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The Correct Word

A hundred year old book about words that people were (and often still are) using wrongly.
posted by Peregrine Pickle on Oct 16, 2014 - 60 comments

Essays in English yield information about other languages

Essays and longer texts written in English can provide interesting insights into the linguistic background of the writer, and about the history of other languages, even dying languages, when evaluated by a new computer program developed by a team of computer scientists at MIT and Israel’s Technion. As told on NPR, this discovery came about by accident, when the new program classified someone as Russian when they were Polish, due to the similarity in grammar between the languages. Researchers realized this could allow the program to re-create language families, and could be applied to people who currently may not speak their original language, allowing some categorization of dying languages. More from MIT, and a link to the paper (PDF, from the 2014 Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics).
posted by filthy light thief on Oct 1, 2014 - 6 comments

'the jingle allegedly contained a grammatical error.'

Why Academic Writing Stinks, by Steven Pinker
The curse of knowledge is a major reason that good scholars write bad prose. It simply doesn’t occur to them that their readers don’t know what they know—that those readers haven’t mastered the patois or can’t divine the missing steps that seem too obvious to mention or have no way to visualize an event that to the writer is as clear as day. And so they don’t bother to explain the jargon or spell out the logic or supply the necessary detail. Obviously, scholars cannot avoid technical terms altogether. But a surprising amount of jargon can simply be banished, and no one will be the worse for it.
Pinker's new book, a style guide, The Sense of the Style, has ten grammar rules it's OK to break (sometimes). He talks to Edge on Writing in the 21st Century, which includes the occasional fMRI.
posted by the man of twists and turns on Oct 1, 2014 - 67 comments

Cookies, caches and cows

Translating technological terms throws up some peculiar challenges
Ibrahima Sarr, a Senegalese coder, led the translation of Firefox into Fulah, which is spoken by 20m people from Senegal to Nigeria. “Crash” became hookii (a cow falling over but not dying); “timeout” became a honaama (your fish has got away). “Aspect ratio” became jeendondiral, a rebuke from elders when a fishing net is wrongly woven. In Malawi’s Chichewa language, which has 10m speakers, “cached pages” became mfutso wa tsamba, or bits of leftover food. The windowless houses of the 440,000 speakers of Zapotec, a family of indigenous languages in Mexico, meant that computer “windows” became “eyes”.

posted by infini on Sep 26, 2014 - 23 comments

Hello, Hello, Hello

Stressed out? Does the fast-paced world of today have your head spinning? Sit back and relax with the Finnish educational TV show "Hello, Hello, Hello," and the terrifyingly slow adventures of Stan and Dud. Clip most likely to cause childhood trauma : "I'm Cecil. She's Cissy." Most likely to mark you as a Finn who learned English from watching this show: "The cat's in the moon." [more inside]
posted by The corpse in the library on Sep 25, 2014 - 13 comments

You won't believe the data on this Star Trek: TNG character!

Search for word usage in movies and television over time.
Movies and television shows often reflect cultural trends of the time they are made in. Even movies that take place during the past or future can say something about the present through metadata or production style. Using the Bookworm platform, Benjamin Schmidt, an assistant professor of history at Northeastern University, provides a tool that lets you see trends in movie and television dialogue.

posted by Room 641-A on Sep 17, 2014 - 40 comments

I’m not broken and neither are you.

The thing about ableism is that it’s everywhere, and it’s incredibly common, and we don’t even realize it. It’s in the books we read, and in our daily lives. Ableism is that belief that everyone who is able-bodied is “normal” and everyone else is abnormal. Abelism is probably one of the most common kinds of –ism’s, and it rarely gets talked about.
The language of disability and why it matters.
posted by MartinWisse on Sep 15, 2014 - 62 comments

Help scientists categorise whale song... also, why do whales sing?

Whale.fm is a project (which you can contribute to!) to help "marine researchers understand what whales are saying." - really it's a project looking at the effects that manmade sound has on marine life, but what whales are communicating with their songs is still a really interesting question, so I've listed some relevant links in extended description. [more inside]
posted by hanachronism on Sep 5, 2014 - 5 comments

Talk with the animals?

A surprisingly dramatic world of lawsuits, mass resignations, and dysfunctional relationships between humans and apes. From Koko and Kanzi to Chantek and Nim Chimpsky, research into human-ape communications used to be all the rage. Nowadays, not so much. What happened?
posted by gottabefunky on Aug 21, 2014 - 33 comments

Well I'll Go To The Foot Of Our Stairs

British subtitles
posted by The Whelk on Aug 20, 2014 - 32 comments

but without italics we don't know when spaghetti was still exotic

Daniel Older explains why you shouldn't italicise Spanish words in English.
posted by MartinWisse on Aug 14, 2014 - 69 comments

15,000 Useful Phrases

Being a practical handbook of pertinent expressions, striking similes, literary, commercial, conversational, and oratorical terms, for the embellishment of speech and literature, and the improvement of the vocabulary of those persons who read, write, and speak English. (Grenville Kleiser, 1917)
posted by Iridic on Aug 13, 2014 - 19 comments

GSSSACPM

"Though red big barns and big red barns are semantically identical, the second kind pleases our ears more." The Secret Rules of Adjective Order. [more inside]
posted by We had a deal, Kyle on Aug 7, 2014 - 64 comments

Dialect isn’t just people talking funny

My project today is replacing all the dialogue spoken by Antiguan characters in Of Noble Family with dialogue rewritten by Antiguan and Barbudan author Joanne Hillhouse.

Let me explain why I’m doing this.
Mary Robinette Kowal talks about why she hired somebody else to help her with the Caribbean dialects for her next novel.
posted by MartinWisse on Aug 6, 2014 - 38 comments

fact-checking as conversation

[T]his is what we were dealing with: We were located in two places, and between us there were three laptops and one stenography machine. We were working in two languages (English and American Sign Language, or ASL) and across three communication channels (voice, sign, and text). They were sitting at a rectangular table, all on the same side: first Hilaria, then Kate, then Lynn, then Rabin´. That made five of us, four of whom brought constraints to the situation, ranging from the permanent to the temporary: Lynn is deaf, Hilaria is a non-native speaker of English, Rabin´ is supposed to be silent and invisible, and I couldn’t see, because I had no video on my Skype.
A factchecking session for "young sign languages" turns into an exploration on communication across barriers and needs of accessibility, language, and technology.
posted by divabat on Aug 6, 2014 - 6 comments

"When I sound real, I'm fake, and when I sound fake, I'm real."

"No wonder we react so viscerally to the 'ching-chong, ching-chong' schoolyard taunt. To attack our language, our ability to sound 'normal,' is to attack our ability to be normal. It's to attack everything we've worked for." An essay by Arthur Chu on feigning a Chinese accent for work and ridding oneself of an accent for life. [more inside]
posted by Errant on Aug 1, 2014 - 54 comments

When Dutch and English Collide

Dunglish Kind of like Engrish. Only from the Netherlands. [more inside]
posted by Michele in California on Jul 30, 2014 - 43 comments

We Spelled This City

In Lexicopolis, buildings are constructed from the letters that make them up. Construct buildings by typing words like "HOUSE," "OFFICE," or "PARK."
posted by Iridic on Jul 30, 2014 - 71 comments

Navicular! Strobilaceous! Pandurate! Botryoidal!

Whether your object's shaped like a ship, a pine cone, a violin, or a bunch of grapes, this handy cheat sheet from Barbara Ann Kipfer's Flip Dictionary will tell you the suitable Latinate adjective. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Jul 29, 2014 - 17 comments

Shouldn't that second one be "xyr", not "xyrs"?

Practice with Pronouns is a site that lets you practise subject, object, possessive, and reflexive forms of English third person pronouns. It comes with a few of the most common options, but you can also fill in whatever pronouns you like. Useful for both English learners and people wanting to practise using nonbinary pronouns.
[more inside]
posted by Lexica on Jul 28, 2014 - 22 comments

We are not poor. We are stuggling to make ends meet

Bill Moyers: Question? A major finding of your research was that many of the 106 million Americans living at 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line ignore political debates about them because they do not identify with the language used by policy makers, the media and others to describe them. What does this tell you about our messaging?. And stop talking about the economy as if it was the weather.
posted by rmhsinc on Jul 26, 2014 - 56 comments

People first

The Editorial Team of Substance Abuse make[s] an appeal for the use of language that (1) Respects the worth and dignity of all persons (“people-first language”), (2) Focuses on the medical nature of substance use disorders and treatment, (3) Promotes the recovery process, and (4) Avoids perpetuating negative stereotype biases through the use of slang and idioms. We ask authors, reviewers, and readers to carefully and intentionally consider the language used to describe alcohol and other drug use and disorders, the individuals affected by these conditions, and their related behaviors, comorbidities, treatment, and recovery in our publication. [more inside]
posted by rtha on Jul 19, 2014 - 43 comments

Ah yes, the old rumpscuttle and clapperdepouch (aka "fadoodling")

31 Adorable Slang Terms for Sexual Intercourse from the Last 600 Years Lexicographer Jonathon Green’s comprehensive historical dictionary of slang, Green’s Dictionary of Slang, covers hundreds of years of jargon, cant, and naughty talk. He has created a series of online timelines (here and here) where the words too impolite, indecent, or risqué for the usual history books are arranged in the order they came into fashion. (If you don’t see any words on the timelines, zoom out using the bar on the right.) We’ve already had fun with the classiest terms for naughty bits. Here are the most adorable terms for sexual intercourse from the last 600 or so years.
posted by mikeand1 on Jul 18, 2014 - 30 comments

Broken English

Jamila Lyiscott: 3 ways to speak English [SLYT] [more inside]
posted by divined by radio on Jul 18, 2014 - 4 comments

this is all just theory

The Freedivers Who Eavesdrop On Whales
posted by the man of twists and turns on Jul 17, 2014 - 14 comments

An ornithologist, an editor, & a VP walk into a conference room...

"We ornithologists, with our Important Capitals, continue to look Curiously Provincial" : copy-editors and ornithologists fight a very pilkunnussija-esque war over conventions of bird names.
posted by divabat on Jul 12, 2014 - 15 comments

I’m really grateful that one of my first speakers was badass Jason Momoa

"I had been creating languages for 10 years. But everybody else applying was equally skilled. So I figured the edge that I had was pretty much an endless amount of time—I was unemployed. I just decided: Well, let's just try to create the whole thing. In those rounds of judging, I created about 90 percent of the grammar—which is ridiculous for two months. Then I created 1,700 words of vocabulary—which is equally ridiculous for two months. Overall, I produced about 300 total pages of material. I figure that was probably what put it over the top."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Jul 10, 2014 - 23 comments

Fear and Loathing of the English Passive

Geoffrey Pullum talks about the passive voice [pdf]. (via) [more inside]
posted by nangar on Jul 10, 2014 - 37 comments

The CIA is a prescriptivist scold

Writing tips from the CIA’s ruthless style manual:

Strunk & White, it turns out, were CIA sources. The authors of The Elements of Style, a classic American writing guide, are cited alongside Henry Fowler, Wilson Follett, and Jacques Barzun in the Directorate of Intelligence’s Style Manual & Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications, whose eighth edition (from 2011) was quietly posted online (pdf) by the legal nonprofit National Security Counselors a little over a year ago, following a Freedom of Information Act request. [more inside]
posted by moody cow on Jul 10, 2014 - 30 comments

Canadianisms

55 Canadianisms You May Not Know or Are Using Differently
A (non-scientific) survey providing a thorough & fascinating look at words in Canadian English [more inside]
posted by flex on Jul 1, 2014 - 245 comments

'Whoa… big brain huh… cool!'"

Lovatt reasoned that if she could live with a dolphin around the clock, nurturing its interest in making human-like sounds, like a mother teaching a child to speak, they'd have more success. - stories from the NASA- funded project to teach Dolphins to talk using LSD (among other methods. )
posted by The Whelk on Jun 29, 2014 - 37 comments

Reviving Lushootseed

Zalmai Zahir (ʔǝswǝli) talks about learning Lushootseed, the native language of Puget sound, and it's history: Quoting the Ancestors [more inside]
posted by nangar on Jun 29, 2014 - 2 comments

Learning languages with Muzzy, the clock-eating fuzzy alien

“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).
posted by filthy light thief on Jun 28, 2014 - 32 comments

Why is gender ever a thing?

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]
posted by clavicle on Jun 4, 2014 - 111 comments

"not far short of 50% have come into the language from French or Latin."

Borrowed words in English: tracing the changing patterns [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Jun 4, 2014 - 2 comments

I am right here.

Samantha Peterson slams her case for having a fat body in this world. No metaphor necessary. (SLHP)
posted by Sophie1 on Jun 4, 2014 - 185 comments

the snow instigateth not lugubriosity within me…

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.
posted by MartinWisse on Jun 4, 2014 - 19 comments

A story of miniature cryptography and a password protected home

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.
posted by nickyskye on May 30, 2014 - 36 comments

How To Swear Like A Sailor

A Dictionary of Navy Slang Compiled From Various Sources 67 pages of history and hilarity.
posted by timsteil on May 26, 2014 - 35 comments

German animal names: Does it look like a pig? No? Are you sure?

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)
posted by filthy light thief on May 22, 2014 - 77 comments

Humping a playmate during a romp...

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.
posted by gman on May 21, 2014 - 57 comments

The goat says "Meh"

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.
posted by Room 641-A on May 21, 2014 - 20 comments

The third-most spoken language in the U.S. overall? Chinese.

What language does your state speak?
posted by and they trembled before her fury on May 14, 2014 - 119 comments

Trump This!

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.
posted by michswiss on May 7, 2014 - 6 comments

Math or Maths?

Math or Maths? A few minutes with Dr Lynne Murphy (an American linguist in England) should clear this right up. Via Numberphile.
posted by R. Mutt on Apr 30, 2014 - 116 comments

“Pawnee is literally the best town in the country.”

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.
posted by Fizz on Apr 22, 2014 - 119 comments

The Ket had seven souls, unlike animals, who had only one.

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.
posted by XMLicious on Apr 16, 2014 - 7 comments

Massacres, Toponymy, Inertia, Easter

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]
posted by skoosh on Apr 12, 2014 - 37 comments

Notre professeur à pris sa retraite.

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]
posted by Sunburnt on Apr 10, 2014 - 22 comments

Like, Degrading the Language? No Way

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]
posted by beisny on Apr 6, 2014 - 53 comments

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