Archive for the ‘language’ tag

#  Before Hitler, Who Was Everyone’s Go-To Embodiment of Evil? →

August 10th, 2015 at 14:26 // In Worth Knowing 

The more you know:

Before World War II, who was the rhetorical worst person in history?

The Pharoah. In the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, many Americans and Europeans had a firmer grasp of the bible than of the history of genocidal dictators.

(via kottke)

#  Why America Calls it Soccer →

June 23rd, 2014 at 10:02 // In Worth Knowing 

The FIFA World Cup’s going on now, and I learned something I didn’t know as a result:

“From this point onwards the two versions of football were distinguished by reference to their longer titles, Rugby Football and Association Football (named after the Football Association),” Szymanski writes. “The rugby football game was shortened to ‘rugger,’” while “the association football game was, plausibly, shortened to ‘soccer.’”

Both sports fragmented yet again as they spread around the world. The colloquialism “soccer” caught on in the United States in the first decade of the twentieth century, in part to distinguish the game from American football, a hybrid of Association Football and Rugby Football. (Countries that tend to use the word “soccer” nowadays—Australia, for example—usually have another sport called “football.”)

#  English’s Coming Indian Decline? →

June 19th, 2014 at 14:03 // In Worth Considering 

I’d not realized it, but Samanth Subramanian points out that the latest presidential election — which brought Narendra Modi to power — there may mark the decline of English being the most important and prominent language in India:

Most recently, though, India’s major newspapers have been expanding in a different direction. In 2012, Bennett Coleman, the publisher of The Times of India, the world’s largest English daily, started a Bengali newspaper and poured fresh resources into its older Hindi and Marathi papers. Last October, the publisher of The Hindu, a 135-year-old English paper, launched a Tamil edition. Another leading English daily, The Hindustan Times, has enlarged the staff and budgets of its Hindi sibling Hindustan. And this past winter, a few months before the election, The Times of India launched NavGujarat Samay, a Gujarati paper for Modi’s home turf.

#  Ten Best Sentences →

June 13th, 2014 at 15:00 // In Worth Distraction 

Selected by The American Scholar, Roy Peter Clark explains why these sentences are so great. An interesting perspective, the list. Here’s their first, from The Great Gatsby:

Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

(via Kottke)

#  The Origins of Business Lingo →

June 2nd, 2014 at 16:04 // In Worth Distraction 

This little essay about the word’s every worker in a corporate business environment loves to hate is a bit breezy and probably simplified, but it’s a pleasant tour of some of the terms people use so much they loath:

For example, consultants are responsible for a lot of the veiled language used by today’s HR departments. “The consulting industry came up with a whole slew of euphemisms for firing people that has become universal,” said Matthew Stewart, the author of The Management Myth. “There’s a whole body of kind of Orwellian speak about developing human capital and managing people and all that.” Streamline, restructure, let go, create operational efficiencies: All of these are roundabout ways of saying that people are about to lose their jobs.

(via disassociated)

#  Where Mathematics Symbols Came From →

May 27th, 2014 at 14:59 // In Worth Knowing 

I’d never really thought about it, but this is a nice little tour of some of the history of mathematic symbols.

Even our wonderful symbol for equality – you know, those two parallel lines – was not used in print before 1575, when the Welsh mathematician and physician Robert Recorde wrote an algebra book that he called the Whetstone of Witte. (We can only guess that the title is a pun on sharpening mathematical wit.) In it he wrote “is equal to” almost two hundred times for the first two hundred pages before finally declaring that he could easily “avoid the tedious repetition” of those three words by designing the symbol “=====” to represent them.

#  The Grammar of Clickbait →

May 9th, 2014 at 14:21 // In Worth Reading 

I linked a little essay about Upworthy-style headlines in January, but I like the grammatical analysis of this one a lot. Enough to merit revisiting the topic:

The second sentence is intentionally vague: click here to finish the thought, answer the question, solve the riddle! And, like most unfinished stories, the conclusion is rarely satisfying. But as someone who rarely clicks on Upworthy links, I have come to appreciate the beauty of these teases. Read the above titles again, but without registering the hyperlink: now they read like Buddhist koans. You want to know how you might be a war mercenary, but can you know, really? Bask in the not-knowing. 

(via Merlin Mann)

#  What is a photocopier? →

May 8th, 2014 at 12:01 // In Worth Distraction 

A fun little depiction of the insanity that can occur in America’s legal system. Because of a policy change in how an Ohio county recorder’s office made records available to the public — they were going to change $2 per photocopied page rather letting bulk requests be distributed digitally — a case came about in which the best tactic was to refuse to answer a seemly simple question about a the term “photocopy machine” — the New York Times has a new series in which they have dramatized the whole exchange.

#  So, →

May 6th, 2014 at 14:00 // In Worth Reading 

Threre’s a lot encoded in Merlin Mann’s Tumblr post about the verbal tick “So,” but I don’t think I should unpack it too much. I point to it because this observation is so apt:

In a nut, Karl Van Hœt [a super-charged-pedant character Mann plays regularly], like so many others, knows that “So” is the most efficient way to say what you want to say in a way that brilliantly turbos you one or more levels above the actual context of the actual conversation.

Essentially, “So…” is the universal shorthand for, “I’ve given this a lot more thought than you have and will now proceed to refocus the conversation in a way that interests me and highlights my personal file card on this particular topic.”

#  The Largest Vocabulary in Hip Hop →

May 5th, 2014 at 15:00 // In Worth Seeing 

I love a good chart, and this one is interesting to look at whether or not you’re into hip hop.


Click through for the creator’s thoughts on the analysis. And I do think it’s worth considering the vagaries of such an analysis, as Jesse Thorn says:

Please stop sending me the rap vocabulary chart, I think it’s inane, patronizing, gee-whiz nonsense.