Link love: language (23)

Excellent editing advice.

Phoneticised French? Kelhorreur!

Dictionary of Mad magazine sound effects.

Cross-linguistic onomatopoeias.

The aesthetics of silence.

What’s so funny about Bündnerfleisch?

Man-words aren’t all about fun and manscaping.

Editorial we and the mouse in our pocket.

Who really invented the alphabet?

Why the brain doubts a foreign accent.

Ab(h)ominable (h)aitch (featuring linguistically subversive Irish nuns).

When did we start talking in acronyms, and why?

The originality of Australian English slang.

The forms of verbs.

Human evolution as narrative (PDF).

Social construction of meaning (and the danger of joking on Twitter).

This is a news website article about a scientific paper.

Literary tattoos.


[more links]

12 Responses to Link love: language (23)

  1. Yikes! You linked to my 2008 verb forms post! And I thought this series was meant to be about links you loved…

    It was one of those things I started with all the best intentions of turning it into a series, but only wrote one sequel. In theory there’s no reason why I can’t take it up again someday, but don’t hold your breath. (My correspondence with Rodney Huddleston and various notes are filed away just in case.)

    One reason it stalled was that in order to write about the Cambridge Grammar paradigm, I felt I needed to research traditional English grammar so that I’d know what I was supposed to be comparing it to. You can find broad summaries of traditional grammar on any number of websites, but researching the more esoteric details would have meant visiting a library. Huddleston recommended a particular book for this purpose, but I never got around to seeing whether the nearest library (attached to my local university) had a copy.

    I looked briefly at the “human evolution as narrative” article roday when you tweeted it, but beginning an article with a claim that people seldom realise something tends to prejudice me against it. The portion I read made me think of the second Science of Discworld book, which is largely about the importance of narrative in being human.

    Anyway, I only dropped by because my blog stats were alerting me to some odd goings on. I’ll be back to read everything else in my usual irregular schedule.

  2. Stan says:

    Dragon: Whether or not you write further on the topic has little bearing on the post I linked to, which I found helpful, interesting, and well written. (I have Pullum & Huddleston’s Student’s Introduction but not the CGEL.) Of course, it would be a pleasure to see your series continue!

    I know what you mean about the claim in the evolution-as-narrative article, but I hope it doesn’t put you off reading the rest of it. I have a similar peeve, which I call the “than previously thought” cliché. It’s very popular in science reporting, so it often takes the form “than scientists previously thought”. I find it a meaningless and hackneyed device. Maybe it’s meant to add novelty and excitement to a news story, but it doesn’t; instead, it implies that no scientist on Earth has any imagination whatsoever.

  3. I find that many things are enriched by knowing a little more about the background behind it. :-)

    Anyway, I’ve read most of the other articles now, and several of them contain things that could fuel a long conversation (mostly in the asides), but the most interesting to me is the alphabet origins one.

    In response to the Nw York Times article, I made a small edit to the Wikipedia article on the “majestic plural” (which “royal we” redirects to), because this contained the erroneous attribution to Mark Twain.

  4. Jo says:

    I loved the link on Aussie slang…particularly since I’m an avid reader of historical works that focus on the colonization of Australia. I completely agree with the author of the piece that Aussie humour is black. It’s also sly, sardonic and reflects the typical Aussie disgust for anyone who might appear to think that they’re better than anyone else. Anyone who talks overtly of their ambition, their accomplishments or displays unseemly self-confidence should tread carefully; They may be seen as pretentious and become a target of that Aussie humour which is akin to a needle making contact with a balloon.

  5. Stan says:

    Dragon: Good work! There seems to be a common tendency to misattribute quotes to one of a handful of wits. If in doubt, credit Twain, Shaw, Parker…and few will question the source.

    Jo: Thanks for your insights. What you say about Australian humour being used to undercut someone’s exaggerated sense of their own importance reminds me of a great old phrase in Irish English: “Here comes half the town” — said, of course, with withering sarcasm. Such remarks can be a very effective antidote to pomposity.

  6. John Cowan says:

    “There goes Asimov, pushing his self-assurance ahead of him like a wheelbarrow.” (The same might be said of his abdomen, of course).

    —from the novel Murder at the ABA by the self-same Asimov, in which he features as a minor character

  7. Claudia says:

    Truly enjoyed the links, Stan. The Kelhorreur French made no sense to me. The spelling doesn’t come naturally. Why complicate life?

    I had a fit of giggles with the Swiss Minister. I have been in a similar situation, (long ago) when I presented a paper on Diabetes Mellitus (rather boring but definitely not a laughing matter) to 300 people. I totally lost it when pointing at a graphic with injection sites. I recovered only because everybody started to giggle with me. We had a good go at it for over 5 minutes, all together, and finally stopped, well satiated. I then continued the lecture very seriously as if nothing had happened.

    The tatoos blog was quite a discovery. I’m glad it wasn’t popular in my youth. With my sense of humour, I probably would have gone through life with À bas la guillotine! inscribed on my right upper arm. Didn’t like the French Revolution. Too much head cuttings!

    I guess that’s enough from a foreign accent haitcher. LOL

  8. Stan says:

    John: That’s a good line. I don’t know the context, because I’ve not read the book, but self-assurance seems an inherently good thing (unlike, say, self-importance or pomposity) except of course when there’s so much of it that a wheelbarrow is required. It’s a memorable image, and an effective one in conveying the burden of excessive self-regard.

    Claudia: I was wondering what you would make of the Kelhorreur piece! Why complicate life, indeed — but this is something for which we have a great gift. It’s hard to resist a sincere fit of the giggles, and the more inappropriate the occasion, the more powerful the urge seems to become. Your experience while presenting a paper sounds marvellous — that you surrendered to the giggles and had everyone join in! It’s a very strange phenomenon, like a sudden (and often arbitrarily induced) surge of excitation that we can only laugh out of our system.

  9. Jo says:

    I love ‘cross-linguistic onomatopoeias,’particularly animal sounds in French. Having grown up in a unilingual English environment, I was astonished (how condescending! groan!)to learn that there were different words to describe how a cock crows (coco rico!, a duck quacks (coin coin!), a crow caws (croa croa!) or a dog barks (ouah ouah!)

  10. Stan says:

    Jo: Glad you enjoyed it. The Wikipedia page is a lot of fun, but it’s a pity it’s not better referenced, or supported with audio files or IPA transcriptions.

  11. Jo says:

    Wiki page? I’m a little slow today, I guess. I didn’t click on the link, but will go investigate it now! I live in a French community and know these sounds because I’m surrounded by French animals :)

  12. John Cowan says:

    The context is not internal to the novel, but external: Asimov-the-author used to meet charges of insufferable egotism by saying he was merely cheerfully self-assured. The novel’s conceit is that it is written in the first person by Harlan Ellison (himself a writer in real life, and a friend of Asimov’s) under the pseudonym of “Darius Just”; Asimov-the-character serves as the comic relief.

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