Quotulatiousness

August 7, 2017

How to Swear Like a Brit – Anglophenia Ep 29

Filed under: Britain, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 20 May 2015

Swearing is a fun stress reliever, and the British do it so well. Anglophenia’s Kate Arnell provides a master class in swearing like a Brit.

August 5, 2017

History of Writing – The Alphabet – Extra History

Filed under: History, Middle East, Technology — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on Jul 29, 2017

Where did the alphabet come from? How did it develop, and why? The writing systems first developed in Sumer provided a basis for the written word, but their system of characters also inspired a shift to single phoneme systems where each letter represents a distinct sound.

July 29, 2017

Latin Declensions Made Easy

Filed under: Education, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 27 Jul 2017

An explanation of what the Latin Declensions are and how they work. This video is aimed at English-speaking students with no prior knowledge of English grammar. It is deliberately slow and repetitive, and it avoids any graphics or other adornments that may distract attention from the subject matter.

If you like this video, please check out my teaching website: http://www.classicstuition.co.uk/

July 23, 2017

QotD: Australian aboriginal languages

Filed under: Australia, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Little moments like that kept adding up, incrementally nudging me away from leftism but not yet to full conversion. In 1988, watching a John Pilger documentary with lefty friends, another such moment occurred.

Pilger, as usual, was complaining about colonialism and racism and Aboriginal injustice, so naturally we — uniformly white, urban and privileged — were lapping it up. The documentary then shifted to the former nuclear testing site at Maralinga in South Australia, where seven British bombs were detonated in the 1950s and 1960s. Pointing to a sign warning of radiation danger, Pilger observed mournfully that it was written in several languages — “but not in the Aboriginal language”.

Startled by this claim, I looked around the room. Everyone was silent, including a few who had studied Aboriginal history in considerable depth, and so must have known that Pilger’s line was completely wrong. So I just said it: “There is no single Aboriginal language. And no Aboriginal language has a written form.”

I didn’t last long with that bunch of friends, either. Small note to self: my comrades will deny even their own knowledge if it runs counter to a preferred leftist version of events.

Tim Blair, “The Setting of Their Leftist Suns”, Quadrant, 2017-06-17.

July 17, 2017

Some candidates to be added to the Catallaxy Files style guide

Filed under: Australia, Humour, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

A selection of terms used at Australia’s Catallaxy Files to be considered for addition to their in-house style guide:

Allaholic Frenzy. (1) – “Display of highly agitated behaviour, often in a crowd setting. Can be triggered by almost anything that can be interpreted as disrespectful to Islam, esp. cartoon. Frequently seen in Islamic areas such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and England. Patients suffering from Allaholic Frenzy are advised to be cautious when operating machinery or motor vehicles. References. (1). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 6th Edition: DSM-6.”

Alutheran – “A forward-thinking progressive who thinks a man should be judged by the colour of his skin, not the content of their character, and who is thus supercilious and condescending towards an Alt-Racist.”

Billabonk – “Having a root next to a waterhole.”

Bolshie Ballet – “The carefully choreographed routine employed by all leftards when the hideous crimes and failures of socialism are brought up. Responses such as “but that wasn’t real communism”, “but Scandinavia” and “but outside forces” are very common.”

Dingoat.

Dodgeridoo – ‘A fake Aboriginal artefact.”

Faulty-cultural – “A multi-cultural society gone wrong which tends to occur after importing a backward 7th Century culture incompatible with your societal norms.”

Faulti-culti – “(See above). A particular culture that, once introduced, will eventually corrupt and destroy a host culture.”

Fauxboriginal – “White people who claim aboriginality based on a fraction of their DNA or ‘how they feel.”

Fauxb/Fauxbia/Fauxbic – “The dishonest and slanderous labelling of an individual who publicly questions the narrative imposed by a self-selected moral elite regarding specific favoured groups which share characteristics such as race, gender, sexual preference, religious or cultural belief. e.g. Homofauxbia, Islamofauxbia. The labelled individual is portrayed as suffering from an irrational fear, akin to a dangerous mental illness, of one or more of the favoured groups, thus consciously separating themselves from the societal ‘norm’ and voluntarily surrendering any rights, protections or privileges. This pathologising of dissent is analogous to the historical concept of outlawry, wherein an individual was legally stripped of the rights enjoyed by fellow citizens as the result of an alleged crime committed by the accused. Said outlaw could be ‘hunted’ using means not otherwise permitted by the contemporary legal system. The Post-Rational branding of an individual as a ‘fauxb’ presently submits them for hunting (by any and all persons who express an interest) in a reputational and social sense only, though Self-Elected Retributive Justice Magistrates (SERJMs, or simply RJMs) aim to progress legislation to the point where the hunting of fellow humans is again sanctioned by society as a whole, or its unelected representatives.”

July 6, 2017

English place name pronunciation for non-English folks

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I was born in England, but having been in Canada for most of my life, I don’t have an infallible key to remembering how to pronounce many English town and region names. Kim du Toit is on an extended visit to Blighty, so he does his best here to clue in all us furriners about English place names:

The town of Cirencester is pronounced “Siren-sister”, but the town of Bicester is not Bye-sister, but “Bister”, like mister. Similarly, Worcester is pronounced “Wusster” (like wussy), which makes the almost unpronounceable Worcestershire (the county) quite simple: “Wusster-shirr” (and not Wor-sester-shyre, as most Americans mispronounce it).

Now pay careful attention. A “shire” (pronounced “shyre”) is a name for county*, but when it comes at the end of a word, e.g. Lincolnshire, it’s pronounced “Linconn-shirr”. The shire is named after the county seat, e.g. the aforementioned Worcester (“Wusster”) becomes Worcestershire (“Wuss-ter-shirr”) and Leicester (“Less-ter”) becomes Leicestershire (“Less-ter-shirr”). Unless it’s the town of Chester, where the county is named Cheshire (“Chesh-shirr”) and not Chester-shirr. Also Lancaster becomes Lancashire (“Lanca-shirr”), not Lancaster-shirr, and Wilton begat Wiltshire (“Wilt-shirr”). Wilton is not the county seat; Salisbury is. Got all that?

    *Actually, “shire” is the term for a noble estate, e.g. the Duke of Bedford’s estate was called Bedfordshire, which later became a county; ditto Buckingham(-shire) and so on, except in southern England, where the Old Saxon term held sway, and the estate of the Earl of Essex became “Essex” and not Essex-shire, which would have been confusing, not to say unpronounceable. Ditto Sussex, Middlesex and Wessex. Also, the “-sexes” were once kingdoms and not estates. And in the northeast of England are places named East Anglia (after the Angles settled there) and Northumbria (ditto), which isn’t a county but an area (once a kingdom), now encompassing as it does Yorkshire and the Scottish county Lothian — which I’m not going to explain further because I’m starting to bore myself.

And all rules of pronunciation go out the window when it comes to Northumbrian accents like Geordie (in Newcastle-On-Tyne) anyway, because the Geordies are incomprehensible even to the Scots, which just goes to show you.

Now here’s where it gets really confusing.

Update: I managed to get seven of the nine (but one was a guess … a friend on the outskirts of Pittsburgh had tipped me off): Atlas Obscura on unusual demonyms. The ones I didn’t get were Leeds and Wolverhampton.

Here’s a very fun game to play: Take a list of cities with unusual demonyms — that’s the category of words describing either a person from a certain place, or a property of that place, like New Yorker or Italian — and ask people to guess what the demonym is. Here are some favorites I came up with, with the help of historical linguist Lauren Fonteyn, a lecturer at the University of Manchester. It’s tilted a bit in favor of the U.K. for two reasons. First is that Fonteyn lives and works there, and second is that the U.K. has some excellently weird ones. The answer key is at the bottom.

  1. Glasgow, Scotland
  2. Newcastle, England
  3. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  4. Liverpool, England
  5. Leeds, England
  6. Wolverhampton, England
  7. Madagascar
  8. Halifax, Canada
  9. Barbados

Demonyms are personal and vital to our conceptions of ourselves. Few things are more important to our identities than where we’re from. This explains why people invariably feel the need to correct anyone who gets their demonym wrong. “It’s understudied but it’s kind of important,” says Fonteyn, who is originally from Belgium. “I moved to Manchester and had no idea what the demonym was. And if you do it wrong, people will get very, very mad at you.”

The demonym for people from or properties of Manchester is “Mancunian,” which dates back to the Latin word for the area, “Mancunium.” It is, like the other fun demonyms we’re about to get into, irregular, which means it does not follow the accepted norms of how we modify place names to come up with demonyms. In other words, someone has to tell you that the correct word is “Mancunian” and not “Manchesterian.”

July 4, 2017

The linguistic weirdness of English

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Native English speakers tend to have difficulties acquiring their first foreign language because their mother tongue has failed to equip them with what other languages consider quite basic tools, like gendered nouns, relatively sensible quasi-phonetic spelling, and relatively stable patterns for conjugating verbs. In a post from a few years back, John McWhorter points out a few of the weird spots of English and where they came from in the first place:

English speakers know that their language is odd. So do people saddled with learning it non-natively. The oddity that we all perceive most readily is its spelling, which is indeed a nightmare. In countries where English isn’t spoken, there is no such thing as a ‘spelling bee’ competition. For a normal language, spelling at least pretends a basic correspondence to the way people pronounce the words. But English is not normal.

Spelling is a matter of writing, of course, whereas language is fundamentally about speaking. Speaking came long before writing, we speak much more, and all but a couple of hundred of the world’s thousands of languages are rarely or never written. Yet even in its spoken form, English is weird. It’s weird in ways that are easy to miss, especially since Anglophones in the United States and Britain are not exactly rabid to learn other languages. But our monolingual tendency leaves us like the proverbial fish not knowing that it is wet. Our language feels ‘normal’ only until you get a sense of what normal really is.

[…]

English started out as, essentially, a kind of German. Old English is so unlike the modern version that it feels like a stretch to think of them as the same language at all. Hwæt, we gardena in geardagum þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon – does that really mean ‘So, we Spear-Danes have heard of the tribe-kings’ glory in days of yore’? Icelanders can still read similar stories written in the Old Norse ancestor of their language 1,000 years ago, and yet, to the untrained eye, Beowulf might as well be in Turkish.

The first thing that got us from there to here was the fact that, when the Angles, Saxons and Jutes (and also Frisians) brought their language to England, the island was already inhabited by people who spoke very different tongues. Their languages were Celtic ones, today represented by Welsh, Irish and Breton across the Channel in France. The Celts were subjugated but survived, and since there were only about 250,000 Germanic invaders – roughly the population of a modest burg such as Jersey City – very quickly most of the people speaking Old English were Celts.

Crucially, their languages were quite unlike English. For one thing, the verb came first (came first the verb). But also, they had an odd construction with the verb do: they used it to form a question, to make a sentence negative, and even just as a kind of seasoning before any verb. Do you walk? I do not walk. I do walk. That looks familiar now because the Celts started doing it in their rendition of English. But before that, such sentences would have seemed bizarre to an English speaker – as they would today in just about any language other than our own and the surviving Celtic ones. Notice how even to dwell upon this queer usage of do is to realise something odd in oneself, like being made aware that there is always a tongue in your mouth.

At this date there is no documented language on earth beyond Celtic and English that uses do in just this way. Thus English’s weirdness began with its transformation in the mouths of people more at home with vastly different tongues. We’re still talking like them, and in ways we’d never think of. When saying ‘eeny, meeny, miny, moe’, have you ever felt like you were kind of counting? Well, you are – in Celtic numbers, chewed up over time but recognisably descended from the ones rural Britishers used when counting animals and playing games. ‘Hickory, dickory, dock’ – what in the world do those words mean? Well, here’s a clue: hovera, dovera, dick were eight, nine and ten in that same Celtic counting list.

June 26, 2017

What Latin Sounded Like – and how we know

Filed under: Europe, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 12 Aug 2016

Classical Latin went extinct, yet we still know how to pronounce it. Proof!

Take a trip with me back to Catholic school, then back even further to old Rome. We’ll see what Latin pronunciation did – and did NOT – sound like in the mouths of the Romans. Thanks to ancient authors and modern Romance languages, we’ll even glimpse a range of evidence for the speech of Caesar and pauper alike!

SERMO VULGARIS ALL DAY LONG, am I right? 😉

June 24, 2017

How To Insult Like the British – Anglophenia Ep 12

Filed under: Britain, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 8 Sep 2014

If you ever get into an argument with a British person, you’ll wish you’d have watched this video. Siobhan Thompson gives you the tools to sling insults like a Brit.

Here are a few other insults via the Anglophenia blog: http://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2012/08/the-brit-list-10-stinging-british-insults/

June 9, 2017

Can my dog understand me? – James May Q&A (Ep 34) – Head Squeeze

Filed under: Humour, Science — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 16 Aug 2013

Sit, Fetch, Lie Down! James May answers Luke from Durham Johnston Comprehensive’s question on whether dogs can understand humans.

Links
The British Science Association: http://www.britishscienceassociation.org/

National Science + Engineering Competition: http://www.nsecuk.org

Can dogs understand words: http://animal.discovery.com/pets/dogs-understand-words.htm

Shame your pet: http://www.shameyourpet.com

May 22, 2017

Who’s afraid of Mrs. Grundy?

Filed under: Books, Britain, Cancon — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:30

In my family, the name “Mrs. Grundy” was used to describe someone of rigidly conformative taste and judgement (and keenly censorious bent). I’d always assumed it was just a family notion or perhaps a Yorkshire-ism, but the Wikipedia entry makes it clear that Mrs. Grundy has been the bane of many a would-be adventurous or daring spirit for centuries:

Mrs Grundy is a figurative name for an extremely conventional or priggish person, a personification of the tyranny of conventional propriety. A tendency to be overly fearful of what the respectable might think is also referred to as grundyism.

Although she began life as a minor character in Thomas Morton’s play Speed the Plough (1798), Mrs Grundy was eventually so well established in the public imagination that Samuel Butler, in his novel Erewhon, could refer to her in the form of an anagram (as the goddess Ydgrun). As a figure of speech she can be found throughout European literature.

It also discusses a real-life Mrs. Grundy from the early nineteenth century:

During the reign of William IV (reigned 1830-1837) a Mrs Sarah Hannah Grundy (1 January 1804 – 30 December 1863) was employed as Deputy Housekeeper at Hampton Court Palace one of Henry VIII of England’s most famous residences. Her husband, John Grundy (1798/1799 – August 1861), was keeper of the State apartments. Mrs Grundy became Head Housekeeper on 22 April 1838, a year after Queen Victoria ascended to the throne, and she served in that position until 1863 when she retired. Her duties included the care of the chapel at Hampton Court.

Royal families stopped using Hampton Court as a residence in 1737, and from the 1760s onward, it was divided up for “grace-and-favour” residents who were granted rent-free accommodation in return for great service to the Crown or country. These private rooms numbered in the hundreds. Much is revealed about the Victorian ladies living at Hampton Court Palace through their letters, particularly their correspondence to the Lord Chamberlain’s Office as the Ladies attempted to get around the regulations — to exchange their apartments for better ones, to sub-let their apartments for profit, to keep dogs, or other matters of convenience. Equally revealing are the letters from the Housekeepers to the Lord Chamberlain, complaining about the Ladies’ behaviour.

However, a bit of Canadian history indicates that the use of the term “Mrs. Grundy” as I’m familiar with it long predated the lady who policed morals at Hampton Court:

… in a book published in 1836, The Backwoods of Canada Being Letters From The Wife Of An Emigrant Officer, Illustrative Of The Domestic Economy Of British America, by Catharine Parr Traill, she writes: “Now, we bush-settlers are more independent: we do what we like; we dress as we find most suitable and most convenient; we are totally without the fear of any Mr. or Mrs. Grundy; and having shaken off the trammels of Grundyism, we laugh at the absurdity of those who voluntarily forge afresh and hug their chains.” This appears to show that the modern concept of “Mrs. Grundy” was current before the Mrs. Grundy of Hampton Court began her reign.

May 8, 2017

QotD: The hidden power of language

Filed under: Quotations, Science — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I believe, but don’t know how to prove, a much stronger version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis than is currently fashionable. That is, I believe the way humans think is shaped in important ways by the linguistic categories they have available; thinking outside those categories is possible but more difficult, has higher friction costs. Accordingly, I believe that some derivation of Alfred Korzybski’s discipline of General Semantics will eventually emerge as an essential tool of the first mature human civilizations.

Eric S. Raymond, “What Do You Believe That You Cannot Prove?”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-01-06.

April 3, 2017

Decoding TLAs among the PUAs

Filed under: Humour, Randomness, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Kim du Toit on a specific example of the use of jargon heavily sprinkled with three-letter acronyms (TLAs) and extended three-letter acronyms (ETLAs, or four-letter acronyms) to create or enhance the impression of their specialized insider knowledge, in this case among the pick-up artists (PUAs):

In every cult, there are people who try to set their group aside from the rest of the population with language — in other words, creating a shorthand that only the initiates or insiders know, which (I guess) makes them feel superior to outsiders. Many times, this language is made up of abbreviations or (my particular bête noir) acronyms that create a level of inscrutability to the casual reader or onlooker and render the simplest of statements completely opaque to the uninitiated. (I’ll talk another time about academic language, which shuns abbreviation and acronym in favor of dense, elliptical words and phrases used as a shorthand among fellow academics and gives the users a veneer of erudition, usually false.)

[…]

All this pales into insignificance by comparison to people who toss off expressions like “This beta orbiter tried to neg the AMOG in front of the SHB to increase his SMV.” Allow me to translate: “This weakling who hangs around pretty women trying to curry favor with them tried to cut down a charismatic man in front of a beautiful woman, in order to make himself more attractive to her.” (AMOG = Alpha Male Of [the] Group or Alpha Male Other Guy, SHB = Smokin’ Hot Babe [sometimes V(very)H(ot)B(abe), and SMV = Sexual Market Value.)

I speak here, of course, of the PUA (pick-up artist) community, in which the High Priests have created this entire glossary of acronyms to show that, yes, they are the gate-keepers of knowledge which, if you buy their training manuals or pay to attend their seminars, you too, Mr. Sad Beta Male, can unlock the secrets of access to SHB pudenda (Latin alert) and become a “notch collector” similar to these skilled exponents of the art.

It’s bad enough when used in a sentence, but when used graphically or in a chart to illustrate a concept or theory, it becomes completely opaque. Here’s a beauty which attempts to show the correlation between a woman’s looks and the likelihood of her being bitchy:

VHB10 -> BQ 0
HB9 -> BQ 0-1
HB8 -> BQ 1-2
PJ7 -> BQ 3-4
PJ6 -> BQ 5-7
PJ5 -> BQ 6-10
PJ4 -> BQ 4-10
UG3 -> BQ 1-8
UG2 -> BQ 1-4
UG1 -> BQ 0-3
VUG0 -> BQ 0-1

VHB = Very Hot Babe, HB = Hot Babe, PJ = Plain Jane, UG = Ugly Girl, VUG = Very Ugly Girl, and the numeric qualifiers 1-10 are the common delimiters on the Female Hotness Scale (FHS). BQ, by the way, is Bitchiness Quotient, and the numeric qualifiers there are the levels thereof.

Note that this is presented as a scientific analysis or model, when in fact it’s no such thing: it’s a creation solely of the writer’s observation or theory and not by actual, you know, data — but creating acronyms gives it quasi-scientific gravitas — damn it, another Latin word, but you know what I mean, right? It’s kind of a pity, because the author at Chateau Artiste has an excellent way with the English language, when he’s not talking utter bullshit like the above. (Credit where it’s due, though: he also called Trump for the overwhelming electoral victory long before anyone else did, so he’s a more-insightful observer of trends than most mainstream media pundits.)

March 31, 2017

Why Do Some English Speaking Countries Pronounce Z as “Zed” and Others as “Zee”?

Filed under: Australia, Britain, Cancon, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 19 Mar 2017

It’s not just the British that pronounce “z” as “zed”. The vast majority of the English speaking world does this. The primary exception, of course, is in the United States where “z” is pronounced “zee”.

March 21, 2017

Icelandic standup about Nordic neighbours in general and Finnish language in particular

Filed under: Europe, Humour — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on Dec 1, 2016

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress