May 8th, 2013
I'm never going to be able to unhear this:
[From a MetaFilter discussion of the use of different regional accents used by actors in Game of Thrones]
For everyone complaining about Dinklage's accent, and its terribleness/variability, I think it might be worth watching a couple of clips of Scottish actor Richard Wilson in One Foot In The Grave, because Dinklage's accent is – consciously or not – an almost exact replica. It has that clipped, haughty tone; it's different enough from a standard English RP accent to sound odd to someone not used to the accent; when he raises his voice, it takes on a kind of exaggerated, exasperated character that can sound oddly Transatlantic. And it's completely genuine: it's the accent of a working class, west coast Scot who has had the more guttural elements of his voice trained out of him by RADA, but who still retains strong vestiges of his background. And it's been put to use for the past four decades playing upper (or at least soi-disant upper) class Scots. That's the accent I hear when I watch Dinklage in Game Of Thrones. It may be capital A Acting, but it's not, in and of itself, a dodgy accent. [...]
posted by Len at 11:37 PM on May 7
March 17th, 2013
Daniel Menaker on The Talk of the Irish:
Having recently written a book about conversation, and having survived, at least for the time being, a serious illness that involved a huge number of grave discussions, discussions largely bereft of ornament and humor, and having lived seventy years' worth of a life of words – surely too many of them, when weighed against actions – I found myself at the end of last summer yearning to go back to Ireland, especially to the West, to hear the Irish talk.
I had been there nearly forty years earlier, and the trip had confirmed the generally held high opinion of Irish verbal agility, wit, and garrulousness. "Are you American, then?" a butcher had asked me when I was buying a steak from him, in Schull, in the spectacular Southwest. "Yes," I said. "Then of course I'll be charging you twice as much," he said. When I confessed to a little girl on a dirt road that the cows she was herding home made me, a city boy, a little nervous, she waited a bit until they were up the road and then pointed behind me and said, "Look out! The cows are comin' for yeh." [...]
[Via The Browser]
August 13th, 2012
July 19th, 2012
This page comprises a list of 1009 "essentialist explanations" of the form "Language X is essentially language Y under conditions Z". [...]
Monolingual people should not be authorized to peruse this list. They would not understand anyway.
–Ivan C. Amaya
May 23rd, 2012
25 Handy Words That Simply Don't Exist In English:
2 Arigata-meiwaku (Japanese): An act someone does for you that you didn't want to have them do and tried to avoid having them do, but they went ahead anyway, determined to do you a favor, and then things went wrong and caused you a lot of trouble, yet in the end social conventions required you to express gratitude
8 Gigil (pronounced Gheegle; Filipino): The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute
December 13th, 2011
Nancy Friedman's Words of the Year 2011 post introduced me to this doozy:
Nontraditional start. How Mrs. Newt Gingrich's best friend, Karen Olson, diplomatically labeled the adulterous affair that led to GOP presidential candidate Mr. Newt Gingrich's third wedding: "'They're a great couple,' she said, 'that had a nontraditional start.'" The phrase joins "hiking the Appalachian Trail" in the lexicon of creative euphemisms for adultery. My nominee for "Most Euphemistic Word."
August 21st, 2011
Maciej Cegłowski on learning Arabic for fun, not profit:
[Now] that Arabic is the key language for career advancement in places that have no sign out front and a large eagle emblem in the lobby, the civilian programs have begun started to attract the kinds of calculating douchebags who used to make studying Russian so unpleasant. They are still in the minority, but having even one of these guys (and they're always guys) in your class can lead to needless suffering [...]
So I would like to stand up for the language nerds and give some reasons for studying Arabic that have nothing to do with politics. The language of the National Designated Other is bound to switch to Chinese in a couple of years, but until colleges start teaching Martian, Arabic is going to remain the strangest, most interesting language you can study in an undergrad classroom.
July 9th, 2011
Google's Daniel Ford and Josh Batson have been mapping the languages of the World (Wide Web):
Most web pages link to other pages on the same web site, and the few off-site links they have are almost always to other pages in the same language. It's as if each language has its own web which is loosely linked to the webs of other languages. However, there are a small but significant number of off-site links between languages. These give tantalizing hints of the world beyond the virtual. [...]
July 2nd, 2011
June 28th, 2011
In the age of the Metaphor Program, can we afford to ignore the threat of weaponised irony?
If we don't know how irony works and we don't know how it is used by the enemy, we cannot identify it. As a result, we cannot take appropriate steps to neutralize ironizing threat postures. This fundamental problem is compounded by the enormous diversity of ironic modes in different world cultures and languages. Without the ability to detect and localize irony consistently, intelligence agents and agencies are likely to lose valuable time and resources pursuing chimerical leads and to overlook actionable instances of insolence.
[Via The Null Device]
February 26th, 2011
Advice for aspiring screenwriters on the language of the film set:
Once you get to the Promised Land of the set, you'll find that you don't exactly speak the language. The natives have a fascinating patois that they use to implement a very particular protocol. In an attempt to save you the confusion I've experienced in the past, here is my handy dandy guide to set lingo.
Abby Singer: The second-to-last shot of the day. Apparently from an A.D. named Abby Singer who routinely announced that a shot was the last of the day, only to learn that there was one more.
Linda Stills: Linda is a person, but her last name isn't Stills. She's the stills photographer. Crews can be large, and when you have three folks named "Linda," it gets annoying to ask for one on the walkie and get the wrong one. Beyond that, no one really cares what your name is. On a set, you are your job. If you're Linda and you're the still photographer, they call you Linda Stills. They'll call you Jim Hair and Ellen Crafty and Craig Writer. Seriously. The name on my trailer door says Craig Writer.
picture's up: There's a lovely kabuki aspect to the beginning of a shot. Once everyone's ready to shoot a take, the first A.D. says "on the bell!" That alerts the crew to prepare for a shot. "Picture's up" is followed by "roll sound" and "roll camera", which tells the sound and camera guys to get the tape and film speed going (given that one day all sound and images will go directly to a drive or chip, these phrases will eventually be as quaint as MOS). The camera operator will say "camera's set" to let you know he's speeding, the sound guy will say "sound speed" to let you know the sound is ready, and then it's time for the director to call "action!"
[Via the inside of my brain]
December 12th, 2010
20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World:
Yagan (indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego) – "the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start"
December 11th, 2010
There's soft as a baby's bottom, and then there's Vagisoft. Yes, the makers of the Vagisoft Blanket are serious:
Betabrand Discovers World's Softest Substance
The world of tactile technology was satisfied with "soft as a baby's bottom" as the measure of absolute softness. Anyone who dared name something "softer than" the aforementioned infant's posterior was suggesting a theoretical, quantum world of soft that existed beyond anything man could conceive.
That is, until researchers at the Betabrand Livermore Laboratory invented the Tactile Soft-o-meter, a device that can detect and compare the density of softrons, the subatomic units of softness. And while this has proven a Nobel worthy discovery, our scientists could not simply rest on their laurels.
Using this newfound knowledge, they set out to line the pockets of our world famous reversible smoking jackets. And so comfy was the fabric they developed, so rich and impossibly supple, that test subjects had to have their hands removed from the coat pockets with the Jaws of Life. Success!
But what to name this miracle material? Again and again, the Soft-o-meter produced a result that had our marketing department in a nervous titter. But we're scientists dammit, not salesmen, and if the Soft-meter says this fabric measures "Vagisoft" within a standard deviation of one softron, so it shall be named!
October 3rd, 2010
Jonathan Meades on The March of the Acronym:
It is a truism that the development of everything from medicines to meteorology has depended on the prosecution of wars. This version of events flatters our paranoia, our fearful fondness of sombre forces. And the paraphernalia of armed conflict – secrecy, adrenalin, ruthlessness, dirty tricks, machismo, gadgets – can exert an attraction on those who have never known war. Its allure overlooks the actuality of boredom and body bags.
The further we are from military life, the more seductive its supposed traits. A corporation's ends will most probably be different from the armed forces' – less killing, for instance. But the means are there to be aped, the tics to be imitated: the speed, the modernity, the purposefulness, the can-do. Above all, the language.
[Via Arts & Letters Daily]
October 31st, 2009
President Obama has inspired Japanese youth to adopt his name as slang:
[It was found ...] as an entry dated 22 September in a collection of slang and modern usage put together by the Japanese Teachers' Network in Kitakyushu. Here's what they write:
obamu: (v.) To ignore inexpedient and inconvenient facts or realities, think "Yes we can, Yes we can," and proceed with optimism using those facts as an inspiration (literally, as fuel). It is used to elicit success in a personal endeavor. One explanation holds that it is the opposite of kobamu. (æ‹’ã‚€, which means to refuse, reject, or oppose).
[Via James Fallows]
July 13th, 2009
Tracking down the origin of the phrase "The plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data.'" turns out to be really tricky.
[Via Dan Sandler]
March 25th, 2009
Marcus du Sautoy on enormous numbers:
1,000,000,000 (one billion)
In the UK, this number used to be called, simply, 1,000 million, while a billion was reserved for a million million (a number with 12 zeros). But pressure to standardise our numbers with the US drove Harold Wilson to announce in 1974 that any government mention of a billion would from then on mean a number with nine zeros.
If you really want someone to blame for the confusion over billions, however, it's the French. Throughout history, they have flip-flopped between different definitions, wreaking havoc on the names of numbers. In 1480, they proposed that a billion have 12 zeros, which is what the British adopted. Then, in the middle of the 17th century, they knocked three zeros off, so a billion became a number with nine zeros. The young United States inherited this new definition. Then in 1948, the French reverted back to the old system.
March 24th, 2009
Let nation speak clearly unto nation, for all our sakes:
At the height of the Cold War, American and Soviet scientists wrote handbooks for each other that attempted to bridge their language gap. Helping to explain some of the era's more arcane nuclear terminology, these handbooks were a crucial diplomatic tool that helped prevent potentially disastrous misunderstandings.
Take American nuclear expert Jeffrey Lewis's 2007 book,
The Minimum Means of Reprisalâ€‰ – â€‰a title lifted from a Chinese official's description of his government's nuclear stance. When the book was translated into Chinese, its title became
The Minimum Means of Revenge.
In a slightly different context, Atlantic journalist Jim Fallows, who has been living in China for the last few years, has written about the apparent inability of Chinese officialdom to communicate effectively in English:
My job is not to help Chinese organizations advance their intended causes. But it doesn't help anybody [...] if China's clumsy public diplomacy makes the country seem more menacing, opaque, hyper-controlled, and overall bad than it really is.
February 20th, 2009
Julian Barnes on George Orwell, National Treasure:
One small moment of literary history at which many Orwellians would like to have been present was an encounter in Bertorelli's restaurant in London between Orwell's biographer Bernard Crick and Orwell's widow, Sonia. Crick dared to doubt the utter truthfulness of one of Orwell's most celebrated pieces of reportage,
Shooting an Elephant. Sonia,
to the delight of other clients, according to Crick,
screamed at him across the table, "Of course he shot a fucking elephant. He said he did. Why do you always doubt his fucking word!" The widow, you feel, was screaming for England. Because what England wants to believe about Orwell is that, having seen through the dogma and false words of political ideologies, he refuted the notion that facts are relative, flexible, or purpose-serving; further, he taught us that even if 100 percent truth is unobtainable, then 67 percent is and always will be better than 66 percent, and that even such a small percentage point is a morally nonnegotiable unit.
January 3rd, 2009
As someone who neither owns a mobile nor speaks a foreign language I can't say that this question occurred to me, but it's worth considering: can a language stay relevant if it isn't used to send text messages on a cellphone?
Language advocates worry that the answer is no, and they are pushing to make more written languages available on cellphones.
[Companies...] that develop predictive text say they have created cellphone software for fewer than 80 of the world's 6,912 languages cataloged by SIL International, a Dallas organization that works to preserve languages.
I'd imagine that there's not a huge economic incentive for the companies developing predictive text packages to look beyond supporting a couple of hundred languages in 'major markets'. Presumably this leaves an opening for open-source predictive text packages to make up some of the gaps in the market?
[Via Long Now Blog]