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Stylized characters

Dean Barrett sent in these two photographs of signs from, respectively, the Taiwan Literary Museum and a sex shop in Tainan that is well known for its wide selection of condoms: When the Chinese writing system originated more than three millennia ago, back at the stage of oracle bone inscriptions, the characters were much more […]

A common mistake

Michael Rank sent in this notice banning the picking of mushrooms at Chobham Common, Surrey, said to be the largest nature reserve in the southeast of England: The English notice is translated into Polish, Chinese, Italian, and French.  I suppose their choice of languages was directed at speakers of those languages whom they thought were […]


A rather disturbing (at least to me) article in the South China Morning Post (7/24/16), "How China’s quest to become a football powerhouse is revamping the beautiful game:  China has emerged as deep-pocketed investor in what amounts to a global power grab for influence in football", is preceded by this photograph: You can find photographs […]

To be ambiguous

Robert Ayers writes: Headline: "Bill's role: To be determined". With a photo of  Bill Clinton looking … determined. I wonder if I'm the only one who read the headline wrong the first time.

Tom Wolfe takes on linguistics

Or maybe I should say, Tom Wolfe's take on linguistics. I've been an avid reader of Tom Wolfe's works since the 60s:  The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, The Right Stuff, The Painted Word, Bonfire of the Vanities).  What I like most about his […]

Thow Meseld Faced Hore.

Jonathan Healey’s recent post at The Social Historian (“Adventures in the world of social, economic, and local history”) is well worth reading for its analysis of sixteenth-century thought (“All this, of course, speaks to one of the biggest fears of the age: the fear of disorder”), but the title will give an idea of why […]

Scotty: Sexist or just Scottish?

Wells Hansen writes: I recently heard some grumbling at the local pub over the new Star Trek's "Scotty" referring to Lt Uhuru as "lass" or "lassy". Have the writers of the most recent iteration of the ST franchise created a sexist or dismissive Scotty  …or just a Scottish one? I haven't seen the movie, and am […]

Sinitic languages in Singapore

From Coby Lubliner: I have lately been watching an Australian TV series, "Serangoon Road," taking place in Singapore in the 1960s. The dialogue is mostly in English, but when it isn't it's in Mandarin, both among the Chinese and between them and the main character, an Australian who speaks it. I have so far heard […]

For the moment, I rule the Pokémon gym at the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

For the moment, I rule the Pokémon gym at the Space Shuttle Endeavour. For the moment, I rule the Pokémon gym at the Space Shuttle Endeavour. — Grant Barrett (@GrantBarrett) July 23, 2016

The Egalitarian Appreciation of Strine in Microcosm

[This is a guest post by Matthew Robertson] The 'Today' Interview With Oporto Robbery Heroes In the United States, regional accents often carry with them negative stereotypes about class, status, intelligence, and more, making Southern versus Northern accents markers of division. In Australia, it's largely the opposite. Regional vernacular and a broad accent (known as […]

New Phonetic Character.

As an inveterate lover of all things bereft of past, future, and use, I was thrilled to discover the “New Phonetic Character for writing Shanghai dialect” invented by Protestant missionaries in the 1850s; a few books were published in it, heroically catalogued by David Helliwell in this 2012 Serica post, and it was then consigned […]

Indistinguishable misnegation

David Frum, "Donald Trump's Bad Bet on Anger", The Atlantic 7/21/2016 [emphasis added]: Donald Trump’s supporters yearn for the country as it was and fear the country as it is. Tonight’s powerfully dystopian Trump nomination acceptance address will touch them at their deepest emotional core. It will ignite a passionate spasm of assent from those […]

Putting on the Dog

Danielle Arens asked about the phrase, “putting on the dog.” It means to dress fashionably and somewhat formally in order to impress your audience. There is no unanimous opinion as to its origin. One patently ridiculous explanation (although...Show More Summary

Marrin Gamu.

Another promising initiative to help preserve languages, One Children’s Song, Translated Into Australia’s Many Local Languages: Languages and cultures may differ, but the joyful sound of children singing is universal. A song called “Marrin...Show More Summary

Writing Shanghainese, part 2

No one in this Douban thread (so far) can identify the script in the image below: At first, I was going to post this as "Unknown script", with these thoughts: I'm inclined to think that it's not a hoax.  Too many regular recurrences. Looks like a phonetic script.  And it's gotta be East Asian because of […]

On beyond Preserved Killick

Back in 2003, I wrote about "Linking 'which' in Patrick O'Brian"; now Colin Morris has an interesting blog post about recent extensions, "Conjunctive 'which' — a discourse marker on the rise?", 7/22/2016.  

Brexit Blends Caught Fire. Why Haven't Pokémon Portmanteaus? 

Pokémon Go, Nintendo’s new augmented reality game for smartphones, seems primed for wordplay. Equal parts beloved and bemoaned, the overnight hit is smashing records, grabbing headlines, and even causing deaths. If you’re not playing Pokémon Go right now, you’re talking about Pokémon Go. Show More Summary

G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time)

Q: I can’t find to whom the appellation “G.O.A.T.” (Greatest Of All Time) was first applied: Michael Jordon, Muhammad Ali, etc. I’d like to learn it was Vin Scully, whose retirement this year after his last broadcast, in late September, will be a BIG deal. Can you figure it out? A: The word “goat” has... ? Read More: G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time)

10 Simple Games and Exercises to Practise Your Vietnamese Skills

In the summer of 2015, a Vietnamese production company asked me if I would be the main character on a new TV show. My own TV show? This was a dream come true! The show’s name is “Funny English Class”, or “L?p Ti?ng Anh Vui V?". It’s show aimed at children ages 4-8. Show More Summary

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