Link love: language (20)

Emailing while sleeping.
A mytholingual encyclopedia.
A typographic zoo.
The origins of currency symbols.
Tracing the history of language families.
The mystery of Easter Island’s rongorongo script.
2D-FRUTTI, TANGOinPARIS, and other strained astronomical acronyms.
“Do you have a book with a title that was written by an author?”
A history of grawlixes (aka obscenicons).
Do words have a shape?
Why are we so good at reading?
Regional variations on Snap, Crackle and Pop.
Stuart Flexner on the techniques and thrills of lexicography (audio).
The contentious history of Times New Roman.
Words as a dangerous habit.
And to conclude in a rude mood, a brace from Language Log:
Pr@ck, Oedipal expletive, and other types of taboo avoidance.
“We are linguists, and we don’t give a shit.”

[archived links]

10 Responses to Link love: language (20)

  1. Claudia says:

    Thanks! Interesting links, as always. I was amused by the book with a title. Although I feel quite free to use les jurons français, I’ve always avoided English grawlixes as I’m never sure what they really mean. The habit of replacing the middle letters of a taboo word with symbol signs is truly laughable. I really don’t give a damn in any language what people say or write. But the F word is so abused that it has lost the power to shock. It must be the most boring expletive of the English language. Merde à tout cela! (would say Marie-Antoinette.)

  2. Sean Jeating says:

    Oh dear, all these titles! :)

    A fine mixture again, Stan. Thanks!
    Why would I come to think that hilariosity is not a word, yet?

  3. Tim says:

    The theory about how we read is flawed, but interesting. “We read as if we were designed to read, but we have not been designed to read. How did we come to have this super power?” There is a simpler answer to this: we were designed, therefore we were designed to use all of our visual attributes, including being able to design writing systems and to communicate through such media. The author’s presupposition that man evolved is his greatest assumption and therefore his greatest flaw here. Over-complicating things via lack of logic is a little ironic, if you ask me. :p

    Fonts are a big issue for some people, it seems. I’m not really partial to any one particular font, although Times New Roman is definitely easy to read. Arial is usually my first choice for writing, although essays and the like take on more strength, of sorts, when presented in a very “typographical” font such as Times New Roman. Verdana serves my blog well.

    I was just looking at currency symbols the other day on Wikipedia. It’s interesting to see the origins of some of the symbols used, or that were used (especially obsolete European ones, such as German marks). It’s also interesting that not every symbol has a clear story behind it, but that assumptions are made about how they came to be. And of course, it makes sense to still use the three letter abbreviation for international currency dealings (NZD for New Zealand Dollar — NZ$). ;)

    I especially like the article about the association of sounds, words and shapes. It’s interesting to note that han-geul, the Korean writing system, is based completely on the shape of the lips and tongue as sounds are produced. I don’t see the correlation between them, but obviously King Sejong did when he developed the system. If a ball is roooooolling down a hill, it really does give the impression of tumbling and turning in a circular motion, doesn’t it?

  4. Stan says:

    Claudia: You’re full of good sense, as always. Swear words are taboo because we make them so; we thereby give them a power they wouldn’t otherwise have. You might remember this old post where I looked at some of the absurdities that result from our superstition of taboo words. It’s a subject I’ll have to return to.

    Sean: And again, I tried to reduce their number, but more kept insisting they be included! I think I’ve heard hilariosity used in the wild…

    Tim: I’ve never been able to get excited about a font, though I appreciate the care and artistry that can go into their design. The article on the history of Times New Roman was just a good historical yarn with enough of a linguistic angle to warrant its posting. Hangul has always struck me as a fascinating writing system, but I’ve never studied it. It makes sense for a language to be at least occasionally onomatopoeic. Regarding the article about reading: Are you saying that people didn’t evolve?

  5. Sean Jeating says:

    Ah, Stan, by ‘Oh dear! All these titles!’ I was refering to “Do you have a book with a title that was written by an author?”, not to the number of links.

  6. annie says:

    well, after just having dinner with people who maintained that reading will be obsolete, novels, obsolete,books ..gone in 5 years.. I was refreshed to see something about why we are so good at reading. But there was also talk of a new book, an artist book by Canadian poet Anne Carson called Nox…a poem by Catullus,defintions and word nuances, her brother’s death. a facsimile of jottings and rubbings of pages with pencils in an accordion format..It all sounded too good to be true at $29.95.

    Pif, Paf Puf.. Danish for snap ,crackle and pop, but it was already on the list.
    IN Denmark… hej for hello and hej for goodbye..
    round and round.. hej hej

  7. Stan says:

    Sean: Oops. Thanks for clearing that up.

    Annie: Maybe reading will be obsolete to the people you had dinner with, but extrapolating this to the general population strikes me as alarmist — even if they just meant reading in traditional formats.

    Nox sounds very interesting — part poetry, part scrapbook, part art-elegy. Regarding hej: Czech has ahoj, which doubles as an informal greeting and farewell. Ahoj!

  8. Tim says:

    Stan: I’m simply saying that Darwinian evolution is a myth, not the idea of advancement from a social perspective. I don’t want to questions people’s belief systems, as everyone is free to put their faith where they like; but for me, the entire notion is just so illogical that it causes more gaps than it attempts to fill. Presupposed approaches, especially in science, must constitute biased claims and inaccurate data, and therefore produce rather absurd results.

    Questioning the accuracy of mere claims that cannot be proven may never lead to truth; but it gives a different perspective and opens up other possibilities.

    As we change and adapt to advancements in culture, we could say that this is evolution of a sort. Coming from a humble beginning where there was simply one language as communication to the amount of languages alive in the world and the forms of media as we know them today is definitely a big change.

    And on the subject of language, it’s evident that language evolves. It doesn’t become more complex, but it does change; and rather dramatically, given enough time.

    But that people continue even now, in the 21st century, to not question the validity of claims that never bear witness to fact but are based on stubborn beliefs from over 200 years ago; well, it kind of confuses me a little that so many are subject to overlooking so many faults and accepting a belief system out of fear and majority reasoning – when it simply defies reason at its core.

    But as I said at the start: everyone is entitled to belief what they like for their own reasons. It just saddens me to think that it appears that not many in our modern society even begin to question the things that are taken for granted, despite their discrepancies and contradictions, and the need to alter and tweak “findings” to fit the belief. Because not one single scrap of evidence exists that supports the primary belief of so many. On the contrary, the simplest answers are often overlooked or discarded because of an initial approach; an indoctrinated foundation that is already laid. :/

  9. Stan says:

    Tim: I’d prefer not to get stuck down this tangent, but your comment warrants a partial response. First: The age of an idea has no direct bearing on its validity; a brief foray into ancient philosophy or the history of science, for example, shows this clearly. The strength of the scientific method is that it’s designed to update its models to accord with new facts and ways of understanding. Scientific ideas and research are subject to personal bias and societal influence — and this is often and easily overlooked — but that’s no reason to reject them.

    Darwinian evolution can mean many things. It’s not synonymous with natural selection. When you say that the “entire notion” is illogical, I don’t know if you mean Darwinism in its original (and in some ways vague) guise, one or all of its modern forms, or biological evolution itself. The last of these cannot be sensibly refuted, regardless of one’s hunches. (And if you’re wary of illogic, you should dig into quantum mechanics!)

    Science doesn’t boast a unified consensus; even with its most successful theories, there will be scientists who distance themselves from the orthodox interpretation. That we evolve is undeniable; precisely how we do so remains controversial and mysterious in some ways, though many of the mechanisms have been established to greater or lesser degrees. The details and points of emphasis have changed a lot over the centuries, and will continue to. But if you dismiss evolution just because it still has gaps and apparent paradoxes, you might as well throw out electromagnetism and relativity as well, to be consistent. No theory is the whole truth about anything.

    You write, “not one single scrap of evidence exists that supports the primary belief of so many”. This could be said of many things, and it doesn’t necessarily mean such belief is misplaced. But there’s so much evidence in support of evolution, you’d have to go out of your way to avoid it.

  10. […] obscenicons: taboo words represented by typographic symbols, which I previously linked to here) and Ben Zimmer’s related commentaries at Language […]

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