John Gordon Ross

A Man for All Reasons

John Gordon Ross header image 3

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

You Don't Say

Moving on

Posted 4 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 4 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]

World Wide Words: Updates

New online: Satisficer

Posted 8 days ago

'Satisficer' contains the idea of the paradox of choice. [Link]

New online: Beside oneself

Posted 8 days ago

Why is one 'beside oneself' when in the grip of powerful emotions? [Link]

Urban Word of the Day


Posted 20 hours ago

The smell that's left inside a bathroom after someone else has taken a poop. This is an unpleasant smell (unless you like other people's poop smells), and definitely not a smell you'd like to shower in. Roommate #1: Did you just go poop in there? Roommate #2: Yeah, man. Just had a huge cup of coffee and had to go! … [Link]


Posted 44 hours ago

like a sugar daddy. without the age gap. Why have a sugar daddy when you can have a honeydude ? They last longer. [Link]

Origin Unknown: Profile of Anatoly Liberman

Posted 11 days ago

Lapham’s Quarterly has a nice profile of etymologist Anatoly Liberman. I don’t have much to say about the piece, except to highlight a couple of quotes. On why he pursues etymologies: “Love is the wrong word,” he says. “Etymology is not a child or a woman. So there is nothing to love it for. It’s the excitement of discovery. Whether … [Link]

Tommy, Tommy Atkins

Posted 5 weeks ago

The great joy of running this website is that now and again you discover a term that simultaneously connects with great historical figures and events and reveals how language, the most human of inventions, works. The British slang term for a soldier, Tommy, is just such a word. It is short for Tommy Atkins, and the word’s history, both purported … [Link]


Posted 11 hours ago

I just ran across the archaic Russian (really Church Slavic) phrase крины сельные [kriny sel’nye] ‘lilies of the field’; the ‘lily’ part is straightforward (крин = Greek κρίνoν; the modern Russian word is лилия), but the adjective сельный looks like it should be derived from село [selo] ‘village,’ which is very strange from the semantic point of view. So I … [Link]

From Miles Loricatus to Miles Gloriosus.

Posted 31 hours ago

I’ve finally gotten around to reading Robert Bartlett’s The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change, 950-1350 , which I bought two decades ago, and have just run across an interesting passage on the history of the miles (horseman/knight): Heavy cavalry retained its importance throughout the period discussed here, 950-1350. Not all such horsemen were knights. Indeed, one of the … [Link]

Language Log

Rats, heroes, and zeroes

Posted 23 hours ago

I have received this notice from several sources in the last few days: (Source) jiǎrú yǒu jiàndào lǎoshǔ, bùyào hàipà 假如有見到老鼠, 不要害怕, qǐng tōngzhī wǒmen, rén dìng shèng shǔ 請通知我們, 人定勝鼠 If you see rats / mice, don't be afraid, Please notify us, people can definitely overcome rats / mice. The notice was issued by the management office of the … [Link]

FOOD & BGVERAGGS, with a focus on naan / nang

Posted 23 hours ago

The following three items might well have been included in the previous post on Chinglish, but that one got to be rather long and unwieldy, so I'm treating these separately. In any event, I think that they merit the special treatment they are receiving here. 1. Just two characters, but they got so much out of them! 肉馕 The first … [Link]

Omniglot blog


Posted 28 hours ago

Did you know that the practice of putting spaces between words was started by Irish monks writing in Latin? This is what I discovered from an episode of the Allusionist – apparently when Christianity arrived in Ireland in the 6th century and people started writing in Latin, they put spaces between the words to make texts easier to read. Before … [Link]

A not entirely uninteresting post

Posted 3 days ago

The title of this post is perhaps an example of litotes [laɪˈtəʊ.tiːz], a figure of speech that uses understatement, particularly double negatives, to make a positive statement [source]. Other examples include: – I didn’t do too badly in the test – It’s a bit chilly – He’s not a bad guitarist Litotes comes from the Ancient Greek λιτότης ‎(litótēs), from … [Link]

Talk Wordy to Me

That time I got accused of making a bomb in school but did not get fucking arrested

Posted 5 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 11 months 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 14 months 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 14 months 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]


13 Feb 2016  12 Feb 2016  11 Feb 2016  10 Feb 2016  09 Feb 2016  08 Feb 2016  07 Feb 2016  06 Feb 2016  05 Feb 2016  04 Feb 2016  03 Feb 2016  02 Feb 2016  01 Feb 2016  31 Jan 2016  30 Jan 2016  29 Jan 2016  28 Jan 2016  27 Jan 2016  26 Jan 2016  25 Jan 2016  24 Jan 2016  23 Jan 2016  22 Jan 2016  21 Jan 2016  20 Jan 2016  19 Jan 2016  18 Jan 2016  17 Jan 2016  16 Jan 2016  15 Jan 2016  14 Jan 2016  

No Comments

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

You must log in to post a comment.