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. An essay by John McWhorter, professor of linguistics and American studies at Columbia University (The Language Hoax, 2014): ” In countries where English isn’t spoken, there is no such thing as a ‘spelling bee’ competition. […]

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The Power of Language

In this video, we explore the incredible power of language—written, spoken and performed. First, meet the creator of Game of Throne’s Dothraki, then discover the curious etymology behind Pokémon and finally, meet a teenager reviving the ancient language of Quechua through pop music. A video from Great Big Story, a global media company devoted to cinematic […]

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Word of the Year: Behind the Scenes

How did the Merriam-Webster Dictionary choose surreal as their Word of the Year for 2016? Peter Sokolowski explains the data behind their decisions, and what that tells us about what people were thinking this year. Surreal is Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year because it was looked up significantly more frequently by users in 2016 than […]

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How Bootleg Translations of VHS Tapes Started an Anime Fan War in the 90s

The little-known story of how a fight over Fushigi Yûgi subtitles built Ottawa’s anime community. A fascinating story from the bronze age of subtitles over at Vice: “In the nineties, before broadband modems became widely available—and before anime streaming services like Funimation and Crunchyroll—staying up-to-date on anime was an arduous process. North American fans who […]

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Dialect Survey Maps

Test your American dialect down to your hometown Based on your responses, the map at right shows the overlap between your speech and the various dialects of American English, as measured by data from the Harvard Dialect Survey, conducted by Bert Vaux and Scott Golder. Try it here.

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