Before reading this article, I didn’t understand regular expressions. But now, having read this article, I don’t understand regular expressions and I don’t understand linguistics. Progress!
Monday, November 27th, 2017
Tuesday, September 12th, 2017
Some great ideas here about using metaphors when explaining technical topics.
I really like these four guidelines for good metaphors:
Friday, September 8th, 2017
The perils of self-translation.
I’m often baffled by the number of people who seem to think that you can translate from one language to another simply by pulling the words of one language from a dictionary and plugging them into the syntax of the other. It just doesn’t work that way, friends.
Read to the end for a wonderfully delicious twist in the tale.
Wednesday, August 9th, 2017
Some of these really tickle my fancy bone.
That’s the icing on the iceberg
You let the horse out of the cart
What planet are you living under?
That opens a whole other kettle of fish
The cat’s out of the barn
Patience comes to those who wait
That’s right up my cup of tea
Monday, July 10th, 2017
I like words. I like the way they can be tethered together to produce a satisfying sentence.
Jessica likes words even more than I do (that’s why her website is called “wordridden”). She studied linguistics and she’s a translator by trade—German into English. Have a read of her post about translating Victor Klemperer to get an inkling of how much thought and care she puts into it.
Given the depth of enquiry required for a good translation, I was particularly pleased to read this remark by John Le Carré:
No wonder then that the most conscientious editors of my novels are not those for whom English is their first language, but the foreign translators who bring their relentless eye to the tautological phrase or factual inaccuracy – of which there are far too many. My German translator is particularly infuriating.
That’s from an article called Why we should learn German, but it’s really about why we should strive for clarity in our use of language:
Clear language — lucid, rational language — to a man at war with both truth and reason, is an existential threat. Clear language to such a man is a direct assault on his obfuscations, contradictions and lies. To him, it is the voice of the enemy. To him, it is fake news. Because he knows, if only intuitively, what we know to our cost: that without clear language, there is no standard of truth.
It reminds me of one of my favourite Orwell essays, Politics and the English Language:
Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
But however much I agree with Le Carré’s reprise of Orwell’s call for clarity, I was brought up short by this:
Every time I hear a British politician utter the fatal words, “Let me be very clear”, these days I reach for my revolver.
Le Carré’s text was part of a speech given in Berlin, where everyone would get the reference to the infamous Nazi quote—
Wenn ich Kultur höre … entsichere ich meinen Browning—and I’m sure it was meant with a sly wink. But words matter.
Words are powerful. Words can be love and comfort — and words can be weapons.
Sunday, October 9th, 2016
A fascinating look at an attempt to redefine the taxonomy of online porn.
Porn is part of the ecosystem that tells us what sex and sexuality are. Porn terms are, to use Foucault’s language, part of a network of technologies creating truths about our sexuality.
Reminds of the heady days of 2005, when it was all about tagging and folksonomies.
The project, at its most ambitious, seeks to create a new feedback loop of porn watched and made, unmoored from the vagaries of old, bad, lazy categories.
Sunday, March 6th, 2016
This is truly a book apart.
Tuesday, December 1st, 2015
Translating Gender: Ancillary Justice in Five Languages Alex Dally MacFarlane | Interfictions Online
A fascinating look into the challenges encountered translating Anne Leckie’s excellent Radchaai novels into Bulgarian, German, Hebrew, Japanese, and Hungarian.
What is clear in all of these responses is that by examining the notions of ‘neutral’ and ‘feminine’ in grammar and gender through the lens of translation, we reveal their complexity – and some of their possible futures in languages, in both literature and speech.
Saturday, April 12th, 2014
I love the thinking behind this plugin that highlights the weasel words that politicians are so found of.
Monday, December 16th, 2013
This is called expletive infixation.
I’ll always remember the “Phila-fucking-delphia” example from Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct:
If you said “Philadel-fucking-phia”, you’d be laughed out of the pool hall.
Thursday, September 12th, 2013
I bet you’re going to just keep clicking and clicking and clicking…
Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
Cennydd uses the word “select” as an input-neutral term for what we might be tempted to call clicks or taps. Personally, I like the term “choose”, although that word might have too much intent bundled with it.
Thursday, June 28th, 2012
A beautiful short film about The Long Now Foundation’s Rosetta Project.
Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
Richard gives the lowdown on the new translate attribute in HTML.
Friday, September 23rd, 2011
Linguistics and programming collide in this paper from the 18th Workshop of the Psychology of Programming Interest Group, University of Sussex, September 2006: Lakoffian analysis of the mental models of Java programmers.
Wednesday, October 20th, 2010
Spizzle up your tizzle.
Thursday, June 17th, 2010
And “so” suggested a kind of thinking that appealed to problem-solving types: conversation as a logical, unidirectional process, proceeding much in the way of software code — if this, then that.
This logical tinge to “so” has followed it out of software. Starting a sentence with “so” uses the whiff of logic to relay authority. Where “well” vacillates, “so” declaims.
It declaims. That’s the reason Seamus Heaney chose it as the translation for the opening word of Beowulf:
Conventional renderings of hwæt, the first word of the poem, tend towards the archaic literary, with ‘lo’, ‘hark’, ‘behold’, ‘attend’ and — more colloquially — ‘listen’ being some of the solutions offered previously. But in Hiberno-English Scullion-speak, the particle ‘so’ came naturally to the rescue, because in that idiom ‘so’ operates as an expression that obliterates all previous discourse and narrative, and at the same time functions as an exclamation calling for immediate attention.
Listen for yourself:
Friday, May 14th, 2010
Some of the best neologisms in programming, many of them to do with bug-fixing.
Saturday, April 17th, 2010
Coping mechanisms for grammar pedants. I can see myself using this alot.
Thursday, March 18th, 2010
The nerdgasmic result of a collision between linguistics and Star Wars.