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.

Saturday, 28 May 2022

the tiffany problem

Although as a given name it has a pedigree of over eight hundred years, the English, Bretagne version of the feminine form of ฮ˜ฮตฮฟฯ†ฮฑฮฝฮฏฮฑ, given to those born on the Feast of the Epiphany, it strains credulity to use in a historical, fictional context because we believe the name to be something thoroughly modern. Welsh-Canadian fantasy writer Jo Walton (see previously) was inspired by this counter-anachronism to coin the titular quandary as a stand-in for our recency biases—moreover the illusion that what’s recently popular is in fact recent—and the disconnect in how we perceive past and preface.

Sunday, 22 May 2022

nsibidi

Having encountered the pictographic, symbolic system of writing beforehand as the export, cultural transmission of veve via the transatlantic trade of enslaved people, we appreciated this further gloss on nsibidi used by the Ekoi, Efik and Igbo peoples of southern Nigeria, its use far from ornamental for wall and fabric designs, tattoos and calabashes, decorated gourds, and maintained as a form of communication and documentation by semi-secret societies, the everyday use of its public-facing, profane set of glyphs and secret, sacred characters (plus an extended character set reserved for the exclusive use of women—see also) is much diminished after colonial occupation. Archaeological evidence and ethnographic studies suggest that this still living and adapting script was in use as early as the fifth century AD and developmentally is as sophisticated as the more familiar hieroglyphics of the Ancient Egyptians—though without the same level of public interest or provenance.

Friday, 13 May 2022

6x6

sagittarius a*: the Event Horizon Telescope captures images of the Milky Way’s Black Hole—previously  

sluggo: “Music from Nancy”—via Waxy  

click-wheel: with the announcement that the last iteration of the iPod is being discontinued after two decades (see also), enjoy this first commercial advertisement  

anamorphic camouflage illusion: the Phantom Queen optical effect  

รผbersetzer: Google Translate adds languages using Zero-Shot Machine Translation, now facilitating communication among one hundred and thirty-three different languages  

white dwarf: astronomers witness a nova in real time

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

7x7

homo loquax: Futility Closet refers us to an expanded listing for the taxonomical name sapient human with some choice Latinate adjectives to describe us 

crate-digging: Jimmy Carter’s grandson is exploring the White House’s surprisingly hip vinyl collection—via Messy Nessy Chic  

le bestiaire fabuleux: a 1948 artists’ collaboration of a surreal and abstract menagerie—see also  

sabbatical: Jason Kottke takes a break from blogging and poses the questions that probably haunt everyone in this community—come back soon  

mรถrkrets makter: the very different (though retaining the epistolary format) unauthorised translation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula familiar to Icelanders  

stratification: exploring the historic map layers of London—via Things Magazine  

word-horde: daily vocabulary lessons in Anglo-Saxon words

Sunday, 1 May 2022

sama merdo

The group hailing from Kherson and active from 1993 to 2007, Piฤ‰ismo is a hard core punk band notable for performing in Esperanto (see below). In July of 1995, they organised and participated in a music festival in Hola Prystan’ called a “Concert of Loud Music in Incomprehensible Languages” and invited other Esperanto- and Volapรผk-speaking bands. In 2002, the again headlined a fest in Saint Petersburg called “Bored of the Conlangs” (see above). The title of their demo track translates to “Suddenly Crap.”

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

flagging interest

Most posts here can be filed under miscellany but we have spent some curating labels and last year starting transitioning to using emoji but am feeling more than a little bit equivocal about having chosen to use national and constituent flags as tags, and via Shady Characters (previously) we learn that the governing body of Unicode will no longer be entertaining proposals for new flags—as those states with region codes are added automatically according to the canonical authority ISO 3166. Already fraught with politics and foreign relations, sub-divisions (exceptions not withstanding) will not be granted an officially sanctioned emoji—with the same restrictions applied to historic flags and movements, since it is impossible to please all sides and it’s not always obvious if the least worst choice was made. Some platforms (see also) and operating systems have always eschewed this controversy by using a pair of letters or a featureless flag (๐Ÿด).

Saturday, 23 April 2022

8x8

song birds: a printed circuit bluejay and other avian friends  

industrials: a leitmotif of edifying vocabulary—see previously—from Futility Closet  

occultation: Perseverance rover captures Mars’ lumpy moon Phobos partially eclipsing the Sun 

infinite tapestry: a generated side-scrolling landscape—via Web Curios  

days of rage: a gallery of activism posters curated by the USC Library system—see previously—via ibฤซdem  

art bits: an archives of HyperCard stacks (see also)—via Waxy  

ghost in the shell: skeletons in video games  

cheeps and peeps: the rich, melodic syntax of birdsong

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

foia foil

Via Waxy, we are directed to a deviously difficult daily challenge in the Wordle vein to puzzle out a randomly, heavily reacted Wikipedia article—a skill to hone that could prove useful when confronted with sanitised, sensitive documentation, censored or anonymised for public consumption.

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

7x7

mutually intelligible: interlocutors with no common language gravely overestimate the success of their getting the message across 

let’s have church: mystery artist of gospel album covers—via Nag on the Lake  

partygate: Prime Minister and cabinet members fined for violating lockdown protocols 

toto, i have a feeling we’re not in kansas anymore: watch an Iowa television station transition from monochrome to living colour  

coin-op: a comprehensive look at Gachapon (ใ‚ฌใƒใƒฃใƒใƒณ) across Japan  

1-bit: summon demons with this slightly racy tarot reading  

light verb variation: why some people make decisions and others take them

Sunday, 10 April 2022

7x7

improper fraction arena: Via friend of the blog Nag on the Lake’s superb Sunday Links and the depths of Wikipedia comes a list of articles submitted and ultimately rejected by dint of insanity  

possible to express in words: a useful term with a surprisingly sparse corpora 

reprise: another look at Davie Bowie’s 1973 The 1980 Floor Show through some raw footage—see previously 

a moveable feast: a look at the mode, median and mean dates for Easter and the method of computus  

a kitty bobo show: Kevin Kaliher’s pilot that went ungreen-lit in favour of Kids Next Door  

micromachines: researchers developing tiny molecular motors that could be deployed en masse to suck carbon from the air, supplement our own organs—via Slashdot  

did you know: from the depths to the Main Page

Thursday, 7 April 2022

putinversteher

In circulation since the 2014 invasion and annexation of Crimea (even nominated as Unwort of the year then but losing out to the below)  and now rising again to common-parlance and international recognition, the German term for a sympathiser or apologist of the president of the Russian Federation with the noun that generally means “understander” joins a cadre of words that have entered English in recent years (see previously), drawing sometimes apt but imperfect parallels to the US invasions of Iraq, Grenada, or Vietnam—careful not to condone or endorse violence but at the same time invoking deflection and whataboutism (a tu quoque fallacy). The article from Deutsche Welle goes on to report that the use of the letter ‘Z’ to signal support of the Russian aggression has been outlawed in this country, the letter with no unambiguous interpretation and a Cyrillic corresponding letter which seems strange considering the country’s nationalism. Theories on the distinguishing markers on otherwise identical tactical vehicles range from ะทะฐะฟะฐะด (Romanised as zapad—or a war against the West), ะทะฐ ะฟะพะฑะตะดัƒ (for victory) or grimly and commiserate with the atrocities seen ะทะฐั‡ะธัั‚ะบะฐ, an unofficial military term for a cleansing operation, room-to-room searches

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

fungi seeks same

Being long-time enthusiasts about plant and mushroom networking and communication, we quite enjoyed learning of this very preliminary, new research that goes further, responsibly suggesting analogues between the chemical and electrical signals that funguses employ to coordinate among colonies or distant parts of themselves—previously also compared to neurons—and human language. Analysis and attempts at decoding these shared messages reveal that missives are dispatched in packets with a vocabulary of possibly up to fifty words that vary across different varieties of mushrooms with split gills being the most chatty and nuanced among the species sampled.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

8x8

plotto: the prolific, formulaic writing of William Wallace Cook—see also  

harry lime: a Third Man tour of Vienna—see previously  

pinscreen: Claire Parker and Alexander Alexeieff animate Nikolai Gogol’s short story The Nose (1963)

anti-social media: Facebook organised a smear campaign against TikTok through a GOP shill—via Waxy 

zone: Dyson to offer noise-cancelling headphones that also creates a pocket of purified air  

the fauvist: the art of Marguerite Zorach, an early proponent of Modernism in America—via Messy Nessy Chic 

love me, feed me, don’t leave me: the strange saga of a Garfield-themed restaurant  

floriography: cryptological communication by means of floral arrangement through their symbolic and emblematic meaning

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

8x8

many years later, as he faced the firing squad, colonel aureliano buendia was to remember that weird folgers commercial where it implied the brother and sister were hooking up: first drafts of the greatest first lines in literature 

stories and studies of strange things: the life and legacy of Lafcadio Hearn (ฮ ฮฑฯ„ฯฮฏฮบฮนฮฟฯ‚ ฮ›ฮตฯ…ฮบฮฌฮดฮนฮฟฯ‚ ฮงฮตฯฮฝ / ๅฐๆณ‰ ๅ…ซ้›ฒ) itinerant author and journalist who introduced the Western world to Japan 

censored: people in Russia are frantically downloading Wikipedia in the wake of the threat of Roskomnadzor to ban it 

haunted art: an exhibition of the lingering possession in US museum collections 

the rites of spring: an arboreal celebration  

frozen chosen: unusual Antarctic ergot 

uncanny valley: AI rendered stories read by humans  

no set back: great authors on rejection

Friday, 18 March 2022

prank calls

Both the UK defence minister and and home secretary took video calls earlier this week from imposters claiming to be the Ukrainian prime minister and were posed leading questions in an attempt to solicit inappropriate and provocative responses but quickly saw through the hoax. Though unclear what party was behind it, officials are blaming Russian disinformation campaigns and the fact that fraudsters could gain access to top ministers is worrying regardless of motive—the report ending with a linguistic coda touching on the topic of shibboleths and that future callers should be credentialed or outed by how they pronounce palianytsia, a traditional kind of roll, that Russian speakers pronounce with a soft <ฤญ> instead of <ะธ>.

Saturday, 5 March 2022

achtung baby!

We thoroughly enjoyed this episode of The Allusionist podcast that explores the ephemeral nature of warnings obilge and the limits of translation through the lens of the of the cautionary statement—in thirty-four languages—included with the toy prize as small-print pamphlets in Kinder Eggs/Kinder รœberraschung produced on a global scale, though still unavailable in certain jurisdictions in this format, by Italian confectioner Ferrero (as Kinder Sorpresa or Ovetto Kinder) as examined and considered by sociologist and ethnographer Keith Kahn-Harris. What makes the cut internationally as a language for inclusion in one’s corner shop? What counts as correspondence in this regulatory, disclaimer tone? More food for thought below.