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 Gurindi. Waltjim Bad Matilda is also the name of Mills’ first solo album after performing many years with the Mills Sisters.
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]
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]
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
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.
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.”
"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."
"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?
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]
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”.
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]
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]
(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]
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]
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.
Using brain imaging, scientists have built a map displaying how words and their meanings are represented across different regions of the brain. (Guardian)
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]
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.
In Erasmus' De Copia, "students learned how to vary a given idea in manifold ways by putting it into different forms and figures (developing copia, or abundance, of words and expressions). [...] Erasmus provided extended examples of copia in his text, the most famous of which includes several hundred variations upon the same, initially insipid sentence, 'Your letter pleased me greatly.'" [more inside]
Ohio State University researchers have identified a facial expression that is interpreted across several languages and cultures as negative, combining anger, disgust and contempt. It combines a furrowed brow, pressed lips and raised chin. In American Sign Language, it can even be used in place of a sign or gesture for "not."
Jalada, a pan-African writer's collective, has just published their first Translation issue. Thirty three writers from across fourteen African countries came together to create this work of art, an entire issue showcasing a previously unpublished story by Ngugi wa Thiong’o. (Previously) [more inside]
Y'All Version: Now you can read the Bible using the English second person plural of your choice! Options include Southern (y'all), Western (you guys), NYC/Chicago (youse guys), and Pittsburgh (yinz).
This Chrome extenſion replaces the unſightly "terminal" or "ſhort" s with the elegant "long" ſ according to the rules of ſtandard uſage. [more inside]
How do you quantify the effects of things that don't happen to you? "The whole point of living in a culture is that much of the labor of perception and judgment is done for you, spread through media, and absorbed through an imperceptible process that has no single author." (previously; via)
Learn everything you need to know about Finnish—the secret language of Finland—with Kirikou. Jump wantonly, and learn the magic of verbal derivational suffixes. Kiitos! Anteeksi.
Dr. Tim Lomas is creating a positive cross-cultural lexicography: an evolving index of expressions from many languages for positive emotional states and concepts pertaining to well-being. Most do not have immediate English equivalents. View by Alphabet, Language or Theme. [more inside]
Thinking about learning a new programming language? How about a functional language with support for test-driven development and a snazzy visual interface, already deployed on millions of computers around the world? I'm speaking, of course, about Excel. In a 2014 Strange Loop talk, Felienne discusses the virtues of the Excel programming language (which is Turing complete, if you were wondering).
Why Does Moby-Dick (Sometimes) Have a Hyphen? [The Smithsonian]
When the book was published in England, it bore that straightforward title. In a historical note to a scholarly edition of the book, Melville scholar G. Thomas Tanselle writes that Melville’s brother, Allan, made a last-minute change to the title of the American edition. “[Melville] has determined upon a new title,” his brother wrote. “It is thought here that the new title will be a better selling title…Moby-Dick is a legitimate title for the book.” The American edition went to press, hyphen intact, despite the fact that the whale within was only referred to with a hyphen one time. Hyphenated titles would have been familiar to Victorian-era readers, who were used to “fairy-tales” and “year-books.” Even Melville enjoyed a good hyphen now and then, as the title of his book White-Jacket proves. But it’s still unclear whether Melville, who didn’t use a hyphen inside the book, chose a hyphen for the book’s title or whether his brother punctuated the title incorrectly.
The Tone Analyzer uses linguistic analysis to detect emotional tones, social propensities, and writing styles in written communication. Then it offers suggestions to help the writer improve their intended language tones.
A web tool (scroll down) built by Radim Řehůřek allows you to compute analogies between English words using Google's word2vec semantic representation, trained on 100 billion words of Google News. "He" is to "Linda" as "she" is to "Steve." "Wisconsin" is to "Milwaukee" as "Maryland" is to "Baltimore." "Good" is to "MetaFilter" as "evil" is to "LOLCats." [more inside]
Last week, the BBC radio programme Woman’s Hour ran an item on the American documentary film "Do I Sound Gay?" The film explores what’s popularly known as ‘the gay voice’, a way of speaking that identifies a man as gay (though not all gay men have it, and some men who do sound gay are actually straight). The Woman’s Hour feature ranged more widely over the subject of gay language, including a lengthy discussion of Polari (previously: 1, 2). But it was all about the boys–-until, towards the end of the item, the presenter broached the inevitable question: do lesbians also have a language of their own? Nothing comparable to Polari--but we do have some historical evidence of in-group lesbian slang.
The originator of "on fleek" was a 16-year-old girl from South Chicago. "Cool hunting" by advertisers has long captured and resold content from black youth in urban communities. But the rise of social media have made the process significantly faster, and the capitalization on trends far richer. Yet the youth who create dance styles and new language are rarely compensated for their cultural work. And the shape of copyright law is partly to blame. [more inside]
The IKEA dictionary explains the origin of over 1200 IKEA product names.
Professor of Mathematics Izabella Laba's "A Response to … " Scott Aaronson's "Words Will Do". An exchange between a mathematician and a computer scientist, on the use of terms including: privilege, hegemony, false consciousness, mansplaining, etc., and the general problem of clear communication, when the social sciences are applied towards political causes. [more inside]
English is not normal. "No, English isn’t uniquely vibrant or mighty or adaptable. But it really is weirder than pretty much every other language." (Aeon via Longform).
Looking for a new esoteric language to learn? Try rally notes. Learn the symbols or study these sample rally notes. Not esoteric enough? Try the Jemba Inertia Notes System. [more inside]
A short film: The winter stories of the Ojibwe are vital narratives that offer a historical and moral guide for understanding the environment and our people’s place within it. One of these stories tells of the first maple sugar gathering. A tree offered its life-force (sap) for use by the people to help keep them alive through a difficult winter when many were starving to death. This tree asked to be cared for in return and to be thanked properly for this gift. Each spring the students at Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Immersion School open the school sugar bush with a retelling of this story and an opening feast of thanks.
In Ann Leckie’s novel Ancillary Justice (Orbit Books: 2013), the imperial Radch rules over much of human-inhabited space. Its culture – and its language – does not identify people on the basis of their gender: it is irrelevant to them. In the novel, written in English, Leckie represents this linguistic reality by using the female pronoun ‘she’ throughout, regardless of any information supplied about a Radchaai (and, often, a non-Radchaai) person’s perceived gender. This pronoun choice has two effects. Firstly, it successfully erases grammatical difference in the novel and makes moot the question of the characters’ genders. But secondly, it exists in a context of continuing discussions around the gendering of science fiction, the place of men and women and people of other genders within the genre, as characters in fiction and as professional/fans, and beyond the pages of the book it is profoundly political. It is a female pronoun. When translating Ancillary Justice into other languages, the relationship between those two effects is vital to the work.
This experiment explores how to generate little romantic stories about images, using neural-storyteller, a recently published experiment by Ryan Kiros.
How Capicola Became Gabagool: The Italian New Jersey Accent, Explained.