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

Talk Wordy to Me

My (getting to be) annual St. Patrick’s Day post

Posted 4 months ago

So three years ago, I had an op-ed in the Philly Inquirer on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s about my family, and the movie Hunger. I’m pretty proud of it. (Linking to it on my blog and not the Inky, because it seems to appear and disappear there.) Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and slainte! [Link]

Open for business!

Posted 8 months ago

Aside from the logo, the Talk Wordy to Me redesign is complete. I’ve added a page with information about my editing services and another with links to fiction I have written (not much at the moment but that will change!). I built the blog in my first WordPress self-install (it used to be hosted on with the Genesis Framework … [Link]

World Wide Words: Updates

New online: Precrastination

Posted 5 days ago

Some of us seem wired to do things earlier than needed. It's been dubbed 'precrastination'. [Link]

New online: Bounding main

Posted 5 days ago

What's the 'bounding main' and why does it bound? [Link]

Urban Word of the Day


Posted 24 hours ago

Your bro's opinion. Bro 1: So what do you think about Sara? Bro 2 : Don't let my opinion stop you, go for it. Bro1 : No, I care about your bropinion. [Link]

charge buddy

Posted 2 days ago

A friend, family member or co-worker with whom you share a charger for an electronic device. Worker 1: "Since we have the same model of smartphone, can we share the same charger?"Worker 2: "Yeah, so you'll be my charge buddy." [Link]

In a World Where Protolanguages Could Not Be Understood…

Posted 19 hours ago

We all know that academic titles don’t exactly sell like hotcakes, but I’m not sure this marketing strategy will actually work. You may recall George Walkden from this previous post and this follow-up on the use of hwæt in Old English poetry. Tip o’ the Hat: languagehat [Discuss this post] [Link]

zero gravity, zero g, microgravity

Posted 2 days ago

Zero gravity is one of those words that appears in science fiction before science and engineering had an actual need for it. Zero gravity, also called zero g or microgravity, is the state of weightlessness experienced in outer space (and, as we shall see, at the center of the earth). [Link]


Posted 9 hours ago

Olga Khazan has an amusing account in The Atlantic of going to Russia and trying to use her very rusty native language. I enjoyed it, of course, but one section requires amendment, since she doesn’t seem to have quite understood what was going on: We’re sitting in a cafe with my cousin, who has lived in Leningrad/Saint Petersburg her entire … [Link]


Posted 42 hours ago

George Walkden has posted “Syntactic Reconstruction and Proto-Germanic: Cinematic Teaser” on Facebook; you can also view it at Mark Liberman’s Log post, and I urge you to take the two minutes needed to watch this brilliant attempt to attract attention to what might seem (and in fact is) a recondite subject. From the Log comments, I have to agree with … [Link]

the world in words

What’s the point of learning Russian?

Posted 15 days ago

Graduation day at the Bright Minds Center in New York City. Bright Minds is a bilingual Russian/English preschool. (Photo: Alina Simone)Graduation day at the Bright Minds Center in New York City. Bright Minds is a bilingual Russian/English preschool. (Photo: Alina Simone)Here’s a guest post from New York-based writer Alina Simone. When my editor, Patrick, assigned me a story about how the Russian language is dying, I thought he was being funny. I pointed out that, yoo hoo! — I speak Russian … [Link]

Some people have re-imagined English as Anglish, with no words derived from French or Latin

Posted 3 weeks ago

Tom Rowsell examines a replica of an Anglo-Saxon helmetTom Rowsell examines a replica of an Anglo-Saxon helmet Here’s a guest post from Tom Rowsell. It’s common knowledge that languages are fluid things which merge into one another and evolve to become new languages. But the way they change isn’t necessarily natural or arbitrary. The changes that occur to languages are often the result of wars, genocides, mass migrations, political … [Link]

Language Log

Transliteration follies

Posted 15 hours ago

From Arun Tharuvai, via his Twitter account, we find that Intersecting Bubbles has this brief but fascinating post on a multilingual notice: "Shell Petroleum thinks that Hindi is English written in the Devanagari Script ". It describes a routine notification from Shell petroleum warning people not to dig where they might accidentally rupture a gas pipeline. The warning was accompanied … [Link]

Fillers: Autism, gender, and age

Posted 21 hours ago

K. Gorman et al., "Children's Use of Disfluencies Distinguish ASD and Language Impairment", IMFAR 2014 (emphasis added): This study compares the relative frequencies of "uh" and "um" in the spontaneous speech of children with ASD (with or without comorbid language impairment) to two control groups. Methods: Participants: 112 children ages 3;10–9;0 participated: ASD (50), Specific Language Impairment (SLI; 18), and … [Link]

Omniglot blog

Cigire or Cigydd? Cross-language confusion

Posted 19 hours ago

Last week in Ireland on the last night of the course each class played some tunes, did a sketch, sang songs, and/or did some other party piece. One of the Irish language classes did a sketch about a bunch of unruly school kids whose class was being visited by an inspector, played by Paul Kavanagh, Irish Ambassador to China. When … [Link]

Cruite, cláirseacha a chrythau

Posted 38 hours ago

I discovered last week in Ireland that one word for the harp in Irish is cruit [krutʲ], which sounds similar to the Welsh word crwth [kruːθ], a type of bowed lyre that was once popular in Wales and in other parts of Europe, but which was largely displayed by the fiddle during the 18th century. The word crwth from a … [Link]

You Don't Say

Moving on

Posted 2 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 2 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]


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