trixtah: (Default)
I had no idea that "fuckwit" was a fairly uncommon epithet in US English. I just thought of it being one of those universal descriptors. And a very handy one, at that. :-)
trixtah: (boom)

It's a perfectly good verb, and there is no need to invent something else that means precisely the same thing.

I don't mind that English has lots of words that mean the same thing, because usually there is some nuance of difference. This does not. And it sounds fucking ridiculous. So there.

trixtah: (octopus)
Is it only me who finds that "epic" should always be suffixed with FAIL? I heard some young'uns today talking about how something was epic.... I kept waiting in vain for the other shoe to drop.

Oh, and while it's not exactly language-related, I am so sick of people going on about Freakonomics. It's well-and-truly jumped the shark (and did about 5 minutes after being published). Here's a precis for you:

Dubner: Oh HAI. I'm a journalist and I was desperate to get something more than 800 words published, so I tracked down this pointy headed intellekshul and basically wrote this book for him. But he's really really cool. Really. And comes up with cool provocative things that I will dumb down for the masses in a "folksy" kind of way.
Levitt: Yes, I am a pointy-headed intellekshul - actually, I am an economist. And also, I actually admit that economics is a social science, which is amazing because most economists try to pass it off as science-science. But anyway, enough about me, here's a provocative essay on abortion and how since we're killing off all the potential crims at birth, we have less crime! Yay abortion! Although boo, because, you know, those moral things that people keep talking about. And really, it's not about abortion, it's about crime. And those millions of poor aborted babies don't balance out the thousands of nasty crims we execute once they're grown up.
DubnerWasn't that cool? And provocative? Isn't Levitt so intellekshul? And provocative? And look at that insight.
LevittSo now I'll state the frigging obvious about how real estate agents can do dodgy deals on their own behalf, and how lower-echelon drug dealers are poor. And that some teachers cheat with their students' exams. And see, look, I'm so radical because I'll borrow some research that shows that some student - not me, I don't know this kind of person - actually talked to drug dealers. See, they can talk!
Dubner: Wow. Isn't it amazing how he can explain these radical concepts to idiots like the general public and journalists. He really is cool.
Levitt: And here's some more stuff that sounds impressive, but is really a lot about demonstrating "correlation does not equal causation". Did you say the word abortion again? No? Oh well, but this stuff is just as valid, honest. Especially the part where I explain that employers are racist when they perceive someone's name is "black". Oh, right, perhaps that comes under stating the obvious again.
Dubner: Dude, did you know I love you? I really really love you. I just go the glasses and the cute side-parting.
Levitt: Um, yeah. Moving right along to the blog. I'm up with the modern technologies! Although I really only post when it's time to sell more books. That's what I have my blog-peons, sorry, co-contributors for, to keep up the content.

trixtah: (Default)
Well, after going on about Americans' use of the word "bathroom", here's one from the other side of the Atlantic. In fact, I'll make it a poll.

Poll #1171 Where's the floor
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 19

A "floor" is a surface found...

View Answers

Inside only.
18 (94.7%)

Outside only.
0 (0.0%)

Both inside and outside.
1 (5.3%)

And you are from..?

View Answers

The UK
2 (10.5%)

Anywhere else but the UK.
17 (89.5%)

I'll do one on "Yeah, no" syndrome another time, so that us antipodeans don't feel left out. :-D
trixtah: (Default)
I'm not going to link to it, but here it is:
I would do favors ... for him while he was out, like letting his dogs out to use the bathroom...

Letting the dogs out to use the bathroom? I know we've talked about Americans' aversion to certain words before, but really.

trixtah: (Default)
Well, it was the word of the day a wee while back. However,  je vous propose "bedgasm":
A feeling of complete and utter euphoria which peaks when climbing into bed at the end of an 18-hour workday, a long road trip or hours of extremely strenuous physical activity. Under perfect conditions, the physical release has been likened to that of an intense sexual experience.

Oh, yes. Especially when you have nice crispy clean sheets, and you spend a few minutes lolling around in the sensual haze of horizontal comfortitude.

trixtah: (potter)
... the word of the day is petrichor, which is the smell that you get with the first rain after a dry spell.

The word was coined by two Australian researchers to describe the smell of rain in the desert.  It's been theorised that it's a result of the essential oils from plants permeating dirt and rock surfaces over time, and then suddenly getting enough moisture to disseminate the smell into the air. I suppose road surfaces and footpaths could act in the same way as dirt and rock, in more urban environments.
trixtah: (Default)
English is not a subset of US English. It's the other way round. Kthxbai.

PS. US English speakers out there - I know that using the word "toilet" is deemed somehow impolite, but is it true that it's only ever used to refer to the plumbing fixture? (If you're not using terms like "commode" instead) That is, it's not used to refer to the "smallest room" at all?
trixtah: (Servalan)
If there isn't a term for it, I'm inventing it now.

Dear people on mailing lists:

The people who dominate are called dominants

And while I'm here, to half the techies in the world:

Administrators administer their systems/networks. Nobody "administrates" anything.

No love,

trixtah: (Default)
I realise that pinyin is primarily used by Mandarin speakers to learn the correct values for the sounds they're speaking (since, of course, traditional or modern Chinese characters give no such information). However, the difficult part is the way in which it is now the ISO standard (and has been for a long time) for rendering Chinese words and names into Latin script, and is so used around the world.

Latin script is not a consistent orthography for languages that have traditionally used it for writing, but usually it is the vowels that change (within certain broad parameters). Consonants remain fairly consistent, leaving aside the variations of "j" and "z" in just about any Latin alphabet-based language, and oddments like "th" or "gh" which vary within English as well as outside it.

But reading pinyin-rendered Chinese words in English is an exercise in frustration. There is absolutely no way that you can even vaguely (and that's all it would be for an English speaker) approximate the correct pronunciation of a word given the pinyin form. For example, "d" is an unaspirated "t", "g" is an unaspirated "k", "j" is "q", "q" is like "ch", "x" is like "sh", "c" is like "ts" and so on. Now, while I totally understand that Mandarin has consonant shadings that we don't represent in English, this makes it totally impossible for an English (or French, or German, or Spanish) person to read Chinese words with any facility at all. Of course, if you make the effort, you can remember some of the variations, but I think the finer shadings are useless for the lay reader.

In short, why didn't they adopt a system like the Vietnamese one? The values of the letters are approximations of the general Latinate (I think from Portuguese) pronunciations, with a myriad of diacritics added to the letters to give "true" values for those who learn to write the language correctly. It seems like a win/win situation, in terms of not completely leaving behind the poor foreign punter, as well as retaining enough flexibility and uniqueness for the native writer and students.
trixtah: (Default)
In the latest updates to the OED, the editors have made a fairly definite stance on the derivation of pom (meaning English person):

pomegranate, n. and adj.
Austral. colloq. An immigrant to Australia from Britain. Now superseded by

POM n.2, POMMY n.

1912 Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Nov. 16/4 The other day a Pummy Grant (assisted immigrant) was handed a bridle and told to catch a horse. 1912 Truth (Sydney) 22 Dec. 1/3 Now they call 'em ‘Pomegranates’ and the Jimmygrants don't like it. 1924 D. H. LAWRENCE & M. SKINNER Boy in Bush 120 Here you, young Pommy Grant. 1963 X. HERBERT Disturbing Elem. 91 He still wore the heavy clumsy British type of clothing of the day. When we kids saw people on the street dressed like that we would yell at them: ‘Jimmygrants, Pommygranates, Pommies!’

So, none of that Prisoner of Her Majesty (which doesn't even work) or Permit of Migration (which didn't exist) rubbish.

I'm just surprised that the OED still considers it to be derog. Mildly so, sometimes, but no more than saying "Brits" with a particular emphasis. I don't think people use it that rudely here in Oz these days either (no more so than kiwis do). Yay proper etymology!


Dec. 13th, 2006 07:15 pm
trixtah: (Default)
I was in my favourite cookery shop in Kingston a few weekends back, perving at some of the yummy utensils they stock (yeah, I suppose it doesn't help my butch cred to admit that I do cookery-shop-perving more than I do the hardware store kind). I was pissed off to see them stocking copies of Why Men Don't Listen & Women Can't Read Maps as a kind of novelty item by the checkout. I mean, give me a break.

Then a couple of weekends ago, there was an interview in the Guardian with Louann Brizendine, who wroteThe Female Brain. No, the book unfortunately doesn't seem to say "there's more communication method variation within the female sex than between the sexes"). Alas, her assertion was that women speak/communicate way more than men do: "Men use about seven thousand words per day. Women use about twenty thousand." After further unravelling, it seems that this statistic was referring to "communication events" (ie. words, gestures, body language), and guess what? It came from Why Men Don't Listen & Women Can't Read Maps! Wow, in-depth research there. The Guardian did a wee test themselves to see if her assertion was borne out with two of their journalists, and, surprise surprise, it wasn't.

But, yay, I've just found an excellent blog called Language Log, which thoroughly debunks the stupid myth of women talking much more than men, with reference to both of those books. They also have an interesting discussion on a study that was done in the late 80s, called "Power displays between women and men in discussions of gender-linked tasks: A multichannel study". Mark Liberman (the blog poster) summarises some of the main points:

  Male Female
Time speaking
Speech initiations
Looking while speaking
Looking while listening
Rate of gesturing
Frequency of chin thrusts
Frequency of smiling
Frequency of self-touching
Frequency of laughing

So the guys did more of the talking, as is often the case -- 43% more, this time, which is a bigger difference than one usually sees. What about non-verbal signals? Well, the guys did 80% more gesturing, and produced 623% more chin thrusts. The gals did 28% more smiling, 7% more self-touching, and 46% more laughing. Dovidio et al. didn't count eyebrow motions, it's true. But there's certainly no support here for the view that women produce about three times more "communication events" on average than men do.

If you check out the study design, it actually looks worthwhile. And I'm so glad to have some more ammunition against the "Men are from Mars" types who refuse to make appropriate reference to differences within the genders before highlighting the differences between them -- and which are often negligible in comparison.

[And, man, I can't wait for my replacement modem to arrive. This researching and posting after hours from work is a drag.]
trixtah: (Default)
Actually, it's not. Swearing to excess, that is. And I'm hardly working class any more, so there goes that excuse.

One thing that is guaranteed to piss me off is if someone checks me on my language. No, I don't swear in front of kiddies and your parents, or in a formal situation; if you're an adult, I expect you to cope with the fact I use "indelicate language".

As we all know, consciously or not, there are different kinds of swearing:

...syntactic and semantic functions, including swearing as in giving oath in the witness box, are rooted in the left, but emotional language, including automatic cursing (e.g. when hitting your head) from the right hemisphere [of the brain].
This explains the differentiation I personally make between "general swearing" and "abusive swearing". When you're accusing someone of being a fucking whore, you're using your left brain to deliver a value judgement verbally. If you say whore of a thing when you hit your thumb with a hammer, that, of course, is an automatic right-brain activity.

It also explains someone like me, who defines herself as agnostic/pantheist, suffering from this quirk:

if you hear somebody say something like Thank god, I'm an atheist it does not mean to say that the speaker has gone off their rockers. The statement is not a nonsensical paradox, because Thank god is only an automatic swear interjection which adds emotional connotative meaning to the propositional statement that follows i.e. I'm an atheist. God is not meant in the original referential sense but in the emotive connotative sense.
So there you go. All this is from this review of a book written by Timothy Jay, called Why We Curse: A Neuro-Psycho-Social Theory of Speech. The review article is an interesting read.

And why the fact that we can moderate our language when talking to the parental units, or the senior manager (in relation to the "swearing is lazy" myth)?

People do not use curse words because their mental lexicon is impoverished, he [Jay] argues, but because "neurological, psychological and socio-cultural forces compel them to curse" (p259). If no hesitation or pause signals that the speaker is searching for the right word, the curse word is not a poor substitute for the 'real' expression from the mental lexicon.
The article author says this assertion is unproven, but it makes perfect sense to me. When you're trying to make a good impression, you choose your words a lot more rigorously than in general and keep the filters in place at all times, unlike when you're hanging with your friends. Well, most of the time. There's a reason I don't drink when attending work dos outside my immediate team!

Finally, the class factor does come into it, IMO. The simple fact is that the language we hear around us in formative years tends to be the language that we actually use. Working class people don't "switch modes" as much as middle-class types - the language used in the public and private spheres is pretty much the same. Of course, that's often mitigated by a great degree in terms of who you associate with at any given time, in exactly the same way as having an accent. While you might get to the point where you can "pass", there will always be vestiges that come out with the right stimulus.

I'm a bit idiosyncratic, though. Due to having spent time in the UK surrounded by middle-class English people, I've got a fairly "posh-sounding" kiwi accent (which is getting nicely watered down by these Aussies at present, tho'). However, my language content is littered with tons of swear words. Since I have a low sense of humour, I get quite entertained when people who think I sound "nice" and "girlie" on the phone (I drop into a more formal speech pattern there) meet me in person. Heh.
trixtah: (Default)
When certain Americans use "frig" as the abbreviation for "refrigerator".

Yes, I'm juvenile; it totally cracks me up. Still.
trixtah: (Default)
I was reading Ursula Le Guin's website (as I do periodically) and came across her wee "Discussion of Story" again. Here's a chunk:

I define story as a narrative of events (external or psychological) which moves through time or implies the passage of time, and which involves change.

I define plot as a form of story which uses action as its mode usually in the form of conflict, and which closely and intricately connects one act to another, usually through a causal chain, ending in a climax.

Climax is one kind of pleasure; plot is one kind of story. A strong, shapely plot is a pleasure in itself. It can be reused generation after generation. It provides an armature for narrative that beginning writers may find invaluable.

But most serious modern fictions can’t be reduced to a plot, or retold without fatal loss except in their own words. The story is not in the plot but in the telling. It is the telling that moves.

Modernist manuals of writing often conflate story with conflict. This reductionism reflects a culture that inflates aggression and competition while cultivating ignorance of other behavioral options. No narrative of any complexity can be built on or reduced to a single element. Conflict is one kind of behavior. There are others, equally important in any human life, such as relating, finding, losing, bearing, discovering, parting, changing.

Change is the universal aspect of all these sources of story. Story is something moving, something happening, something or somebody changing.

The rest of the essay is here - I've excerpted about half of it. While I like a lot of her fiction, I don't like all of it. But I have loved every single piece of non-fiction writing I have read of hers. If I was a writer, I would find those words inspirational - I do anyway.

And you should read What Makes a Story:
.... But writing, whatever its medium, is made of words, and words are bodily, made with the body and the breath, received by the body, felt with the body, and the rhythms of words are bodily rhythms.
I'm afraid that's the penultimate line, but the rest of it is a series of great similes for various types of story. And again, it's short and sweet. Do read, it's lovely prose.


Feb. 11th, 2006 10:00 pm
trixtah: (Default)
"...don't come easy to me
How can I find a way
To make you see
I love you
Words don't come easy."

There you go, crappy 80s emo song of the day. FR David, what a whiner. Being a one-hit wonder was both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because he didn't inflict any more songs on us; a curse because we had to endure that PoS for weeks before it went away. Other than being whiny, what a stupid lyric - he's talking about words and he wants the love object to see he loves her/him. Puhlease.

And what's worse is I didn't need to google either the lyric or the guy's name. They're emblazoned on my brain, seemingly forever. Googling... ack! there is a discography - 1982 - 24 effing years. My brain was obviously a sponge when I was 14.

That's all a big diversion. I've been mulling over trying to lure people into *cough*sharing*cough* an online sub to the OED. I've been missing it. However, a one-year sub costs around $AU540. At the moment, the Compact OED (which is the whole 20 volume set in one volume - the original pages are digitally reduced and printed 9-up in this edition -they provide a magnifying glass) is going on Amazon for $AU300.

Hell, it's almost worth buying a dictionary a year and flogging each one off for half-price when you get the next one. But I find it incredibly bloody irksome that the printed and bound version is nearly HALF the price of the online version!!!!11!! I dearly love the OED, but I think OUP's marketing department need a big bloody kick in their collective goolies.

So, what to do now? It's really an addiction I need to slake (especially since the OED's free offer is running out in a couple of days). I could go work at universities again... (yet another appealing reason to do so).

But, here's me being a geek. I would love to own the compact edition. What a piece of the printer's art! The scanning and reduction of the type was possible 10 and more ago years ago, digitally or photographically (when I was a photolithographer), but I'm pretty sure the actual physical ink-and-paper technology must have come a ways as well. Assuming that the type is smaller than Gideon-bible size, that is, and that the pages are properly opaque.
trixtah: (Default)
While having this mild debate with [ profile] damned_colonial, I found a really cool dictionary of French slang online! Or perhaps I should have said une dictionnaire d'argot français qui est vachement chouette.

It even has vachement there, which has to be my favourite French word. "Cowlike"? Meaning, "really, terrifically, frankly". Oh, and my other favourite French word is mouillé, which means "wet", "moist". Very onomatopoeic. Kind of.
trixtah: (Default)
HOLY TANGO ANTHOLOGY of LITERATURE, by Francis Heaney, is online!! 11!!!!eleventy!!! *SQUEE!*

For the uninitiated, it's a compilation of works as written by poets and playwrights whose titles were anagrams of their names. And it's a scream. Some examples below.


It is an ancient Mariner,
And he taketh lots of drugs,
And he thinks his beard is made of snakes
And his body crawls with bugs.


Dramatis Personae:
SADLER HIGGINBOTHAM, an auditor for the Internal Revenue Service
AMBROSE PECK, a taxpayer
SADLER: ... I am merely here to clarify a few minor tax matters which occasioned question.
AMBROSE: It has been my experience that clarification never works in my favor. Why is it, for example, that whenever one has finally found an agreeable female dinner companion, invariably one is asked to clarify one’s feelings about her? It makes a simple relationship so dreadfully awkward.
SADLER: I’m afraid such questions are out of my purview. But shall we begin?


In tholde dayes of the towne Seatel,
Of whos charmes Nirvana fans yet pratel,
Al that reyny land fayn slepen late.
Thus ofte a sutor failled to keepe a date;
And werkers reched offices at noon,
Noddyng of although the sunne shoon;
Husbondes were too tyred by the eve
A staf for plesyng wyves to acheve.

Now to this citie in a languor stukke,
Came a fair knyght cleped Sterrebukke,
Beryng benes from a forein land
Ygrounde to a poudre in his hand,
From which a potent brew could he deryve
That causeth wery peple to revyve.

The Pinter and the Beckett, OMFG! Best rendition of Waiting for Godot (sorry, Bake Me Cutlets) EVAH.

And there's not just tons and tons of awesome prose and poetry, there's some explication of the poetic devices used:
However, novice poetry readers do often misunderstand the role of rhythm and meter in poetry, and this is easily set right. A line of a poem can be broken down into individual “feet”; three of these feet make a yard, which can then be converted into the poem’s meter using a metric conversion table. A foot generally consists of one stressed syllable and a small number of unstressed syllables. Here are the most common poetic feet, as well as some obscure ones included mainly to show how well educated we are, with illustrative examples.

iamb: ku-RUPT
trochee: OUT-kast
spondee: SLICK RICK
anapest: de la SOUL
dactyl: LUD-a-cris
amphibrach: the PHAR-cyde
amphimacer: FOX-y BROWN
choriamb: BIG dad-dy KANE
amphitrochidactapest: DEL tha FUN-kee ho-mo-SA-pi-en

Weren't those 6th Form poetry lessons a waste of time? What if you'd had THAT kind of teaching?

Anyway. Go read. I must buy the book.

Don't drink or eat while doing so (my nostrils were nicely rinsed and sand(biscuit)-blasted during morning tea. I blame C3P0 and R2D2. Hayfever's gone though).
trixtah: (Default)
I'm sure I came across this ages ago, but here it is again: the page that generates Shakespearean insults.

Favourites so far are:
  • Thou ruttish dread-bolted devil-mon! (hey, who knew that Shakespeare was from Jamaica!)

  • Would the fountain of your mind were clear again, that I might water an ass at it. (from Troilus and Cressida)

  • Your virginity, your old virginity is like one of our French wither'd pears: it looks ill, it eats drily. (from All's Well That Ends Well)


    trixtah: (Default)

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