Nathanael Green's Blog

An advertising copywriter, novelist, and freelance writer's brain goo.

Archive for the ‘Language History’ Category

Can Your Hands Speak 40 Languages?

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I’m always reading and doing research for any number of projects, and occasionally something sticks with me that just continues to be fascinating.

This post is about one of those fascinating things … but prepare yourself.
The more you think about this one, the more interesting it gets.

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I Listen to Podcasts. Wanna Know 6 of ’Em?

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We’re all friends here, so you can admit it:

You’ve always wondered what I’m listening to while I’m folding laundry.

Keep reading for 6 of my favorite podcasts…

Epic Rap Battles of Linguistics!

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Bet you thought you’d never see that title. Still, there it is in black and white.

You’re welcome.

So, all you avowed word-nerds will certainly love this. But have you ever studied English as a foreign language? Maybe you’re an anglophile (mmm … scones). Or maybe you just have a hankerin’ for a rap battle, ANY rap battle.

Then you’ll dig this video.

As a part of their “What’s Your English” theme at the Macmillan Dictionary website, they apparently:

… asked Baba Brinkman (a Canuck) and Professor Elemental (a Brit) to produce a satirical rap-battle on the theme of stereotyped Canadian English versus stereotyped British English. The result was this ‘What’s your English?‘ video …

There you have it.

Also, I have to admit I stole my blog title from one of the best things on YouTube. It’s this guy, Nice Peter, who does videos called Epic Rap Battles of History. They’re probably not safe for work or children … and that’s exactly why they’re awesome-possum.

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May 19, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Controlling Your Tongue

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Just one of many

If you’ve ever taken college English, you know something about styles of writing. And you know there are different ones with different rules.

MLA, Chicago, AP … and those are just a few established style guides in the US. Then you’ve got spelling differences between American English and British English (color and colour).

But what if there were a central agency to regulate English spelling, usage and grammar? Other languages have them.

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May 24, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Languages Deader (Or Dyinger) Than Latin

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Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great: Proud to know his language lived on ... sort of.

Latin’s not a dead language … not really. It never completely disappeared, but morphed into a bunch of other languages like Italian and Romanian. Like Anglo-Saxon getting sculpted over the centuries to give us English. And the process is easy to see – think about Shakespeare’s English and you can see how much change can occur in a measly five hundred years.

But there are a lot of languages deader than Latin. (“Deader?” Yeah, check out this post on absolutes.) And they’re dying faster than ever before. According to this article, approximately 90% of the world’s 7,000 languages will die by the end of this century.

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November 3, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Bad Euphemisms, Political Correctness and Censorship

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It’s Banned Books Week. So in celebration, let’s look at censorship, how politically correct speech is ruining schools and why euphemisms are silly.

Censored words

Does anyone really consider vertically challenged a good alternative to short? Does old really carry such a negative connotation to require us to remove it from our speech?

Some people think so. This article outlines how committees have banned words like bookworm and blind from US textbooks in the interest of sensitivity.

I think it’s ridiculous. Not just because it’s easy to see how being politically correct can be taken too extremes (the article uses the example of The Older Person and the Water to sanitize Hemingway’s famous novella The Old Man and the Sea). And not just because too often this seems to be an effort to protect groups that really feel no need to be protected (many people who can’t hear prefer the term deaf over hearing impaired, even though the former has been stigmatized as politically incorrect). But also because euphemisms rarely stay euphemistic.

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September 30, 2009 at 8:19 pm

A Linguist Listens to “Mad Men”

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madmen1After a post focusing on advertising and marketing, it’s nice to have a  segue back into linguistics. In the comments from that post, one person recommended checking out the show “Mad Men.” Though I’ve never seen it, it apparently centers around advertising in the 1960s and comes highly recommended. Then I found this article from The New Republic. Author and linguist John McWhorter questions whether the speech patterns affected by the characters in “Mad Men” are really genuine, and whether people really talked the way we think they talked fifty years ago.

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September 8, 2009 at 6:59 am

Prepositions: Put ’Em Where You Like

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Let’s make this abundantly clear: it is perfectly acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition. Or rather: a preposition is something you can end a sentence with.

The supposed rule to not end a sentence with a preposition is one familiar even to people who don’t spend their Saturdays reading grammar books (cut me some slack – grammar can be more exciting than some fiction I’ve read).

But despite how often we’ve all heard this supposed rule, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, and what’s more, it’s not even supported by many grammarians.

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July 28, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Spun with Foonerisms

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Lard chips are mind-explodingly good.

They’re not actually marketed as lard chips, but Good’s Potato Chips aren’t cooked in soybean oil or partially-hydrogenated anything. They’re literally cooked in lard, which I’m sure is what makes them the best potato chips on the planet.

What’s this have to do with language? Well, lard chips were pretty much omnipresent in my college apartment. And my friends and I had a little game of swapping the sounds between two words to see if it would make new, funnier words.

It was inevitable that we transposed the initial sounds of “lard chips” to get “charred lips.” And that just tickled my linguistic funny bone.

That silliness has a name? Read the rest of this entry »

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June 1, 2009 at 7:43 pm