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

Omniglot blog

Could you care less?

Posted 17 hours ago

Which sounds right to you? – I couldn’t care less about sport. – I could care less about sport. To me the first makes sense and sounds right. It also applies to me – I have no real interest in sport. So I couldn’t care any less about it, because I don’t care about it at all. The second one … [Link]

Language quiz

Posted 3 days 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]

The Lying Whale.

Posted 14 hours ago

I ran across a reference in a Russian passage to “Тау Кита,” and immediately recognized it as the nearby star Tau Ceti. I thought with amusement “Hey, Кита [kita] is a lot like Ceti!” and then did a classic double-take: of course it is — both the Russian and Latin words are borrowed from Greek κῆτος ‘whale’! (By the time … [Link]

Japanese Ship Names.

Posted 28 hours ago

Joel of Far Outliers is posting excerpts from Japanese Destroyer Captain , by Tameichi Hara (Naval Institute Press, 2013 reprint of a 1961 translation), and I thought this discussion of ship names was interesting enough to repost: Names of Japanese ships must sound strange to foreign readers. Many Westerners during the Pacific War called a Japanese ship “Maru.” It must be … [Link]

World Wide Words: Updates

Updated online: Steal one's thunder

Posted 4 days ago

What's the origin of 'to steal one's thunder'? [Link]

Updated online: Umquhile

Posted 4 days ago

The ancient adverb 'umquhile' is long deceased. [Link]

Language Log

Voice recognition for English and Mandarin typing revisited

Posted 9 hours ago

In "Voice recognition for English and Mandarin typing " (8/24/16), we took a brief look at a Stanford-University of Washington-Baidu study that showed, according to an NPR article, that voice recognition finally beat humans at typing. The title of the original study is "Speech Is 3x Faster than Typing for English and Mandarin Text Entry on Mobile Devices", and the … [Link]

Clueless Microsoft language processing

Posted 9 hours ago

A rather poetic and imaginative abstract I received in my email this morning (it's about a talk on computational aids for composers), contains the following sentence: We will metaphorically drop in on Wolfgang composing at home in the morning, at an orchestra rehearsal in the afternoon, and find him unwinding in the evening playing a spot of the new game … [Link]

A New Type of Turing Test

Posted 5 weeks ago

In 1950, computer pioneer Alan Turing formulated his famous test for determining whether or not a computer was true artificial intelligence (AI). It involved discourse between humans and a computer, and if the humans could not tell whether they were speaking to a another person or to a machine, then the machine was “intelligent.” A neat idea, but when put … [Link]

10K Twitter Followers

Posted 6 weeks ago now has over 10,000 followers on Twitter. (We actually broke that barrier some time ago, but I’m in the midst of moving to Texas, so I’ve been slow in conveying the news.) The site’s Twitter handle is @wordorigins. I generally post when I’ve added an article to the site, an entry to the Big List, or when a new … [Link]

Urban Word of the Day


Posted 21 hours ago

oral sex. They are vigorously involved in orophilia. [Link]


Posted 44 hours ago

your baby daddy I am like totally going to be Haile's ybd [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 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 11 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 18 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 21 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 21 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]


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