John Gordon Ross

A Man for All Reasons

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Language Stuff

Almost everyone uses language, so inevitably almost everyone thinks they are an expert in it. I don’t consider myself an expert, though most of my work requires at least language competence and sometimes actual skill, but I do follow the blogs featured on this feeds page.

(If you are wondering where the translation-related feeds have all gone, I have put them on their own page.)

Most of the blogs represented here are in English, most of the time, but don’t be surprised to find other languages used. Go with the flow – I occasionally find myself pleasantly surprised at how much I can grasp in languages I have never seen before.

Language On the Net

World Wide Words: Updates

New online: Tomfoolery

Posted 4 weeks ago

Was there ever a real 'Tom Fool' who gave us 'tomfoolery'? [Link]

New online: So help me Hannah

Posted 4 weeks ago

What's the origin of 'So help me Hannah'? [Link]

Omniglot blog

Spaghetti car bananas

Posted 3 days ago

On a recent episode of Word of Mouth on BBC Radio 4, they discussed the interesting words children come up with. They might attempt say particular words but can’t quite manage all the sounds, or get them mixed up, sometimes with unintentionally funny results. They also get words mixed and muddled, or perhaps muddlixed. Can you guess the title of … [Link]

Language quiz

Posted 5 days ago

Language quiz image Here’s a recording in a mystery language. Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken? [Link]

Attorneys and Brigadiers.

Posted 19 hours ago

I reproduce in its entirety this letter to the NYRB and the bracing response: To the Editors: I am ridiculously late in reading the NYR of November 19, 2015. In Judge Rakoff’s review of Professor John C. Coffee Jr.’s Entrepreneurial Litigation there are several references to the plural of “attorney general,” rendered there as “attorney generals.” I always have understood … [Link]


Posted 37 hours ago

Anne Curzan at Lingua Franca writes about a phenomenon I’ve noticed but not really thought about: the distinction between the traditional use of hence meaning ‘as a result, for this reason’ as an introduction to full clauses (her example: “Hence, vaccines with enhanced serotype coverage … might be needed to prevent IPD in this age group in the near future”) … [Link]

Urban Word of the Day

Do it for the vine!

Posted 5 hours ago

when you want someone to do something, take your phone and say "do it for the vine" while recording him, then he'll do it because of the "social" pressure. rebecca: "hey dude, someone told me you know how to wiggle wiggle like anyone else" mike: "are you kidding? there is no way rebecca: "do it" mike: "no" rebecca: "do it! … [Link]


Posted 29 hours ago

One who is completely lacking movie knowledge. Heather – "Hey Greta, wanna see that new Tom Hanks movie, Mission Difficult II? Greta – "Um you mean the new Tom CRUISE movie, Mission Impossible III? Girl, you are a real cinematard!" [Link]

What English Will Sound Like In 100 Years

Posted 4 days ago

An online article by Michael Erard discusses the possible phonetic changes that English might go through in the coming decades and centuries. The best part of the article are three sound files of the opening lines of Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, read in Old English, in modern Received Pronunciation, and in what English might sound like in a … [Link]

Debunked: Students Can’t Write Anymore

Posted 7 days ago

I’m teaching four sections of first-year English composition this semester, so this subject is near and dear to my heart. Two Stanford researchers, Andrea A. Lunsford and Karen J. Lunsford, have conducted a longitudinal study of college freshman writing, comparing the results from students in 2006 with earlier studies from 1917, 1930, and 1986, and the results are quite surprising. [Link]

Language Log

Daigou: a Mandarin borrowing-in-progress in English

Posted 13 hours ago

Surprisingly few words have been borrowed from Mandarin into English in recent years. Most of the Sinitic borrowings in English — and there are not many — are from other topolects (Cantonese, Shanghainese, Hokkien, etc.), and they occurred nearly a century or more ago. "Chinese loans in English" (7/10/13) Since the founding of the PRC, most of the terminology borrowed … [Link]

Treasure language

Posted 28 hours ago

A talk at Charles Darwin University by Steven Bird: With thousands of languages in danger of disappearing, should we redouble our efforts to "save" them? Or could we open ourselves to the stories, lives, and world views of the people who speak the smaller languages around us? Steven Bird, computer scientist and linguist, draws on unconventional sources of wisdom to … [Link]

You Don't Say

Moving on

Posted 5 years ago

Today You Don’t Say relocates to a new Web address and new software. You will be able to find it at where … [Link]

A spell of rough weather

Posted 5 years ago

There was a mild dustup today on the Internet over, of all things, spelling.The rhubarb started when Anne Trubek flung down the gauntlet with a suggestion in Wi … [Link]

Talk Wordy to Me

That time I got accused of making a bomb in school but did not get fucking arrested

Posted 13 months ago

OK so by now you have probably heard about the 14-year-old in Irving, Texas, who was arrested cause he is a fucking genius who built a goddamn clock out of circuit boards and wanted his teachers to be proud of him but instead they were racist at him and he got hauled off by the fucking cops WHO ALSO THINK … [Link]

Asking for a bit more help for Goofus

Posted 20 months ago

2015-03-08 13.09.31 UPDATE: We’ve raised $1,560 this week. From Goofus, Lauren, and I, thank you so much for all of your help, you’ve gotten us out of the woods on this. I’ve taken down the Paypal donate button. Hey everyone. So earlier this year, we raised some money to help pay for some of the medical costs of getting two kitty sisters … [Link]

the world in words

A bilingual seal of approval for high school graduates

Posted 23 months ago

Peter Kuskie and Maria Regalado are students at Hillsboro High in Oregon and are on track to receive a new bilingual seal on their diplomas. (Photo: Monica Campbell) Read this post from Monica Campbell. Or listen to the podcast above. Let’s take a trip back to September 1995, when Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole was talking about education on the campaign … [Link]

A Soviet-era storytelling game trains you to bluff, lie and sometimes tell the truth

Posted 23 months ago

A tense moment during a game of “Mafia” in Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo courtesy of the English Mafia Club of Kiev) Read this post from Alina Simone. Or listen to the podcast above. The storytelling parlor game “Mafia” crosses borders, transcends culture and bridges the language divide in ways you’d never expect. There are no game boards or joysticks involved in Mafia … [Link]


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