A palindrome sentence that is… 17,826 words long

Monday, 7 April, 2014

I’m hoping this article isn’t an April the first remnant, but if it isn’t, then US computer scientist Peter Norvig has succeeded in creating a palindrome sentence that is 17,826 words long. Norvig is the Director of Research at Google, so I’d say this can be taken at face value.

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The secret life, and work, of a dictionary’s lexicographer

Friday, 4 April, 2014

Working as a lexicographer might seem like the ideal role for a wordsmith, or writer. Make no mistake, it’s not an easy task, but the work has an aspect to it that I hadn’t quite anticipated

Most of the time, the definition is pretty easy to deduce from the context, but sometimes it’s not. The hardest words to define are the smallest: “but,” “as,” “be,” “go,” “run” – words like that. You can spend months on one of those words, and you get so deep into in that you begin to look a little Uncanny Valleyish by the end of it: real people encounter you, and while you can have a conversation, they are put off by your empty, dead eyes which only stare inward at the diminishing point that was once your humanity.

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Sometimes the best way to be understood is to use a loan-word

Friday, 14 March, 2014

The English language is full of loan-words, words that have been taken, borrowed that is, from another language, and incorporated – as is, sans translation – into the vernacular. Still, between our own words, and those of other languages, there are still instances, I’m sure, where we can’t quite find the right term to apply to a particular situation.

With words such as “tartle” being a Scottish phrase for situations where one has momentarily forgotten the name a person they are introducing to someone else, or “jayus”, an Indonesian word that describes a joke so bad it is actually funny, this list of words that we should use more often, may then be what you need.

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The beauty of a language is in the ears of the heholder

Thursday, 13 March, 2014

While French is always a language I enjoy listening to – it may then explain my penchant for French made films – I wouldn’t go so far to describe other languages, that I don’t speak, as harsh, or even obnoxious. It seems though some people take exception to certain languages simply because they don’t like the way they sound

Languages have been described as sounding “decent,” “terrible,” “whiny,” “obnoxious,” and even “like a headache.” They are praised as “efficient,” “advanced” and “modern,” or “sweet” and “poetic,” or accused of having “too much vowels” or just sounding “strange” – whatever that means. One critic even condemned a language as “annoying,” which sounds like a forthright statement, if a bit judgmental.

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Retronyms: new names for old things that had to be renamed

Tuesday, 4 March, 2014

Non-electric guitars once used to be known simply as guitars*. It was only after electric guitars came along, did people start referring to them as “acoustic guitars”. That is an example of a retronym, a new word, or term, that gives a new name to the original version of an object, device, product, service, whatever.

Landline telephone instead of telephone, is another example, and plenty more retronyms are listed here.

*Anyone care to myth-bust that claim/assertion?

(Thanks Sarah)

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The origin of the world’s favourite expletive starting with f

Wednesday, 19 February, 2014

A friend’s young son recently found himself in hot water for using the word in question, in a Disney operated discussion forum no less, so I shall refrain from actually making mention of it here and now. Still, if language and history are your things, you can read more about the origins of said word here:

Another theory for its late arrival is that it’s a borrowing from Norse (the Vikings) via Scottish because several early instances are found in Scottish writing (such as the fifteenth-century one discounted in that other article). However, this is generally believed to be unlikely, in part because the Scottish weren’t considered influential enough for English to borrow words from them. Perhaps there were more early written examples in Scottish simply because they were less prudish about writing it.

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Neologisms from the year you were newly born

Wednesday, 8 January, 2014

Did the words/terms gazillion, air guitar, or nu skool, come into being the year you were born? Find out with the OED birthday word generator, compiled by Oxford Dictionaries Online.

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Catching up with the slang used by US military forces

Friday, 13 December, 2013

A comprehensive guide to the latter day slang used by US soldiers. It may interest you to know, for instance, that helicopters are referred to as “birds”, not “choppers”, while you’ll never guess what “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” stands for…

Slang changes with the times, and the military is no different. Soldiers fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have developed an expansive new military vocabulary, taking elements from popular culture as well as the doublespeak of the military industrial complex.

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There have always been tight pants, always slang terms for them

Tuesday, 10 December, 2013

Those residing during Victorian times appeared to enjoy their slang as much as anyone else, in fact, the era was awash with an array of jargon and colloquialisms. And tight pants it seems, that were obviously common enough to be accorded an idiom of their own, “gas pipes”.

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The lack of a full stop is now an emoticon, but not a good emoticon

Thursday, 5 December, 2013

The presence of full stops in text messages and online discussions tends to suggest the author is perhaps not in the best frame of mind… in a passive-aggressive sort of way, I’d say.

The period was always the humblest of punctuation marks. Recently, however, it’s started getting angry. I’ve noticed it in my text messages and online chats, where people use the period not simply to conclude a sentence, but to announce “I am not happy about the sentence I just concluded.”

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