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I didn’t have enough cat links or enough linguistics links for a full post. July 18, 2017

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Linguistics links:

Nothing new under the sun: “in tibullus 1.8 (a poem about his boyfriend Marathus) has this line about “pugnantibus linguis” (literally battling tongues) which means that the idea of tongues battling for dominance in homoerotic fiction has been going on since at least the 1st century bce

From Seaspeak to Singlish: cool English dialects and English-based creoles.

Hawaiian pidgin has a great all-purpose noun — it’s “you-know-what”, “whatchamacallit”, “so-and-so”, and “the thing” all at once.

Cat links:

Before there were laptops, cats were happy to sit on our portable typewriters.

“I was right there in case he got upset — I was expecting him to hiss or growl or slink away. But then one of the ginger kittens started licking Mason’s ear, and Mason sort of leaned into it and closed his eyes like it was the most amazing thing ever.

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Vintage selfies, immoral tea, and Victorian manspreading March 20, 2017

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Today in Older Than They Think: The first portrait photograph ever made, in 1839…and guess what, it was a selfie.

Tea causes lack of sleep, weakens the nerves, corrupts boys, and is a gateway to prostitution for girls: a Kids These Days screed from 1833.

Things that were sure to corrupt women over the years: bicycles, novels, the post office, and the telephone.

A writer hating on Kids These Days for no longer being able to speak proper English…in 1440, where those darn kids were ruining their Anglo-Saxon by using newfangled words from Norman French.

Cartoon from Victorian London about…what today we call “manspreading.” (They called it “sitting wide” or “the roomy dodge.”)

Three generations of slang, as of 1925. Fun to see which ones are normal in the present day (“wallflower”, “cheapskate”), which sound adorably outdated (“red-hot mama”, “bully!”), and which have morphed to mean completely different things (“guy”, “spoofing”).

Undersea spaghetti monster, dinosaur tails, ancient cookbooks, and other fun things February 7, 2017

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An interlude with nice things.

Dinosaur tail found fully preserved in amber, and yes, it’s feathery.

“A team from BP was carrying out routine operations near an oil well, using a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) at a depth of 1325 metres, when they spotted the creature, which they nicknamed the flying spaghetti monster.” The noodly appendages are real. RAmen.

Mall space got repurposed into gorgeous loft apartments.

“The Ptolemaic dynasty was able to spend big on the institution thanks to the riches of Egypt’s fertile land and resources from the Nile, including papyrus, the ancient world’s main writing material. As a result, the library had an edge in development over others. The Ptolemaic kings were determined to collect any and all books that existed—from the epics, tragedies, to cookbooks.

“Olio wants to make it easy for busy food sellers to avoid wasting food. ‘These vendors usually don’t have enough surplus to donate to a charity or something, but they still end up having to throw away quite a lot at the end of the day.'”

I asked other immigrants about their first moments of culture shock in the United States. Here’s what they told me.” Braces, junk food, chatty cashiers, and more.

“Hebrew marks gender prolifically (even the word “you” is different depending on genders), Finnish has no gender marking and English is somewhere in between. Accordingly, children growing-up in a Hebrew speaking environment figure out their own gender about a year earlier than Finnish-speaking children; English-speaking kids fall in the middle.

When pigs fly” and equivalent metaphors, in different languages, illustrated.

Disability, language, history, and per se &. May 16, 2016

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“It’s a person’s right to identify however the hell they want. If they’re more comfortable as a ‘person with a disability’ than as a ‘disabled person’ then that’s nothing to do with me. […] ‘Disabled’ is the best word in the world for describing the barriers I confront and no non-disabled person has the right to try and take that from me.

We may be able to ask questions about typical and atypical developing children that we couldn’t ask if we only examined typically hearing children.” Deafness, ASL, autism.

Discussions about what non-native English speakers think of the English language.

Quiet updates made to the latest edition of Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever. Good ones! Gender-neutralizing ones, for starters.

In the early 1800s, school children reciting their ABCs concluded the alphabet with the &. It would have been confusing to say ”X, Y, Z, and.” Rather, the students said, ‘and per se and.’ ‘Per se’ means ‘by itself,’ so the students were essentially saying, ‘X, Y, Z, and by itself and.’ Over time, ‘and per se and’ was slurred together into the word we use today: ampersand.”

Science!: toothy dinosaurs, adapting our brains to Google, language of whistling, Earth with rings, and more January 26, 2016

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The dinosaur’s jaw was lined with at least 1,000 teeth with coarse surfaces perfect for pulverizing plants. U. kuukpikensis belongs to the hadrosaur group of duck-billed dinosaurs. It was 25 to 30 feet long, six or seven feet high at the hip, and probably covered with scales.”

“With timelapse cameras, specialists recorded salt water being excluded from the sea ice and sinking. The temperature of this sinking brine, which was well below 0C, caused the water to freeze in an icy sheath around it. Where the so-called “brinicle” met the sea bed, a web of ice formed that froze everything it touched, including sea urchins and starfish.”

“This effort appears to have backfired for the organization—whose mission is to raise awareness about how certain environmental exposures may be linked to autism—since the study SafeMinds supported showed a link between autism and vaccines does not exist.

We’ve begun to fit the machines into an age-old technique we evolved thousands of years ago—“transactive memory.” That’s the art of storing information in the people around us. We have begun to treat search engines, Evernote, and smartphones the way we’ve long treated our spouses, friends, and workmates.”

Unlike all other spoken languages, a whistled form of Turkish requires that “speakers” rely as heavily on the right side of their brains as on the left side, researchers have found.”

“Instead of using ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to describe Standard American English versus African-American English, Craig’s model uses ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ designations, so there’s no judgment attached to either language. One isn’t ‘better’ than the other per se, it’s all about when it’s appropriate to use one form or the other. It’s ‘this is how you talk in school,’ rather than ‘don’t talk like that.’ Craig calls it ‘a slight change’ that makes a big difference in kids’ attitudes about their own language.

What would Earth’s skies look like with Saturn’s rings? Awesome, gorgeous renderings.

And one (more) big science-based reason why everyone should be able to make a comfortable living wage:

If just one Einstein right now is working 60 hours a week in two jobs just to survive, instead of propelling the entire world forward with another General Theory of Relativity… that loss is truly incalculable. How can we measure the costs of lost innovation? Of businesses never started? Of visions never realized?”

How technology shapes new English accents (1930-present) January 5, 2016

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Saw these two links in quick succession, wanted to put them next to each other.

The Trans-Atlantic accent, recognizable from newsreels and films from the ’30s and ’40s, influenced by the need to be understandable to listeners with low-tech radio receivers

The YouTube voice, recognizable mostly in vloggers whose videos are just talking heads, influenced by the need to keep viewers’ attention in a market full of flashy visual effects

Linguistics: noun genders, knock-knock jokes, baby sign language, and more August 4, 2015

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“Linguists call these categories “genders” because that’s always been the term for this sort of noun class. This makes more sense when you learn that grammatical gender came long before the idea of psychological gender, which we will definitely cover in a future column, because oh my god, talk about blowing my mind.”

From cooing and babbling to utterance in American Sign Language.”

“When it came to bilingual speakers, they seemed to switch between these perspectives based on the language context they were given the task in.”

“Knock-knock. Who’s there? A gang of vigilantes armed with machine guns, leather straps and brass knuckles to thump the breath out of anybody who persists in playing this blame fool knock-knock game.” Quote from 1936. Knock-knock jokes have a long and controversial history, apparently.

Reflections on what a bunch of people have said about their passwords, including the memories, codes, jokes, and secrets embedded in them. (Other than the secret of “what is my password”, that is.)

“Revealed for the first time, thanks to the big data generated by gazillions of tweets: the geography of dudeness.”

Using italics for second-language words? September 8, 2014

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What is your opinion about the use of italics for “foreign” words in fiction in general? How do you determine which words to italicize? To what degree it is a stylistic or political choice?”

The article there has a bunch of opinions from pro writers. Fic writers, what do you do?

Me, I’m thinking I’ll keep using italics, and there’s one reason carrying most of the weight: because on the Internet, not all your readers are going to have English as their first language, and ESL fluency levels will vary. If the second language coming up in the fic is one that they speak, great. But if it’s not, they might just end up lost.

Anecdote 1: One time I had on Radio Junior, a kids’ radio/streaming station that broadcasts primarily in French. My brother and I were both taking French in school at the time. The station changed songs, and he said, “You know, I was recognizing some of the words in that last song, but now I’m not getting anything at all.” The new song…was in Italian.

Anecdote 2: Another time I went to the wordreference.com forums seeking help with a word I couldn’t find in any dictionaries. Turned out it was a typo.

So it seems polite to signal “hey, don’t stress about not recognizing this phrase, or not being able to find it on your translation website of choice — it’s a different language from the main text, and there may even be a translation at the end of the chapter.”

Other fannish people, how do you handle this? Especially those of you who regularly read in a second language: what do you prefer?

Neat stuff. (Paralysis implants, a Bill Watterson art cameo, cool maps, language stuff, diamond planets.) August 27, 2014

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“The Neurobridge technology combines algorithms that learn and decode the user’s brain activity and a high-definition muscle stimulation sleeve that translates neural impulses from the brain and transmits new signals to the paralyzed limb. In this case, Ian’s brain signals bypass his injured spinal cord and move his hand.

“Now if you had asked me the odds of Bill Watterson ever saying that line to me, I’d say it had about the same likelihood as Jimi Hendrix telling me he had a new guitar riff. And yes, I’m aware Hendrix is dead.” Pearls Before Swine gets the most awesome guest artist imaginable.

A globe laid out by Voronoi diagrams, where all the territorial lines are drawn based on which national capital the land is closest to. Overlaid on our world’s current borders, so you can check out the difference.

US language maps, based on Census Bureau data. Most commonly-spoken languages in all the states based on different parameters, starting with “other than English” and “other than English or Spanish.”

Constructive reduplication, found all over the world, from English to Finnish to Hungarian to the Bantu languages. (Or, the linguistic explanation for the difference between “salad” and “salad salad”.)

A bunch of awesome animals (as well as some terrifying lamprey pictures; be ready to scroll; they’re after the Tufted Deer). Teeny armadillos, skinny canids, deer with awesome horns and hind-legged stances, and what looks like a rabbit-capybara.

Python swallows a three-foot-long crocodile whole. Nature is awesome.

The most amazing of the 3500+ exoplanets we’ve discovered, including the diamond one, the burning-ice one, the one with a day-long year, and the incredibly dark one (lit by a sun, though).

Your writing in non-K words February 21, 2014

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1) Visit Web VocabProfile Classic
2) Paste a selection of your writing (under 2K words) into the main text box; hit “Submit”
3) Scroll down the list of just the red words
4) Copy, paste, and share!

What it does is break down the writing based on how common the words are. The 1000 most-common words are in blue, the next-most-common 1000 in green, words from some Academic Word List they have on-file are in yellow, and everything else is in red.

(Hat tip to fail_fandomanon for finding this.)

Upcoming chapter of HDM/Night Vale fic

People’s names: carlos carlos carlos carlos carlos carlos carlos carlos carlos carlos carlos carlos carlos carlos carlos carlos carlos cecil cecil cecil cecil cecil cecil cecil cecil cecil cecil cecil cecil cecil cecil cecil gerald gerald gerald hua hua isaña isaña isaña isaña isaña kevin khoshekh li li raimondi raimondi raimondi

The rest of the words: alethiometer alethiometer alethiometer alpha armored awful blankness bluffs bluffs bluffs bluffs chameleon chin collaborate compass compass conditioner daemon dials dials dials disaster drug drug drugs empathy factly fantasies favors flush foul gazes genetic gosh gulping hell hint hispania horrible hourglass hourglass hovers hugs hybrid infamous infamy internet kidney lather madhouse marionette menacing mirror mockery monsters muscle nationals nods nova okay omega ouija overdosed personality protests putters reassuring rehab retrospect rinses serpent shivers sic simultaneous singlehandedly sluggishly smacks sociopath species specimen stares startles subtle surgery switches teasing territory theology theology transplant tub tucks twitches undercover unsubstantiated update vague vale valentine wren wren wrestles wretched

Beginning of a Hunger Games AU for Red Dwarf

People’s names: ace ace arn arn arnie arnold arnold arnold arnold arnold arnold arnold arnold arnold arnold dave dave dave dave dave dave dave dave frank gran gran gran howard howard john john john jr kochanski kochanski kochanski kris kris kris kris krissie krissie krissie krissie kristine kristine lister lister lister michelle rimmer rimmer rimmer rimmer rimmer rimmer rimmer

The rest of the words: ah aisle aptitude auburn awful awful banging bashing bid blanks bloke bother bounty breed capitol capitol capitol capitol chafing chumps circuit circuit circuitry classmates classmates co cocky cute daydreams dolls doomed drilled dubious dumb electronics electronics eligible figured figuring fisher folks foreman fumbles grove guitar guy haircuts headbutts height heroes hmm jerky kids kids kids kids kids mandatory math mic microphone microwaves mood numb ol olds orphan pacified panem peacekeeper peacekeeper peacekeepers pelted privilege quiz quizzes rack rack reaped reaping reaping reaping reaping rebellion repay romance saps scores senior shoo sirree smug specialty specialty spokesperson squish streamlined sucker swagger technician television television tesserae tesserae tesserae tesserae tesserae tiny tone tributes trucks uncertainly ups utterly vending vicious victors victors victors washtub yeah yeah

This is unreasonably entertaining.

(“Gosh gulping hell” would make a great creative interjection, and “victors victors victors washtub yeah” just sounds like it should be set to a beat.)