posts about or somewhat related to ‘language’

Try to imagine a culture where no one has ever ‘looked up’ anything…

…In a primary oral culture, the expression ‘to look up something’ is an empty phrase: it would have no conceivable meaning. Without writing, words as such have no visual presence, even when the objects they represent are visual. There are sounds. You might ‘call’ them back – ‘recall’ them. But there is nowhere to ‘look’ for them. They have no focus and no trace.

Walter J. Ong, “Try to Imagine,” as quoted by James Gleik in The Information.

Today’s ponderable when (almost) everything is a quick search away.

Want a Do Over?
Yes, yes you do.

Want a Do Over?

Yes, yes you do.

Tsundoku
The closest word we’ve found to describe our bookmarking habits.

Tsundoku

The closest word we’ve found to describe our bookmarking habits.

She grabbed my anus and positioned my body in the direction of the east gallery and we started walking.

Automated transcription gone awry. The Guardian, Scanner for ebook cannot tell its ‘arms’ from its ‘anus’.

Evidently, high-end scanners using Optical Character Recognition technology can’t tell heads or tail – or arms and anuses – when going through old-timey type. 

Takeaway: You still need a copyeditor to tell your arms from your anus. With all the news about robots writing our print, there’s something reassuring about that.

Words, Lyrically Speaking
Via Matt Daniels:

Literary elites love to rep Shakespeare’s vocabulary: across his entire corpus, he uses 28,829 words, suggesting he knew over 100,000 words and arguably had the largest vocabulary, ever.
I decided to compare this data point against the most famous artists in hip hop. I used each artist’s first 35,000 lyrics. That way, prolific artists, such as Jay-Z, could be compared to newer artists, such as Drake.

So, Aesop Rock is the most verbacious, DMX the least and were Shakespeare penning his stuff nowadays, he’d fall somewhere among the members of Wu-Tang Clan.
Read through for Daniels’ analysis and methodology.
Image: Screenshot, # of Unique Words Used Within an Artist’s First 35,000 Lyrics, by Matt Daniels. Select to embiggen.
H/T: Reddit.

Words, Lyrically Speaking

Via Matt Daniels:

Literary elites love to rep Shakespeare’s vocabulary: across his entire corpus, he uses 28,829 words, suggesting he knew over 100,000 words and arguably had the largest vocabulary, ever.

I decided to compare this data point against the most famous artists in hip hop. I used each artist’s first 35,000 lyrics. That way, prolific artists, such as Jay-Z, could be compared to newer artists, such as Drake.

So, Aesop Rock is the most verbacious, DMX the least and were Shakespeare penning his stuff nowadays, he’d fall somewhere among the members of Wu-Tang Clan.

Read through for Daniels’ analysis and methodology.

Image: Screenshot, # of Unique Words Used Within an Artist’s First 35,000 Lyrics, by Matt Daniels. Select to embiggen.

H/T: Reddit.

Internet slang. We used to make an effort to avoid this, and now I see us all falling back into the habit. We want to sound like regular adult human beings, not Buzzfeed writers or Reddit commenters. Therefore: No “epic.” No “pwn.” No “+1.” No “derp.” No “this”/”this just happened.” No “OMG.” No “WTF.” No “lulz.” No “FTW.” No “win.” No “amazeballs.” And so on. Nothing will ever “win the internet” on Gawker. As with all rules there are exceptions. Err on the side of the Times, not XOJane.

— Max Read, Editor, Gawker, in a memo to staff, via Poynter. Gawker bans ‘Internet slang’.

How “no worries” infected American English →

In modern times where “I’m good” means “No thank you” and “No worries” means “You’re welcome,” it’s interesting to know the root of this trend in language. 

 

Juoksentelisinkohan

Juoksentelisinkohan

Gangsta Lorem Ipsum
Let us begin:

Lorizzle pot dolizzle the bizzle amizzle, mammasay mammasa mamma oo sa adipiscing elit. Nullizzle tellivizzle velizzle, we gonna chung volutpizzle, crackalackin quizzle, shiz vel, arcu. Pellentesque fizzle tortizzle. You son of a bizzle erizzle. Yo izzle dolizzle dapibizzle turpis tempizzle hizzle. Maurizzle pellentesque nibh et turpizzle. Go to hizzle rizzle mammasay mammasa mamma oo sa.

And how we got there, via The London Review of Books:

Sometimes, when we’re putting together an issue of the LRB, we use Lorem Ipsum, a chunk of phoney Latin dummy text that’s been used by printers and typesetters since the 16th century. We paste it into a layout so we can tell what a page will look like before the copy’s ready. The practice is known as ‘greeking’ because the Latin’s so mixed up it’s all Greek.
Only it isn’t. The text itself has been designed not to communicate, to have the look of text but no meaning – but meaning bubbles up through it nonetheless. The 16th-century printer who came up with it got there by mangling Cicero’s ‘De finibus bonorum et malorum’, an exposition of Stoicism, Epicureanism and the Platonism of Antiochus of Ascalon. Though most of the metaphysical subtlety has been wrung out, sense hasn’t completely: the text is haunted, as Derrida might have put it, by the piece of writing it once was…
…Try translating it and you get some striking effects. Of course a straightforward translation isn’t possible – for one thing, ‘lorem’ isn’t a word, it’s a chopped off bit of ‘dolorem’ – but Jaspreet Singh Boparai, a postgraduate at Cambridge, has come up with the following:

For language and design nerds, your translation.
Image: Screenshot, Gangsta Lorem Ipsum.

Gangsta Lorem Ipsum

Let us begin:

Lorizzle pot dolizzle the bizzle amizzle, mammasay mammasa mamma oo sa adipiscing elit. Nullizzle tellivizzle velizzle, we gonna chung volutpizzle, crackalackin quizzle, shiz vel, arcu. Pellentesque fizzle tortizzle. You son of a bizzle erizzle. Yo izzle dolizzle dapibizzle turpis tempizzle hizzle. Maurizzle pellentesque nibh et turpizzle. Go to hizzle rizzle mammasay mammasa mamma oo sa.

And how we got there, via The London Review of Books:

Sometimes, when we’re putting together an issue of the LRB, we use Lorem Ipsum, a chunk of phoney Latin dummy text that’s been used by printers and typesetters since the 16th century. We paste it into a layout so we can tell what a page will look like before the copy’s ready. The practice is known as ‘greeking’ because the Latin’s so mixed up it’s all Greek.

Only it isn’t. The text itself has been designed not to communicate, to have the look of text but no meaning – but meaning bubbles up through it nonetheless. The 16th-century printer who came up with it got there by mangling Cicero’s ‘De finibus bonorum et malorum’, an exposition of Stoicism, Epicureanism and the Platonism of Antiochus of Ascalon. Though most of the metaphysical subtlety has been wrung out, sense hasn’t completely: the text is haunted, as Derrida might have put it, by the piece of writing it once was…

…Try translating it and you get some striking effects. Of course a straightforward translation isn’t possible – for one thing, ‘lorem’ isn’t a word, it’s a chopped off bit of ‘dolorem’ – but Jaspreet Singh Boparai, a postgraduate at Cambridge, has come up with the following:

For language and design nerds, your translation.

Image: Screenshot, Gangsta Lorem Ipsum.

This past year, the very old word because exploded with new grammatical possibilities in informal online use. No longer does because have to be followed by of or a full clause. Now one often sees tersely worded rationales like ‘because science’ or ‘because reasons.’ You might not go to a party ‘because tired.’ As one supporter put it, because should be Word of the Year ‘because useful!’

Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society, “Because” is the 2013 Word of the Year.

Read through for Most Useful (eg, “slash”), Most Unnecessary (eg, “sharknado”), Most Outrageous (eg, “underbutt”) and more.

See also The Atlantic, English Has a New Preposition, Because Internet.

Soda/Pop/Coke: How Americans Talk

In 2003, then Harvard professor Bert Vaux conducted the Harvard Dialect Survey, in which he interviewed tens of thousands of Americans about how they talk, and released the results here

In 2012, graduate student Joshua Katz used the data to create a beautiful set of interactive dialect maps.

And in 2013, The Atlantic called up a lot of people, asked them some of Bert Vaux’s questions, layered them over maps inspired by Katz’s and made the video above.

Traveling Through Layers
Via the Canadian Journal of Communication:

When the time came a few years ago to find an Inuktitut term for the word “Internet,” Nunavut’s former Official Languages Commissioner, Eva Aariak, chose ikiaqqivik, or “traveling through layers” (Minogue, 2005, n.p.). The word comes from the concept describing what a shaman does when asked to find out about living or deceased relatives or where animals have disappeared to: travel across time and space to find answers. According to the elders, shamans used to travel all over the world: to the bottom of the ocean, to the stratosphere, and even to the moon. In fact, the 1969 moon landing did not impress Inuit elders. They simply said, “We’ve already been there!” (Minogue, 2005, n.p.). The word is also an example of how Inuit are mapping traditional concepts, values, and metaphors to make sense of contemporary realities and technologies.

It’s too perfect, no? — Michael.

Traveling Through Layers

Via the Canadian Journal of Communication:

When the time came a few years ago to find an Inuktitut term for the word “Internet,” Nunavut’s former Official Languages Commissioner, Eva Aariak, chose ikiaqqivik, or “traveling through layers” (Minogue, 2005, n.p.). The word comes from the concept describing what a shaman does when asked to find out about living or deceased relatives or where animals have disappeared to: travel across time and space to find answers. According to the elders, shamans used to travel all over the world: to the bottom of the ocean, to the stratosphere, and even to the moon. In fact, the 1969 moon landing did not impress Inuit elders. They simply said, “We’ve already been there!” (Minogue, 2005, n.p.). The word is also an example of how Inuit are mapping traditional concepts, values, and metaphors to make sense of contemporary realities and technologies.

It’s too perfect, no? — Michael.

Because Language →

Via The Atlantic:

The word “because,” in standard English usage, is a subordinating conjunction, which means that it connects two parts of a sentence in which one (the subordinate) explains the other. In that capacity, “because” has two distinct forms. It can be followed either by a finite clause (I’m reading this because [I saw it on the web]) or by a prepositional phrase (I’m reading this because [of the web]). These two forms are, traditionally, the only ones to which “because” lends itself.

I mention all that … because language. Because evolution. Because there is another way to use “because.” Linguists are calling it the “prepositional-because.” Or the “because-noun.

You probably know it better, however, as explanation by way of Internet—explanation that maximizes efficiency and irony in equal measure. I’m late because YouTube. You’re reading this because procrastination. As the language writer Stan Carey delightfully sums it up: “‘Because’ has become a preposition, because grammar.” 

FJP: And now we know.

The Psychology of Selfies & A Handmade Pinhole Camera
We learned this week that the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is selfie, the informal noun defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” It was added to the Oxford Dictionary Online (not the Oxford English Dictionary), which bases its entries on current and practical word usage, meaning they can be removed when they are out of use. 
Blog posts about the psychology of the selfie abound. It’s a cheap fad. It’s a an evaluator of social reach. It’s a modern iteration of the self-portrait fueled by a hunger for social feedback. It’s a reflection of our loneliness and desire for image control. And on and on.
And then there is this.
Photographer Tatiano Altberg teaches children in a Rio de Janeiro favela how to make pinhole cameras out of recycled cans. There is no viewfinder and no button. They learn to create narratives through their photos, and to take self-portraits.
Lens Blog:

But unlike the countless “selfies” they were already used to seeing on social networks, these forced them to be more introspective, considering both their mood and environment.
“The challenge of working with pinhole photography is to make the self-portrait a process of reflection about one’s self — a product of an intention,” she said. “The idea is not to take photos in an automatic way, with poses and gestures that are seen in the pictures teenagers take with their cellphones and digital cameras. It’s necessary to pay attention to the surroundings and think before making an image. Pinhole is a slow process of creation that demands a lot of thought.”
The payoff has come with students who have become excited about the possibilities of self-expression. Jailton Nunes was a skeptical 12-year-old when he started the workshop, deflecting any compliment with jokes. But over time, he came to embrace the project, and a self-portrait of his was used on the cover of “Everyday My Thoughts Are Different,” which was published this year.
“Another photo taken by him that is very significant is the one where he appears beside a miniature sofa,” Ms. Altberg said. “He looks like a giant. The image has special symbolic meaning since he was explicitly self-conscious about his height, something that diminished throughout the year as he gained confidence.”


FJP: Here’s a thought. For young teens who live busy lives in crowded spaces (Rio or elsewhere) that are then compounded by an abundance of digital imagery in online social worlds, it’s difficult to find the space to know yourself, to construct an image of yourself for yourself and to capture that image. In a sense, the digital selfie is a way to try to create and preserve a controllable record of who you are in an otherwise uncontrollable world of too many records. It’s a very human need. If we look at it that way, the potential for teaching projects like Altberg’s is enormous.—Jihii
Image: Yasmin Lopez, via Brazilian Stories and Selfies Through a Pinhole, NY Times.

The Psychology of Selfies & A Handmade Pinhole Camera

We learned this week that the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is selfie, the informal noun defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” It was added to the Oxford Dictionary Online (not the Oxford English Dictionary), which bases its entries on current and practical word usage, meaning they can be removed when they are out of use. 

Blog posts about the psychology of the selfie abound. It’s a cheap fad. It’s a an evaluator of social reach. It’s a modern iteration of the self-portrait fueled by a hunger for social feedback. It’s a reflection of our loneliness and desire for image control. And on and on.

And then there is this.

Photographer Tatiano Altberg teaches children in a Rio de Janeiro favela how to make pinhole cameras out of recycled cans. There is no viewfinder and no button. They learn to create narratives through their photos, and to take self-portraits.

Lens Blog:

But unlike the countless “selfies” they were already used to seeing on social networks, these forced them to be more introspective, considering both their mood and environment.

“The challenge of working with pinhole photography is to make the self-portrait a process of reflection about one’s self — a product of an intention,” she said. “The idea is not to take photos in an automatic way, with poses and gestures that are seen in the pictures teenagers take with their cellphones and digital cameras. It’s necessary to pay attention to the surroundings and think before making an image. Pinhole is a slow process of creation that demands a lot of thought.”

The payoff has come with students who have become excited about the possibilities of self-expression. Jailton Nunes was a skeptical 12-year-old when he started the workshop, deflecting any compliment with jokes. But over time, he came to embrace the project, and a self-portrait of his was used on the cover of “Everyday My Thoughts Are Different,” which was published this year.

“Another photo taken by him that is very significant is the one where he appears beside a miniature sofa,” Ms. Altberg said. “He looks like a giant. The image has special symbolic meaning since he was explicitly self-conscious about his height, something that diminished throughout the year as he gained confidence.”

FJP: Here’s a thought. For young teens who live busy lives in crowded spaces (Rio or elsewhere) that are then compounded by an abundance of digital imagery in online social worlds, it’s difficult to find the space to know yourself, to construct an image of yourself for yourself and to capture that image. In a sense, the digital selfie is a way to try to create and preserve a controllable record of who you are in an otherwise uncontrollable world of too many records. It’s a very human need. If we look at it that way, the potential for teaching projects like Altberg’s is enormous.—Jihii

Image: Yasmin Lopez, via Brazilian Stories and Selfies Through a Pinhole, NY Times.