Category Archives: Languagewatch
For Johnny Grimond, writer of The Economist’s style guide, the comma is unmatched in its versatility: “Commas are for artists. They can be applied with a fine nib or a thick brush, as a slash or a curl, with brio, delicacy or deliberation. They can be a waxing moon, a falling number nine, a clenched fist or a regal wave, a brandished hockey stick or a drunken tadpole. They are sometimes obligatory, sometimes discretionary. They may be single, like this one. Or they may come in pairs, on either side of a parenthetical phrase (Rutland, famous for its tradition of rush-strewing, is home to some notable Morris dancers) or a relative clause (Rutland, which is the smallest county in England, may also be the dullest).
More Intelligent Life has started a new series to find out what the best punctuation mark is.
Commas are also for musicians. They govern the flow of a sentence, offering advice about breathing, pausing and, by their unexpected absence, pressing on. They give rhythm. They substitute for missing conjunctions (I love Rutland, its pleasing plainness). They give emphasis (The men of Rutland are often, and always proudly, known as Raddle men). Commas do the work of an implied verb (Though undistinguished, Rutland has its admirers) or give the impression of disjointed speech or activity (We dashed through it, I wasn’t sorry).”
See also: Rosie Blau on punctuation—a very short history, Claire Messud thinks the semi-colon is the best and Norah Perkins loves the dash. Soon to be published: Ali Smith marvels at the ampersand, Julian Barnes makes a plea for the exclamation mark and Kassia St Clair favours the ellipsis.
James Chapman drew this cartoon in response to a fascinating article from the BBC which claims that the sounds that we make when we sneeze are entirely culturally-driven. There’s no biological imperative to express a sneeze a particular way:
Inserting words into sneezes – and our responses such as “bless you” – are cultural habits we pick up along the way. So it’s not surprising that British deaf people, particularly users of sign language, don’t think to add the English word “achoo” to this most natural of actions.
For deaf people, “a sneeze is what it should be… something that just happens”, says Swinbourne in his article.
He even attempts to describe what an achoo-free deaf sneeze sounds like: “[There is] a heavy breath as the deep pre-sneeze breath is taken, then a sharper, faster sound of air being released.”
Learn how to read Sanskrit, Hittite, Avestan, Old Persian, Classical Greek, Latin, Koine Greek, Gothic, Classical Armenian, Tocharian, Old Irish, Old English, Old Norse, Old Church Slavonic, Old French, Old Russian, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Albanian in ten lessons apiece.
From the Introduction to the Language Lessons by Jonathan Slocum and Winfred P. Lehmann:”Recent advances in determining the origin of western civilization and the settlement of Europe are based especially on findings in genetics, archeology and linguistics. The papers on the topic given at a conference that brought together eminent specialists in these fields under organization of the Banco Popolare di Milano have been published in Italian under the title Le radici prime dell’Europa. Gli intrecci genetici, linguistici, storici, edited by Gianluca Bocchi and Mauro Ceruti (Milan: Bruno Mondadori, 2001). While these three sciences all provide information on the settlement, only through linguistics can the people involved be identified. Yet linguistics dealing with the early period is least advanced of the three. Moreover, grammars published as introductions to the early languages are produced on the pattern of those designed for instruction of secondary school students of years past, who were expected to take eight years of Latin, six of Greek, and then proceed to the study of Sanskrit and other less widely studied languages like Old Slavic, Armenian, and Avestan. Under curricula of today, few scholars find such a course of study acceptable.
Moreover, the important ability with respect to these languages is that of reading texts, with or without the help of translations. The online introductions in Early Indo-European Online are designed to provide such ability. In this series, texts that in themselves are valuable for literary and historical as well as linguistic purposes are briefly introduced, glossed word-by-word, followed by grammatical descriptions, and accompanied by a complete glossary, a base-form dictionary, and an English meaning index. “
Ghent University in Belgium has created an online, almost arcade-game-like test of word knowledge.
How many English words do you know? With this test you get a valid estimate of your English vocabulary size within 4 minutes and you help scientific research.
In this test you get 100 letter sequences, some of which are existing English words (American spelling) and some of which are made-up nonwords. Indicate for each letter sequence whether it is a word you know or not by pressing the F or J key.
“While Japan’s bank of English loan words has grown to the point where “context” and even “paradigm” can be understood by most people, there seems to be only a handful of Japanese words that have been sprinkled into the modern English vocabulary. Of course, there’s things like “manga”, “sushi,” and “karate,” which English speakers can instantly recognize as comics, a Japanese food, and a way to kick ass (in that respective order), but there are also some sleeper agent Japanese words traipsing about our English conversations. Let’s take a look at Japanese words, like “honcho” (as in “head honcho”) and “tycoon” (as in “oil tycoon”), that we use in English.”
The Made Up Words Project is an on-going undertaking by illustrator Rinee Shah.
The goal is to collect and catalog the made up words that we share with family and friends.
Sandals; Spanglish version of the word “chancletas,”
Example: “Timmy, put on your chanks, we’re going to the beach!”
- From Billy G., Manhattan Beach, California
“Technically, “fuck” appeared two times before this. In 1500, it was used in a satirical poem to describe some friars. In that case, nothing like “fuck” was actually written out. Instead, the word was hidden in a code. And in 1513, it appeared in a Scottish poem as “fukkit,” writes Katharine Trendacosta at i09.
But for English’s first use, we’ve got a dissatisfied 1528 monk. He’s written “O D fuckin abbot.” Melissa Mohr, author of Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, says this “fuck” could be either literal or metaphorical:
It is difficult to know whether the annotator intended “fucking” to mean “having sex,” as in “that guy is doing too much fucking for someone who is supposed to be celibate,” or whether he used it as an intensifier, to convey his extreme dismay; if the latter, it anticipates the first recorded use by more than three hundred years. Either is possible, really—John Burton, the abbot in question, was a man of questionable monastic morals.
So, either this monk was recording his abbot’s sex life or he was the first person to be so angry that only “fuck” could convey it’s scope.”
Stolen from IO09
“It’s the most frequent word in the English language, accounting for around four percent of all the words we write or speak. It’s everywhere, all the time, so clearly it must be doing something important. Words have meaning. That’s fundamental, isn’t it? So what does “the,” a word that seems to be supporting a significant portion of the entire weight of our language, mean? It must mean something, right?”
Why Is the Word the So Difficult to Define? – Article by Arika Okrent over at Slate
Screenplay: Karl Eccleston and Brian Fairbairn
Directed by Brian Fairbairn
Starring: Karl Eccleston and Fiona Pepper
Sound and lighting: Thomas Jordan
Brian Fairbairn and Karl Eccleston are a London-based filmmaking duo.
Made for Kino Sydney #47.