Every trade has a history, a culture and secrets, all most vividly expressed in the special terms used by its workers. The circus is, of course, no different as this handy dictionary of circus slang shows
. It contains entries for both American and European circuses, and has a handy list of vaudeville slang words as well. These unique words used on the carnival lot around the world demonstrate a language that defines a world of wonders, and now you can use them to impress your friends and insult your enemies!
posted by Effigy2000
on Sep 25, 2008 -
"I love Chinglish
: it constantly surprises and delights me. It refreshes our view of language, and reminds native English speakers of our own deficiencies in other languages. It also sometimes defines a wonderful characteristic of Chinese matter-of-fact-ness".
posted by flapjax at midnite
on Sep 15, 2008 -
David Brooks, Social Psychologist,
Mark Liberman at Language Log looks at the science behind David Brook's latest column
in which he claims there is a fundamental differences between the thought processes of individuals in Asian "collectivist" societies and Western "individualist" ones. (via
posted by afu
on Aug 14, 2008 -
is a collection of 3210 words that are troublesome to readers and writers. Words are grouped according to the way they are most often confused or misused.
posted by blue_beetle
on Aug 11, 2008 -
Frederick...made linguistic experiments on the vile bodies of hapless infants, "bidding foster-mothers and nurses to suckle and bathe and wash the children, but in no wise to prattle or speak with them; for he would have learnt whether they would speak the Hebrew language (which had been the first), or Greek, or Latin, or Arabic, or perchance the tongue of their parents of whom they had been born. But he laboured in vain, for the children could not live without clappings of the hands, and gestures, and gladness of countenance, and blandishments." [more inside]
posted by voltairemodern
on Aug 4, 2008 -
A linguist and a sociologist at Hebrew Union College have teamed up to track the inroads made into American English
by words and idioms from traditionally Jewish languages, including Yiddish, Judeo-Arabic, Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), and Hebrew. They've created an online survey
and are looking for people from all religious and ethnic backgrounds to answer a few questions about their word choices, phrasing, and pronunciation. They're also trying to determine whether certain linguistic quirks usually attributed to Yiddish's influence are actually carried over from Jewish ancestors' speech patterns and accents, or whether they're merely an artifact from growing up in or near New York City. [via
posted by Asparagirl
on Jul 23, 2008 -
Until 400 years ago, the Ainu controlled Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's four main islands. Today they are a small minority group of Japan. They are a hunting and fishing people whose origins remain in dispute.
Long before the people who would come to be known as "the Japanese" completed their migrations from the Asia mainland, the islands of Japan were already inhabited by a race of people known as the Ainu ("human").
On this northernmost island, (Hokkaido), in the "snow
country," there still may be found remnants of this once proud and vigorous people who roamed the Japan islands long before the Japanese themselves arrived.More links inside [more inside]
posted by dawson
on Jun 6, 2008 -
Immediately, Herson spotted an offense—a second-floor awning outside a tarot shop that advertised "Energy Stone's." They climbed the stairs to the second floor and approached a middle-age women with a quizzical expression. "We happened to notice the sign for energy stones," Deck said, "and there happens to be an extra apostrophe. 'Stone's' doesn't need the apostrophe."
"And?" she asked, her voice flat with annoyance.
"And we wanted to bring it to your attention," Deck said.
A look inside the daring lives
of Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson, vanguards of the Typo Eradication Advancement League
posted by Rhaomi
on May 21, 2008 -
Ever notice how some words just sound like what they mean? Like how a distant star really does seem to sparkle
. Words like mumble
, and squeamish
. Jospeh Bottum
describes them well: "They taste good in the mouth, and they seem to resound with their own verbal truthfulness... More like proper nouns than mere words, they match the objects they describe. Pickle, gloomy, portly, curmudgeon
--sounds that loop back on themselves to close the circle of meaning. They're perfect, in their way." But he tries to coin a new term for them when some already exist. [more inside]
posted by AceRock
on May 20, 2008 -
Harmanz ha haz b bargan
ahn za MMARBG Ahban Bahb
] ar zambahz. Zambahz haz AAGHZ g!bz gab azzar zambahz: a, b, g, h, m, n, r, z. Zambahz maz hab gab, za Zambahz zgrabbarh Zamgrh
, a gab grh a gab bag
, a grammah
, n zhranzazzaz
. Habganna barbaga zaarz
grh za bra!nz
posted by xthlc
on May 8, 2008 -
Social Class in the US and UK
Lynne Murphy, a linguist from the US living in the UK, looks at the differences in class distinctions through the lens of the language we use to talk about them.
posted by mosessis
on Apr 30, 2008 -
Polyglot Michel Thomas
came to prominence through his work for the French resistance and the successful interrogation of Nazis
(who had formerly imprisoned him). After the war he started to develop (and eventually patent
) a method for teaching languages that eschewed notes, books, writing, memorisation and homework. Instead, words and phrases would be built up in lego-like constructions to provide “confidence in hours not years”. He gave private lessons to a long list of A-list celebrities
including Woody Allen, Natasha Kinsky, Tony Curtis and Grace Kelly. A BBC documentary from 1997 told his story and tested him out with the less exalted audience of 16 year old London school kids pre-selected to be “incapable of learning a foreign language” by their teachers [YT pt 1
]. He was secretive about how his methods worked until the end of his life when he finally made his courses available
as audiobooks. [more inside]
posted by rongorongo
on Mar 20, 2008 -
The Dictionary of Coming to Terms with the Past (Wörterbuch der 'Vergangenheitsbewältigung'
) examines over 1,000 German words that have Nazi connotations, such as Endlösung
(Final Solution) and Selektion
, It is featured in a review
by der Spiegel. Such loaded words still constitute a minefield for Germans today, as the Archbishop of Cologne discovered
last year in a situation analogized
to Senator Biden's use of the term "articulate" when referring to Senator Obama. [more inside]
posted by Rumple
on Feb 17, 2008 -
Over the years millions of children have been introduced to a foreign language by Big Muzzy [wiki]
, a friendly, green, clock-eating monster. Here's the complete British English version of Muzzy in Gondoland on YouTube: 1
posted by sveskemus
on Dec 16, 2007 -
"Hundreds of thousands of Americans have endured tours of duty in Iraq. They are returning home with a new word on their lips. It will have an impact on the American Experiment, inshallah
posted by Firas
on Dec 7, 2007 -
is a new beta service offering free online language lessons. 11 languages available (each with 100 lessons). For English speakers there are lessons in French, German, Italian, Greek, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese and Pig Latin. For Polish and Spanish speakers, lessons in English.
posted by nickyskye
on Nov 7, 2007 -
Blackburn makes manifest a propensity for turgid language. Not content with foisting “cockalorum” (meaning, boastful talk), “froward” (willfully disobedient) and “mordaciously” (bitingly) on the reader, he may be the first judge to use both “contumelious” (scornful) and “contumacious” (pigheaded) in the same opinion.
Judge Robert E. Blackburn's ruling [pdf]
granting a motion for a new trial based on attorney misconduct is an interesting read for those who enjoy the use of uncommon, flowery and "big" words. [more inside]
posted by amyms
on Oct 14, 2007 -