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

the world in words

Is there such thing as an untranslatable word?

Posted 24 hours ago

Photo illustration by Augie Schwer/FlickrPhoto illustration by Augie Schwer/Flickr Here’s a post from Nina Porzucki. Quick — what does the French word “chouette” mean? If you flipped open the dictionary and took a look, you’d say it means a type of owl, and it literally does. But the French use it much more frequently to describe something that is cute, neat, nice or friendly — … [Link]

Russian curses are inventive, widely-used — and banned

Posted 24 hours ago

The Russian film The Russian film “Da i Da” (“Yes and Yes”) directed by Valeria Gai Germanika (Screenshot: Art Pictures and VVP Alliance) Here’s a post from New York-based writer Alina Simone. The thing non-Russian speakers don’t really understand about Russian curses, or mat, is that we’re not just talking about your favorite one-syllable curse words here — mat is an entire language unto … [Link]

Talk Wordy to Me

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

Posted 7 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 10 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 WordPress.com) with the Genesis Framework … [Link]

World Wide Words: Updates

New online: Fish-faced

Posted 5 days ago

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

New online: Zoilism

Posted 5 days ago

Now defunct, 'Zoilism' once meant a carping and envious critic. [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 http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/la~ 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]

languagehat.com

Prok Prok Prok!

Posted 97 minutes ago

That’s the sound of applause in Indonesian, according to illustrator James Chapman in BuzzFeed, “explaining what the world sounds like in different languages.” The illustrations are a delight and I haven’t noticed any obvious errors in the multilingual onomatopoeia; there’s not much else to say except go, look, enjoy! (Also, it’s interesting, now that he points it out, that English … [Link]

The Revision (1864).

Posted 25 hours ago

Back in 2009 I was posting enthusiastically about The Oxford History of English Lexicography , and in this post I discussed “Major American Dictionaries,” going straight from Joseph Worcester’s Dictionary of the English Language (1860) to the Century Dictionary (1889) without mentioning “The American Dictionary of 1864, the ‘Webster-Mahn’” (to quote the title of their section on it); at the time, … [Link]

Language Log

No word for father

Posted 118 minutes ago

Last week I read this article about the Mosuo people of southwest China: "The Ethnic Group in China That Doesn’t Have a Word for Father" (10/13/14). The Mosuo are indeed famous for having a matrilineal society, and I had long been aware of their unusual marriage customs, but I was innately suspicious of this sensationalist claim that there was no … [Link]

*BEEP* vegetables

Posted 12 hours ago

Chinglish makes an appearance in the "Translators" segment of HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (10/19): For those who may have missed my old Language Log post, this classic Chinglishism was explained at great length and with many details in "The Etiology and Elaboration of a Flagrant Mistranslation" (12/9/07), with an update and refresher in "The further elaboration of … [Link]

Urban Word of the Day

Parallel Parkinson's

Posted 19 hours ago

An inability to parallel park. Sufferers of this disease may try five and six times to guide their vehicle into an open space before finally giving up, and leaving the automobile 2-3 feet from the curb at an awkward angle. Her Parallel Parkinson's always seemed to flare up when she found a space in front of a restaurant with a … [Link]

what da fuh?

Posted 43 hours ago

What is that for? Why did you do that? Why is that here? "What da fuh? Didn't I tell you I was providing drinks? Take the coffee back to your car; nobody drinks coffee at a party!" [Link]

Wordorigins.org

Women in The Guardian

Posted 6 days ago

Maddie York, an editor at The Guardian, has penned an article for that paper’s “Mind Your Language Blog” in which she objects to the use of woman as an adjective, as in woman doctor or woman writer. The subheading for the blog post—which York may not have written, as headlines are often not written by the reporter—reads: ‘Woman’ is not … [Link]

ergonomics

Posted 9 days ago

I was listening to a podcast in which the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson stated that he was under the impression that the discipline of ergonomics arose when the baby boomers started growing old and began feeling aches and pains. Of course, I had to immediately research the origin of the term, and it turns out Tyson’s impression is incorrect. (To … [Link]

Omniglot blog

Agley

Posted 35 hours ago

I came across the interesting word agley today when looking up something else in a Chinese dictionary – the Chinese equivalent is 错 [錯] (cuò). It is a Scots word, pronounced [əˈgli/əˈgləi], that means “off the straight, awry, oblique, wrong”. It comes from the word gley (to squint), according to Wiktionary, which is possible related to the Icelandic word gljá … [Link]

Languages in Bhutan

Posted 3 days ago

I listened to a very interesting programme on the BBC about languages in Bhutan today. It mentioned that although the 19 or so indigenous languages of Bhutan have equal status, in theory at least. In practise, particularly in education, the main languages used are Dzongkha / Bhutanese and English, and to a lesser extent, Nepali. Kids are discouraged from, or … [Link]

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