2011-04-10

Language Hat, or Topic Drift

Language Hat is one of my favorite blogs. The host, also known as Language Hat, has created a complex community of extremely interesting people, and he downright encourages topic drift provided the topic stays interesting and non-hostile, which it almost always does. So just to show off how drifty the topics can be, I grabbed most of last year's postings and reduced them to just the first and last sentences (where "last" means "last sentence on the last comment"), and presented them here in chronological order from January to December. Occasionally there's a bit more than two sentences in order to provide context. If one of the posts interests you, click on the ➤ to read it.

My wife asked me why "refrain" means such different things as a noun and as a verb, and the answer turns out to be interesting: the two have completely different histories. [...] Your spam style, on the other hand ...

Of course I wanted to find the original Russian of the diary online, and I was pleased to turn up this site: it's full of scanning errors and only goes up to the end of 1929, but it will be a welcome companion up to that point. [...] Shklovsky is also the author of one of the best biographies of Tolstoy and a master of bon mots. Here is one:

Orin Hargraves has a good post in the Language Lounge section of Visual Thesaurus on the decay of that good old modal shall, using Fowler's entry on it as a jumping-off point ("There is never a reason not to consult Fowler about usage: whether you find what you were looking for or not, you'll walk away from his text amused and edified in a way that you weren't when you went to it"). [...] I do have a life so I think I'll just get on with it.

I wrote about the death of poet and publisher Jonathan Williams here; now Jeffery Beam and Richard Owens have put together a wonderful tribute at Jacket Magazine, with contributions from the quick and the dead. [...] [I'm leaving this because it's rare to see a spammer so incompetent they can't even link the site they're spamming for. -LH]

A nice little paragraph from the Nov. 12, 1918 entry featuring an argument with Nikolai Gumilyov (who would be shot by the Bolsheviks less than three years later) about translation; Gumilyov was a fine poet, but I'm on Chukovsky's side here: [...] When Sashura gave up, I thought it was hopeless.

There's a long and fascinating entry (April 18, 1919) featuring Gorky talking about Tolstoy; with any luck you'll be able to read it, or at least part of it, at Google Books. [...] Not something I possess either.

Chukovsky talks about Maxim Gorky so much I thought it would be a good time to finally read Gorky's famous autobiography. [...] 'изведут' I think could be better rendered into English as 'do her in'

Anatoly has a thought-provoking post today that I thought I'd translate and bring to the attention of those who don't read Russian:It sometimes happens that a field of study arises and organizes itself around some big problem, standing before it unignorable and demanding to be solved. [...] Personally I would love to attend, but it's a bit far from Beijing....

One of the things I love about investigating obscure references in my reading is that it sometimes leads me into nearly forgotten byways of history that I can then bring to light. [...] If you think of it as a dialect of English, it's appropriate to translate into or out of it into the dialect forms of other languages.

This isn't a movie review site, but since I posted about the new must-see movie, I thought I'd briefly record my reaction to seeing it last night (in 3D). [...] The Bennetts are very middle class.

I know this is petty and I should rise above it, but I can't help sharing a couple more examples of malfeasance from the Gorky translation discussed here. [...] a very funny read, the article telling off the Patriarch Alexiy (!) for not knowing the correct usage of dovlet'

The latest post at Slawkenbergius' Tales is a thoughtful take on John Cheever that sent me back to his 1962 story "A Vision of the World"; I'll let slawk handle Cheever's worldview while I focus on a linguistically interesting element of the story he doesn't mention. [...] Well, "fiemnie" suggests it's Polish sound changes and spelling imposed on a Romance base.

The farther I read in Chukovsky's diary, the more at a loss I am to understand on what basis they abridged the English version. [...] My mother has been working in a Russian Academy journal for 40 years - she has seen ideological pressures replaced by financial, and these are worse, because only what sells goes.

Christopher Culver has a post exploring the relationship between the words for 'kopek' and 'squirrel' in languages of the Volga region: "As hmtjnovs etymological dictionary explains, борынгы заманнарда тиен тиресе вак акча функциясен үтәгән [in ancient times squirrel hides functioned as a low-value monetary unit]." [...] This makes me wonder about the origin of the term "buck" for a dollar.

A section of James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is called "Colon" (pages 91 to 103 of my Ballantine paperback); here is a small segment from near the end: [...] Not that this has anything to do with colons, or story-telling, but, you know, fyi..

I knew the symbol properly used for a foot (measurement of length), as in 5′, was called a "prime," and I occasionally vaguely wondered why, but it's one of those things I never got around to investigating. [...] Also there's a quirk in London where you can just use 3/7/8 instead of the full 020n area codes if you're dialling from within the city.

The Czech Literature Portal "is intended mainly for the promotion of Czech literature abroad." [...] I've done a small amount of work out of Slovak (my brother lives and works in Bratislava) and gotten paid before, so it's possible.

In the southern part of Moscow, in a district known as Tsaritsyno, "the tsarina's," after its centerpiece, Tsaritsino park (formerly owned by Catherine the Great), there is a former resort settlement in the form of two concentric circular streets with a dozen or so "spokes." [...] No, putting the family name first is a common (official) way of referring to everyone in Russia; it just happens that in this case his name was given the other way round.

I'm always interested in finding words that can't be succinctly translated, and I ran across one such today. [...] I use the word in a judgement-neutral way -- not to mean 'dispiriting or bloody-minded violence'.

Another in the "live and learn" series: I ran across the phase sola topee today and vaguely thought "Shouldn't that be solar topee?" After all, it's a pith helmet worn for protection from the sun. [...] The ţ above indicates a retroflex - it's t with dot-under in the original.

I know I blog about Russian stuff a lot, doubtless too much for some readers, and I apologize in advance for the nature of this post, since unless you actually know Russian it won't be of interest, but it's such a surprising and satisfying etymology to me I can't resist passing it on. [...] It appears to be out of print, but there are used copies for sale via Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Such is a typographers' term for the symbol : according to Nick Martens in his hilarious The Secret History of Typography in the Oxford English Dictionary: [...] If you ask me, that's bollocks.

John McWhorter is a favorite here at LH and has come up repeatedly in my posts (most recently here); I was happy just now to run across an online course guide (pdf) of his lectures on "The Story of Human Language" for the Teaching Company (you can access the three parts separately here). [...] As more and more "dots" get connected in a way that people can follow the design (and even add to it, or improve on the connections), more and more people will come to recognize the design as probable or even valid.

Matt Treyvaud of No-sword regularly writes for Nojaponisme, where he has a new translation of Mori Ōgai's 1914 essay Honyaku ni tsuite 「翻譯に就いて」 ("On translation"), a lively response to his detractors ("The sweets that Nora eats I translated makuron マクロン. Write rather amedama 飴玉, I was told. Advice like this simply boggles the mind"). [...] I don't use gateau in English myself -- it's a BrE term -- but I bet it is semantically narrowed with respect to French.

Ofer Aderet has an interview in Haaretz with pianist Alice Herz- [...] Rabelais - not so much: too many footnotes.

Frequent commenter Sashura sent me a link to this episode of the BBC's Open Book program, which features Mariella Frostrup talking to the Swedish thriller writer Henning Mankell, Alex Clark on "the most compelling private diaries of the last two 200 years" (finishing up with a discussion of the struggle over Kafka's papers now winding its way through the Israeli courts), and German scholar Michael Maar on Nabokov (whose name, irritatingly, the presenter insists on pronouncing with the stress on the first syllable). [...] It looks like the last Wikipedia editor has some odd ideas about how it's pronounced or how IPA marks stress or both.

I've finished reading Bely's Peterburg (see here and here), and I'm even more willing than before to join Nabokov in calling it one of the great novels of its century. [...] Ouch! 2 new from $275.48; 8 used from $40.94! WTF??

A remarkable report (by Mark Liberman at the Log) on the appearance in a New South Wales court of a soi-disant "plenipotentiary judge" on behalf of an applicant; after much dispute over his right to appear, he provides his "pertinent information," which follows: [...] "Idle-wild" was just an adolescent nickname. I believe he was christened Cape.

It's time for another extract from The Russian Language in the Twentieth Century, by Comrie et al. (see here and here). [...] It's too tedious deleting all those spam comments.

The inimitable Poemas del ro Wang continues to astonish: the latest post rescues from the dustbin of history a person—nay, a phenomenon—ubiquitous a century ago, the Hungaro-Moravian Queen of Hirsutism, Anna Csillag (pronounced CHILL-log; csillag is the Hungarian word for 'star' and is derived from csillog 'shine,' from Finno-Ugric *ćɜlk-). [...] I forgot to mention that the brushing was 100 strokes.

Anatoly sent me to this post from Shkrobius, and the story told there was striking enough I thought I'd translate it here: [...] Yes, "chasing" is probably a better translation.

One of my heroes, Howard Zinn, died recently, and this moving reminiscence by Alice Walker gives me a hook to post about him here: [...] I'll admit to having read, and enjoyed, his earliest edition of the History... way back in the misguided glory days of my youth, but I got older, wider read, and smarter. ;-D

I'm afraid this doesn't even have any Estonian in it, so it's kind of hard to justify its presence here, except that I figure we can all use a laugh; as Robert Mackey says in his NY Times "Lede" post, which embeds it, "this note-perfect Estonian television ad for an evening news show, which reimagines the opening of 'The Simpsons' set in rural Estonia, is a cult hit on YouTube." [...] Bristles, and points their Appalachian tangs,

I'm still reading the Gorky translation discussed here and here (I'm now on the second volume, V lyudyakh [Among people, tr. as In the World]), and in Chapter 8 there's a nice anecdote about how the young narrator, forced to read dull books to the captain of the Volga steamer in whose galley he was working, was struck by the phrase собственно говоря 'strictly speaking,' which occurred in the context "Собственно говоря, никто не изобрел пороха..." ('Strictly speaking, no one invented gunpowder...'), and back in Nizhny Novgorod with his family, asked to tell more of his shipboard experiences, he responded: "http://www.languagehat.com/archives/Мне уж нечего рассказывать, собственно говоря..." ('I really don't have anything to tell, strictly speaking...'), causing general laughter and leading him to be nicknamed "Strictly speaking." [...] Only the most cynical will see something ominous in the fact that most IG's report to the head of the agency they oversee.

Richard Ishida, of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), has created what he calls "small web-page utilities" to aid in language use online: [...] fileformat.info already houses a unicode look-up database, its been useful for years!

People keep sending me this BBC story, "Last speaker of ancient language of Bo dies in India," so I guess I'd better post it. [...] He sounded a bit nervous in the interview.

Nick (aka opoudjis) over at Illinistefkondos took such a long break from posting I stopped visiting, and now when I finally get around to checking in I find all manner of goodies, which we can divide into two categories: [...] There are so few blogs I want to read these days, the best way of finding one is to get someone else to start it.

A Russian correspondent wrote me to say: "as a reader of your blog I see that you are interested in Russian formalistic prose. Here are two novels by Iliazd available for free download." [...] You could live here a hundred years and end up concluding that you'd gotten the place about right the very first day you stepped off the plane."

The World Loanword Database (WOLD) is the most amazing thing I've seen in a while, linguistically speaking. [...] Some of the other bits are rather good, though, but I think I will wait until the library gets it.

Having finished Alexander Grin's delightful Алые паруса (Scarlet sails), I've moved on to Olga Forsh's 1931 novella à clef Сумасшедший корабль (The crazy ship), about life in the early 1920s in the Saint Petersburg House of Arts, a refuge during those hungry years for writers like Viktor Shklovsky, Osip Mandelstam, Alexander Grin (who wrote Scarlet Sails there), Korney Chukovsky, Mikhail Zoshchenko, and Forsh herself. [...] The word is also used for a note of 1000 monetary units (eg dinars, deutschmarks...)

My grandson is in a mainly Chinese-speaking preschool, which of course thrills me, and there are more and more such schools springing up what with the growing prominence of China. [...] No two people have exactly the same brain, any more than they have exactly the same body (fortunately!).

I was scanning wood s lot (one of the reliable pleasures of the LH morning) when I was stopped in my tracks by a brief excerpt from a longish poem, "Nine," by Anne Tardos (home page, Wikipedia). [...] I like the theory, because she spent time in Budapest and learned Hungarian; "a bit of a long shot but not entirely unlikely" is about right, pending further ID.

A very bad "poem" has apparently been making the rounds for decades now, attributed to Jorge Luis Borges. [...] There's no ASCII like US-ASCII,

Today wood s lot features Bertolt Brecht's "An die Nachgeborenen" (1939), which along with Auden's "September 1, 1939" ("I sit in one of the dives/ On Fifty-second Street/ Uncertain and afraid...") is one of the great poetic distillations of the mood just before World War II broke out. [...] Haiku are poems which strive

The Telegraph has a good obituary for Bruce Mitchell, whose Guide to Old English I own and consult with pleasure. [...] For a minute I thought that the new author would turn out to be Dan Brown.

I'm reading a lousy Iraqi novel called Papa Sartre (a 2009 translation of the 2001 original); it's only 178 pages long but feels like War and Peace, and I'm skimming more and more as I zip through its repetitive and heavy-handed mockery of schemers, ne'er-do-wells, and fake philosophers. [...] Here's OpenStreetmap.

My wife and I have been watching a bit of the Olympics, and I noticed one of the Russian figure skaters was named Yuko Kavaguti. [...] Gilbert also inserts some footnotes criticizing the characters for their "bad grammar" and other flubs.

From Richard Hamblyn's LRB review of To Sea and Back: The Heroic Life of the Atlantic Salmon, by Richard Shelton: [...] Once preserved (originally by drying and/or smoking), the surplus generated by the abundance of the resource makes it available for trading, either for its own sake or as currency.

John Emerson sent me a link to a NY Times article by Ellen Barry about the complex relationships among the peoples of Dagestan, one of the most ethnically diverse places on earth. [...] How many times can a male cow be castrated?

Kim Fischer, a PR person at Temple University, has a puff piece on Lawrence Venuti, a translator and translation theorist and (not coincidentally) a Temple English professor, which irritates me with its breathless treatment of him as the Hot New Thing in translation: [...] I'll try to remember to reopen it in a couple of days in the hope they will have wandered off elsewhere, but if anyone has a comment they have to get off their chests, drop me a line and I'll reopen it.

Daniel Kalder in the Guardian has a good interview with Robert Chandler, who has translated Andrei Platonov's novel The Foundation Pit [Russian Kotlovan] twice because "No other work of literature means so much to me" and "Platonov is hard to translate: in the early 1990s we were working in the dark." [...] And mab, I strongly second what you say about Robert.

This thread developed into a discussion of the parallel between the development of evolution theory and historical linguistics. [...] Too bad I hate spam, but it's nice to be loved sometimes. ;-)

Anatoly posts a YouTube clip from the 10th anniversary performance of Les Miserables, with a bunch of international singers taking turns at the mike for Valjean's aria "Do You Hear the People Sing?" [...] Interesting in any case. I will keep it in mind.

The idea of the indeterminate text is associated with postmodernism (e.g.: "the modernism of Eliot has been identified with the autonomy of the text [...] and the determinacy of its meaning, the postmodern text is 'open' and its meaning is indeterminate"), but there's nothing new about it. [...] Oh, well then. Not amazing.

There is a meme running around the internet that takes the form "I'm gonna love him and pet him and squeeze him and call him George" (many variations in wording, but all ending with "...and call him George"). [...] Oprah Winfrey got her name from the book of Ruth, too, I believe.

I've been on something of a spending spree at Amazon lately,* and the latest goodie to arrive is a copy of The History of the Russian Literary Language from the Seventeenth Century to the Nineteenth, Lawrence L. Thomas's abridged 1969 translation of V. V. Vinogradov's classic Очерки по истории русского литературного языка XVIIXIX вв. (2nd ed. 1938). [...] Or will I need to resort to the Maltese voiceless pharyngeal fricative? :-S ħ

A couple of days ago Anatoly asked his readers for poems they loved by living poets, and as of now at that link there are almost a thousand responses. [...] Two other things are exciting too: the number of ex-Russia russophonic poets and that most poems ARE in verse - and very good rhymes too.

The company is Toyota, but the family name of the founder is Toyoda. [...] Strokes may be answer, but my 'tort' As they were advertizing in Saxon, it would be so symmetrical to say " A Toyota " in your drive way, so when looking in thy rear view mirror you read "atoyot a

I had never heard of poet and translator Emery George (and there's essentially nothing about him online except that "He is Emeritus Professor of German at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor"), but he did a terrific translation (judging by the English—I don't read Hungarian) of "A la recherche," one of Mikls Radnti's last few poems before he was shot by the SS in 1944. [...] I wonder if this view is supported by critics.

An AskMetaFilter question says "My grandmother's first language [Ladino] is nearly extinct. I'd like to record an interview with her for archival purposes; how should I go about it? ... I'm linguistically literate, but far from an expert, so advice from anyone with linguistics experience (particularly field lingustics) is especially appreciated." [...] Maybe their fieldwork was in anthropology or even something completely different (geology?), not linguistics, so for their own purposes they did not think it was important to record the language.

1) John Emerson sent me Interesting Schtoff from Google Books, a section of Steven K. Baum's virtual cave. [...] I expect you know PT Barnum's mermaid.

Today is the 110th anniversary of the birth of Basil Bunting, one of my favorite poets; I've devoted three posts to quoting him (1, 2, 3) and several others to discussing him. [...] I don't think I've ever heard a more English name: Basil Cheesman Bunting

Copyediting dictionaries is tedious work but I always learn things. [...] A very late addition, but I just came across St. John Cassian commenting favorably on lack of cross-linguistic communication (in the context of exegeting the 11th chapter of Genesis): "a happy and valuable discord had recalled to salvation those whom a ruinous union had driven to destruction."

I just discovered that Open Library ("One web page for every book.") has a blog, and it has an entry that will upset any bibliophile, The Enemies of Books by George Oates: [...] There'll always be an England.

The answer requires both an ability to read Arabic script and a knowledge of West African languages, so I'm not especially hopeful that even my Varied Readers will be able to provide it, but it's such an interesting puzzle I can't resist passing it on. [...] On the other hand, in addition to Indiana HB #246 (also here previously), there is US HR #224, making 3.14 National Pi Day.

I've left the topic of my book unaddressed for too long, preoccupied as I have been with more highfalutin' topics, but thanks to the indefatigable John Emerson I hereby bring you Русский Мат.net! [...] Doesn't the pass simple sound as if the human race was once on the verge of extinction but managed to avoid it by a single sex act?

More fun from my dictionary editing! [...] I've just realised that Norwegian Blue must have been some kind of play on Danish blue, which was a popular cheese in the sixties (Cleese's father having changed his name from Cheese).

John McIntyre, a truly old-school copy editor (the man wears a bow tie, for God's sake), has a delightful hard-boiled detective story celebrating National Grammar Day, Pulp Diction. [...] The triteness is so heartwarming, it's almost enough to inspire me to go hang out at Grand Central Station in the hope that I too might meet someone who can spell that I can rescue from a life without proper bookshelves.

Nick at Ἡλληνιστεύκοντος has an informative and amusing post answering a question a reader asked in the comment thread to an earlier post, Generalised use of να in Early Modern Greek (which itself is well worth your while if you're interested in the development of Greek syntax): [...] (The commentary at slang.gr has missed the apprentice etymology, and refutes the putative wife abuse of the expressionwhich is not implausible unfortunatelywith "no, no, no, we fuck women, we bash men".)

Silje Bekeng is a young Norwegian writer/journalist/critic who gives (or once gave) her location as "Brooklyn/Oslo"; she has a funny essay at N1BR ("the book review supplement to n+1 magazine") called Into the Woods, about the peculiar obsessions of Norwegian literature going back to Hamsun. [...] I haven't read Sandemose (either), but I've also heard that the 'Jante Law' has a richer and more interesting use in his book than in the common use of it afterwards.

Back in 2003, Songdog alerted me to a pair of synonyms, gennel and snicket (and the resulting post sparked off almost three years' worth of enjoyable discussion); now he draws my attention to an interesting column by lexicographer Erin McKean (discussed many times on LH, e.g. here and here) about synonyms: [...] It depends of which language you are using around those words.

Do you know why someone who regularly spends a certain amount of time traveling back and forth between home and work is called a "commuter"? [...] Yeah, in Berlin, we usually call them "Monatskarten", but if you "subscribe" to a year's worth of "Monatskarten", it's called an "Abonnement".

Excellent news from the NY Times: they've settled on a replacement for the late William Safire as their language columnist, and it's linguist and lexicographer Ben Zimmer! [...] Thank you, Bathrobe, I had never thought of the derivation of redondant from a verb, let alone from onde.

It's rare for me to discover that I've been completely wrong about the meaning of a reasonably common word or phrase, so I was shell-shocked just now when I read this definition of the verb compound: "Law forbear from prosecuting (a felony) in exchange for money or other consideration." [...] He forbears to prosecute the felony (well, as much as he can, considering he isn't an official authority) in return for other considerations, although in neither case does he benefit from it himself.

Last month I posted a link to a review of Elif Batuman's The Possessed; here's her list of "four Russian modern classics that youve probably missed," and it makes me even more interested in her. [...] and another one: here

Over the years I've had occasion to investigate various of the Russian writers known collectively as the Serapion Brothers (the most prominent of whom were Mikhail Zoshchenko and Victor Shklovsky), and I kept coming across the name Hongor Oulanoff, which always gave me a smile—there was something so incongruous about the combination of the Russian-sounding Oulanoff (Ulanov) and the very un-Russian Hongor. [...] It was a surprise to me, I didn't know it was the custom, and I felt hurt, but I just complied.

This week's NYT "On Language" column is by Ammon Shea, an enjoyable but scattershot writer who takes on the issue of vocabulary size: not, this time, "what language has the most words?" but another perennial favorite, "does a bigger vocabulary make you a better person?" [...] And in 1974 or so, even in English "macho" wasn't always negative, but in Spanish it was entirely positive.

I always liked counterpane, an old word for a bedspread, but I never knew its etymology, which is quite unexpected: it's an alteration of earlier counterpoint (due to an association with obsolete pane 'cloth'), but that counterpoint is an entirely different word from the one you're thinking of—it's from Old French contrepointe, which is an alteration of coultepointe, from Medieval Latin culcit(r)a puncta 'pricked (i.e., quilted) mattress.' [...] And I suppose Worcestershire is pronounced "uncle".

Another interesting etymology (this is the kind of thing that catches my attention when I'm copyediting a dictionary): crew originally meant 'reinforcement(s)' in the military sense, as can be seen from the first citation in the OED, "1455 Rolls of Parl. 34 Hen. VI, c. 46 The wages of ccc men ordeigned to be with him for a Crue over the ordinary charge abovesaid." I [...] Of course, various kinds of syncope have always been common, and examples abound; I mention it here only to call attention to the fact that abbreviation sometimes makes an etymology very difficult to discover; for we always want to know exactly how a word begins, and how it began in early times.

The March/April 2010 issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine is particularly rich in LH-related items. [...] Thanks; it could be useful inside my daughter's school, perhaps.

I was recently looking at an old post and ran across a link to Laudator Temporis Acti, and when I clicked it I was very pleased to see that Michael Gilleland is still at the same old stand, posting on Greek scholarship, portraits of readers, word histories, and all manner of other things likely to appeal to LH readers. [...] Reba was played by the country singer Reba McEntire, who's from Oklahoma: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reba_McEntire

A clever ad from Dorling Kindersley Books. [...] First the palindromic goat porn and now this, the world turn'd upside down.

Anne O. Fisher has done a translation of Ilf and Petrov's Zolotoi telyonok called The Little Golden Calf, and she was kind enough to send me a copy (even though I tried to dissuade her, telling her I was too busy reading other things!). [...] I don't think that late 60s thing with no article really worked. Later there was a group called The The, but I never knew how to pronounce it, and that can't be good.

Spoiler: the answer is "No." [...] Funny, for a purist, he writes in simplified characters.... that's a major bit of language change.

Sashura sent me a link to today's program, on apologies, of Michael Rosen's Word of Mouth. [...] Goodness, I hope not.

This is a tangled tale that will teach you nothing useful, but I have to share it because it took me so much time to untangle; its moral (like that of many of my posts) is that the internet is a good thing, which you already knew. [...] There are pictures of both the object and the heraldic charge right on Wikipedia.

The wonderful Arika Okrent (see this LH post) has an article in Slate about the craze to learn Na'vi, the alien language used in Avatar (which I briefly reviewed here). [...] Ulaan Baator looks like a wild and crazy place. I see the Stupa Cafe has a lending library and free Wifi.

One of my regular diversions is checking the "Random books from my library" list on the lower right and visiting any author pages that I think might be obscure enough to have information missing (which, given my collection, is a lot of author pages). [...] El Teatro Coln sigue siendo estatal (del Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires) espero que no lleguemos tan lejos en nuestra locura como para permitir que sea comprado por ninguna empresa.

The website Knowledge and Power in the Neo-Assyrian Empire (a project of the Subject Centre for Philosophical and Religious Studies of the Higher Education Academy) is a treasure trove of information; the Essentials section "provides a series of short overviews of the political and intellectual contexts of the letters, queries, and reports," Cuneiform Revealed is "an introduction to cuneiform script and the Akkadian language," and the Highlights section presents a small selection of the many texts on the site (given in transcription and translation, with enticing names like "Give Straw or Die!"). [...] 𒁖 𒆪 𒅖 𒇻 𒀸 𒃰 𒋫 𒉿 𒀸 𒋫 𒄿 𒄷 𒌋 𒌨 𒆠 𒅋 𒀀 𒆠 𒀸

I had never heard of the London Library, but an article by Nancy Mattoon makes it sound like a very attractive place: [...] Nij, looks like you've been nailed.

There are two nouns morion; the first, meaning a kind of helmet, does not concern us here (it is probably from Spanish morrin), but the second, a variety of smoky quartz, has an interesting etymology: it is from a Latin word morion that is a misreading of Pliny's mormorion. [...] ajay, I did but jest, poison in jest, no offense in the world.

As I wrote here, I'm reading Platonov's novel Chevengur (written in 1927-28 but not published until 1988 in the USSR; the English translation is long out of print, but apparently Robert Chandler is working on a new one). [...] Thanks, that's extremely helpful!

Victor Mair has an interesting post at the Log about an article (in this 2008 book) by Tibetanist Nicholas Tournadre in which Tournadre says that there are 220 "Tibetan dialects" derived from Old Tibetan: [...] If you want to comment, please e-mail me and I'll be delighted to reopen it.

Betty Kirkpatrick, "the former editor of several classic reference books, including Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary and Rogets Thesaurus," is doing a nice series of "Useful Scots words" for the Caledonian Mercury; they don't seem to have a convenient group URL, but you can do pretty well with a site search on her name. [...] But I hope that Russian had a good time in Aberdeen.

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the very popular "No1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series, and he has a new book coming out... in Scots. [...] Thanks, MMcM, I read this a long time ago and am probably fuzzy about all the details.

From Scotland we move to Ireland, where Colm  Caomhnaigh from Dublin is compiling a Dictionary of Bird Names in Irish. [...] Yes! Thanks, m-l.

So I'm flipping through the NY Times 2010 Baseball Preview and trying to ignore the terrible things they're saying about my team ("For Mets, Gloom and Doom..."), and I start reading a story by Billy Witz about a "recently formed 14-member committee of managers, general managers, owners and others who are exploring ways in which the game may be improved," and I hit the following sentence: [...] However, if editors and others are occasionally not seeing this as a mistake then perhaps the thin edge of the wedge may have made its first tiny thrust, only time will tell.

Not really. [...] I'm told that teaching nuns carried these usages to Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Just now I called our cat Pushkin a gubbins, and my wife said "That's a good word, what does it mean?" [...] I don't think I've heard it applied to living creatures before.

Some years ago Edith Grossman translated Don Quixote, and she has an interesting essay about the process in the latest issue of Guernica. [...] But saying that "Cervantistas have always loved to disagree and argue, often with venom and vehemence" is such a lie!! We love each other. Tenderly ;-)

Helen's Steakhouse—sorry, I mean Ἡλληνιστεύκοντος—is one of those blogs whose irregular schedule of publication always throws me for a loop. [...] Solidarity with communists in Greece would have been a compelling factor.

When I copyedit dictionaries, I find lots of material for LH. [...] krugman is a good guy visavis George W. Bush, but not necessarily otherwise.

I'm slowly making my way through Russian Subjects: Empire, Nation, and the Culture of the Golden Age, edited by Monika Greenleaf and Stephen Moeller-Sally, and I'm now on Ronald LeBlanc's "A la recherche du genre perdu: Fielding, Gogol, and Bakhtin's Genre Memory." [...] Which is probably why the French translator of Fielding mentioned above did not see fit to translate the lengthy and painstaking description of the heroine's features and qualities, but to leave it to the reader to imagine her.

I have more than once had occasion to use the online Encyclopdia Iranica; I have been grateful for its amazing compilation of information, but frustrated by the user interface and the problems with scanning and character reproduction. [...] The epic of adaḵa and sīmorḡ reminds my of the Syriac Hymn of the Pearl, which I read a couple of years ago: a pared down Persian epic given a Christian Gnostic twist.

Victor Mair has a Log post going into great detail about the many uses of the symbol Q in Chinese. [...] On air, the NBA is now to be called meiguo zhiye lanqiu sai (美国职业篮球赛), F1 is to be called yiji fangchenshi saiche jinbiao sai (一级方程式赛车锦标赛) , and the G8 is to be called baguo fenghui (八国峰会)."

One of the best books of the last decade is in danger of going out of print, which, aside from being a crying shame in its own right, would make it harder for its author, Helen DeWitt, to get another book into the marketplace. [...] Elif Batuman considers herself a C-list author, she doesn't say whether she thinks that's good or bad.

Admit it, you have no idea how to say Eyjafjallajkull. [...] Al-Jazeera shows how to pronounce Eyjafjajokull, complete with bouncing ball.

The Language Portal of Canada "is a Web site that showcases Canadian expertise in the area of language." [...] Thanks, Kim. I'll follow your lead when I have some time -- and a full moon is upon us!

I've read a fair amount about the Google Book settlement, but I haven't seen a more helpful explanation than Annalee Newitz's "5 Ways The Google Book Settlement Will Change The Future of Reading." [...] I suspect it's more the reputation hit than the money.

The New York Times recently had a symposium headlined "Why Do Educated People Use Bad Words?" [...] Yes. Thank you. I thought it was a myth.

I gave my impressions of the first half of Andrei Platonov's Chevengur here, and I'm glad I did, because the novel takes a sharp turn when it settles into the titular village at that point, and my feelings about it changed accordingly. [...] By the same token, couch potatoes may have invented potato chips.

A New York Times piece by Michael Kimmelman is about the French language, which, according to Nicolas Sarkozy, among others, is "under siege." [...] If Anglo-Saxon didn't use this, what form did it use in its place? Just curious.

Jon Lackman has a very interesting discussion at Slate of the history of the word kabuki in English; I did not know this background:...the word didn't appear in print in English until the late 19th-century, and then only rather infrequently. [...] Now I suspect 'kabuki' will crop up everywhere in the next few days.

Cathi Szulinski did a lot of research and wrote up her findings: [...] ... immovable library steps

"The Semantic Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew (henceforth SDBH) project is carried out under the auspices of the United Bible Societies. [...] I was known as "um shai" mother of tea, since I preferred (boiled) tea over the local water.

Fedor Gladkov's Cement was on the reading list in my college days, forty years ago, and my memory was that it was nearly unreadable, a dreary mass of Socialist Realist rhetoric and cardboard characters. [...] I'm surprised we haven't heard from the goats' lawyers, after the libellous insinuatons that they would allow themselves to be involved in dodgy money laundering.

Venkat Ramdass sent me a link to his site linguos with the following explanation:Linguos is unique in its function as phonetic search engine. [...] And they don't seem to have any similar support for romanized Arabic, Korean, Japanese etc.

An article by Sam Roberts in today's NY Times describes some of the many obscure languages spoken in New York City, and the efforts to document them before they disappear. [...] He peers morosely into his cocktail glass and says "Cuba Libre", (rum, Coke, and lime juice), literally "free Cuba".

I've loved libraries as long as I can remember (they were homes away from home during my peripatetic childhood), and I'm particularly fond of college libraries, so I'm very glad that Leslie Fields, Records Service Archivist at Smith College, has put online the excellent exhibit she created on the history of the Neilson Library at Smith that I saw in person a few months ago. [...] The added advantage was that they could just look it when they went out, so I couldn't watch the late-night Krimi in their absence.

A few years ago I had a post about this annoying expression (annoying both because it's strangely worded for its normal use—"invites the question" would be much better—and because it brings all the petitio principii pedants out of the woodwork); there I linked to a comic strip for amusement, now I link to Mark Liberman's definitive explication of the history and uses of the phrase, from Aristotle's τὸ ἐν ἀρχῇ αἰτεῖσθαι (not, as the Log has it, αἰτεσθαι—it's from the start of Prior Analytics ii:16) to the present. [...] I suspect that the original meaning of "begs the question" is current in law and philosophy.

I'm reading Janet Malcolm's "Iphigenia in Forest Hills" in the latest New Yorker (abstract here), about the trial of Mazoltuv Borukhova for murder (she allegedly paid Mikhail Mallayev to kill her husband), and this passage struck me for obvious reasons: [...] The adult mother should have been able to take care of herself.

The first letter I've ever written to the NY Times Book Review was published today, exactly as I wrote it (except that they added a paragraph break and a hyperlink); the link goes to the published version, and here's what I sent them: [...] Yup. See here.

I've been reluctantly impressed with the results Google Translate (Wikipedia) gives me (reluctantly because my default assumption has long been that automatic translation is No Damn Good), and I was interested to read a couple of pieces about it online. [...] Commercially processed, machine-translated scraps of intelligibility disagree with me and are probably oncogenic.

I confess that my inner twelve-year-old never gets tired of stories about Chinglish that mention "such delectables as 'fried enema,' 'monolithic tree mushroom stem squid' and a mysterious thirst-quencher known as 'The Jews Ear Juice," but I probably wouldn't post the Andrew Jacobs story "Shanghai Is Trying to Untangle the Mangled English of Chinglish" in the NY Times if it were just the usual superficial collection of laugh lines. [...] It seems to have more to do with how the Chinese think about grass.

Sven Birkerts has an article in The American Scholar that's long but well worth reading. [...] I have not read Endless Night, but apparently she used the same plot formula in both novels.

A few years ago, in the course of a post on how to sort books, I said, "There are in fact people who arrange books by color" (alas, the link is now dead); I discover from a comment by Doctor Science in this Log thread (for a post in which Pullum answers the eternal question "What does Kreisoppa Tebberley mean?") that the New England Law Library has a search function called "Well, Its Red" that actually allows you to look for a book based on its color. [...] synthete 97,800 ghits

I had occasion a while back to consult the Wikipedia article for Pe̍h-ōe-jī (POJ), a system of orthography used to write Taiwanese and Amoy Hokkien, and was disappointed: it was sloppy and incomplete. [...] That really is an excellent article.

I'm reading an excellent history of Soviet culture in (primarily) the 1920s, Katerina Clark's Petersburg: Crucible of Cultural Revolution, and I just got to this discussion of a feature of mid-'20s Soviet life hitherto unknown to me: [...] There was also a feature-length parody of the Fairbanks Thief of Baghdad -- The Thief, But Not From Baghdad (1926) -- which is unfortunately lost.

I know, I get tired of the "saving dying languages" trope too, it's a worthy activity but the stories all run together after a while. [...] Thanks for the references and samples!

I was going to post about Yury Olesha's great novel Envy, which I just finished reading in Russian, but I got distracted by creating a long Wikipedia article about an unjustly forgotten Russian writer and didn't finish that either, so I'm just going to refer you to Mark Liberman's Log post about a site where you can search 43 different stylebooks at once, OnlineStylebooks.com, and totter off to bed. [...] Yes, this web page quotes the poem, adding "The trite poetic image 'sticky little leaves' was still fresh in 1828" when Pushkin coined it (Давно стершийся поэтический образ  клейкие листочки  в 1828 году был свежим).

Having spent the better part of two days creating this Wikipedia article, and having worked harder on it than on most of my college papers, I'm damn well going to post it here. [...] Screwing up French genders has been one of the special privileges of anglophones since Le Mort Darthur at least.

For the last couple of weeks I've been reading Yuri Olesha's masterpiece Zavist' (Russian text), translated into English as Envy (Wikipedia, plot summary), and I understand why Nabokov called it the greatest novel produced in the Soviet Union—not only because it is in fact great, but because it's Nabokovian in a way hardly any Soviet writing is, with a focus on language and imagery that is sometimes amazingly reminiscent of Olesha's coeval (both men were born in 1899, less than two months apart). [...] It's a funny old world.

Nothing earthshaking in this Economist column by Robert Lane Greene, but it's nice to see Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage getting some love in such a respected venue. [...] Maybe that means more to some of you than it does to me.

Several years ago Mark Liberman had a Log post investigating the contraction I'ma for I'm going to; today he has an update in which he reproduces a snippet of Art Blakey introducing his musicians from the famous "Night at Birdland" recording of February 1954 with a quintet that was a forerunner of the Jazz Messengers he was to lead for over three decades, one of the most influential groups in the history of American music. [...] I agree about Nat King Cole.

This Ask MetaFilter thread has made me grumpy, and I trust you'll forgive me if I vent a bit here. [...] In the English translations, Je dirais mme plus is rendered as To be precise.

I wrote briefly about Konstantin Vaginov here, and since I'm currently engaged in reading Soviet works from 1927, I've finally gotten around to his magnum opus, the novel Goat Song (Козлиная песнь). [...] what a great find, his poetry, thanks for the pointer!

The Macmillan Dictionary Blog has a guest post by Yuliya Melnyk called "The influence of English on the Russian language"; it's short and pretty superficial, but this struck me: "Many words are produced in Russian slang every day; they have English roots and Russian affixes, e.g.: mastdait, which means criticize, comes from English must die..." I'm sure glad she told me, because I don't think I'd ever have figured that out if I saw мастдаить in the wild. [...] I don't know why I said Gould, who would be quite irrelevant to it, except that I like both their writing very much.

Those of you who spend any time on sites where technology is discussed will doubtless be familiar with the term fanboy, meaning 'someone so emotionally attached to a tech product or company that any perceived attack will send them into a defensive frenzy.' [...] Sorry LH and everybody - my previous comment was actually for the previous article, under the title "MASDAIT".

I'm now reading Mandelstam's dense 1927 novella "Egipetskaya marka" ("The Egyptian stamp"), and in trying to look up the odd word финолинка [finolinka], evidently a sort of night light (which turns out to occur only here in all of Russian literature), I ran across this LJ site, dedicated to a line-by-line analysis of the story. [...] Mongolianness isn't important, except that it helps distance him from both literatures -- not being ethnic Chinese, he feels no obligation to keep face or defend his "native culture".

I'm still reading Chukovsky's Diary, 1901-1969 (see this post), and I've come across a couple of short, striking passages I wanted to share. [...] AJP, I am not sure, but I am not an architect.

That odd phrase is the title of a new novel by Evgeny Klyuev (Russian Wikipedia) mentioned in Lisa Hayden Espenschade's latest post at Lizok's Bookshelf, a typically informative list of the 2010 Big Book award finalists, with commentary. [...] Have German (and Dutch) changed considerably since the 18th century?

Ethan Shen has done a research project comparing the three major free translation engines available online; here are his results to date: [...] Until Google Translate can figure out a way to parse sentences properly in the old unrevolutionary way, I suspect it will continue to do a poor job with languages outside the Western European mould.

Via the latest entry at Pepys' Diary ("then home to my wife, who is not well with her cold, and sat and read a piece of Grand Cyrus in English by her") I learned about what is alleged to be the longest novel ever written ("with the possible exception of Henry Darger's unpublished The Story of the Vivian Girls"), Artamne, or Cyrus the Great, and from the Wikipedia article I got to Artamne.org, which has put the entire novel online. [...] Maybe that's where Engles got the idea for "Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State."

Ive just finished Mandelstam's novella "Egipetskaya marka" (see this post), and it probably took me longer than any other thirty pages of Russian prose Ive read—not because the vocabulary was especially difficult (though some of it was) but because its very much a poet's prose, and a particularly knotty poet's at that, and it has to be nibbled at rather than gulped, and thought about in between bites. [...] I'm glad you liked it!

The time for his autobiography to be published, that is. [...] I see from the marktwainproject that it was used at the end of some of his telegrams, and in one letter he received. Which is OK, I suppose.

I ran across the odd Russian word мадаполам, looked it up, and found it defined by the equally odd English word madapollam. [...] Yeucch. I can't imagine how anyone can think it lacks flavor -- I can see how some people like that flavor (though with difficulty).

Anatoly has two recent posts about Russian words that have somehow eluded the dictionaries, one a couple of centuries old and the other... newish, but it's impossible to know how new because, well, the dictionaries ignore it. [...] I try to refrain from taking the bait (assuming I see it coming).

eXchanges, "the University of Iowas online literary magazine devoted to translation," has a new issue called "Hackwork," featuring Mmoires of Translation by Lawrence Venuti as well as translations from Latin (the Aeneid), Romanian (Dan Sociu), Chamorro (translating Chamorro translations of the Psalms!), and Spanish. [...] No, they're usually named, and the more famous ones are mentioned fairly prominently.

I wrote about Shanghainese here; alas, the site I built that post around seems to have bit the dust long ago (it was truly excellent—I wonder what happened?), but you can get a start on learning the language with a charming set of little video lessons available from China Daily here. [...] You always have to keep an eye out for the bad ones.

Over at the Log, Mark Liberman has an interesting post about a performance of Chekhov's Three Sisters he saw; as linguistic notes, he mentions Kulygin's ut consecutivum and brings up the issue of accents, saying "a provincial town in the Russia of 1900  especially one far enough away from the capital that the three sisters would not have gone back for a visit in eleven years  would have had a distinctive regional accent, I think, one that everyone involved would have been quite aware of." [...] I've seen it claimed that log cabins were brought to the US by the Swedish colony in Delaware, which was quickly absorbed by the Dutch.

I'm progressing through Chukovsky's Diary, 1901-1969 pari passu with my reading of Russian fiction, and on October 11, 1927 he had some interesting things to say about Tynyanov (see my Kije gripe): [...] Yes, he knew absolutely everybody and was sympathetic to most (though sternly honest about his opinions of what they wrote).

I'm fine with the normal use of "begging the question" (see this recent post), and I regularly mock those who insist on the petitio principii sense. [...] ... And where it ends, knows God.

I was shocked to look at the NY Times this morning and learn that Andrei Voznesensky has died. [...] oh, thanks, as usual I'm too lazy and too busy to remember about links.

I knew little about Clarence Barnhart beyond his name (and that primarily as part of the collocation Thorndike-Barnhart), so I was considerably enlightened by Rulon-Miller Books' sales catalog page for the Barnhart Dictionary Archive, with its full biography and history of his lexicographical work. [...] Here's the direct link to the touching story.

The other day my wife asked me about the history of brook in phrases like "brook no opposition." [...] Not so much nowadays (in spite of hours spent waiting in airports, etc), but most travelling was no picnic in earlier centuries, when you might be set upon by bandits, or find yourself in the middle of a war, and even if such events did not happen, carriages (assuming you could afford the luxury of one) were usually very uncomfortable, especially since roads were unpaved.

The historian Keith Thomas has an essay in the LRB that exemplifies the working method an "anonymous reader" describes as involving "a great many references to and citations of a generous selection of (mostly printed) texts and documents, which account for a high percentage of the text." [...] I'm afraid that's above my pay grade, but perhaps a commenter with more expertise in German will be along to answer.

Anatoly quoted my post from yesterday, singling out the quote beginning "It is possible to take too many notes; the task of sorting, filing and assimilating them can take for ever, so that nothing gets written. The awful warning is Lord Acton..."; he finished his post by linking to this poem (in Russian), which the story reminded him of. [...] Especially because of the r (West Turkic, like Chuvash  Hungarian has lots of loans from such a language) as opposed to z (East Turkic, including the Oğuz family itself).

Charles King, in his TLS review, "Among the Circassians" (April 23, 2010, p. 11), of a couple of books about the Caucasus, writes that the North Caucasus is a region "that many Russians would just as well forget they owned." [...] But maybe "apprehension of accident" parses more smoothly for someone with a different idiolect.

The NY Times has introduced a promising new feature at Schotts Vocab, their vocabulary blog: Schotts Daily Lexeme. [...] Trying to smell the sea would be a good way to pass the time if you're ever trapped in an elevator.

I've always vaguely wondered about the phrase past master—was there or wasn't there also a passed master, and did the one come from the other?—and I've finally looked it up in the OED. [...] We were roundly trounced, in play if not in punning, by the Bad News Barristers, who came, naturally, from the Law School.

I was thunderstruck (well, surprised anyway, but I'm feeling a little weak-brained this morning, so it hit me strongly) to discover from this post of Anatoly's that the Russian words "меч" and "шпага" are felt by Russians to be completely different things. [...] It was a one-of-a-kind weapon.

I'm off to Rhode Island, the home of the cabinet, for the weekend. [...] unfortunate - und-fortunate

I'm back in body (after a more or less sleepless night and a four-and-a-half-hour bus ride), but my spirit is weak, so for the moment I'll just pass along this enjoyable word dug out of the recesses of the OED by aldiboronti at Wordorigins.org: [...] A special thread is used for suit and coat buttons and buttonholes, which get more wear and tear than regular seams.

Lane Greene of The Economist writes to tell me about their new language blog, Johnson. [...] Now there's a clause that I might prefer to have put in loglan.

I ran across the participle stymieing, and it looked wrong, so I looked it up (for that matter, it still does—I just looked it up again to make sure). [...] IIRC, one of the Little Rascals was named Stymie.

This Slate article by Rosecrans Baldwin is both the funniest and the most intriguing thing I've read in a while. [...] It's nice to come back to a new comment on an old post and it isn't some spam.

I wrote about the issue of cannot versus can not way back in 2003; as I said there, "The only context in which can not, two words, occurs is as an emphatic alternative: 'You can do it, or you can not do it.'" Today ESPN provided a perfect illustration of why the negative must always (except in that rare circumstance) be spelled as one word, cannot. [...] My daughter makes telephone calls with her camera, though she prefers to use it as a typewriter.

I have added to my blogroll the wonderful Sentence first ("An Irishman's blog about the English language"). [...] Oh, and as for the "sox" spelling, the Boston Red Sox article says: "Sox had been previously adopted for the Chicago White Sox by newspapers needing a headline-friendly form of Stockings, as 'Stockings Win!' in large type would not fit on a page."

Months ago, I was following a Google path I no longer remember and Google Books showed me a book that had the "Hail Mary" in Russian. [...] I was asking for it (drops a tear in his cup of tea).

Movie subtitles have been a perennial topic of discussion here at LH (e.g., 1, 2, 3), and Nate Barksdale provides another interesting link with his essay Subtleties. [...] Here's the direct link; the movie is Bienvenue chez les Chti!

Claire Bowern of Anggarrgoon (and a frequent LH commenter when she isn't as busy as she apparently is these days) has joined Quentin Atkinson and Russell Gray in creating the North American English Dialect Survey: [...] As linked here: "Magnae clunes mihi placent, nec possum de hac re mentiri..."

There is a condition (terrifying to the bibliophiles among us) called alexia, "an acquired type of sensory aphasia where damage to the brain causes a patient to lose the ability to read. [...] But I don't remember any more if they said my class was "interesting" or "boring".

The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe is online in full: [...] Shortly after the encyclopedia's publication I was at a presentation by Dr. Hundert, at which he mentioned that the entire thing would be available for free online by June - I had completely forgotten about it!

"Gabby" Street was an old-time catcher, manager, coach, and broadcaster who died the year I was born. [...] I used to use it but by dint of sheer guts, grit, and can-do spirit, have largely vanquished the addiction.

I keep forgetting to mention this, but it's not too late to join The Quarterly Conversation and Open Letters Monthly in their summer-long reading of The Tale of Genji. [...] Unfortunately, his maximum life expectancy only seems to be 5 years, and as he was hatched in 2008, it's unlikely he'll be around for the next World Cup.

Some years ago I posted about Nicaraguan sign language; now a story in Discover magazine discusses "a new study led by Jennie Pyers from Wellesley College": [...] Similarly, when telling a story in two different locations, Anglo deictic space will be relative to the speaker's position at the time when the story occurred, whereas Aboriginal space will be absolute: the story will be accompanied with (from the Anglo perspective) entirely different gestures depending on the orientation of the speaker.

Kyoto Journal is "a non-profit volunteer-based quarterly magazine established in 1986" that "offers interviews, essays, translations, humor, fiction, poetry and reviews." [...] Sure would love to see that review!

The Fondation Carla Bruni-Sarkozy has an online interview (French) with translator Andr Markowicz: [...] Similarly, the primacy of usage (bottom-up language evolution) in English is in direct contrast with the prescriptive and proscriptive approach of the Acadmie franaise (top-down), which has never been particularly fruitful for a living language.

My wife and I were doing an acrostic puzzle in which one of the clues was "penny farthing" and the answer they wanted was "bicycle." [...] I'm not sure if I knew the meaning of the word before I lived there or not, but I think I did. Anyway, it's a great word.

As I enter my sixtieth year, I take pleasure in all the people life has put in my path (which of course includes you LH readers); on a less elevated plane, I take pleasure in the chicken curry and homemade peach ice cream I'm now digesting and in the presents generous kith and kin have showered me with, the more LH-relevant of which I will now mention, so you will know what I am experiencing in the weeks to come. [...] I have never liked any of the Twain impersonators, not nimble enough, and too much of the cutesy old codger cliche.

Robert McCrums new book Globish, about how English is becoming the world language because it's so "unique" and "direct" and "universal" and what have you, has gotten a well-deserved thrashing from linguist John McWhorter in The New Republic. [...] It clearly shows the language's career has nothing to do whatsoever with its complexity.

Plato's Protagoras, a translation is "an attempt at a collaborative translation of Platos Protagoras, a beautiful and challenging dialogue. [...] Here's David Crystal, briefly, speaking in his Liverpool-Welsh accent on the British usage.

I presume we all know about the first appearance of the word America on the Waldseemller map of 1507; what I, at any rate, didn't know was that the text of the map and accompanying book, and hence the coining of the word, is thought to be the work of Waldseemller's friend Matthias Ringmann. [...] Now he's fallen to #79 as businesses have wised up to the commercial potential of the net. It was nice while it lasted.

Anatoly recently posted about the Acapela Text to Speech Demo, saying he was struck by how well the Russian voice (Алена) rendered the text he entered. [...] If you try to con it with "Beagles, beagles, bagels!", it sticks to its guns.

Victor Mair has a post at the Log featuring "Brian Holton's ongoing translation of Shuǐhǔ zhun 水滸傳 (Water Margin; All Men Are Brothers) into Scots, part of which is available online." Holton calls his version "The Mossflow," a wonderful term which the DSL defines as "a wet peat bog, a quagmire, swamp." [...] Occitan has exactly the same problem, and probably any language without a written standard that is heavily overshadowed by a standardized relative does too.

In a recent post, Anatoly discusses his occasional reluctance to look up English words he doesn't know, preferring to deduce their meaning from context, a habit which occasionally leads him astray. [...] It makes some sense, no one would want hairy pasta from other sources.

As I wrote here, I've been reading Tynyanov's Смерть Вазир-Мухтара [Smert' Vazir-mukhtara], "The death of the vazir-mukhtar [ambassador plenipotentiary]," and now that I've finished it, I'm trying to figure out why I didn't like it more than I did. [...] But still, it's rather startling to see these familiar Arabic words written in Russian practically unchanged (although "wazir" has been used enough in English fiction).

I've been trying to investigate Schlegel's use of Arabesk 'arabesque' as a literary term (Nicholas Saul says in the "arabesque or hieroglyph" the "material is to be ordered into complex symbolic forms which allude ironically to the inexpressible absolute rather than attempt prosaically to embody it": The Cambridge History of German Literature, p. 230), because it influenced Gogol in his Arabeski (1835; Proffer writes: "There are two works of Gogol which nobody reads: The Arabesques is one and Selected Passages from Correspondence with Friends the other"). [...] Though I'm sure somebody's already written a home-run dissertation based on the contrary claim.

Formerly (and hopefully future) frequent commenter Xiaolongnu sent me a link to the Periodic Table of Swearing (click image for large version). [...] Shouldn't this "Periodic Table of Swearing" have at least one catamenial expression containing the word "period"?

Lord knows I get frustrated with the general level of ignorance concerning language and linguistics out there in the world; lashing out at it has been a feature of LH from the beginning. [...] Though mine is, in fact, bigger than yours.

Stan of Sentence First has a most enjoyable post about an excellent word: [...] Whaddayaknow, I'm a knawvshawler.

A NY Times story by Simon Romero describes the unusually promising situation of the Caribbean language Papiamento: [...] I've seen reports that Dutch proficiency has increased and reports that English proficiency has increased, but none that Sranan Tongo proficiency has decreased.

Long-time readers of LH will know my negative feelings toward the much-lauded translating duo of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (see, for instance, here); imagine, therefore, my pleasure on being sent a link to "The Pevearsion of Russian Literature" by Gary Saul Morson, and my disappointment on learning it was only an abstract. [...] It's humid here too. Technically, it's rain, I suppose. By The Beatles.

The good people at Oxford UP sent me a copy of Ruth H. Sander's German: Biography of a Language, which I recently finished reading. [...] And bake, boke, bickered.

Felipe Martinez, an independent researcher from San Diego, California, is "investigating the absence of Brazilian author Joo Guimares Rosa (1908-1967) in the English-speaking world." [...] U of Chicago Press published an English translation of Os Sertes under the title Rebellion in the Backlands.

Ljiljana Progovac and John L. Locke have published an intriguing paper, "The Urge to Merge: Ritual Insult and the Evolution of Syntax" (you can download the pdf from that page; the article is, admirably, published under a Creative Commons license). [...] Poor editing of the Wikipedia makes it less than clear that it was an affinity for Harris's politics that steered Chomsky in the direction of formal linguistics.

Toward the end of this long thread from February, we got onto the subject of the symbol # being used for pounds; I had never seen it, but was presented with enough convincing evidence that I threw up my hands and accepted it ("Huh, you learn something every day. I wonder how I managed to miss the # = lb. thing?"). [...] We can tell you more about the coffee gifts including coffee machines and coffee pods.

Kyoto University of Foreign Studies has an exhibition on "Crepe-Paper Books and Woodblock Prints"; there's lots of interesting stuff there, but I'll call your attention to the Preface, which discusses the phenomenon of "crepe-paper books," called chirimen-bon in Japanese (縮緬紙 chirimen is 'crepe paper'): [...] These are very lovely. Here's another collection.

John Wells, at his phonetic blog, has a post offering a professional analysis of just how an American voice teacher went wrong in a video clip in which she tries to teach the British "short o" vowel. [...] I been a bludy foreigner looking for his china all these decades, tally ho.

I recently got Brief Lives: Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, by Andrew Piper, as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, and I thought I'd add my review here in case anyone wants to talk about Goethe, Felicia Hemans (pronounced HEMM-unz), or anything else. [...] "The Chinese Messiah?"

In a discussion of French chapeau 'hat' that developed in the meandering course of this thread, our caprine constituent AJP asked "m-l, is there a connection between chapeau and chapel (its current English meaning) based on physical resemblance?" [...] That's wise. With Google translate you could be saying "plastic bag".

I learned about Elif Batuman's The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them back in February (see this post, whose thread devolved into the usual inexplicable mix of topics, this time including skis, Jenny Lind, and hunting bears), and having gotten it for my birthday (thanks, Brooke & Elias!) I'm finally reading it, and enjoying it thoroughly. [...] Turkic etymology for DUCK

I've quoted John Derbyshire a number of times; here's a nice piece he wrote about his experience having one of his books translated by Alexei Semikhatov, an unusually scrupulous, thoughtful, and literate man. [...] You could put this on SurveyMonkey to get more data ;-)

As I wrote here, I've been reading Elif Batuman's The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, and now that I've finished I thought I'd try to sum up my feelings. [...] (Ladefoged denied this, but what did he know — he was a Dane who couldn't even pronounce his own name properly.)

Stan Carey of Sentence first has an occasional feature he calls "Link love" in which he presents his readers with a bouquet of intriguing links; I hereby pass on to you Link love: language (20), which starts with "Emailing while sleeping" and concludes with a couple of rude bits from the Log. [...] Poor old Duke of Buckingham.

I linked to an interview with the excellent translator Robert Chandler here; now I'd like to present a short essay he wrote on translating Pushkin's The Captains Daughter. [...] And for what it's worth, Eric Knight is a wonderful writer, and I greatly recommend his story collection, The Flying Yorkshireman, which consists of modern tales of Sam Small, the Yorkshire version of Pecos Bill.

Copy Editing at The New Yorker with Mary Norris. [...] I remember a working group co-chair who signed some of his e-mails as "John the Cockhare". Apparently, that's how his text-to-speech software pronounced "cochair" (without a hyphen).

Dave of Balashon - Hebrew Language Detective (which I welcomed here and have since linked to less often than I should), has done a post—the last in a series on the five grains of the Land of Israel—on the Hebrew word כוסמת kusemet, which now means 'buckwheat' but once meant... well, that's not clear, but I urge you to read his thoughts on the subject. [...] The place made me nervous for some reason - I think I won't go there again any time soon.

Dave Wilton at Wordorigins.org presents this video with the words "This is a great little story about the expectations people have about language," and I won't add anything to that except that it choked me up a little. [...] LH, how strange to find that there are language blog trolls.

How time flies! As always, I thank my commenters, without whom I wouldn't bother blogging; this time around, I thought I'd link to a selection of posts, one from each year, that I remembered with fondness as I skimmed through the archives: [...] Happy Birthday, Hat!

An author might start a novel this way: "On his thirtieth birthday, Voshchev was laid off from his factory job for weakness and woolgathering." [...] But Platonov didn't do X or Y or Z. He did something else. Why? Why does it sound so strange? There was a reason for that; what is it?

Another video, this one hilarious: English Swear Words. [...] Thanks, MMcM!

Mark Liberman has a post at the Log in which he waxes wroth about what he calls a "bizarre meme" by which "every piece of linguistic research is spun as a challenge to 'universal grammar'." [...] Hi, Grumbly. The competition has arrived. Grmpf.

I'm digging into The Russian Context: The Culture Behind the Language by Eloise M. Boyle and Genevra Gerhart (which I wrote about here), and I'm sure I'll have much more to say about it, but right now I just want to quote this paragraph from the introduction to the Literature section (which "contains those quotations from literature that the educated Russian carries in his head, and that a student of Russian will encounter not only in everyday conversations with Russians, but when he picks up a newspaper or turns on the television"); it provides a concise explanation of a well-known phenomenon: [...] Indeed, from Kennedy to Bush II all Presidents were descended chiefly or entirely from immigrants from the British Isles.

A recent post by Geoff Nunberg at the Log discusses the dudgeon people get into over verbal blunders by politicians (and inevitably the comment thread descends rapidly into tedious political bickering); however, he links to this fascinating post from 2008 (which I apparently missed at the time) in which he provides a new etymology for verbiage: apparently it has nothing to do with the other verb- words (from Latin verbum)! [...] I hadn't been familiar with the Dictionnaire Historique, but now (of course) I wish I had a copy.

Last year I wrote about the mysteriously limited availability of the wonderful Sergei Dovlatov in English; I am happy to learn from this PEN America post that "when we were putting together PEN America 12, we decided we would re-publish one of Dovlatovs stories. [...] I don't understand why he's not as available as, say, Pelevin and Akunin.

A fascinating factoid: Nazi is obviously a short form of National socialist, or Nationalsozialist to be precise, just as Sozi is a short form of Sozialist. [...] Jeongseong: Right you are: I posted in haste and may now repent at leisure.

Checking my referrer log, I just discovered a blog I wish I'd known about earlier, dormir debout. [...] I'm coming round to Grumbly Stu's supposition that there could be a missing link.

Stephen Chrisomalis, an anthropologist at Wayne State University who once ran also runs the site Forthright's Phrontistery (which I wrote about here), now also has a blog Glossographia ("Anthropology, linguistics, and prehistory"), whose latest post is a very interesting examination of the history of the word chairperson. [...] Ha ! I had my fingers crossed !

Ben Zimmer has a wonderful takedown of the Telegraph story you may have seen: "Secret vault of words rejected by the Oxford English Dictionary uncovered." [...] Ben's description  'Dan Brown lexicography'  is spot on.

I wanted to quote a particularly good example of the way quotations are used in Russia from the Boyle/Gerhart book I wrote about here; I was googling for an English translation of the Pushkin poem cited when I discovered that this section happens to be included in a webpage of sample passages from the book (scroll down, it's the second one). [...] Oh, snap!

As I have noted before, I am a fan of Raymond Queneau, and I am pleased to discover that his Cent mille milliards de pomes (Wikipedia) are cleverly generated at this site: every time you visit or refresh, you get a new combination of lines (in both French and English unless you specify a preference). [...] So, are certain languages better suited for certain artforms than others? Would "Beowulf" be just as good in Latin?

Having finished my rereading of Platonov's Kotlovan (see this post), I find myself more moved than ever by the ending, but I don't really have anything more to say about the novel as a whole, so I'll quote this section from A Companion to Andrei Platonov's The Foundation Pit, by Thomas Seifrid: [...] Thanks!

The Bodleian Library announces a new publication, The First English Dictionary of Slang, 1699: [...] Yes, LH, that must've been it.

MetaFilter user lapsangsouchong posted an interesting AskMetaFilter question: "Which of the thousands of neologisms coined in the Turkish language reforms of the 1920s and 30s stuck, which ones didn't—and why?" [...] (From Nişanyan, obviously. Also cf. discussion of a couple  when I say it, it's exactly two; but it's any small number from my wife, so I make no assumptions.)

I'm barely fifty pages into Terry Martin's The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 and it's already clear to me that this is one of those basic works of scholarship that everyone dealing with the field has to come to terms with. [...] The extension to 'administrative unit' in Russian is understandable in this larger context.

I'm still reading Terry Martin's The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 (see the previous post), and I want to quote some material from the start of Chapter 3, "Linguistic Ukrainization, 19231932." [...] And I've never seen roman capitalized in this context.

Mark Brown has a story at The Guardian about Stephen Pax Leonard, a Cambridge University researcher who's off to Greenland to document the language and traditions of an Inuit community: [...] @aqilluqqaaq: ᐃᓛᓕ/illillu!

One of the few literary critics I both respected and always enjoyed reading has died at 90: Frank Kermode, for whom John Mullan wrote a good obituary in The Guardian. [...] Yes, we did Bishkek back in 2004.

Terry Martin's The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 has astonished me yet again. [...] I think this falls under "original research" or something.

I am deeply grateful to the blogger at Particularly in Burma for first reposting the wonderful anecdote recounted by slawkenbergius in this contentious thread ("my uncle, who lives in Israel, sent me this great story...") and then, in today's post, translating it from Russian, saving me the trouble. [...] That "Wunderbar! Wunderbar!", is actually another typo: it should have been "Wunder! Wunderbar!", which scans. But that doesn't make it any the less WTF to me.

I recently learned of the death of the Slavist Horace Lunt, a student of Roman Jakobson who taught at Harvard; I still consult my first edition (1955) of his compact Old Church Slavonic Grammar, admirably sensible and structuralist. [...] Werner Winter happened to pass on only a few days earlier: http://linguistlist.org/issues/21/21-3229.html

Lisa Hayden Espenschade has provided a very useful resource at her blog Lizok's Bookshelf: a list of a couple of dozen Russian-language sources of book reviews, including both individual bloggers and institutional sites. [...] The setting of my work couldn't be further from Russia, but I had never thought before of the idea of Russian criticism of, say, Karamazov. That's a mind-blower.

Angus Trumble has a nice post at Paris Review Daily about the ombrellai (umbrella makers) of Piedmont, who spoke a jargon called Tarsc: [...] Yes, that makes a lot of sense.

James Somers has a good analysis of "it turns out," beginning by saying that Paul Graham knows how to use the phrase: "He works it, gets mileage out of it, in a way that other writers dont. That probably sounds like a compliment. [...] Of course, some people will still believe it to be true but ultimately they will realize their error.

I have mentioned Marat Akchurin's wonderful Red Odyssey: A Journey Through the Soviet Republics before, and I thought I'd quote this passage from his visit to Tajikistan in 1990, as the whole Soviet mess was in the process of falling apart; it resonates with the material I've been posting from Terry Martin's book: [...] Yes, sorry for my laziness.

Schott's Vocab has a post today linking to this OED entry (draft revision Mar. 2009):pig's whisper, n. [...] Semantically related, though unidentical, to the dog's breakfast, is the curate's eggderived from the famous old cartoon.

An interesting piece by Olivier Razemon in Le Monde about the correct/local ways to pronounce various French place names (it's Luberon avec e comme dans "beurrer," pas comme dans "bb," and Wissant (Pas-de-Calais) is "Uissant", et non "Vissant", encore moins "Ouissant"). [...] I don't even know what the correct symbols are for the pronunciations I hear or use myself.

I can't really make use of it myself, since my Dutch is nonexistent, but I can't resist passing it along for those who can: the Oud Nederlandsch Scheldwoorden Archief (Old Dutch profanity archive). [...] But yes, the German connection is much more likely.

I'm in the middle of E. E. Cummings's EIMI, a sometimes too poetickal and occasionally wellnigh incomprehensible but withal lively (or Alive with Is, as Comrade Kem-min-kz might say) and well worth reading account of the author's month (May-June 1931) in the still relatively new Soviet Union, newly admired by the Depression-struck West. [...] No, not in this case.

A post on Wordorigins.org asks a reasonable question that had never occurred to me: why is hemophilia called by a name that means 'blood-loving'? [...] Incidentally, it has to be "Sir Arthur", not "Sir Crown".

I've been slowly reading the January 14, 2010 issue of NYRB (very slowly—I keep it in my shoulder bag for emergency reading), and I've just gotten to a review that angered me enough to vent publicly. [...] That must be an Eric Gill typeface.

Occasionally in my reading I come across mentions of people who seem significant beyond the sparse traces they've left in the historical record, and when they have a connection with literature I sometimes try to memorialize them here. [...] Gee, thanks for your charitable assumption.

On page 167 of Terry Martin's The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 there's a table headed "Official List of 'Culturally Backward' Nationalities"; these were nationalities considered "eligible for preferential assistance, and enjoying appropriate awards and privileges" in what Martin calls the Affirmative Action Empire of the USSR in the early 1930s; the criteria were an extremely low level of literacy, an insignificant percentage of children in school, lack of "a written script with a single developed literary language," presence of "everyday social vestiges" (oppression of women, racial hostility, etc.), and a lack of national cadres. [...] It is obvious that the higher echelons of French administration never identified themselves with the communist "cadres", nor did they find the word "contaminated" by its use in that context.

Mark Liberman at the Log has a post about a (re)coinage found in this Candace Buckner sports story for the Kansas City Star in a quote from high school lineman Shane Ray: "As a team, we dont like that feeling of being underlooked..." [...] These shoes (or overshoes) were popular in Europe in earlier centuries (see Wikipedia) for crossing muddy streets. Not for walking very far though.

An Ask MetaFilter question led to an amazing result. [...] Yes, one of my dearest childhood discoveries (I was studying Latin at St. Mary's International and loved puns); I was devastated to discover, years, later, that it was apocryphal.

I've been having an exchange elsewhere about the word gyp 'cheat, swindle,' and I am (with some trepidation) bringing it here in the hopes of having a productive discussion and perhaps learning a few things. [...] Does anyone remember it?

I keep waiting for Language Log to debunk this BBC News story by Katie Alcock—I mean, BBC News is notorious for bad science reporting, and the Loggers take delight in bashing them for it (see here and here for two of many examples)—but so far nothing, so I'll just toss it out here and see what people have to say. [...] My source didn't answer and either doesn't know or isn't interested.

But I wound up taking a later bus than expected and will have to defer a real post until tomorrow. [...] (Or stayed up drinking and talking till 1 and 2 in the morning for several days in a row, but that's another story.)

The fearsomely learned Conrad has sent me an excellent OED find, the long-forgotten word bridelope:[late OE. brdlp, either:*brdhlap, or ad. ON. brhlaup, brullaup (Sw. brllopp, Da. bryllup) wedding; cf. OHG. brthlauft, -louft, MHG. brtlouf, Ger. (arch.) brautlauf; f. OTeut. brđi- BRIDE + hlaup- run, LEAP.] [...] I'm no expert in the history and evolution of food, but I'd have thought that once a baking idea has been invented (egg bread, for instance), then the recipe's going to be adjusted a little bit by everyone who tries it and pretty soon you've got more than one product.

"The Rohonc Codex (pronounced [ˈrohont͡s] in Hungarian) is a set of writings in an unknown writing system." [...] [Note for future readers: a gentleman by the name of Microsoft Office 2007 was leaving identical genial-but-irrelevant comments in a number of threads, including this one.]

I quoted a brief poem by Charles Reznikoff back in 2003; I thought I'd provide a larger sampling, a couple of sections from his 1969 poem "Jews in Babylonia": [...] (Alm/Alpe applies to artificial pastures in the mountains.)

I am absolutely delighted to learn that Geoff Pullum's coinage eggcorn (which I wrote about back in 2004) has made it to the official word-hoard of the English language. [...] "to the manor born"

A couple of minor word issues: [...] The only other source of the sound h would have been Arabic, but most if not all Arabic words borrowed into Spanish were nouns borrowed with the article al attached, and so structurally distinct from the inherited Spanish nouns.

The Russian word белок [belók] means a number of things, including 'egg white' and 'white of the eye' (it's based on the adjective белый [bélyi] 'white'), but the sense that concerns us here is 'albumen; protein.' [...] Now I'm thinking that the verk of grverk might be a folk etymology for vair.

Fred R. Shapiro's regular "You Can Quote Them" feature for the Yale Alumni Magazine is always a pleasure, and this month's column has a spectacularly unexpected explanation for a familiar phrase: [...] Next time I'm searching for the flashlight that used to be right on that shelf over there, I'll give him a call.

Via a John Cowan comment to this post at Stfcrft & Vyākaraṇa, I found this essay, "Don't Proliferate; Transliterate!" by Nick Nicholas, aka opoudjis (of Ἡλληνιστεύκοντος). [...] The /x/ pronunciation is of very early date, yet affected sources are still transliterated with kh, by well-established convention.

I was taught in school, half a century or so ago, that you had to use a possessive with a gerund (or "verbal noun"): I resented his saying that, not I resented him saying that. [...] Extra fun is that the Russian word 'ерунда' 'erund' 'nonsense' is reckoned to be based on some form, perhaps the nom.-voc.-acc. pl. (as a sort of collective), of Latin 'gerundium'.

I'm reading a long story by Andrei Platonov (see my post on his novel Kotlovan); the story is called "Впрок" (Vprok, 'for future use/benefit'), and as far as I know has never been translated into English. [...] "Chutka?" Does this mean that when my Ukrainian grandmother referred to her sister as "chutka" she was calling her a little devil?

Oxford UP has published Jonathon Green's magnum opus: [...] But there will be cheap, not-very-used copies available -- and I do hope you use bookfinder to find the cheapest source, Doctor.

The name of Tokyo until 1868 was Edo (江戸), pronounced /edo/. [...] I distinctly remember the first U.S. commercials for Hyundae saying "It's [ˈhʌndɛi], like Monday!"

August von Haxthausen's Studien ber die innern Zustnde, das Volksleben und insbesondere die lndlichen Einrichtungen Russlands (1847-1852; Google Books), an account of his 1843 journey to Russia from the point of view of agricultural economics, is famous for its impact on the Russian intelligentsia—it jump-started the debate on the origin of the mir (commune), which so obsessed late-nineteenth-century Russia—so when I saw a used copy of an abridged English translation, Studies on the Interior of Russia, for a few dollars, I bought it, despite my suspicion that it would prove too dry for extended reading. [...] The edition I have is pretty heavily abridged, and I'm too lazy to work through the German original to find out what more he had to say.

My pal Ken Robbins wrote to say he was "looking for a word to describe the psychological (semantic?) process whereby a word is drained of its meaning by mere repetition. Everyone (I think) knows the phenomenon. [...] (Oh, all right, then - London, early 1950s)

According to an AP story, the British Library is making more than a quarter of its collection of handwritten Greek texts available online free of charge: [...] I read this title in my reader as "Greek Miss Online" and thought you were just being cheeky, haha.

Lameen Souag, of Jabal al-Lughat, doesn't post often, but when he does it's always worth reading. [...] a diminutive

Jessie Little Doe Fermino Baird, whom I mentioned here five years ago and is the subject of the article linked here, has been working for almost twenty years to revive the Wampanoag (or, more correctly, Wpanak) language, and I am pleased to learn from a Boston Globe story by Laura Collins-Hughes that she has won a MacArthur Fellows "genius grant" of $500,000: [...] I second LH's comment.

Stan Carey has another fine post at Sentence first ("An Irishman's blog about the English language") discussing John Honey's 1989 book Does Accent Matter? The Pygmalion Factor. [...] Cf. Tom Wolfe's entertaining discussion in "The Right Stuff" about how airline pilots all tended to talk with a West Virginia accent, because they were ex-military, and in the military the fighter pilots were the elite, and the fighter pilots emulated and looked up to the test pilots, and the best of the test pilots was Chuck Yeager, who came from a valley so far up in the backwoods that they had to pipe in the daylight.

I wanted to like this book. [...] thanks, I see what you mean.

Anatoly passes on this delightful snatch of conversation overheard in the Moscow radical/intellectual bookstore Falanster (i.e., Phalanstre); the Russian is below the cut: [...] His brother, William, who wrote The Reluctant Debutante, and who had been jailed near the end of the War for acquiring pacifist tendencies about flame throwers and French civilians, wrote an autobiography, Mr. Home Pronounced Hume.

Elif Batuman has an amazing story in last week's New York Times Magazine on the tangled history of Franz Kafka's diaries and other papers. [...] Are there any reviews of the book mentioned in bibliography at the end: How Russia Shaped the Modern World: From Art to Anti-Semitism, Ballet to Bolshevism (Princeton University, 2003)

Via Jamie Olson's The Flaxen Wave I learned about an excellent journal, Cardinal Points; I'll let Jamie introduce it: [...] It would be silly to deny it. Thank you!

John Tagliabue has a New York Times story about the attempt to revive Romansh: [...] Is there a map or list of languages replaced/not replaced by Arabic?

Today's post at wood s lot features, among other fine things, the great Irish writer Flann O'Brien aka Brian O'Nolan aka Myles Na Gopaleen (Myles na gCopaleen), who is still too little appreciated. [...] Yes. Wikipedia says: "The novel's title derives from Snmh d n (Middle Ir.: 'Swim-Two-Birds'), a possibly apocryphal place on the River Shannon, reportedly visited by the legendary King Sweeney, a character in the novel."

I am in awe of Mark Woods, who's been putting out wood s lot for ten years now. [...] Thanks, guys. Alles klar!

As longtime readers know, I read novels to my wife at night, and having just finished Lucky Jim (hilarious, and perfect bedtime reading), we've moved on to Humboldt's Gift. [...] Last night I began reading The Adventures of Augie March to my spouse. Thank you for the inspiration.

Well, it's not new to its speakers, obviously, but it's new to the rest of us. [...] The bare fact of the discovery is of extremely limited interest without the research, which, whether as The Last Speakers, or in the journal Indian Linguistics is now (or soon to be) available. Hence, news.

I'll be spending the day in Amherst, at the Center for Russian Culture, where they're having a symposium to celebrate what would have been Joseph Brodsky's seventieth birthday. [...] And here I'm in the early stages of writing an article about Brodsky and Venclova.

Today Hanoi celebrates its thousandth anniversary, and when I went to Wikipedia to find out what happened in 1010, I discovered an astounding array of historical names: [...] "gangsta"

Martin Worthington of SOAS has put online an archive of recordings of "modern Assyriologists reading ancient Babylonian and Assyrian poetry and literature aloud in the original language." [...] "Luna" is just the personification of "luna", the ordinary Latin word for 'moon'.

This Gossypiboma post is a year old, but I missed it then and you probably did too; it links to "Contrastive Focus Reduplication in English (The Salad-Salad Paper)," by Jila Ghomeshi, Ray Jackendoff, Nicole Rosen, and Kevin Russell, whose abstract reads: [...] (This reanalysis implies that the word did not evolve at the same speed everywhere, so that many people were aware of the original meaning of the word).

I was recently flipping through a New Yorker when I was stopped in my tracks by an ad in Russian for a magazine called Snob, with a teaser in English: "Ask your Russian friends to read it to you." [...] penguin in Serbian is pingvin or пингвин.

Seven and a half years ago I posted about a remarkable literary magazine called Two Lines: "they present everything bilinguallycompletely in the case of poetry, usually only the first page in the original for prose." I'm happy to say they're still around, and the latest issue, Some Kind of Beautiful Signal, which the Center for the Art of Translation kindly sent me, is full of good things. [...] Zapotec, now that's the kind of language you don't see every day.

A couple of years ago I posted about Edward Vajda's discovery of the link between Ket (spoken in Siberia) and the Na-Dene languages of America. [...] How much did Marx/Engels know about Navajo or Hopi culture,

My daughter-in-law very kindly told me about the sale held this week at the Clapp Memorial Library in Belchertown, a dozen or so miles southeast of here. [...] Milovan Djilas.

Victor Mair has a fascinating post at the Log about the Chinese character 和 h ("harmony, peace"). [...] I was hoping to be able to find the actual page and word, but Google Books has "No preview."

Simon Garfield has a nice piece in the Guardian Observer (extracted from his Just My Type: A Book about Fonts) on the history of typefaces and how they're used; it starts with an appalling anecdote about a woman in New Zealand who was fired for sending an e-mail in ALL CAPS. [...] It has been stated that harder the type face to read , more students remember what was written versus an easy readable type face, study versus glance, better retention factor.

The fascinating and appalling Confessions of a Used-Book Salesman, by Michael Savitz, tells what it's like to "spend 80 hours a week trawling junk shops with a laser scanner": [...] You have to admire the skill of the librarian in choosing the exact optimum moment to discard the book and extract that final 50 cents' value.

In this post I described the Brodsky symposium I attended earlier this month, and in a comment I particularly praised the contribution by Mikhail Gronas, an assistant professor in the Department of Russian Language and Literature at Dartmouth. [...] I think this is the link you intended.

Stephen Crowe's Wake In Progress is an ongoing project of illustrating Finnegans Wake. [...] Usually the old song "Whale, kipper, whelk, come in the eel-side."

Alan Shaw sent me a link to this interview by Rebecca Gould with descendants of Titsian Tabidze, the great Georgian poet who fell victim to Stalin's purges when he was only 42. [...] Thanks very much, Christopher!

I don't link to Poemas del ro Wang as often as I probably should, because I figure everyone goes there as regularly as I do. [...] After he returned to Budapest, he composed his fundamental Byzantinoturcica: Sprachreste der Trkvlker in den Byzantinischen Quellen.

The excellent Bathrobe (aka Bademantel and various other variants) has sent me a couple of enjoyable BBC News links on typefaces, which I hereby share with you. [...] To be sure, Romanian is an exception, but that is because Romanian was not written in Latin letters until about 1830, and not universally so until about 1920. In any case, written "h" is a weakened form of /x/, and was written "x" in Cyrillic.

Sashura sent me a link to this NYT obituary by Margalit Fox of Sol Steinmetz, "a lexicographer, author and tenured member of Olbom (n., abbrev., < On Languages Board of Octogenarian Mentors)"; Ms. Fox lards the obit with as many word histories ("his surname is the Yiddish word for stonemason") as she can, and I'm sure its subject would have loved it. [...] Apparently he was bitten by that wonderful bug that makes scholars and poets go to extremes to find the [right] word.

Eve Lonard, of the lovely city of Montral, wrote me to ask about a verb she had just encountered, "to intricate." As she says, the Urban Dictionary defines it as follows: "to bring people on board or to get them onside with an idea or a proposal or an initiative of some type by getting them intricated into the process bit by bit, almost without their noticing that they are making a commitment." They quote this example of usage: "First we'll get the Leagues Board of Governors intricated then we'll get the franchise!" She suggests that it might be a backformation from "extricate," and this seems like it must be correct. [...] There is more to analyse in the uses to which Nunberg at al. put their "indicatorcharacter" distinction, but not right now. And perhaps not here.

Great news, via Dwight Garner at the New York Times: the new editor of the Paris Review, Lorin Stein, has "made the entire run of The Paris Reviews storied interview series, previously almost impossible to find in electronic form, available there, free for the browsing." Just go here and splash around to your heart's content. [...] It usually means no more than lack of a certain kind of training.

There was much talk, a couple of months ago, about a NYT Times Magazine article called "Does Your Language Shape How You Think?" by Guy Deutscher (whose earlier book I discussed here and here). [...] Come on. A little bit.

Jan Freeman is another consistently excellent writer I should link to more often; her column on "could(n't) care less" is so compendious that I will never have to address the issue myself. [...] I wouldn't agree, no.

The basic tool of a copyeditor in the U.S. is Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. [...] The fruits of both the "true" and wild service trees need to be "bletted" (lovely word, derived from the French blet, "sleepy", and introduced into English by the 19th century botanist John Lindley), or allowed to over-ripen, like medlars, before they are properly edible.

A reader in an e-mail wonders "whether any of those translator pens really work": [...] "The couple were divorced last year".

Kt Sheng has a post at Poemas del ro Wang that discusses the propensity of some Renaissance writers to proclaim the stylistic similarity of their own languages to Hebrew (which of course was considered the original language of the Garden of Eden), ending as follows: [...] In turn, the new preposition became prefixed to the complex pronoun, the "suffix" deriving from the original -cum having lost its identify.

I wanted to bring jamessal's mom a house gift when I arrived for the wedding, and I knew she loved Mandelstam, so I asked which poem she'd like me to translate for her. [...] What was it about these early 20th century poets?

Venetia Ansell (who "read Classics and Sanskrit at Oxford and is currently working in Bangalore, India") has a blog, Sanskrit Literature ("Bringing Sanskrit literature to a wider global audience"), that aims to "revisit Sanskrit classics through novel media and interpretations," to "reinvigorate an interest in and love for Sanskrit and its authors," and to "serve as a hub where like-minded people can share ideas." The About page says:Sanskrit has a tradition of literature richer and more diverse than anything produced by its sister languages in Greece and Rome. [...] It isn't even clear whether it's the whole act or maybe just the insomnia speech.

This Typefoundry post on the history and current state of the number that appears on the door of 10 Downing Street is pretty far afield from the usual concerns of Languagehat, but I happen to know that I have among my commentariat architects and other persons with an interest in this sort of thing, and besides, it's a fascinating (and infuriating) piece, so here it is. [...] That is why Unicode has entirely different representations for the Arabic and "Arabic-Indic" digit sets, even though only a few of them actually look different; they have quite different bidirectionality properties.

Anatoly Vorobei writes: Many years ago, my mind was blown by reading Otto Jespersen's Modern English Grammar On Historical Principles. I read/skimmed mainly Part I: Phonetics, where Jespersen slowly, fascinatingly and painstakingly goes over the phonetical changes that occurred in English [...], including the Great Vowel Shift as well as changes that came after it. [...] There is a lot more to the history of English than the Great Vowel Shift, although that is a "defining moment" (spread over a few centuries).

From Dalkey Archive Press, Translation in Practice: A Symposium, edited by Gill Paul: [...] Love the Dalkey Archive; they're definitely one of the good guys.

A question from dearieme in this thread sent me to the OED's new draft revision (Sept. 2010) of the etymology of posh, a perennial favorite of folk etymologists (no, it's not from "port outward, starboard home," and I'm surprised the OED dignifies that old wheeze with an entire paragraph): Origin unknown. [...] Words by the less informed or educated GNU and not members of the literary set were usually totaly ignored, unless picked up by society but with common folk speaking in flickers and on the goggle box and other mass communicating devices have made slang have come into the main stream of the upper percentile of literature.

From The Observer, Tom Lubbock: a memoir of living with a brain tumour: [...] It hadn't been a nice, neat learning experience after all.

I just finished reading an excellent collection of essays, The Peasant in Nineteenth-Century Russia (edited by Wayne Vucinich and based on papers from a conference held in December 1966); the amazingly detailed entry by Mary Matossian on the peasant's way of life introduced me to plenty of new vocabulary, and Donald Fanger's "The Peasant in Literature" made sense of the development of literary representations of peasants (as well as emphasizing that they are only that, and cannot be taken as reflecting the actual lives of peasants). [...] There's probably some Greek name for the figure of speech. Thanks, G.

I continue to love serendipity. [...] Sad. Thanks for the clarification!

Oxford University Press has been sending me review copies of its language-related books, and they're starting to pile up, and the gift-giving season is approaching, so I figured it was a good time to start letting y'all know about them. [...] Thanks, everybody.

Back in 1994 I photocopied a couple of pages from John B. Bremner's Words on Words to have a copy of the entry BUCKLEYISM, which begins: [...] But when he dictionary dives, he does so with an unpopped ear: the legalize of "commorant" strikes me soundly not only as a nod to the sacred bonds of alimony but also a beak flick to the predatory seabird.

If you're in London, or plan to be there in the next few months, you might want to visit the Evolving English exhibition at the British Library: "In this ground-breaking exhibition, the roots of Old English, slang dictionaries, medieval manuscripts, advertisements and newspapers from around the world come together - alongside everyday texts and dialect sound recordings. Follow the social, cultural and historical influences on the English language... and see how its still evolving today." [...] Worth checking out if you're in London, though it appears to be sold out.

Julian Barnes has a wonderful review of Lydia Davis's new translation of Madame Bovary in the LRB (hat-tip to Kri for the link). [...] They act as though they believe that although a source text may have multiple translations into a target language, it has only one "best" translation, and they have arrived at the formula to determine this "best" translation in all cases, rendering all other approaches to translation irrelevant.

Following up this post: [...] A household with cats but no dogs is called "all meow and no schnauzers".

Voice Recognition Elevator is a hilarious three-and-a-half minutes of YouTube (from Burnistoun, a BBC show set in a fictional Scottish town). [...] A good point. I'll play them the Liszt when they come inside for Goats' Christmas.

You'd think I'd be familiar with the etymologies of the basic English vocabulary words, but I keep running into surprises. [...] Look at all the plagiarism in his autobiography, some of which describes his fictitious experience of events he didn't see.

I am delighted to discover, via that unfailing source of goodness wood s lot, a blog called Idiotic Hat (run by Mike, a university librarian in Southampton, U.K.), and via this IdioHat post to learn that... well, I'll let Mike tell it: [...] That makes sense. Sexual activity is rather exhausting, so it should be avoided when energy must be conserved.

I've been rolling my eyes over the nonsense that's been making the rounds lately about Jane Austen and her alleged editor (example: "How Jane Austen failed at spelling: Study shows author wrote in a 'regional accent' and used poor punctuation") but have been too lazy to write about it; fortunately, Language Log and Fresh Air stalwart Geoff Nunberg has saved me the trouble. [...] Commonplace human nature cannot rise above that.

One of the things (besides poetic genius) that has always made Pushkin stand out from the Russian literary crowd is his African ancestry; his mother's grandfather Abram Gannibal was taken as a boy from somewhere in Africa to the court of the Ottoman Sultan as a hostage, from whence he was ransomed by the deputy of the Russian ambassador, baptized in Vilna (now Vilnius), sent to Paris for an education (while there he fought with the French army, rose to the rank of captain, and adopted his surname in honor of Hannibal), and brought to Russia, where he became prominent at Elizabeth's court and retired in 1762 a major-general and a rich man. [...] Perhaps, but the future Gannibal was a hostage, not a slave.

Mark Liberman at the Log writes about a Kyiv Post article by Paul Goble that begins: "A statement by a Kazakhstan minister that his country will eventually shift from a Cyrillic-based alphabet to a Latin-based script and reports that some scholars in Dushanbe are considering dropping another four Russian letters from the Tajik alphabet suggest that a new battle of the alphabets may again be shaping up in Central Asia." [...] Thanks for the information on .no and .se.

An opinion piece by Jane Gardam in today's NY Times is pretty badly written, in my view (one paragraph begins "A single glove. The glove of a king. A 14th-century king. Chaucers king"), but that (sadly) is not particularly surprising. [...] Man goes into cage. Cage goes into salsa. Shark's in the salsa. Our shark.

I just discovered that this Edward Lear limerick: [...] I also dropped an allusion to you over at Another Place.

Uto-Aztecan, "A website for Uto-Aztecan Studies," is a welcome new addition to the internet, and just the sort of thing that the internet is ideal for. [...] He Of The Chinesian Cityworld of Aojou Nanbien: Sidney J. Baker wrote a book in homage to Mencken called The Australian Language; alas, I have not read it.

I'm tearing through last week's New Yorker (trying to get as much of it read as I can before this week's descends upon me), and I just finished Lauren Collins's "Burger Queen: April Bloomfields gastropub revolution." Well, I say "finished," but in fact I skimmed the last couple of pages impatiently; there's some interesting stuff in there (I had no idea carrots were purple until the Dutch discovered how to make them orange in the seventeenth century—until then, people didn't like to cook with them because they turned everything they were cooked with purple), but it's basically an overlong puff piece full of chummy references to celebrities and annoying statements like "What Friedman really wants is a tongue-in-cheek red-sauce Italian place." [...] Yes, congrats, David! Science does not suck.

Back in April, Douglas Mangum at Biblia Hebraica et Graeca had a tantalizing post briefly discussing The Invention of Hebrew, by Seth L. Sanders (2009), which Mangum calls the book that "best deals with the question of how, why, and when the Israelites started writing Hebrew and how that impacts our theories of biblical composition." [...] Some of these systems are described in the book Les fous du langage (translated as Lunatic lovers of language), by the French-Russian linguist Marina Yaguello, and in a few other works on the same topic.

From the oldest Hebrew to the newest: the Forward had Judith Shulevitz, "a cultural critic and magazine editor who helped to start both Slate and Lingua Franca," guest-edit a special section on Parsing Israeli Slang. [...] (I meant to add it as an afterthought, but moved it when I added 'apparently' to the last sentence. Another bad editing choice.)

I wrote briefly about Mikhail Gronas in my account of the Brodsky symposium last month, and at greater length in this post about his article "Why Did Free Verse Catch on in the West, but not in Russia?" [...] I got my Ong! (What kind of name is that, anyway?)

The Economist's "Johnson" language blog has an interview with linguist K. David Harrison (see this LH post from last year), in which he has interesting things to say about languages and their preservation; here's one snippet: [...] I am interested (from a distance) in the Chukotka languages (Chukchi, Koryak, etc).

I just ran across a reference to the historian Robert Muchembled, and of course wondered about the origin of that odd family name, which didn't look especially French. [...] And for the "muchosa", Picard bagpipes, there's a Youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4S1cQ5aYqk

I was shocked to learn from the NY Times obituary (by William Grimes) that Bella Akhmadulina died yesterday at what now seems to me (as I approach 60) the absurdly early age of 73. [...] That's the way I understood it. I agree with your evaluation.

In the longest LH thread ever, AJP asked about the meaning of "literals" in "However, there are a number of literals in here, which is a shame. What has become of editing within publishing houses?" [...] More familiar, but I'll file that too.

C. Max Magee of The Millions has an annual tradition of asking people to talk about books they've read and enjoyed during the previous year, and he has once again begun the series with my contribution; here it is, featuring my wise words on Marshall Berman, Andrey Platonov, and Vladislav Zubok, all of whom will be familiar to regular readers of LH. [...] And I should be writing my "What I read in 2010" post soon for READIN.

The Theoretical Linguistics program at Etvs Lornd University in Budapest celebrated its twentieth anniversary with this delightful video. [...] Then the computational linguist will lie down with the philologist.

I recently finished the copy of John L. Locke's recent Eavesdropping: An Intimate History that the publisher was good enough to send me, and I feel that it has given me a new keyhole through which to peep at the world. [...] There are other instances of the -ea-/-au- correspondence, such as leap (and leave) related to G laufen 'to run', and cheap to G kaufen 'to buy' (Cheapside was the merchant district).

Let's go for a walk at sunset. [...] This is like the Marshal McLuhan scene in Annie Hall.

I have on more than one occasion had harsh things to say about the translating team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (e.g., here), but I recommend the half-hour Lapham's Quarterly podcast available at this page (it's currently at the top of the left column: "December 1, 2010 Pevear and Volokhonsky Podcast: Episode #6"). [...] It's not a very "good" pentameter, but the "filling out" produces a characteristic (Beckettian rather than Baudelarian) irony: You wanted it, well here it is.

Don't miss Matt's post at No-sword today on "the first Oriental branch of the Baker Street Irregulars, The Baritsu Chapter," and how the name comes from a mysterious Conan Doyle reference to "baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling," which turns out to be a mangled allusion to a long-forgotten martial art called bartitsu, invented in 1898 by Edward William Barton-Wright, a British engineer who had spent the previous three years living in Japan. [...] baruchitsu is how you transliterate in romaji (Latin script) the kana transliteration of the original English Bartitsu into Japanese.

I've posted about Jesse Sheidlower, Ben Zimmer, and Erin McKean before (and have links to projects by all three in the sidebar), but I didn't realize they were all graduates of the University of Chicago, which has a nice online piece by Debra Kamin about them: [...] I wish I had invented that, or at least taught my fingers to do it when I was young.

Words without Borders has an interesting interview with Roberto Bui, aka Wu Ming 1, a member of the Wu Ming writing collective, on translating Stephen King into Italian. [...] I don't think he expected his readers to sit in the library with dictionaries.

I have been asked about the history of the construction "X much?" as a rhetorical response (e.g., "Bitter much? Overanalzye much? Ad hominem much?"). [...] [Spam URL deleted but comment left for amusement value —LH.]

A Financial Times story by Christian Oliver and Kang Buseong describes the problems of linguistic integration in Korea: [...] I wasn't really suggesting 客体 Object(ive) as a term of (North) Korean opprobrium in contrast to 主体 Juche, but rather 事大主義 Sadaejuui 'flunkyism (servility)', a term of abuse widely employed by Korean nationalists for much of the 20th century.

Erin McKean recently pointed out a wonderful entry in her Wordnik site: queez-madam, listed only in the Century Dictionary and defined as "The cuisse-madam, a French jargonelle pear." [...] John, the no purple rhinoceroses,did they wear bowties?

Nicholas Ostler is one of LH's favorite authors of language books; I enthused about his Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World in this post and about his Ad Infinitum in this one. [...] And they probably don't treat prisoners from Queensland very well in Victoria.

Researchers at the World Oral Literature Project have compiled a database of language endangerment, described in a Cambridge press release: [...] But this database might lead you to think there was nothing out there.

This is not a food blog, but how can I resist Rishidev Chaudhuri's post "Some notes on the grammar of the curry" at 3 Quarks Daily when it includes rhetoric like this? [...] I think they're a wonderful breed.

No, that's not a typo, it's a convention: [...] Not a new file card, but a little yellow Postit sticker with an "!" on it.

The internet helps fulfill a medieval will at HARAMBAM: [...] Where would we be without Al Globe?

Mark Liberman's latest Log post sent me back to my 2008 post about the vexed issue of why Southern Californians use the definite article when referring to freeways (e.g., "the 405"), and the remark there that U.S. 101 used to be known as Ventura Boulevard made me wonder about the name Ventura—I've driven through there a million times and never thought to ask why it was called that (ventura is Spanish for 'fortune, chance, happiness'). [...] But in Rancho Mission Viejo, Viejo 'old' can be interpreted as referring to the masculine noun Rancho."

An n-gram is "a subsequence of n items from a given sequence." Google has come up with what it calls an Ngram Viewer that allows you to compare the frequencies of words in printed books over any span of time since the invention of printing. [...] Most of the time there are too many variables.

I'm about halfway through Sheila Fitzpatrick's Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s, a must-read for anyone interested in what life was like for Russians during the thirties, with informative asides on everything from party secrecy (a Communist who violated the secrecy rules in a speech to a factory meeting could be accused of "betraying the party to the working class") to the campaign for kulturnost' (a Krokodil cartoon was captioned "How cultured Ivan Stepanovich has become! Now when he curses people out he uses only the polite form [vy]"). [...] While, I think, stylistically Helen Dunmore is stronger than Slovo, psychologically characters in Ice Road are treated deeper than in The Siege.

A longish Observer story by Tim Adams about Google Translate has some interesting discussion and quotes, but in my current befuddled state (brought about by excessive copyediting), what I most enjoyed was this (probably apocryphal) anecdote: [...] As a child I learned Hebrew at school, but only after a decade of living in Israel was I able to say that I was highly fluent in the language.

In this thread, Sili kindly shared this BBC Radio 3 link which has (six minutes in, after the end of a new oboe concerto by Marc-Andr Dalbavie) a twenty-minute talk by translator Robert Chandler on the life and work of Platonov (see this post and this post for background). [...] I really appreciate learning about Platonov (and the Chandlers' translation work). Thanks for mentioning him.

A Wordorigins post quoted the online OED's etymology of monkey-business:[n. + BUSINESS n., probably after Bengali bā̃drāmi. Compare modern Sanskrit vānara-karman (vānara monkey + karman action, work, employment), Hindi vānara-karma.] [...] If I survive the intense research that I have launched, Ill let you know.

I was looking up something else in Brewer's ("devil's delight," which is how one of my dictionaries quaintly translates Russian столпотворение—it wasn't there, oddly, but Farmer and Henley have it: "Devil's-Delight. To kick up the devil's delight, verbal phr. (common).  To make a disturbance") and ran across the phrase "the devil to pay and no pitch hot," defined as "There will be serious trouble arising from this," with the explanation: "The 'devil' was the seam between the outboard plank and the waterways of a ship and very awkward of access. It also needed more pitch when caulking and paying, hence 'the devil'." [...] Thanks for explaining, John!

Enrico Brignano is a comedian from Rome whose ten-minute Dialetti italiani is a tour de force of mimicry. [...] Licia currently has a post up about l'itanglese

Mark Liberman has a post at the Log about the U.K. term jobsworth (OED: "Brit. colloq. (depreciative). A person in authority (esp. a minor official) who insists on adhering to rules and regulations or bureaucratic procedures even at the expense of common sense"), which was as new to him as it is to me; it comes from the U.K. expression "it's more than me job's worth", meaning "I'd lose my job if I let you do that." [...] Given its demographic's history of somewhat increased bureaucratic attention, I feel that Yiddish must have a veritable wealth of nouns for your uberzwerg and your jobsworth; I lament that I cannot think of a single one right now.

I'll be opening most of my presents tomorrow, but I already have a couple of LH interest: Viktor Shklovsky's Theory of Prose and Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia, edited by Jeff Parker. [...] Got it, so not that they wouldn't have before by convention or on principle, but now they kind of had to, consistent with expectations in other modern languages.

A quick rundown of the LH-related presents unwrapped today: [...] Sorry -- I'll try that link again: volume 33, p. 115

Phil Gyford (who runs the indispensable Pepys' Diary site, one of the few I visit every day no matter how busy I am) has a lament for what's happening to the printed book. [...] To be honest, I was quite surprised by the high quality of books from Germany when I started buying them through Amazon the other year - it seems almost standard for a hardback to come with a ribbon to mark your place - do they just value quality more there or is it the famed book-price laws keeping publishers who do care in business?

It's very hard to translate Joseph Brodsky into English. [...] ʤizesus?

I just learned that Denis Dutton has died at only 66. [...] The quality of its diverse selections was consistently high, and it introduced me to many writers, websites and ideas I might otherwise not have encountered.

Over eight years ago, in the very earliest days of LH, I posted a bitter complaint about the habits of the translator of the novel Ali and Nino: "She kept all the Arabic, Persian, Turkic, and Russian terms from the novel in their German guises (the book was written in German), which produces an effect in English that is at best barbarous and at worst incomprehensible." A year later I had a similar complaint about a translation from Hungarian. [...] The other half of the class went for Khrushchev, which made rather more sense.

Joel of Far Outliers has been reading American Missionaries, Christian Oyatoi, and Japan 185973, by Hamish Ion, and as usual he shares with the rest of us particularly appetizing snippets; I was particularly interested in Legacies of Hepburns First Dictionary of Japanese, 1867: [...] Croon: In an earlier stage still preserved in some families, it's pronounced "Freestonhugh".

3 comments:

Anton Sherwood said...

This post was a golden opportunity to use the "more" feature.

Bob Corrick said...

John, I would be interested in your take on this: http://econ.st/HLDcxf
- Bob.

workboy53 said...


Systematic observations were made at beaches, parks and outdoor public swimming pools in Honolulu, Hawaii on sunny days between November 2005 and June 2007.


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