So Thou Wantst to Write Olde-Timey Speech

writing old english
Let’s say you’re a writer or a translator. Wouldn’t you like your work to not only evoke the time period you’re replicating, but actually work?

To that end Jezebel started a new series of posts filed under “Memeievalism” and aimed at giving a few tips toward improving the verisimilitude of your attempts to capture the speech of bygone days.

Read the first post here. The word ‘thou’ is the first lesson.

A good source in this context is the Middle English Dictionary by the way.

Essay: There Is No ‘Proper English’

proper english
Never mind the grammar scolds. If people say it, it’s the right way to speak.

Is there such a thing as “proper English”? Here’s an excerpt from an essay in the Wall Street Journal by Oliver Kamm:

“A few weeks ago, pundits and columnists lauded a Wikipedia editor in San Jose, Calif., who had rooted out and changed no fewer than 47,000 instances where contributors to the online encyclopedia had written “comprised of” rather than “composed of.” Does anyone doubt that our mother tongue is in deep decline?

Well, for one, I do. It is well past time to consign grammar pedantry to the history books.

As children, we all have the instinct to acquire a set of rules and to apply them. Any toddler is already a grammatical genius. Without conscious effort, we combine words into sentences according to a particular structure, with subjects, objects, verbs, adjectives and so on. We know that a certain practice is a rule of grammar because it’s how we see and hear people use the language.

That’s how scholarly linguists work. Instead of having some rule book of what is “correct” usage, they examine the evidence of how native and fluent nonnative speakers do in fact use the language. Whatever is in general use in a language (not any use, but general use) is for that reason grammatically correct.”

Excerpt from an essay in the Wall Street Journal by Oliver Kamm, editorial writer and columnist for the Times of London. His latest book is “Accidence Will Happen: The Non-Pedantic Guide to English Usage.”

Why English Changes More Slowly Today Than It Did A Thousand Years Ago

“As languages acquire new speakers, spread to new geographic areas, and mingle with other languages, they change. But is that change happening as quickly as it once did?” (IO9)

What might a future version of English look? Perhaps not quite so different from the version we see today — and we owe that to the widespread growth of the written word.

Read the story at IO9 here.

Top image: A 15th century edition of Recuyell of the Histories of Troy from Brandeis University’s Special Collections

RhymeZone – Find rhymes, synonyms, and more

RhymeZone is a great website to see how a word is used in the context of famous quotes, poems, and plays, but also an easy way of finding rhymes and a whole lot more. Here’s a brief overview of what Rhymezone can do for you:

Find rhymes: This function will return words that exactly rhyme with the word you typed in.
Find near rhymes: This function will return words that almost rhyme with the word you typed in.
Find synonyms: This function will return words that are the same or similar in meaning to the word you typed in.
Find anonyms: This function will return words that can mean the opposite of what you typed in.
Find definition: This function will search for definitions of the word you typed in. It will also allow you to submit your query to other online dictionaries on the Web.
Find homophones: This function will return words that have exactly the same pronunciation as what you typed in but are spelled differently.
Find similar sounding words: This function will return words that have a pronunciation that’s similar, but not necessarily the same, as what you typed in.
Match consonants: This option will return words that have the same pattern of consonant sounds. Phonetic, for example, will return fanatic.
Find related words: This option will return words that are related in some important way to what you typed in.
Find similar spellings: This option will return words in the dictionary that are spelled similarly to what you typed in. Use this feature to spell-check a word that you aren’t sure of.
Match these letters: This option will return words and phrases that contain the letters you type in.
Search for pictures: This function will search for kids-friendly pictures on the Web related to the word you typed in.
Search in Shakespeare: This function will search all of Shakespeare’s plays and poems for your word.


Langenscheidt has started a new collection of incredibly bad translations into German from all over the world. Author Titus Arnus has also been a guest on “Tv Total” in case you want to know more.

Photo: Haimo Pölzl

How do we measure language fluency?

language fluency

“The first and central culprit is the idea that fluency is an absolute status, that the world of each language is divided into two groups: “fluent” and “non-fluent”. But here’s a brief example of how muddy these waters can actually be: if I am born in Moscow, but then move to Toronto at 14 and never speak a word of Russian again for the rest of my life, am I still fluent at 89? Language is a living thing; it always happens within a context and relative to that context, and those contexts often do not have any exterior criteria by which they could be termed standard.”

From “Let’s Bust Some Myths About Fluency” by Noah Harley, a short essay over at

Babbel Voices | Myths of Fluency

Wikipedia says: “Language fluency is used informally to denote broadly a high level of language proficiency, most typically foreign language or another learned language, and more narrowly to denote fluid language use, as opposed to slow, halting use. ”

Lesson Planet: Ready . . . Set . . . Read! Teaching Reading Fluency – There are many activities and lesson ideas that teachers can use to reinforce reading fluency skills.

Image lifted from Almost Fearless.

Hands on with the latest Google Translate App


“Real time translation, the kind we imagined in science fiction is finally within reach”, writes Mashable. “In the space of just a few months, Microsoft has introduced live translation services to Skype (still in preview) and now the latest Google Translate features live, language-detecting, two-way audio translation on its free iOS and Android apps.

Google Translate [iTunes link] can handle dozens of languages and will understand and return text and audio translations in real time.”

Mashable had a closer look.

The Star Wars English-Japanese Dictionary

Star Wars English-Japanese DictionaryHere’s a great new way to study Japanese or English: using this awesome Star Wars English Learner’s Dictionary from Japan that teaches you through Star Wars quotes. It’s much easier to learn a language when you can connect it to knowledge you already have, and this might be a great way for you or your Padawan to study! So do, or do not. There is no try!

For sale at Jbox.

Lost without translation – Accurate scientific translation is vital, say Meredith Root-Bernstein and Richard Ladle.


Excerpt from an essay: for “Times Higher Education”:

“A misplaced preposition or poor choice of verb can ruin a convincing narrative, reducing the probability of publication in a top international journal and limiting the impact of the research. Not only is this bad news for scientists struggling to communicate their work, it is also bad for science.
Science needs more trained personnel who can bridge the language gap. The need is particularly urgent in areas such as the environmental and agronomical sciences in which it is increasingly appreciated that regional and local interventions can have global impacts.

In an effort to disseminate their work, many foreign scientists spend precious research funds on private translation services. But standard translators may not understand the science, the structure of scientific papers or the technical language. The only alternative is to rely on bilingual colleagues to provide translation services as a favour.”

Read the article here.


Meredith Root-Bernstein is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford and at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Richard Ladle is senior visiting research associate at Oxford and professor of conservation biogeography at the Federal University of Alagoas, Brazil.

How to Talk Australians – Season 1

TalkAustralians2From director Tony Rogers (Wilfred) and writer Rob Hibbert, (Images You Should Not Masturbate To) comes How to Talk Australians, a comedy web series set in an Indian call centre training college.

Presented in the format of an elaborate educational video, the series delivers a satirical take on the Australian way of life. An assembly of Indian teachers dissect our national identity, as they perform re-enactments, conduct lectures in linguistics, and attempt impersonations of famous Australians.

Mining the depths of every aspect of the Australian stereotype, the 8-part series presents us with a unique outsider’s perspective, and asks us to visit that most Australian trait: to laugh at ourselves.


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