Link love: language (15)

Some of the following links might be familiar to you, especially if you follow me on Twitter (and even if you don’t). But you’ll probably see a few new items too…

Nosferatu’s cryptic code.

The origin of arithmetic symbols.

Manly slang from the 19th century.

Probably the best beer name in the world.

International Phonetic Alphabet, with audio illustrations.

Deborah Cameron on the myth of Mars and Venus (parts 1, 2, 3).

The atomic poems of Margaret Lucas Cavendish (with thanks to Jams).

Twelve dubious rules of style and usage (podcast; email required).

What to do if someone tells you “there’s a gazelle on the lawn”.

Field guide to the main languages of Europe (PDF, 469 kB).

Look away now if you suffer from aibohphobia.

The Simpsonsinfluence on modern English.

The quick and quixotic growth of Na’vi.

The terror of uninterrupted text.

Crossing isoglosses.

Yarn bombing.”

17 Responses to Link love: language (15)

  1. I’m glad you like Mad Madge. There is something ddelightful about her work Stan

  2. Stan says:

    There sure is, Jams — and aside from her poems she sounds like an amazing person, well ahead of her time.

    Earlier today I was reading some of her short essays and came across the following fine passage: “a Writer must have a double desire; the one, that he may write well; the other, that he may be read well; of which my desire is the more earnest, because I know my Writings are not strong enough to bear an ill Reader…”

  3. I haven’t clicked on the link, but is “aibohphobia” a fear of palindromes? Mirrors? (How do you get a fear of palindromes anyway? Someone comes up to you, says “my name is Otto” and an overwhelming fear fills you, leading you to run screaming out the door?)

  4. Stan says:

    Doubtful: It’s a fear of palindromes. More accurately, it’s a name for the almost-certainly-imaginary fear of palindromes.

  5. Just discovered a fantastic palindrome on Wikipedia: Satan! Oscillate my metallic sonatas! Apologies to all you aibohphobes…

  6. Stan says:

    I remember seeing that one in a book I had as a child, and it became an instant favourite. Soundgarden liked it too: they named an EP Satanoscillatemymetallicsonatas.

  7. Or: Kay, a red nude, peeped under a yak. Ah, there are so many! Although I remember reading a really lazy palindrome somewhere (was it here?) which went like: “Gnitseretni yllaer era semordnilap esuaceb because palindromes are really interesting!”

  8. wisewebwoman says:

    A veritable buffet of delights, my friend, I’ve had a good chortle and sent the ‘text that wouldn’t die’ link to my granddaughter. Mad Madge is a charm and also the ‘manly bits collective’ (I include some of the commenters in that noun).

  9. Stan says:

    Doubtful: Both of those are new to me, so you didn’t read the lazy one here! Palindromes no longer fascinate me like they once did, but I am fond of tattarrattat, which is both palindromic and onomatopoeic. And I like the Latin palindromic puzzle “In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni”, which apparently describes the behavior of a mystery animal — probably moths, or mayflies.

    WWW: Delighted to dispense a few delights! Margaret Cavendish is said to have called her manuscripts “paper bodies”; she surely knew how unusual and advanced were her attitudes in the 17th century. If someone has not written her biography, it’s long overdue. I like the word chortle, by the way — one of Mr Carroll’s more enduring coinages.

  10. Tim says:

    Some very cool links again, Stan. On the subject of arithmetic, it was interesting for me to recently discover that Europeans denote a decimal point with a comma. Where we would say 12.5, they would put 12,5; which looks to me more like coordinates than a real number! This begs the question: how do they divide up large numbers? We say 12,562 for twelve-thousand, five-hundred and sixty-two. Would a European read it as 12.562, if taken out of context?

    That 19th century slang sure is a real eye-opener. It’s amazing how much our language evolves over time. 50 years from now, I can imagine that a lot of the articles and such on the internet will be very difficult for that generation to dissemble; especially forum posts that are full of today’s slang. Funny how things like “a month of Sundays” has carried through. My mum used to use it and so I have been known to use it myself. I’m sure there are instances of old slang that have carried through, depending on a person’s exposure to words and phrases being passed down from generation to generation.

    I’d better stop there or I’ll be commenting all day. >.< You really outdid yourself this time!

  11. Stan says:

    Tim: I first encountered the comma decimal separator when learning German in school, and it seemed very strange to my full-stop-accustomed eyes! But the comma form has a long history and is in very widespread use. Various markers — apostrophes, full stops, and spaces — are used to organise large numbers.

    The pace at which language changes is probably nowhere more evident than in slang. Many slang expressions enter into common usage, though, and some eventually become standard. For this and other reasons, I don’t think our informal vernacular will be very difficult to understand in 50 years’ time. Where there are gaps in explicit understanding, context contributes a great deal!

  12. Claudia says:

    Many, many thanks. I love your Link Love. I always come back to some of them. Had a big smile with the uninterrupted text. I discovered Ms.Cavendish on Jams’ blog, and I truly admire her poems. Thank you for the Essays. For a while, I actually had an abacus which I had found in a Chinese shop. I wasn’t too much of an expert with it, except for simple calculations. Now I use a small calculator. No batteries needed.

    BTW did you ever notice some of the 100-letter words James Joyce used in Finnegans Wake? I thought it was a bit much….

  13. Stan says:

    You’re very welcome, Claudia. I love that you love my link love! And I realise that they contain rather a lot of material, not all of which is likely to appeal, so your strategy of sampling and revisiting seems sensible. Some people are very skilled with an abacus. I haven’t used one since I was a small child.

    I’m reading FW at the moment, but I’ve been taking breaks to read other books! So although Joyce’s ‘thunderwords’ have been familiar to me for some time (via Joyceans I admired), I’m finally reading them in their proper context. One of the book’s chief themes seems to be the fall of humankind, and the myths we created around it; the thunderwords appear to signal the fall as it recurs in various major forms or events or eras, and they thereby punctuate the book.

    Marshall McLuhan, being especially interested in media and technology, described the thunderwords as “a cryptogram or codified explanation of the thundering and reverberating consequences of the major technological changes in all human history”.

  14. Claudia says:

    I’m so, so glad that I mentioned Joyce to you. I had no idea. I like “Ulysses” (what I can understand…) I wasn’t sure I would try FW, because of those words. The one for “the sound of crashing glass” is amusing but I can’t even pronounce it. Ah! well…I wonder if Joyce could speak French. He was a friend of Beckett. And Sammy wrote his Mirlitonnades in French. Interesting! Thanks for your attention.

  15. Stan says:

    Finnegans Wake is tremendous fun but quite maddening! It’s a very musical book, even more so than Joyce’s earlier works. He had always been a keen singer, and his deteriorating eyesight probably had a complex influence on the tone of his writing. UbuWeb have a wonderful recording of Joyce reading from the Wake, which you can read along with here.

    Apparently he spoke French well. His professor was Édouard Cadic, a Breton. At one point Joyce was offered a job teaching evening classes in French in Dublin; he declined, stating that he did not consider his French good enough. According to Richard Ellman, Joyce translated poems by Verlaine from French into English, and a poem by James Stephens from English into French (and Italian, German, Latin, and Norwegian).

  16. Claudia says:

    I’m having a wonderful time listening to Joyce (he is so rhythmic) and reading about his love affair with Paris and the French. Apparently he said that the French called him Monsieur de Joyeuse. I’ll try to find out which Verlaine he translated. Thank you so much, Stan. Even if I never succeed in reading Joyce to my satisfaction, to hear more about him is fascinating.

  17. Stan says:

    It’s a pleasure, Claudia. He was a masterly prosodist and a generally fascinating figure. I don’t know if his Verlaine translations were published, or carried out merely for practice. From Ellmann:

    “Like everyone else in 1900, Joyce was eager to find a style, and turned for this, perhaps in part as a result of Arthur Symon’s The Symbolist Movement in Literature, published the year before, to the French. He practiced translating Verlaine, who had died in 1896, and committed to memory a group of Verlaine’s lyrics, which in later life, to the amusement of Wyndham Lewis, he would recite to girls they casually met in Parisian cafés.”

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