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

languagehat.com

Gorky and Tolstoy.

Posted 4 hours ago

Aaron Lake Smith has a good piece for Lapham’s Quarterly about Maxim Gorky, focusing on his “troubled friendship” with Leo Tolstoy; it makes me want to read his 1919 reminiscence about the older writer: His essay on Tolstoy is one of the most complex depictions of the love and hate that intertwine within a friendship that I have ever read … [Link]

Butcher Bird.

Posted 28 hours ago

I’m reading the early stories of Wallace Stegner; so far they’ve mostly taken place in the hardscrabble farmland of southwest Saskatchewan, where he spent part of his youth, and they’re as grim as life there must have been (though lightened by the irrepressible spirits of his young viewpoint characters). The latest, the 1940 “Butcher Bird,” has a number of words … [Link]

Urban Word of the Day

trumparoma

Posted 22 hours ago

The smell that occurs when a swamp is drained and replaced with raw sewage and other kinds of stinking waste. There's been a hell of a trumparoma around here since they drained that swamp and filled it with sewage. [Link]

not long out of bed

Posted 46 hours ago

An expression used in North England meaning "I'm so tired I'm going to have to go to bed soon" I'm knackered I'm not long out of bed [Link]

Wordorigins.org

Internet Quotes: Molly Ivins on Flag Burning

Posted 3 days ago

“I prefer a man who will burn the flag and then wrap himself in the Constitution to a man who will burn the Constitution and then wrap himself in the flag.” This quotation, attributed to the late, great journalist Molly Ivins, has been making the rounds of the internet lately, in the wake of Donald Trump’s tweet about outlawing the … [Link]

patient zero

Posted 4 weeks ago

The term patient zero is an epidemiological term for the person who transmits an infection into a population that had been free of it. The OED records the first published use of the term being in Randy Shilts’s 1987 And the Band Played On, a book about the early years of the AIDS pandemic. Shilts identified a French-Canadian flight attendant … [Link]

Language Log

Mystery modal window error message

Posted 14 hours ago

Almost every day, when looking through the headlines on Google News, I see one or two stories where what's meant to be a snippet from the first paragraph of the story contains not a single word from the story but instead says this: This is a modal window. This modal can be closed by pressing the Escape key or activating … [Link]

Ken Liu reinvents Chinese characters

Posted 17 hours ago

In "Inside the world of Chinese science fiction, with 'Three Body Problem' translator Ken Liu" (Quartz, 12/2/16), Nikhil Sonnad conducts an interview with the sci-fi author and translator of the Sān tǐ 三体 (Three-Body [Problem]) series by Liú Cíxīn 刘慈欣. The interview focuses on an anthology of contemporary Chinese science fiction called Invisible Planets translated by Ken Liu. Near the … [Link]

Omniglot blog

Language quiz

Posted 46 hours ago

Language quiz image Here’s a recording in a mystery language. Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken? [Link]

Why is it I and not i?

Posted 5 days ago

ı ı I - an illustration of how the first person pronoun in English got stretched Have you ever wondered why the first person pronoun in English (I) is always written as a capital letter? I was asked about this the other day and though I would investigate. According to a blog post on Dictionary.com, it came about as a bit of an accident. In Old and Middle English the equivalent of I was ıc [iʧ], … [Link]

World Wide Words: Updates

New online: Not my pigeon

Posted 3 days ago

The unfashionable idiom 'not my pigeon' puzzles a reader. [Link]

New online: Subnivean

Posted 3 days ago

The unusual word 'subnivean' is all about snow. [Link]

You Don't Say

Moving on

Posted 5 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 5 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

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

Posted 15 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 21 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 24 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 2 years 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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