Friday, 30 September 2022

please confirm that your surname is indeed St&252;vel (10. 181)

Hard to believe that there is still no work-around for otherwise sturdy legacy software that goes all fragile over apostrophes and accent marks (not to mention the so-called smarter algorithms that vex users with the Scunthorpe problem), but as this gloss from Language Log relates the ticketing programme used by national carrier Aer Lingus won’t accept ostensibly the most common Irish last names like O’Connor and O’Brien, a state of affairs that has been a known dilemma for quite some time, which the airline apologies for. What do you think? Have you had to contend with such constraining inputs? We wonder how domestic equivalents might fare.

7x7 (10. 180)

ron’s house: a bid to save an immersive, eccentrically decorated apartment—via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump  

hermetic students of the golden dawn: an honest-to-goodness magic duel between William Butler Yeats and Aleister Crowley—via Boing Boing  

there’s a hole in my head where the rain gets in: medieval wound man, a medical diagram meant to assist surgeons of yore—see also  

it’s been zero days since the last catastrophic hurricane: more stats from Neal Agarwal (previously)  

self-paced: an AI powered language learning tool—via Web Curios  

photosculpture: a century before 3D printers, there was the rotoscoping technique M Franรงois Willรจme  

mid-management mezzanine: a tour of the S.C. Johnson Wax Headquarters building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright

Saturday, 17 September 2022

7x7 (10. 141)

jezero: Perseverance explores a Martian crater  

lingthusiasm: an interview with xkcd author Randall Munroe on hypothetical questions about language and orthography—via Language Log  

achievement unlocked: a radical redesign for Girl Scout badges—see also  

3½, 5¼: an interview with the last purveyor of floppy disks—via JWZ  

emoticons: more on the IPA, EPA (English Phonotypic Alphabet), Issac Pitman and other champions of spelling reform from Shady Characters  

jazz and cats: the life and surrealistic art of Gertrude Abercrombie  

earth below us: outstanding images from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year Contest

Thursday, 15 September 2022

7x7 (10. 136)

ernie-vilg: Baidu enters text-to-image generating AI—reinforces government censorship  

kusugibashi: a rebuilt bridge washed away in 2018 combines traditional carpentry (see also) with computational design technology  

naysayer: exocentric verb-noun compound agents 

if you give a bot a cookie: pop ups are ruining the internet experience—see also—outside of walled gardens, via Digg  

we’re making earth our only shareholder: founder of Patagonia gives his billion-dollar company away to combat the climate emergency 

bademaschinen: floating saunas for Oslo harbor—see also   

nervous laughter: researchers hope to deliver more natural human-robot conversations

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

8x8 (10. 131)

le milieu du monde: influential Swiss director Alain Tanner has passed away at 92  

zodiaco: we liked these astrological sign matchboxes from Josรฉ Marรญa Cruz Novillo—see previously  

circadian rhythm: an infographic comparing sleeping patterns across the animal kingdom  

landscape, portrait: a relatable, cautionary comic from xkcd  

punching down: US Republican governors ask Joe Biden to be less generous with his student debt forgiveness plan  

moxie: Perseverance’s experimental oxygen generation—via Super Punch 

trap set: chimpanzees in Uganda demonstrate their signature drum-beats, can communicate across great distances 

maรฎtre ร  penser: French New Wave film pioneer Jean-Luc Godard has exited the scene, aged 91

Saturday, 10 September 2022

8x8 (10. 124)

the girl from ipanema: the Yahoo! GeoCities (previously) Midi project has gathered a collection of over one-hundred and fifty thousand chiptunes, via Web Curios  

summer island: a graphic horror novella that’s a collaboration between a story authored by a human and illustrations courtesy a machine 

bill-of-sale: receipts and letterhead of the Old East End  

null island: the imaginary location at the intersection of the Equator and Prime Meridian (see previously) that exists by necessity  

premium vector: a selection of 90s cursor effects (trails, rainbows) that can be incorporated into one’s website—via ibฤซdem  

trichromacy: fascinating etymologies of words for colours—via Damn Interesting’s Curated Links  

b-poty: avian photography of the year  

pattern recognition: more on mondegreens and misheard lyrics

Thursday, 1 September 2022

a, e, i, o, u—and sometimes y (10. 103)

As part of an engrossing, thoroughgoing examination of the alphabet’s terminal letters and the semi-vowels, our modern w’s and y’s and their received orthography and form, The History of English Podcast, in the latest episode, informs that the in the prevailing Blackletter or Gothic scribal style, the risers (see also) are referred to as minims—the simplest stroke, the “i” and the source of our modern minimal and derived terms (hence, “I do not care one iota”) and these vertical elements, making for the quickest recording and transcription with a quill, sacrificed legibility for the sake of speed and economy of space—the word itself and others with m’s, n’s, u’s and i’s looking like a picket fence. Scribes found idiosyncratic ways of making texts clearer and reducing transmission errors by adding a tittle or a jot, and using a “y” for an ending “i.” Much more at the links above.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

7x7 (10. 098)

nerva i: scrapped space programme with nuclear rockets aimed at a crewed Mars mission  

der anschlag: Anglophone retitling of foreign films—see previously  

xenobots: reframing how we think of epigenetics and gene maps–see also

superposition: a handwashing guide posted in a physics laboratory lavatory–see previously

extended orthography: facilitating digital communication in First Nations’ syllabics—see also  

yฤntรกi delenda est: more Chinglish roundups  

artemis i: the inaugural mission to return the Moon—previously

Saturday, 27 August 2022

8x8 (10. 091)

catenary curve: the relationship between arches and chains  

astrochickens: another one of Freeman Dyson’s theoretical constructs—albeit less famous than his spheres   

numeracy: a selection of books bringing maths to the masses 

click-wheel: design your next custom iPhone—add a headphone jack, handle, home button, etc. from Neal Agarwal (previously)  

safe neighbourhood: Madonna’s punk phase 

late-stage thatcherism: the UK under Tory leadership is in omnishambles 

chakumelo: a celebration of nostalgic words culled from Japanese dictionaries due to declining usage  

hรฌtรซkw: an AI redesigns the tennis racket, named after Lenape word for tree due to its root-like design

Monday, 22 August 2022

7x7 (10. 078)

ultima generazione: climate activist glue themselves to the Vatican’s Laocoรถn  

little gold statue special: MST3K’s take on the 1995 Oscars 

larder and pantry: photographer Richard Johnson’s compelling series on root cellars–via Everlasting Blรถrt 

a garbler of spices: an eighteenth century specialised position 

canting arms: heraldic rebuses to puzzle 

biblioclasm: to combat book bans and censorship, the Brooklyn Public Library is issuing free cards to all US adolescents  

yangtze: drought in China reveals ancient statues of the Buddha normally submerged–see also here and here–and is also causing shortages in hydroelectric production

and here we have idaho (10. 077)

Occupied by native peoples since at least the past ten thousand years and the subject of a territorial dispute between British America and the United States, the state cleaved from Oregon territory in the Pacific Northwest—with the above anthem—has quite jarringly (though I suppose not surprisingly) a wholly fabricated name. Lobbyist, prospector, fraudster (partnering with the baronet of Arizona) and putative physician George Maurice “Doc” Willing was a unrecognised delegate championing the creation of the State of Jefferson in the Midwest and in 1860 suggested the name for the successor region created from existing territories, claiming it was a Shoshone expression for “gem of the mountains”—now the state motto, but no such term existed in the newe taikwappeh language (representation is important and the widest known Shoshone word ought not to be an infamous, fake one that some white settler made up). Recanting years afterwards, Willing offered that he was inspired to name the area after a girl named Ida—though that statement was never verified either. The US Congress wanted to name the whole Rocky Mountain region Colorado Territory instead of using one completely fabricated—there was some resistance to employing a foreign, Spanish toponym as well—but as Idaho Springs was already incorporated as well as a eponymous county and a namesake steamship christened, the US government let the name stay.

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

6x6 (10. 068)

two trees of valinor: an assortment of keyboards in the languages of Middle Earth 

i have, may it please the court, a few words to say: the final address from abolitionist John Brown  

flexi disc: a profile on the mass-market vinyl alternative that bypassed sanctions (see also)  

wimps, pbh: primordial black holes may account for the missing mass of dark matter in the Cosmos 

tribal sovereignty: Irish customs accepts Native American, Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) passports—rejected elsewhere  

misty mountains: LOTR: The Rings of Power prequel to preview

Sunday, 14 August 2022

9x9 (10. 059)

i’m sorry but this is quite clearly a haunted murder panda and/or the protagonist of moshfegh’s next novel. do not buy: an assortment of random oddities that one preeminent author is selling her online emporium—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links (check it out!)  

quasi-modal: apparently “thy shall be done” is a thing now  

eye of the beholder: an AI visits a contemporary art museum 

printers’ auxiliaries: a beautiful 1940 book of typefaces from the Gujarati foundry  

if marisol and nilofer are the only non-white women at the staff meeting, how frequently will each be called by the other’s name: word problems for female professionals that aren’t so non-sequitur  

pulp power: the mainstay illustrative style of 1930s and 40s serial fiction  

heat dumping: searching for the etymology of the adaptive behaviour of splooting—which is referred to in England as squirrel “pancaking” 

world englishes: the OED on Irish’s contribution to language—see previously  

a lamb himself: an excerpt from Ottessa Moshfegh’s novel Lapvona

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

7x7 (10. 021)

from zero to five thousand: the exponential growth in the discovery of exoplanets since 1991 until the present


verdissement d’image: newly ascribed French vocabulary on climate demonstrates the language’s malleability

thebandwashere: decade‘s plus project by photographer Steven Burnbaum to overlay musicians and venues

necroborics: scientists exploit the hydraulic limbs of dead spiders 

test kitchen: thousands of emoji mash-up permutations—via Waxy 

the odaae: Oxford press publishes a dictionary of African American English  
 
recolte se fรฉr: raging wild fires across Europe setting off unexploded ordinances from World War I

Saturday, 16 July 2022

7x7 (9. 999)

featherbase: a consortium of ornithologists join their collections and make them freely accessible on-line—via Web Curios 

cut-up technique: Artbreeder (previously) creates collages with your help—via Waxy 

harry and the hitman: Oklahoma man pleads self-defence, claiming potential assailant had summoned a Bigfoot to kill him  

deep scatter library: stellar cartography mapping a billion stars in the Milky Way  

culmen > columna > compagna colonnella > coronnel > colonel: explore etymologies with this interactive tool from the creators of Interlinear Books and Language Hat  

unsleeved: an exhibit on the art of the record cover and designer Alex Steinweiss 

trainspotting: an obsessive database of European rolling stock—also via Web Curios

Thursday, 30 June 2022

7x7

stare decisis: the phrase “to stand by things decided,” the doctrine of affording preference to precedent is post-Classical Legal Latin  

day at the beach: Ludwig Favre immerses himself at Brooklyn’s Coney Island—via Nag on the Lake 

kunst und keksdose: the art vintage German biscuit tins 

tubeway army: Are ‘Friends’ Electric? by Gary Numan climbs to the top of the charts on this day in 1979   

merrily, merrily, merrily: distinguishing dreams from waking  

full-stop: Gertrude Stein and others on punctuation  

hallux: Latin’s lack of distinction for fingers and toes—see also here and here

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

6x6

zhaocai: office cats in China face redundancy with startups closing 

utterly buttery: an etymological lesson and childhood memory on oleomargarine  

frisson: a group of neuroscientists compile an extensive playlist of chill-inducing musical tracks  

blood sugar sex magik: chants delivered by Aleister Crowley (previously) preserved on a wax cylinder 

umwelten: a new volume by Ed Yong explores the “self-centred world” (another Rรผckwanderer) of human and non-human animals  

barn cats: felines at work at a creamery in Maine

Sunday, 12 June 2022

good wine needs no bush

A shared image of a Japanese supermarket’s libations section seems at first to illicit a mangled, machined translation or poor command of English whereas this example is no case of Engrish to be  ridiculed but rather a pretty apt quotation from William Shakespeare in, recursively, the epilogue to As you Like It. With the term bush denoting the sprigs of a grapevine that symbolised a vintner’s shingle, the phrase meant that quality speaks for itself and does not need to be advertised—with the reference all but lost to English-speakers: delivered by Rosalind, “If it be true, that good wine needs no bush, ’tis true, that a good play needes no Epilogue.” The French equivalent, still in common-parlance, is ร  bon vin point d’enseigne or the German—not beating around the bush—gute Ware lobt sich selbst.

Sunday, 5 June 2022

eleven benevolent elephants

We quite enjoyed this selection of British tongue-twisters, which struck us more as vocal exercises aimed at improving enunciation and fluency rather than a word game—particularly a wicked cricket critic and many an anemone sees an enemy anemone—that served as a segue for a particularly fabled announcer’s test to be presented cold and with no preparation to prospective radio and television talent as a gauge of their pronunciation skills, memory and recall and breath control, asked to deliver the following without mistake, hesitation or rushing for lack of oxygen. 

  • One hen
  • Two ducks
  • Three squawking geese
  • Four Limerick oysters
  • Five corpulent porpoises
  • Six pairs of Don Alverzo’s tweezers
  • Seven thousand Macedonians in full battle array
  • Eight brass monkeys from the ancient sacred crypts of Egypt
  • Nine apathetic, sympathetic, diabetic old men on roller-skates with a marked propensity towards procrastination and sloth
  • Ten lyrical, spherical, diabolical denizens of the deep who all stall around the corner of the quo and quay of the quivery all at the same time

Now say that two times fast. It was to be repeated back in the style of a cumulative song, with each verse getting increasingly longer.  There are of course several variants of the semi-legendary audition. More rhyming challenges from Futility Closet at the link up top.

Friday, 3 June 2022

your hit parade

The cover of the standard ล koda lรกsky (Wasted Love) by Jaromir Vejvoda known in the German Sprachraum as Rosamunde and released for English-speaking audiences under the title “Beer Barrel Polka” by accordionist and bandleader Will Glahรฉ topped the charts in the United States on this day in 1939, selling over one-million copies by 1943. Glahรฉ, prohibited by the Chamber of Culture of the Third Reich from spelling his name with an accent from 1934 to 1945, had toured internationally and were particularly popular in America and achieved further successes with his “Liechtensteiner Polka” and “The Cuckoo Waltz” and performed with the Glenn Miller Orchestra and Fats Domino.