschungsgemeinschaft is really an English word, unless it means forcing a mine shaft). [more inside]
posted by hexatron on Jan 7, 2013 - 42 comments

"There are many species in the asshole kingdom."

"So what is an asshole, exactly? How is he (and assholes are almost always men) distinct from other types of social malefactors? Are assholes born that way, or is their boorishness culturally conditioned? What explains the spike in the asshole population?" -- The Chronicle talks to two professors, linguist Geoffrey Nunberg and philospher Aaron James, about their recent work on, well, assholes. [more inside]
posted by bardic on Jan 6, 2013 - 71 comments

Can't seem to find the word...

21 emotions English has no word for. Some things "light us up". Some things "leave us cold". Such dim metaphors only hint at the unspoken universe of feeling, dimensions we can only guess that we share. A new infographic explores "untranslatable" feeling-words from other languages.
posted by Twang on Jan 6, 2013 - 132 comments

A Chinese Princess and a magic well

Historically, the city states of the Malay Peninsula often paid tribute to regional kingdoms such as those of China and Siam. Closer relations with China were established in the early 15th century during the reign of Parameswara, founder of Melaka, when Admiral Zheng He (Cheng Ho) sailed through the Straits of Malacca. Impressed by the tribute, the Yongle Emperor of China is said to have presented Princess Hang Li Po* as a gift to Mansur Shah, then Sultan of Malacca (+/-1459 AD). Tradition claims the courtiers and servants who accompanied the princess settled in Bukit Cina, intermarried with the locals and grew into a community known as the Peranakan. Colloquially known as Baba-Nyonya, the Peranakan or Straits Chinese, they retained many of their ethnic and religious customs, but assimilated the language and clothing of the Malays. They developed a unique culture and distinct foods. Nyonya cuisine is one of the most highly rated in the South East Asian region, considered some of the most difficult to master but very easy to love and enjoy.
posted by infini on Dec 24, 2012 - 25 comments

Christmas Can Be Green And Bright

"Mele Kalikimaka" (Ukelele cords) is a Hawaiian-themed Christmas song written in 1949 by Robert Alex Anderson. The phrase is borrowed directly from English but since Hawaiian has a different phonological system - Hawaiian does not have the /r/ or /s/ of English and doesn't have the phonotactic constraints to allow consonants at the end of syllables or consonant clusters - "Merry Christmas" becomes "Mele Kalikimaka". Enjoy the canonical version with Bing Crosby And The Andrew Sisters (lounge remix) or by KT Tunstall or Bette Milder or Jimmy Buffet or Gianni And Sarah or The Puppini Sisters or Reel Big Fish or Country Western style or pared down instrumental or Celtic Rock style or performed on the Metro by Pokey LaFarge or ..whatever the hell this is.
posted by The Whelk on Dec 23, 2012 - 16 comments


"10 Words You Literally Didn’t Know You Were Getting Wrong" [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Dec 19, 2012 - 154 comments


Polish names are hard for Germans. The Danish language is hard for the Danes. Singing in French is hard for New Zealanders. (MLYT) (Previously: An English-esque song that is hard for English speakers.) [more inside]
posted by narain on Dec 8, 2012 - 17 comments

American Science Language

[LydiaCallisFilter] Signing Science
posted by cthuljew on Dec 5, 2012 - 14 comments

Suspiciously familiar...

Y est-ce deux dés? (not exactly what it says on the tin) [more inside]
posted by BungaDunga on Nov 25, 2012 - 24 comments

What's gonna happen outside the window next?

Noam Chomsky on Where Artificial Intelligence Went Wrong
posted by cthuljew on Nov 18, 2012 - 55 comments

Go ahead.

You should follow me on twitter.
posted by Evernix on Nov 17, 2012 - 54 comments

Meta: word-forming element meaning 1. "after, behind," 2. "changed, altered," 3. "higher, beyond;" from Gk.

Are you enthusiastic ("pertaining to possession by a deity," from Gk. enthousiastikos "inspired," from enthousiazein ) about Etymology? ( ethimolegia "facts of the origin and development of a word," from O.Fr. et(h)imologie (14c., Mod.Fr. étymologie), from L. etymologia, from Gk. etymologia, properly "study of the true sense (of a word)," Then why not explore ( 1580s, "to investigate, examine," a back formation from exploration, or else from M.Fr. explorer (16c.), from L. explorare ) the vast resources (1610s, "means of supplying a want or deficiency," from Fr. resourse) of the ONLINE ETYMOLOGY DICTIONARY [more inside]
posted by The Whelk on Nov 12, 2012 - 30 comments

Zeugma, syllepsis, ellipsis

In Praise of the Rolling Stones and Their Zeugmoids [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Nov 11, 2012 - 13 comments

"I am Jacob." "Und I am Wilhelm." "Und ve just vant to pump... (clap) ...YOU UP!"

Some are strong, and some are weak. The weak, as is well known, are easily mastered—completely regular and, frankly, pathetic. But it doesn't have to be that way! The Society for the Strengthening of Verbs labors at its noble cause of strengthening verbs and nouns (in English too, though with less Sprachgefühl), increasing the stock of causatives, and generally messing around with German (excuse me, with Neutsch).
posted by kenko on Oct 31, 2012 - 29 comments

Shakespeare: Globe to Globe

Shakespeare: Globe to Globe was a series of 37 Shakespeare plays performed in 37 different languages presented at the reconstructed Shakespeare Globe theatre in London this summer. [more inside]
posted by Egg Shen on Oct 30, 2012 - 20 comments

The Library of Babel in 140 characters (or fewer)

The universe (which others call The Twitter) is composed of every word in the English language; Shakespeare's folios, line-by-line-by-line; the Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, exploded; Constantine XI, in 140 character chunks; Sun Tzu's Art of War, in its entirety; the chapter headings of JG Ballard, in abundance; and definitive discographies of Every. Artist. Ever... All this, I repeat, is true, but one hundred forty characters of inalterable wwwtext cannot correspond to any language, no matter how dialectical or rudimentary it may be. [more inside]
posted by 0bvious on Oct 27, 2012 - 14 comments

Language Communities of London as seen by Twitter

London's Twitter Languages. Twitter Languages of the World.
posted by Gordafarin on Oct 25, 2012 - 14 comments

Parrots of the Sea

Researchers think that the late beluga whale named NOC had been trying to speak with a human accent – or at least talk to its keepers. Current Biology has more (PDF link).
posted by barnacles on Oct 22, 2012 - 49 comments

Wet your whistle on these

What ho, dearest cousins in the Western Colonies. You appear to be increasingly using the vernacular of the mother country. Splendid! [more inside]
posted by Wordshore on Oct 17, 2012 - 180 comments

Typical Pentagon boondoggle

The Global Language Online Support System (or GLOSS), produced by the Defense Language Institute in sunny Monterey, CA, offers over six thousand free lessons in 38 languages from Albanian to Uzbek, with particular emphasis on Chinese, Persian, Russian, Korean, and various types of Arabic. The lessons include both reading and listening components and are refreshingly based on real local materials (news articles, radio segments, etc.) rather than generic templates. [more inside]
posted by theodolite on Oct 11, 2012 - 23 comments

Japanese is just weird, nahmean?

Are Some Languages “Faster” Than Others? from Slate's Lexicon Valley podcast series. Transcript included!
posted by Panjandrum on Oct 4, 2012 - 26 comments

Rapscallion was robbed.

Starting with a bracket for every letter of the alphabet, a bracket suggested by readers and a "Fuck" play-in bracket, blogger Ted McCagg just finished a contest for the Best Word Ever. In the running were Umpteen, Eke, Isthmus, Skedaddle and Akimbo. The Final Four. The finals. The champion. [Via The Paris Review & Kottke.]
posted by mediareport on Sep 25, 2012 - 68 comments

Border crossings and shifts

Who Draws The Borders Of Culture?(NYTimes) Cultural border, as opposed to national borders, are funny things. One country can contain many (Coke vs. Soda. Vs. Pop, previously and previously-er). Cultural borders often appear as food and drink choices, like sweet tea, forms of alcohol, or BBQ sauce. [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Sep 24, 2012 - 61 comments

Medicine Wheel / Wagon Wheel

In 2005, Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks produced a 6 episode miniseries that spanned the period of expansion of the United States into the American West, from 1825 to 1890. Through fictional and historical characters, the series used two primary symbols--the wagon wheel and the Lakota medicine wheel -- to join the story of two families: one Native American, one White settlers, as they witnessed many of the 19th century's pivotal historical milestones. The award-winning Into The West can now be seen in its entirety on YouTube. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Sep 20, 2012 - 12 comments


What your crutch word says about you
posted by morganannie on Sep 12, 2012 - 178 comments

"With respect to an equivalence defined by (some feature)"

The Award For Nerdiest Preposition Goes To ... [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Sep 10, 2012 - 116 comments

Bird Brains

Staying_On-Topic in r/intelligentanimals posts a huge number of links explaining why Corvids (crows, ravens, magpies, etc) are amazing.
posted by The Whelk on Aug 26, 2012 - 33 comments

The bosses with the antennas on tap.

The Northern Cities Vowel Shift is radically changing the sound of English: Despite fears that the growth of TV and radio would homogenize English dialects in the US, the Great Lakes region (from Syracuse to Milwaukee) has been in fact diverging with respect to how people there pronounce English words. Rob Mifsud writes: Consider the three-letter words that begin with b and end in t: bat, bet, bit, bot, and but. All five of those words contain short vowel sounds. Their long-vowel equivalents—bate, beet, bite, boat, boot, and bout—arrived at their modern pronunciations as a result of the Great Vowel Shift that began around 1400 and established the basic contours of today’s English. But those short vowels have remained pretty much constant since the eighth century—in other words, for more than a thousand years. Until now. [more inside]
posted by Cash4Lead on Aug 24, 2012 - 123 comments

cognates from Lithuanian to Sanskrit and Greek

"Puzzling Heritage: The verb 'fart.'" [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Aug 19, 2012 - 30 comments

Electric! Copen! International orange!

Evocative definitions of colors in Webster's Third New International Dictionary and how they got there. [more inside]
posted by Cash4Lead on Aug 17, 2012 - 13 comments

Well, nobody's perfect. But at least we have cameras.

What makes a memorable movie quote memorable?
A news summary of how they went about it.
A short audio version (via NPR) of the story and research summary.
A Wikipedia list: AFI's 100 years, 100 quotes.
A short list of advertising slogans that fit the research model for movie quote memorability.
The research paper (automatic PDF download). [more inside]
posted by iamkimiam on Aug 15, 2012 - 65 comments

"Grief bacon."

Wonderful words with no simple English equivalent.
posted by mudpuppie on Aug 13, 2012 - 231 comments

Beizhing or Bei Jing?

James Fallows, in a series of interesting blog posts, questions the typical English pronunciation of China's capital city arguing that "the "jing" in Beijing is pronounced basically like the "jing" in Jingle Bells. It's essentially the normal English j- sound. What it's not like is the Frenchified zh- sound you hear in "azure" or "leisure," or at the end of "sabotage."" One reader suggests, "My working theory about "Beijing/bay-zhing" is that at some deep, unconscious level, English speakers secretly believe that all foreign languages are French and should be pronounced as such in the absence of instructions to the contrary." Another reader argues, "Major cities and countries have historically had different names in different languages, and these names serve a good purpose by being easy to pronounce and identify in the languages where they are used. There is really no more reason to say "Beijing" in English than "München" or "Moskva."" [more inside]
posted by beisny on Aug 13, 2012 - 301 comments

10 years of language hat

languagehat looks back on ten years of Languagehat: I II III IV V VI VII VIII IX X.
posted by nangar on Jul 31, 2012 - 28 comments

Fearing cacodemonomania from jettatura, the acersecomic leptosome set off a biblioclasm of his scripturient neogenesis on ktenology, unwittingly bringing about hamartia.

The Project Twins have created bold illustrative posters of unusual words from A to Z. (via)
posted by divabat on Jul 25, 2012 - 19 comments

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