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: Worry wart

Posted 15 days ago

The term 'worry wart' comes from a famous American cartoon strip. [Link]

New online: Verbigeration

Posted 15 days ago

'Verbigeration' is a rare word for obsessively repeating words and phrases. [Link]

Urban Word of the Day


Posted 24 hours ago

Falafel that is heaven in your mouth. The opposite of falawesome is falawful. The falafel at Pita Hut is falawesome! It's a nice change from the disgusting falawful that I've been eating. [Link]

Shoelace Drift

Posted 2 days ago

When one side of a lace becomes longer due to tying and untying. These Chucks are suffering from Shoelace Drift! The right side of my lace is like 3 inches longer then the left, Man [Link]

Early English Text Society

Posted 12 days ago

Here is a nice blog post about the 150th anniversary of the Early English Text Society. EETS publishes scholarly editions of Old and Middle English texts which are an invaluable resource to anyone studying medieval language and literature. (I just did a count, and I have seventeen EETS volumes on my shelves.) Without EETS most of these works would never … [Link]

enthusiasm, enthuse

Posted 15 days ago

The meanings of words change over time. Sometimes words become more specialized; the Old English deor was used to refer to any kind of wild beast, but by the end of the thirteenth century had started to be used specifically to refer to the creature we now call a deer. Other words become more general; one such is enthusiasm. [Link]

Omniglot blog

Beech Tree Lane

Posted 18 hours ago

This morning in Abergele I saw a road called Lôn Ffawydd. I know that lôn is the Welsh for lane, but wondered what ffawydd might mean as I hadn’t seen it before. Ffawydd can mean beech tree, fir tree, chestnut tree, pine tree or fir tree. It appears in such expressions as: – ffawydd Albanaidd = Scotch fir – ffwaydd … [Link]

Twistles and forks

Posted 44 hours ago

There is a place in Lancashire in the north west of England called Oswaldtwistle [ˈɒzəl.twɪzəl], which a friend went to after visiting me yesterday. Naturally, as we’re linguists, we wondered where the name Oswaldtwistle came from and what it might mean. My friend thought it might have something to do with Saint Oswald, who was King of Northumbria from about … [Link]

Some Links.

Posted 13 hours ago

1) The late, great Leonard Nimoy talks about his Jewish background (growing up in a neighborhood of Boston much like my late friend Allan Herman’s Bensonhurst, a mix of Italian and Jewish), occasionally breaking into Yiddish; funny and moving. Thanks, Paul! 2- Also via Paul, the Historical Dictionary of the Hebrew Language: a new website, and now free! 3) Xaq … [Link]

Rewilding the Language.

Posted 42 hours ago

Robert Macfarlane has a wonderful Guardian piece on how he came to write his new book Landmarks: Eight years ago, in the coastal township of Shawbost on the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis, I was given an extraordinary document. It was entitled “Some Lewis Moorland Terms: A Peat Glossary”, and it listed Gaelic words and phrases for aspects of the … [Link]

Language Log

We play Haydn until the sun comes up

Posted 11 hours ago

Kevin Knight wrote that "our approach to syntax in machine translation is best described in D. Barthelme's short story 'They called for more structure'", and a few days ago, Jason Eisner described what Kevin meant. So in the same spirit, here's Donald Barthelme on the past future of journalism, originally published under the title "Pepperoni" in the New Yorker, in … [Link]


Posted 18 hours ago

On Thursday and Friday, I participated in a workshop on"Statistical Challenges in Assessing and Fostering the Reproducibility of Scientific Results" at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC. Some of the presentations were even more horrifying than I expected — at one point, an audience member was moved to ask half-seriously whether ANY reproducible result has ever been published … [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]

Talk Wordy to Me

Vegetarian chili with no onions or garlic

Posted 4 weeks ago

My pal Beth Wodzinski asked for a vegetarian chili recipe with no onions or garlic (due to an allium sensitvity), afterI posted my award-winning chili recipe. So here is one! Vegetarian chili I just made up right now but is probably great Serves 4-6 1 red bell pepper 1 green bell pepper 1 tbsp red New Mexican chile powder* 1 … [Link]

My award-winning chili recipe

Posted 4 weeks ago

Since people have been asking, here is my recipe for chili: TALKWORDY’S 10-ALARM GRADE-A CHILI 1 lb. ground beef/turkey/chicken 3 cans beans (whatever you like: black, pinto, kidney, etc.) 2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes 2 8-oz cans tomato sauce 2 medium onions, diced 4 gloves garlic, minced 2 tbsp. red New Mexican chile powder 2 tsp. cumin Optional toppings: sour … [Link]

the world in words

A bilingual seal of approval for high school graduates

Posted 11 weeks 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 12 weeks 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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