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

Omniglot blog

National Motto(e)s

Posted 37 hours ago

Navis volitans mihi anguillis plena est Created with The Keep Calm-O-Matic Do you know your country’s national motto? Not all countries have them. Many are in Latin and other ancient languages, and most are a bit bland and include things like freedom, liberty, unity, strength, work, progress, God, etc. Here are some more interesting ones: – Isle of Man (Latin): Quocunque Ieceris Stabit (Whithersoever you throw … [Link]

Language quiz

Posted 4 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]

Urban Word of the Day


Posted 18 hours ago

Opposite of uptight; laid back; chill I hate hanging with snobs. I'm to downtight. [Link]


Posted 42 hours ago

Unapologetic un-PC alpha male conservative fan of Breitbart news I hate Sean. He voted for Trump. Fucking Breitbastard [Link]

The Oxford Comma and the Law

Posted 12 days ago

The Oxford comma was in the news recently when a federal court interpreted a Maine statute regarding overtime pay for dairy truck drivers. In the case of O’Connor, et al. v. Oakhurst Dairy, the lack of a comma, or so the news stories would have it, resulted in a victory for workers’ rights. The Oxford comma (serial comma) is the … [Link]


Posted 17 days ago

Loo, the British word for a lavatory or toilet is one of those words that has generated endless speculation and myth about its origin. While we don’t know for sure where the word comes from, we do have a pretty good guess. It’s most likely from the French lieu, meaning place. The English loo doesn’t make an unambiguous appearance until … [Link]

Das Empire.

Posted 2 hours ago

I’m only on the first chapter of Dominic Lieven’s The End of Tsarist Russia: The March to World War I and Revolution , but I can already tell it’s going to be one of those books I’ll recommend to people for years to come — I have to pause after just about every paragraph to think about what he just said … [Link]

The Goethe Dictionary.

Posted 23 hours ago

Gero Schliess reports on what the title accurately calls a “mammoth task”: Precisely 70 years ago, the German Academy of Sciences in Berlin initiated the huge project of the Goethe dictionary – a lexicon precisely listing, describing and explaining every single word used by Goethe in his poems, dramas, letters, official writings and scientific essays. In his speech on the … [Link]

Language Log

Dan Everett at TEDxPenn

Posted 27 hours ago

On Saturday, April 1, the TEDx series comes to the University of Pennsylvania, and the TEDxPenn website explains that the event's thematic phrase "Rise and Run" is intentionally polysemic—the coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase. On the one hand, rise and run is a reference to the mathematical description of slopes, positive growth, upward trends. On … [Link]

Haba: mysterious Mandarin morpheme for "pug"

Posted 33 hours ago

There's a town called Hǎbātún 奤夿屯 (where tún 屯 means "village, hamlet; camp; station") in Chāngpíng qū 昌平区 ("Changping District") of Beijing. The name sounds odd and the first two characters are unusual. It is said to date back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) when it was a Mongol military encampment. Southerners supposedly referred to the Mongols as "hǎbā". I've … [Link]

World Wide Words: Updates

New online: Not my pigeon

Posted 4 months ago

The unfashionable idiom 'not my pigeon' puzzles a reader. [Link]

New online: Subnivean

Posted 4 months ago

The unusual word 'subnivean' is all about snow. [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 18 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 2 years 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 2 years 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 2 years 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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