Sunday, 23 January 2022


Originally conceived by Josh Wardle as an innocent, non-nosy-parker diversion, Wordle (previously) has spawned several imitations, including expansive clones and parody account for those who can’t wait for a new round to come up, here is a list of some games in the same vein—with mostly the same house rules, curated by Joe Jenett. We especially liked Absurdle and Queerdle—the yassificated version. Give them a try and let us know if you encounter any other good copies. Hier ist Wordle auf Deutsch.

Saturday, 15 January 2022


secret lairs: a tour of Modernist homes that upstage other performers as the starring-role  

👁 🅰️ ◀️ 🚍: Buddhist scriptures and sūtras for those who cannot read  

carpenters estate—lund point: Brendan Barry transform unoccupied dwellings in a twenty-three-storey tower block into a camera obscura to produce large format prints 

on a clear day, you can see forever: a look at some of the longest sightlines on Earth—via Miss Cellania  

kimochi no katachi: reuse those paper bags with a set of template rulers that guide you to folding a paring them down to pouches and envelopes  

offgrid: a handcrafted home in remote coastal Maine up for sale

unwort des jahres

Critical of unreflective and dehumanising, casual use in the press, the independent jury have selected Pushback as their “un-word” of the last year for Germany—previously. The often illegal practise of forcing migrants back from the borders of destination or transit countries was illustrated by the tragic stand-off at the EU frontier in Poland on the boundary with Belarus, weaponising asylum seekers from Iran, Iraq and Syria by granting them (at great personal costs—see previously) visas to Minsk and then pushing them out for West to care in reprisal for sanctions levied.

9. being crafty occasionally (3)

Vis-a-vis the recent popularity of the game Wordle, we quite appreciated this retrospective from Public Domain Review on the development (see previously) of the modern crossword puzzle, the appeal of diversions and challenges in times of turmoil, cryptic clues and the connection of the contemporary poetry of TS Elliot. Much more to explore at the links above plus with new puzzles daily, give Wordle a try.

Friday, 14 January 2022

like dear old alfred always said: eat a dinner, mattress wayne

Courtesy of Super Punch, we discover what a neural network will generate after being primed with a thousand pages of captions and quote bubbles from old Batman comics. More at the link above, including panels illustrating the text.  Joker is a clown but insane.  Two-Face is a man but attorney. 

Friday, 7 January 2022

pardon my french

Cynically characterised by some as a political ploy ahead of the election to stoke resentment for those members of the public refusing or hesitant over vaccines the vulgarity that Emmanuel Macron lobbied against the small but vocal minority of the unvaccinated that’s being translated, innocuously, as “be made pissed off”—whereas, perhaps just as inoffensively if not a bit rough (see also), the original word choice was emmerder, a literal calque one can easily imagine but conveys the sense of “to make inopportune” and rather responsibly makes social venues the preserved of those inoculated. Much more at Language Log at the link above.

Friday, 31 December 2021

old year day

With origins of the celebration unclear and etymology uncertain, Hogmanay (HOG-mə-NAY) rhyming with the last line of the post), now understood as the Scots word for the last day of the old year, is kept in a variety of ways with various local and family

traditions but most include the custom of gift-exchanges (usually symbolic ones like salt, coal, a type of fruit-cake called a black bun, a coin and uisge/whisky for security and prosperity) and visiting neighbours with special honours reserved for the first-foot (ciad-chairt or Manx qualtagh) the first guest to cross the threshold into a home on the cusp of New Years’s Day as presaging good fortune for the coming year. Traditional Hogmanay carols include Auld Lang Syne and “Haste ye Back”:

Haste ye back, we loue you dearly,
Call again you’re welcome here
May your days be free from sorrow,
And your friends be ever near.

Though not uncontested and to a degree fanciful, some linguists believe Hogmanay comes from the Norman aguillanneuf, dialectically hoguinané, which is itself a rebracketing of the Old French phrase “[A rendezvous] under the New Year’s Mistletoe”—another traditional present—Au gui l’an neuf! Haste ye back on friendship’s way.

Thursday, 23 December 2021


Similar to other courtesy alphabets and attempts at Latinisation we have encountered before—with varying degrees or success and reception (see here and here), the always engrossing Language Log introduces us to the above transcription scheme also known as Sin Wenz (“New Script”) developed by Russian and Chinese Sinologists and saw widespread use in the 1930s and 1940s. This first attempt as Romanisation (see previously) had native speakers as stakeholders and notably did not attempt to indicate tonal shifts as those were expected to be made clear by context. Much more at the links above.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

letters from santa

Spotted by Messy Nessy Chic in a very festive link round-up refers us to a collection of letters from Father Christmas first collected and shared in 1976, three years after the author’s death, addressed to the family of J.R.R. Tolkein. Starting out as simple, illustrated greetings, over the course the youngsters’ childhood evolve to include ancillary characters and support staff, unmistakably shaky penmanship, franking and even an arctic dialect of Qenya, as in the salutation from the Polar Bear: Mára mesta an ni véla tye ento, ya rao nea—Good-bye until I see you next, and I hope it will be soon!

Sunday, 19 December 2021


schwibbogen: a look at Germany’s Erzgebirge’s Christmas decorative arts traditions—see also

lakshmi-narayan: a looted sculpture returned to Nepal becomes a god again  

wind in your sails: a giant kite will pull a ship across the ocean in a demonstration project to cut emissions

all songs considered: NPR’s Bob Boilen’s recommended listening from the past year  

farmscrapers: advances in hydroponics and robot-assisted harvesting are making vehicle crop-growing a reality  

wysiwyg: Anna Mills on her typography and creative outlook  

carry on regardless: the comic language pf Professor Stanley Unwin  

god rest you merry, gentlemen: the comma in this carol makes us wonder about punctuation

Sunday, 12 December 2021


an den mond “genuss, lieber mond”: a completist sorts and ranks every composition of Franz Schubert—via the morning news 

chaotic good: mapping the mythological creatures of the Baltic—via ibīdem 

the two-thousand year-old man: more appreciation and acclaim for Mel Brooks 

birds aren’t real: a satirical Gen-Z misinformation campaign (see Poe’s Law) turned merchandising opportunity  

location scout: an assortment of movie maps 

parallel path: rubbish corporatespeak that does not avail itself to the level of jargon and technical terms  

combinatorics: base rate fallacies and why false narratives are easy to frame for the ill-numerate  

sexting: “u 🆙” in the style of several male authors

Friday, 10 December 2021

fuzzwords of the year

Differentiated from buzzwords as something intentionally euphemistic or vague and so perhaps under the radar of censors and above a certain level of reproach, we enjoyed learning some of the current slanguage vocabulary of China. We especially liked the Mandarin / Putonghua near equivalent for the English acronym GOAT—that is, greatest of all time—in yǒngyuǎn de shén (永远的神) YYDS, “eternal god” and used to heap praise for excellence. As the author points out, the same transliterated, four-letter initialism is also employed for yǒngyuǎn dānshēn (永远单身), essential “forever single”—so context counts. Much more at Language Log at the link above.

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

legacy software

With a possible folk-etymology referencing Harvard’s Cruft Hall with its preponderance of superannuated electronics from its role during wartime research and development, cruft is a collective noun for a group of hackers. The term, however, has negative connotations of slapdash and shortcut programming which leaves large sectors of unneeded, redundant code.

Tuesday, 7 December 2021


recursive: Ghislaine Maxwell sketches the courtroom artist sketching her 

temporal distortion: an xkcd comic that references every ambiguous birthday scenario 

check out those gams: a pair of pageants with a narrower focus on beauty—via Nag on the Lake 

menty-b: Macquarie Dictionary’s short-list for Word of the Year  

qed: an overview of maths in film and television 

hungry eyes: the canon of Western art as viewed through the lens of food

Monday, 6 December 2021

schleicher's fable

Dying this day of tuberculosis in Jena in 1868, (*1821, Meiningen), linguist August Schleicher informs our contemporary views on the Indo-European (previously) family of languages and attempts to reconstruct a common ancestor.  Previsioning or at least parallel with the development and advancement of Charles Darwin’s evolution of species, Schleicher's comparative study was grounded in the natural descent and competition and pass through life-cycles as any living being among world language and established a system of classification based on the taxonomy of botanical varieties, modelling a Stammbaumtheorie, a family tree showing trunk, branch and twig.  Working backwards to a common ancestor, the hypothetical and at times conjectural—though malleable and subject to revision, Proto-Indo European (PIE), Schleichter illustrated his concept, vocabulary and its antecedents and what inference can be made about cultural norms and outlook through reconstruction with a brief fable

Using modern spelling conventions, his [The] Sheep and [the] Horses (das Schaf und die Rosse) is rendered: 

H₂óu̯is h₁éḱu̯ōs-kʷe h₂áu̯ei̯ h₁i̯osméi̯ h₂u̯l̥h₁náh₂ né h₁ést, só h₁éḱu̯oms derḱt. só gʷr̥hₓúm u̯óǵʰom u̯eǵʰed; só méǵh₂m̥ bʰórom; só dʰǵʰémonm̥ h₂ṓḱu bʰered. h₂óu̯is h₁ékʷoi̯bʰi̯os u̯eu̯ked: “dʰǵʰémonm̥ spéḱi̯oh₂ h₁éḱu̯oms-kʷe h₂áǵeti, ḱḗr moi̯ agʰnutor”. h₁éḱu̯ōs tu u̯eu̯kond: “ḱludʰí, h₂ou̯ei̯! tód spéḱi̯omes, n̥sméi̯ agʰnutór ḱḗr: dʰǵʰémō, pótis, sē h₂áu̯i̯es h₂u̯l̥h₁náh₂ gʷʰérmom u̯éstrom u̯ept, h₂áu̯ibʰi̯os tu h₂u̯l̥h₁náh₂ né h₁esti”. tód ḱeḱluu̯ṓs h₂óu̯is h₂aǵróm bʰuged. 

A sheep without wool saw two horses, one slowly draughting a heavily-laden wagon and the other quickly carrying a man rider.  Addressing the horses, the sheep said, “My heart pains me, seeing man driving horses.  In reply, the horses said, “Listen sheep, our hearts pain us when we witness man, the master, makes the wool of the sheep into a warm garment for himself, leaving the sheep with no wool!”  Having attended to the lesson, the sheep fled into the plains. A version of this allegory appears in the Alien prequel Prometheus in a short exchange between an android and the ship’s computer to prepare for first contact with the “engineers.”

Saturday, 4 December 2021

wörter des jahres

The panel jury of the Society for the Germany Language (GfdS, Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache) in Wiesbaden has submitted its selection for Word of the Year (see previously) chosing Wellenbrecher (Breakwater, in the sense of disrupting successive waves of viral outbreaks) as the overall top neologism of 2021. Runners-up included Pflexit for the mass-exodus of nursing staff (Pflegekraft) from the profession from burnout, stress and even threats of physical violence, Impfpflicht (mandatory vaccination), Ampelparteien, the English borrowing Booster over the German word Auffrischungsimpfung—which was the preferred term for second-dose, and the new formulation Funf nach Zwölf instead of Five Minutes to Midnight in addressing the climate crisis.

Friday, 3 December 2021

short message service

First in used in pagers that used standarised telephonic protocols as defined, reserved and allocated under the Global System for Mobile Communications in the mid-1980s, the first test missive was sent on this day in 1992 when an engineer named Neil Papworth of the Franco-German SEMA telecommunications group (now defunct) texted from his computer a Christmas greeting to a colleague at Vodafone. Though billions of such SMS circulate daily, it was initially slow to be adopted with rival carriers not allowing cross-communication until 1999―with the uptake exponential and a far more generous character-limit, albeit that these curbs IMHO compelled some real lexicographical creativity.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021


Though in practise perhaps a bit premature and ill-advised given the milieu of a resurgence in COVID cases, we did nonetheless enjoy augmenting our vocabulary with the Japanese tradition of bōnenkai (忘年会) office parties that take place usually during December sponsored by companies for their employees that involves banqueting and a lot of drinking. As respite from the pandemic and the lengthening past or otherwise, not everyone is ready to embrace mandated festivities and bureikō—無礼講, nomunication—that is, loosened tongues facilitated through drink, nomu 意味, which allows one to albeit temporarily, perhaps regrettably disregard hierarchy and distinctions in rank and seniority.

Sunday, 28 November 2021

what who called the ν variant? yes!

With WHO’s on First—JWZ brings us some comic-relief over the latest viral strain of concern, though to apparently avoid such hilarious confusion, went out of Greek alphabetical order, jumping ahead to Omicron (little o, as opposed to Omega, that’s big o) skipping nu and xi (ξ).

Saturday, 27 November 2021

can’t resist a list

Our AI Intelligencer (see previously), expounding on how the above protocols or inventory—being perhaps what artificial intelligence is—has this remarkable tendency to derail otherwise passingly competent machines as they carry instructions out to their unnatural conclusions, like with the prompt for baking a cake with the nth steps being Wait for the timer to ring. Smell the baked good. forgot to take it out. Hide it all under a carpet. Or the next cue to generate traditional wedding gifts after being supplied the first four anniversaries:

5th Year: Fowl Feathers, etc.
9th Year: Small Dainty
11th Year: Soapsugar Jelly
17th Year: Green Surpluses & Leaves
25th Year: Paper, Spreads and White Sea Shells
34th Year: Wool/Reindeer Hair
48th Year: Lying In Blankets

I seriously want this bot to be my personal shopping concierge for Christmas as it seems to have no problem conjuring up an inexhaustible wish-list. Much more at the links above.