986 posts tagged with language.
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Tight as a Boiled Owl

The English language has produced a staggering number of words and phrases for the state of being intoxicated by alcohol. The Drunktionary collects hundreds of them, from "A beat up tank" to "zozzled", all in glorious 2001 Tripod style. [more inside]
posted by jedicus on Jan 18, 2017 - 10 comments

Ye Olde Philologie

... in a very real sense, the history of “Classical Mandaic” begins in 1875, even if it had to wait another 90 years for scholars to come up with a name for it.
C.G. Häberl writes about Columbusing Classical Mandaic
posted by Joe in Australia on Jan 11, 2017 - 8 comments

and the price you pay is to cut the culture and religion

The Erasure of Islam from the Poetry of Rumi Rozina Ali revisits the cultural legacy of Rumi in the West: 'The erasure of Islam from Rumi’s poetry started long before Coldplay got involved. Omid Safi, a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies at Duke University, says that it was in the Victorian period that readers in the West began to uncouple mystical poetry from its Islamic roots. Translators and theologians of the time could not reconcile their ideas about a “desert religion,” with its unusual moral and legal codes, and the work of poets like Rumi and Hafez. The explanation they settled on, Safi told me, was “that these people are mystical not because of Islam but in spite of it.” This was a time when Muslims were singled out for legal discrimination—a law from 1790 curtailed the number of Muslims who could come into the United States, and a century later the U.S. Supreme Court described the “intense hostility of the people of Moslem faith to all other sects, and particularly to Christians.” In 1898, in the introduction to his translation of the “Masnavi,” Sir James Redhouse wrote, “The Masnavi addresses those who leave the world, try to know and be with God, efface their selves and devote themselves to spiritual contemplation.” For those in the West, Rumi and Islam were separated.' [Rumi previously]
posted by cendawanita on Jan 9, 2017 - 94 comments

"The symptoms of life"

In "Poor People," anthropologist Andrew Beatty recalls his fieldwork in Indonesia and portrays specific impacts of poverty easily obscured by generalized references to the poor. In "Return to the Field," he evokes what it's like to revisit the two scenes of his earlier research, encounter changes in individuals, families, and social/religious life, and learn the stark facts about how some things turned out. [more inside]
posted by Wobbuffet on Jan 1, 2017 - 3 comments

A Stubborn Language

They don’t borrow from English or French.[...] The word they use for automobile means “that it has wrinkled feet,” which is, incidentally, an example of how the words you have reflect your culture. If you’re a tracker, you’re going to be noticing the tire tracks—the focus of that particular word.
Language Leakage: An Interview with Sarah Thomason
posted by Rumple on Dec 30, 2016 - 29 comments

The Classic Concordance of Cacographic Chaos

"The Chaos represents a virtuoso feat of composition, a mammoth catalogue of about 800 of the most notorious irregularities of traditional English orthography, skilfully versified (if with a few awkward lines) into couplets with alternating feminine and masculine rhymes. The selection of examples now appears somewhat dated, as do a few of their pronunciations, indeed a few words may even be unknown to today's readers (how many will know what a "studding-sail" is, or that its nautical pronunciation is "stunsail"?), and not every rhyme will immediately "click" ("grits" for "groats"?); but the overwhelming bulk of the poem represents as valid an indictment of the chaos of English spelling as it ever did." [more inside]
posted by amnesia and magnets on Dec 29, 2016 - 18 comments

Midwinter Middle English

The language of Chaucer and Malory, Middle English can be surprisingly approachable for modern English speakers even 800 years later (although knowing a little French or German doesn't hurt). Let's dive in! [more inside]
posted by jedicus on Dec 27, 2016 - 10 comments

We’ll tweet how the German word for “mansplaining” is “herrklären"

Ah, 2016, what words can describe you? According to Merriam-Webster, the 2016 Word of the Year is "surreal". Notable too, Merriam-Webster's decision to make their Twitter feed into a "sassy" voice about language.
posted by Mr.Pointy on Dec 19, 2016 - 21 comments

Enigmas, Logogriphs, Charades, Rebuses, Queries and Transpositions

It is thus confidently hoped, that the volume now offered to the public will prove an interesting and cheerful companion for a Christmas fire-side, and be employed among the innocent and rational of Christmas festivities...
Selections from The Masquerade collects hundreds of riddles and literary word puzzles from the late 18th and early 19th century. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on Dec 14, 2016 - 6 comments

"To be in Unicode. That is my main goal.”"

The Alphabet That Will Save a People From Disappearing - "“Why do Fulani people not have their own writing system?” Abdoulaye Barry remembers asking his father one day in elementary school. The variety of writing styles made it difficult for families and friends who lived in different countries to communicate easily. Abdoulaye’s father, who learned Arabic in Koranic schools, often helped friends and family in Nzérékoré—Guinea’s second-largest city—decipher letters they received, reading aloud the idiosyncratically modified Arabic scripts. As they grew older, Abdoulaye and his brother Ibrahima began to translate letters, too. “Those letters were very difficult to read even if you were educated in Arabic,” Abdoulaye said. “You could hardly make out what was written.” So, in 1990, the brothers started coming up with an alternative. Abdoulaye was 10 years old; Ibrahima was 14." [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Nov 18, 2016 - 10 comments

“Five hundred years of the vulgar tongue”

Today marks the launch of Green’s Dictionary of Slang Online, a digitized version of Green’s Dictionary of Slang, which originally appeared as a three-volume book in 2010. Everything that was in that book is available here, plus the fruits of over five more years of research… [T]he evolving database will be able to reflect the on-going additions and improvements that make it a unique resource. (Coverage at Language Log, Slate, and Quartz, and a June interview with Green in The Daily Beast.)
posted by Going To Maine on Oct 13, 2016 - 7 comments

no more tofu

Noto, one of the most expansive typographic families ever made, supports 800 languages, 100 scripts in up to eight different weights, innumerable special characters, and absolutely no tofu. (SLWired)
posted by Huck500 on Oct 6, 2016 - 14 comments

You say "car-ml," I say "carra-mel."

22 maps that show how Americans speak English differently across the US
posted by Room 641-A on Oct 6, 2016 - 246 comments

Its not eazy being a pedent

The Pedents’ Re-volt
posted by Lexica on Sep 30, 2016 - 38 comments

Can we call it a "Jewish accent" rather than, say, a "New York accent"?

Why Linguists are Fascinated by the American Jewish Accent
Intonation, pitch, phrasing, cadence, conversational style and behavor patterns, use of non-English words and locally-specific references (and so much more) all combine to produce what we call the American Jewish Accent. [more inside]
posted by I_Love_Bananas on Sep 29, 2016 - 79 comments

Completely effin serious

Swearing has been clinically proven to reduce pain. It also is known to be processed by a different part of the brain than other kinds of language. [more inside]
posted by Michele in California on Sep 24, 2016 - 49 comments

Moving The Window of Acceptability

How Morality Changes in a Foreign Language. Studies show that the way we think about moral questions is subtly influenced by the language we're using at the time. People using a non-native language tend to be more cerebral and less emotional. What does this say about the concept of the moral center, or "just knowing" what's right and what's wrong?
posted by Kevin Street on Sep 15, 2016 - 12 comments

Opinion Size Age Shape Colour Origin Material Purpose Noun

Matthew Anderson of the BBC tweeted a paragraph from the 2013 book The Elements of Eloquence detailing the order of adjectives in English and calling it a thing "English speakers know, but don't know we know". It went viral, with outlets from NPR to Good Housekeeping covering the story and the rule, while Quartz pointed out that this is a meticulously taught rule for non-native English speakers. [more inside]
posted by Etrigan on Sep 11, 2016 - 72 comments

Turn that frown upside down :(

Adding to the list of questions that split people into groups who previously had no idea that the other exists: Where is a frown?
posted by miratime on Sep 11, 2016 - 120 comments

But that's up to you!

All Chef John rhymes from 2012 to 2015.
posted by Foci for Analysis on Sep 2, 2016 - 12 comments

“I grow old…I grow old…” [more inside]
posted by standardasparagus on Aug 26, 2016 - 19 comments

All mixed up

What do we call people of multiple backgrounds? Leah Donnella writes about the complexities of naming yourself and being named by others. She also links to Evoking the Mulatto, a project to explore black mixed identity in the 21st century. [more inside]
posted by cubby on Aug 25, 2016 - 10 comments

“We really don’t know how many sign languages there are"

But just as linguists were substantiating its existence, HSL stood on the brink of extinction, remembered by just a handful of signers. Unless the language made a miraculous recovery, Lambrecht feared that her announcement might turn out to be HSL’s obituary.
posted by Chrysostom on Aug 23, 2016 - 5 comments

What Latin Sounded Like and How We Know

NativLang, brainchild of linguist Joshua Rudder, has a series of videos dealing with various aspects of language, orthography, and so forth. For example: What Latin Sounded Like and How We Know. Kanji Story - How Japan Overloaded Chinese Characters... The Tribe That Cursed Too Much ... How Korea crafted a better alphabet... India's awesome hybrid alphabet thing... Semitic's vowel-smuggling consonants... The Hardest Language To Spell [more inside]
posted by BWA on Aug 19, 2016 - 19 comments

Story of Your Life

Trailer for Arrival, the new Denis Villeneuve film based on a Ted Chiang short story, starring Amy Adams, Forest Whitaker and Jeremy Renner. Ted Chiang on seeing his stories adapted to the screen. Previous Ted Chiang.
posted by Artw on Aug 17, 2016 - 51 comments

"I put the wig on and people laughed.”

"Joanne the Scammer lives for drama. Branden Miller is just trying to live." Performer and comic Branden Miller is a quiet young man who collects fragrances. His comic persona Joanne The Scammer is a fur-wrapped con artist moving from one stolen credit card to another and a Twitter sensation. The Fader talked to Miller about racial indenity, growing up gay, sex work, the fragility of internet fame, and getting scammed.
posted by The Whelk on Aug 11, 2016 - 7 comments

Madam you have got to be joking. You cannot contain the Boris.

NO BS, JUST SHOOTING - DOOM overview is a heartfelt game review from Life of Boris. Boris will inform you about many aspects of Slav life, including How to squat like slav and Why Slavs wear Adidas. Also Russian language. [more inside]
posted by Johnny Wallflower on Aug 10, 2016 - 11 comments

Po co ci kapusta

How to beatbox by speaking Polish.
posted by acb on Aug 9, 2016 - 8 comments

Gevaldike nayess

Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath of Teaneck finishes her father’s Yiddish dictionary: Yiddish has a word for it
posted by Joe in Australia on Aug 4, 2016 - 25 comments

Putonghua or bust

In China: Chinese dialects fight for survival. Outside China: Meet the Hong Kong academics fighting to safeguard the Cantonese language (Hong Kong); Taiwanese: a doomed language? (Taiwan); Do you speak Singlish? || The Death of Dialects in Singapore (Singapore); Penang Hokkien will be ‘dead’ in 40 years if people stop using it (Malaysia) [more inside]
posted by cendawanita on Aug 3, 2016 - 40 comments

I've got yer credentials right here.

35 Classy Slang Terms for Naughty Bits from the Past 600 Years [more inside]
posted by Johnny Wallflower on Jul 31, 2016 - 36 comments

More than just a jumbuck in a tucker sack

Waltzing Matilda is the bush ballad that introduced elements of Australian slang to generations of Americans. Instantly recognizable but less familiar is Waltjim Bat Matilda a version by Darwin-based Indigenous singer Ali Mills. She’s singing in Kriol, which is spoken by more people than any other language exclusive to Australia and is based on the highly endangered Gurindji. Waltjim Bad Matilda is also the name of Mills’ first solo album after performing many years with the Mills Sisters.
posted by layceepee on Jul 24, 2016 - 9 comments

These days a chicken leg is a rare dish.

During the 1940s, Harvard University's psycho-acoustic laboratory--installed in the boiler room under Memorial Hall--was a center of secret, government-directed wartime research into the effects of sound on the human ear and mind. One obscure product of this work became known as the Harvard Sentences, a set of "phonetically balanced" sentences containing a mix of phonemes typical to conversational English. These sentences are still used today by Verizon's baseline engineers, among others. Gizmodo's Sarah Zhang has more on the history of the Harvard Sentences. Meanwhile, over at Tedium, Ernie Smith offers a T-Mobile test number (858-651-5050) where you can listen to a recording of several Harvard Sentences, calling it "pretty much the most poetic, automated thing I’ve ever heard." A full list of the Harvard Sentences can be viewed here. [more inside]
posted by duffell on Jul 7, 2016 - 45 comments

“We want you to find yourself on that form.”

Inside Planned Parenthood’s Push For Gender-Neutral Language: From their new Spot On Period Tracker to educational programs and intake forms, Planned Parenthood's national and affiliate offices have been overseeing an evolution of language and terms regarding the biology, gender, and identities of their clients. [more inside]
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese on Jun 15, 2016 - 44 comments

— the punctuation equivalent of stagehands

Period. Full Stop. Point. Whatever It’s Called, It’s Going Out of Style by Dan Bilefsky [The New York Times] The period — the full-stop signal we all learn as children, whose use stretches back at least to the Middle Ages — is gradually being felled in the barrage of instant messaging that has become synonymous with the digital age So says David Crystal, who has written more than 100 books on language and is a former master of original pronunciation at Shakespeare’s Globe theater in London — a man who understands the power of tradition in language The conspicuous omission of the period in text messages and in instant messaging on social media, he says, is a product of the punctuation-free staccato sentences favored by millennials — and increasingly their elders — a trend fueled by the freewheeling style of Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter
posted by Fizz on Jun 14, 2016 - 173 comments

“...in which he repeatedly referred to the penis area as “down there.”

The Many Ways The Media Gets Around Saying [Groin] By Kyle Wagner [FiveThirtyEight] It’s the oldest laugh in sports: Some poor schmoe takes a sports ball to the crotch, keels over and, once we’re reasonably sure no lasting damage has been done, the TV announcers deadpan some dad jokes while the camera pans around to giggling teammates. It’s as much a familiar sports yuk as other not-all-that-uncommon oddities, like a field player on the mound or the fat guy touchdown, only with funnier GIFs. At least, that’s how things work when the hit comes in a relatively low-stakes setting. But what happens when the stakes are raised? And just as important, when reporters are forced to write about sportsmen kicking each other in the nuts, what do they write? This week has provided some answers.
posted by Fizz on May 31, 2016 - 48 comments

Mapping Decline in Regional Diversity of English Dialects

Professor David Britain from the University of Bern added: “People in Bristol speak much more similarly to those in Colchester now than they did fifty years ago. Regional differences are disappearing, some quite quickly. However, while many pockets of resistance to this levelling are shrinking, there is still a stark north-south divide in the pronunciation of certain key words.”
posted by veedubya on May 28, 2016 - 24 comments

A Progressive’s Style Guide

"Every day I experience how language can bring people together and build power. But language can also be divisive, dangerous, and exclusionary... I got to work on a Progressive Style Guide, (pdf) that would help guide fellow campaigners and writers in the progressive movement on using inclusive language."
posted by roomthreeseventeen on May 27, 2016 - 63 comments

It makes you sound weak!

"More than 38 million American women have experienced intimate partner violence in their lifetimes. Many of these women develop coping mechanisms to placate their abusers and protect themselves." How about we stop policing women's language?
posted by xarnop on May 26, 2016 - 71 comments

Let's not talk about color vs. colour

Lynne Murphy's blog is 'Separated By A Common Language'. It turns out being polite is different in the UK and the US and there are specific differences in the way each culture (and subcultures thereto) use please. [more inside]
posted by bq on May 23, 2016 - 131 comments

“of, relating to, or suggestive of Franz Kafka or his writings”

Kafkaesque: A Word So Overused It Has Lost All Meaning? by Alison Flood [The Guardian] On Monday night, Han Kang’s strange, disturbing, brilliant novel The Vegetarian won the Man Booker International prize. Shortly afterwards, dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster announced that searches for the word “Kafkaesque” had “spiked dramatically” in the wake of her win, because the novel “has been described by its British publishers (and by a number of reviewers) as Kafkaesque”.
posted by Fizz on May 19, 2016 - 37 comments

The Black Conversation Was Really About Something Much Bigger

Larry Wilmore's ending comment to the President of the United States at the White House Correspondents' Dinner has sparked a lot of conversation. Rembert Browne explores and explains some of the implications and reactions. [more inside]
posted by Deoridhe on May 10, 2016 - 32 comments

May Ten is Mad Ape Den Day!

It's May Ten, the day of Mad Ape Den: a fun way to gab on the Web (and off the Web, too, if you can). The one law of Mad Ape Den: "Say it in an abc-set of one, two, or one-and-two, or do not say it at all." You can see a vid or two of a Mad Ape Den ode (YT URL set). Mad Ape Den is not as big now as it was in the era of the Web of old, but now, on Mad Ape Den day, we can aim to not let it die. (Ere now.) [more inside]
posted by NMcCoy on May 10, 2016 - 89 comments

The Racist History of the Word Caucasian

(Great video + summarizing text) In America, white people are referred to as Caucasians, but outside the U.S. the term refers to people from the Caucasus region, which includes the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Russia, and Turkey. So why do Americans refer to people of European ancestry as Caucasians? In the video above, Franchesca Ramsey from MTV’s Decoded takes a look at the word’s history and it’s really racist. [more inside]
posted by Salamandrous on May 3, 2016 - 27 comments

EXEMPLARIS DÍGNITAS ("The Dealio")

This excerpt from the Lexicon Recentis Latinitas contains Vatican-approved Latin translations for 600 (comparatively) modern concepts. For example, the Latin term for "jazz" is iazensis música. "Laser" is instrumentum laséricum, "Scotch" is víschium Scóticum, "mini golf" is pilamálleus minūtus, and "blue jeans" are bracae línteae caerúleae. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on May 2, 2016 - 26 comments

Suvlu'taHvIS yapbe' HoS neH

Axanar is a planned feature film set within the Star Trek universe, following on the short film Prelude to Axanar. Paramount and CBS sued the film’s producers, alleging that the fan film infringes on the studios’ copyrights in Star Trek. Yesterday, the Language Creation Society filed an amicus brief (.pdf), written by Mark Randazza, in Paramount v. Axanar, to oppose Paramount’s claim of owning a copyright in the Klingon language.
posted by T.D. Strange on Apr 28, 2016 - 35 comments

Guess who doesn't care that humans are researching this?

These Linguists Want to Help You Speak Fluent Cat [more inside]
posted by wonton endangerment on Apr 27, 2016 - 76 comments

“The idea of murder is represented a lot in the brain"

Using brain imaging, scientists have built a map displaying how words and their meanings are represented across different regions of the brain. (Guardian)
posted by Johnny Wallflower on Apr 27, 2016 - 11 comments

A Surfeit of Sandboxes

You may be familiar with JSFiddle and CodePen, but there are similar tools for a variety of languages, some more practical than others. [more inside]
posted by jedicus on Apr 13, 2016 - 22 comments

😬 or 😀?

Take a look at: 😁. On many browsers, and on Android phones, this looks like a grinning face with smiling eyes (the official label), while on an iOS device, this looks like a painful grimace. A study shows that these differences can lead to difficulties interpreting emotions across platforms (and even within platforms there is a lot of variation)! With linguists arguing over whether emoji can evolve into a language, and with their own distinct grammar, these differences in interpretation can matter. Either way, the real-time tracker lets you see what emoji are being tweeted [prev], and fivethirtyeight sums up the 100 most popular.
posted by blahblahblah on Apr 11, 2016 - 88 comments

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