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

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]

Urban Word of the Day

Censor Dodge

Posted 33 hours ago

The act of deliberately misspelling or otherwise altering a forbidden word (typically profanity) so it isn't blocked by whatever filter that would usually censor it. Forum Post: fvck u allReply: Nice censor dodge. [Link]


Posted 2 days ago

A condom. An umbrella for your penis preventing the cum outside. Amy: Do you have the protection?Ben: A cumbrella? Yeah I've already put it on. [Link]

Footnotes in the Digital Age

Posted 5 days ago

Last week Tim Parks posted in the New York Review of Books Blog on the need, or rather lack thereof, for formal reference citations in scholarly literature. Parks contends that with the advent of the internet and databases like Project Gutenberg, there is no longer a need for footnotes that give the source of information. Everything is simply a few … [Link]

ASL Poetry

Posted 17 days ago

Gretchen McCulloch has a nice post on how to rhyme in sign language over at Slate’s Lexicon Valley blog. Of particular note is this video: More generally, this falls under the category of “how to translate poetry.” Whether the target language is spoken or signed, the same basic issue arises: How do you translate verse while remaining true to the … [Link]

Talk Wordy to Me

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

Posted 6 months 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 10 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: Set one's cap at

Posted 3 days ago

We know 'set one's cap at'. But whose cap? Where? When? [Link]

New online: Porphyrogeniture

Posted 3 days ago

With 'porphyrogeniture', Prince Charles would get the push. [Link]

Omniglot blog

Da mad math

Posted 25 hours ago

In Welsh and Cornish the usual word for good is da [daː], while in the other Celtic languages words for good are: Breton – mat [maːt˺], Irish – maith [mˠa(ɪ)(h)], Manx – mie [maɪ], and Scottish Gaelic – math [ma]. I’ve wondered for a while whether there were cognates in Welsh and Cornish for these words. Last week I found … [Link]

Language quiz

Posted 2 days 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]

the world in words

Adam Gidwitz puts the grim back into Grimms’ fairy tales…and adds punk

Posted 7 days ago

Illustration from a 1905 edition of Grimms' Fairy Tales. The dwarfs warn Snow White not to accept anything from strangers. (Illustration: Franz Jüttner, uploaded to Wikimedia Commins by Andreas Praefcke )Illustration from a 1905 edition of Grimms’ Fairy Tales. The dwarfs warn Snow White not to accept anything from strangers. (Illustration: Franz Jüttner, uploaded to Wikimedia Commins by Andreas Praefcke )Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty… they are some of the best-known stories of our time. But how well do we really know these and other fairy tales collected by the Brothers … [Link]

What do the words mutton, sheep and robot have in common? Translation!

Posted 14 days ago

Photo: andrea via Flickr Here’s a guest post from Nina Porzucki. Two translators on a ship are talking. “Can you swim?” asks one “No” says the other, “but I can shout for help in nine languages.” Okay, not the best joke, and even though translation won’t exactly save you from drowning it is something that is all around us and that … [Link]


Posted 21 hours ago

Fans of American football (and, really, all Americans, because you can’t escape football in the news even if you don’t care about it) are familiar with the use of the word “bowl” in stadium names, the most famous being the Rose Bowl. It makes sense, because such stadiums are shaped more or less like bowls, but it’s not so obvious … [Link]

Scots Yiddish.

Posted 42 hours ago

Philologos at the Forward has a fine column on a long-forgotten dialect: Recently, as Scotland’s independence vote began to loom large in the media, someone asked me if I had ever heard of Scots Yiddish. “I canna say that I have,” I answered, only to be told that there was an entire chapter on the subject in David Daiches’s autobiographical … [Link]

Language Log

Homa Obama

Posted 25 hours ago

Tom Mazanec sent in the following ad that he saw in a Guangzhou (China) apartment complex: I'll transcribe and translate all the main parts of the ad: Àomǎ shì WHO? 奥马是WHO? ("Who is Homa?") Never mind that Àomǎ 奥马 is often used as a sinographic transcription for "Omar", "Omagh" (place name in Northern Ireland), "Alma" (place name in Malaysia), etc.; … [Link]

Why not a simple, straightforward directory?

Posted 46 hours ago

From C.M., a sign in the Sydney, Australia, suburb of Waterloo: [Link]


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