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

Language quiz

Posted 20 hours ago

Here’s a recording in a mystery language. Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken? FacebookTwitter Google+Share [Link]


Posted 3 days ago

The other day I came across the wonderful German word Pfeife, which means whistle or pipe, and comes from the Middle High German pfife, from Old High German pfiffa, from the Vulgar Latin pipa (pipe; tube-shaped musical instrument), from the Classical Latin pipare (to chirp; to peep), which is of imitative origin, and is also the root of the English … [Link]

Urban Word of the Day

Immaculate Defecation

Posted 19 hours ago

Where one voids his or her bowels, only to find, by wiping one's anus, that no evidence of the event remains. Not as rare as immaculate conception, but still magical. Cletus found, after taking a huge shit, that his first wipe was completely clean. "Hallelujah!" He exlaimed, "Immaculate defecation!" [Link]


Posted 43 hours ago

The art of ruining people's selfies by appear behind them right when they tap on the capture button. Conor: Jessica is in all of your selfies. John: That selfiebombing bitch! [Link]

Digitizing Manuscripts

Posted 6 days ago

A short video from the Bodleian Library that provides an overview of what digitizing library materials entails. [Discuss this post] [Link]

Who We Are

Posted 7 days ago

Dave Wilton Dave Wilton is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at the University of Toronto, working on a dissertation that examines how metaphors in Old English literature can explicate Anglo-Saxon ideas and conceptions of the mind, agency, and free will. Dave has an M.A. from George Washington University in National Security Policy Studies and a B.A. from … [Link]

the world in words

The language of pregnancy seems pregnant with meaning. Is it?

Posted 5 days ago

Pregnant clockwise in Chinese, Georgian, Portuguese, Thai, Afrikaans, Albanian, Hebrew, Spanish, Russian. (Credit: Fran Dias)Pregnant clockwise in Chinese, Georgian, Portuguese, Thai, Afrikaans, Albanian, Hebrew, Spanish, Russian. (Credit: Fran Dias)When a woman in Russia is carrying a child in her womb, several words could be used to describe her condition. The most common is beremenaya (Беременная). Figuratively, it means pregnant. But the literal meaning is quite different. “It has this kind of almost quasi-religious meaning of … [Link]

How to amass a collection of world leaders’ autographs, from Mandela to Castro

Posted 9 days ago

Some of the top names from the autograph collection of Randy Kaplan. He launched his collection in 1996, with the autograph of Bill Clinton, and has gathered 130 autographed baseballs to date. (Photo: Alina Simone)Some of the top names from the autograph collection of Randy Kaplan. He launched his collection in 1996, with the autograph of Bill Clinton, and has gathered 130 autographed baseballs to date. (Photo: Alina Simone) Here’s a guest post from writer Alina Simone. I’m always on the look out for attention-grabbing stats, so when I heard the most valuable autograph of … [Link]

You Don't Say

Moving on

Posted 2 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 2 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

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

Posted 5 weeks 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 4 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 with the Genesis Framework … [Link]

World Wide Words: Updates

New online: Stitched up like a kipper

Posted 42 hours ago

'Stitched up like a kipper' is a weird conflation of two older English slang phrases. [Link]

New online: Hodmandod

Posted 42 hours ago

'Hodmandod' is a southern English dialect word for a snail. [Link]

Varia III.

Posted 25 hours ago

Some interesting stuff I’ve run across: 1) The Un-X-able Y-ness of Z-ing (Q): A List with Notes: Sean Cotter reports on a translated title that “like a spot of dye, dropped into the flow of culture and altered the hue of English as it diffused downstream.” I had not realized that Milan Kundera didn’t want to use “the unbearable lightness … [Link]


Posted 2 days ago

I seem never to have mentioned the Nigerian anti-Western group Boko Haram here, and that’s a good thing, because if I had I would have spread the usual story that Hausa boko is from English book, and that turns out to be mistaken, according to “The Etymology of Hausa boko” (pdf) by Paul Newman, according to Wikipedia “the world’s leading … [Link]

Language Log

Playing philologist at summer camp

Posted 7 hours ago

In response to "What would a "return to philology" be a return to?", Omri Ceren proposes a simple explanation for Paul de Man's assertion that literary "theory" was just a return to philology: You might be overthinking the de Man thing. He did the same thing with "philology" that he did with "rhetoric." It's just the bald assertion that he's … [Link]

Philology and Sinology

Posted 12 hours ago

I was going to post this as a comment to Mark Liberman's "What would a 'return to philology' be a return to?", but it got to be too long, so I'm putting it up as a separate piece. To begin with, when people ask me what my profession is, I've always replied that I am a Sinologist, but most people … [Link]


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