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

Urban Word of the Day

banana polish

Posted 16 hours ago

Any kind of hand lotion like Jergen's or Intensive Care that teenage boys use to jackoff. Mom, if you're going to the store, Brad needs some more banana polish! [Link]

internet bambi

Posted 40 hours ago

walking, talking, typing troll bait; named after Walt Disney's Bambi for their naivete and innocence dude, you're being trolled.. stop being such an internet bambi.. SHEEEEESH.. [Link]

Omniglot blog


Posted 6 hours ago

I came across a wonderful word today – borborygmus [bɔrbəˈrɪɡməs] (plural borborygmi) – which refers to a rumble or gurgle in the stomach. It comes from the 16th-century French word borborygme, via Latin from the Ancient Greek βορβορυγμός (borborygmós), which was probably onomatopoetical [source, via The Week]. Are there interesting words for this phenomenon in other languages? FacebookTwitter Google+Share [Link]


Posted 6 days ago

I came across a wonderful word in Welsh today – hollallu [hɔɬˈaɬɨ] – which means omnipotence or almightiness. It is a portmanteau of (h)oll (all, the whole, everything, everyone) and gallu (to be able (to), have power (to), can, be able to accomplish (a thing)), and there are a couple of variant forms: ollallu and hollalluogrwydd. Related words include: – … [Link]

sheriff, reeve

Posted 3 days ago

See reeve. [Link]

reeve, sheriff

Posted 3 days ago

I’ve lived in Toronto for over four years now, and still differences between how English is spoken here and how it is spoken down south in the States keep surprising me. Today I was reading one of my favorite blogs (Lowering the Bar, a blog on legal humor) and saw a reference to the reeve of Hanover, Manitoba. The blog … [Link]

the world in words

How the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have shaped military slang

Posted 4 hours ago

A jinglytruck (British English)/jingle truck (American English) in Afghanistan. (Photo: Kurt Clark via Flickr) Here’s a post from The Big Show’s Leo Hornak. How do you feel about doing armourbarma on the way to Butlins? Or getting a craphat to check for Terry in a jinglytruck? Unless you’re a member of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, you’re probably totally confused. The British … [Link]

Telling real stories in translation

Posted 3 days ago

A guest post from Aaron Schachter. Here’s a dirty little secret of foreign correspondents: We don’t do our own stunts. Save for the linguistically-talented few — the late, great Anthony Shadid being among the most renowned — most foreign correspondents work in countries where we don’t know the language, let alone local customs, organizations or personalities. So “fixers” and interpreters, … [Link]

Talk Wordy to Me

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

Posted 8 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 11 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: Boot and trunk

Posted 4 days ago

American cars have 'trunks', British ones 'boots'. Why? [Link]

New online: Fish-faced

Posted 14 days ago

A schoolyard taunt, 'fish-faced' has a surprisingly long history. [Link]

You Don't Say

Moving on

Posted 3 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 3 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]

He Got the Job.

Posted 7 hours ago

From Timothy Garton Ash’s NYRB review of Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature by Robert Darnton (incidentally, I find the title odd, seeming to place censorship in an antique past — I would have gone with “Have Shaped” or “Shape”): In British India, the censors—not formally so called—were scholars and gentlemen, either British members of the elite Indian Civil … [Link]

Linguistic Family Tree.

Posted 24 hours ago

We’re all used to the idea of the tree as a model of development through time, whether of species or languages, but rarely is it portrayed so strikingly as in Minna Sundberg’s gorgeous rendering (from the site for her webcomic Stand Still. Stay Silent). The only quibble I might have is that it appears (from the connection of the root … [Link]

Language Log

Tim Cook, Bent Man

Posted 7 hours ago

Last week, China was gaga over Facebook chairman Mark Zuckerberg for gamely, if somewhat lamely, speaking Mandarin before an audience of Tsinghua University students: "Zuckerberg's Mandarin" (10/23/14) In the days following his sensational performance at Tsinghua, while not universally showered with adulation (and Facebook is still blocked in China), Zuckerberg was generally acclaimed for his gutsy, good-natured effort to speak … [Link]


Posted 42 hours ago

Those LLog readers who aren't already Radiolab listeners should give their latest episode on translation a listen. There are 8 stories packed into this one episode, a few about language and a few not-so-much, but all of them well-worth the price of admission. But I'm not just here to promote Radiolab. I'm also here to comment on something that happened … [Link]


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