Thursday, 26 January 2023

6x6 (10. 498)

trattoria: the invention of Fettuccine Alfredo—a labour of love  

masstransiscope: a zoetrope to be enjoyed at speed by NYC subway passengers—see also  

chucoํ—sol: the need for new weather words to reflect living through the climate catastrophe  

break five: a comprehensive guide to celebrating the Lunar New Year on mainland China—via tmn  

boogaloo in apartment 41: the musical stylings of Ozzie Torrens and his Exciting Orchestra  

melts in your mouth: M&Ms spokescandies finally forced into retreat by conservative pundits

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

dglflf (10. 478)

A unit of the Ministry of Culture and Communications and successor to the “High Committee of the French Language” which was established on this day in 1973 by the government of Charles de Gaulle to find authentically French substitutes for some three hundred and fifty creeping Anglicisms, la Dรฉlรฉgation gรฉnรฉrale ร  la langue franรงaise et aux langues de France, essential is a continuation of that original mission and charge, though now importantly acknowledging a plurality of languages of the country—see also here and here. Five decades ago, changes included dropping flashback for retrospectif, palmarรจs for charts or hit parade and navire citene for tanker.

Monday, 16 January 2023

9x9 (10. 424)

j.t. iv: the compilation “Cosmic Lightning” of a tragically forgotten outsider rock artist  

tees valley: a dialect map of England from the University of Leeds  

bundesministerin der verteidigung: German defence secretary steps down  

courtlife: Queen Victoria’s illustrated journals—see also—via Messy Nessy Chic  

mlk: Stevie Wonder’s campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday a national holiday  

wef: global leaders gather in Davos buona sera: actor, photojournalist and sex symbol Gina Lollobrigida passes away, aged 95 

scare-fox: accidentally Art Brรปt predator-deterrent  

atomic rooster: a classic from the spin-off band of Crazy World of Arthur Brown

Sunday, 15 January 2023

st john’s wood (10. 419)

Once (and yet) regarded as an assault against navigation devices and by turns an assault against proper punctuation and orthography (see also here and here), we appreciated learning about the selective preservation afforded to a number of thoroughfares, parks and venues (with a short biography) of London via our trusted flรขneur. Making note of the non-possessive exceptions that make the rule—as opposed the exclamatory figure of speech used in stagecraft to break off from the audience, “O happy dagger!,” we’re also introduced to a colourful term ‘anorak level tube apostrophe history’ to describe and prescribe the changing style to sibilant endings. Anorak, chiefly a Britishism, incidentally refers to an enthusiast dedicated to the point of obsession with a very niche subject—first to describe fans of pirate radio who would charter crafts to go out to visit the boats, whom like trainspotters, were often unfashionably but appropriately attired in parkas.

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

zero-shot text to speech synthesis (10. 406)

Via Waxy, we are introduced frighteningly adept AI protocol from Microsoft called VALL·E that can extrapolate and convincingly simulate, imitate any voice with a sample of just a few seconds of audio. The underpinning code is not being published as an acknowledgement of its potential for misuse but there is a demonstration reel of its abilities that’s pretty amazing and are tuned for diversity, emotional maintenance and environment. Eleven benevolent elephants for your elocution.

Tuesday, 10 January 2023


A recent observation and question posted to Language Log brings us back to the cinematic experience of Vincent Price in his title role as The Abominable Dr Phibes who fiendish dispatches his victims and exacts revenge inspired by the biblical plagues visited upon Egypt to persuade the Pharaoh to let Moses and his people go. Phibes refers to the series of calamities by the term G’Tach, whose meaning appears illusive but is shown to be an abbreviation (indicated by the " sign), a mnemonic device to recall the order of water turning to blood, frogs, lice, hail, locusts, etc. formed by its initial and broken into three groups. More at the links above.

Monday, 9 January 2023

word of the day: gongoozler (10. 401)

Ostensibly from canal workers’ jargon to describe an observer watching the narrowboats ply by—from the Lincolnshire dialectical terms for gaping and staring, and interesting as its etymology is completely removed from gondolier, it’s now used as a gently chiding, reflexive way to describe such practitioners (see also) and their pastime—and by extension, any sort of keen spectating without appreciable contribution.

Saturday, 7 January 2023

8x8 (10. 395)

notional counting: amateur archaeologist proffers the theory that markings on ancient cave paintings may communicate information about quarry animals’ life cycles—pushing back the origins of writing ten-thousand years  

social recession: declining trust, friendship and adult activities by the numbers—via tmn  

brick and mortem: the surprising, seemingly non-sequir resurgence of a chain of bookshops  

arrakhis: the European Space Agency launches a tiny satellite to search for dark matter  

metroid as directed by paul verhoeven: imaging 90s video games as feature films—see previously  

little d: a Defender-style camper conversion kit unveiled at the Tokyo Auto Salon  

upward falling payloads: proposals for an orbiting warehouse and fulfilment centre  

mirabile scriptu: phony but possibly plausibly kanji generated by AI for abstract concepts—particularly appealing is one for the Chief Twit, ็Ž‹ (pronounced wang, meaning king)

Monday, 2 January 2023

you’re on mute (10. 382)

Guilty of restoring to a zealous “absolutely” myself when question is a binary one and not a gauge of enthusiasm, we can fully get behind this banished words list put out annually by the faculty of Lake Superior State University in Michigan—in a tradition that dates back to 1976 as a curative declaration again misuse, overuse and redundancy. Culling from a thousand entries submitted yearly—past examples including “classic,” “viable alternative,” “zeroise,” “no worries,” “bespoke,” ♥︎ and strangely in 1985 the German phrase “in der Tat” (indeed) in 1985, those retired or otherwise banned for 2023 also include GOAT and inflection point, as well as some contenders for words of the year, like quiet quitting and gaslighting.

Friday, 30 December 2022

krig, kriser och klimatdebatten (10. 372)

Annually Sprรฅktidningen magazine in collaboration with the Swedish Language Council publishes a list (previously) of a few dozen choice neologisms that help define the year informed by war, crises and climate debates. Among the new terms selected for inclusion for 2022 are jury favourite epadunk—a musical general that references the “epatractors” that rural youths are able to drive on public at age sixteen and the sound systems that they need to devise in order to hear over the loud tractor motors—matfattigdom—that is, food poverty, munkmodell, living an ascetic lifestyle for the sake of the planet, klickkemi or click-chemistry for constructing complex molecules and individualised drug treatments from modular building blocks and some more that have entered common-parlance through the news and current events, like kamikazedrรถnare, Putinprise, Permakris and smygflation (a portmanteau for stealth inflation).

Friday, 23 December 2022

ice cream assassins (10. 356)

Again with the distinction between neologisms and characters and courtesy of Language Log, we are directed towards an omnibus listing of internet slang that dominated social media in China (see previously) this past year. The title (้›ช็ณ•ๅˆบๅฎข) refers to the sticker-shock of the frozen treats associated with inflation and the pictured “let it rot” cites the trend of leaning into a situation that’s failing apart rather than trying to salvage it and like lying flat signals a generation growing weary with social competition in the face of a possibly bleak future. We also quite liked the incantation—Tuรฌ! Tuรฌ! Tuรฌ! ้€€!้€€!้€€!, to banish an unpleasant presence in one’s life.

Tuesday, 20 December 2022

shibboleth (10. 348)

With the blessing of the regional governor, far-eastern Irkutsk is soliciting help from the public to help uncover Ukrainian spies by asking them to pronounce (see previously, catching up some three hundred days later) place-names under the assumption that only loyal locals could say correctly. The social media campaign invites one to test a friend with one word. This theatre of the absurd—the age old question of accent and dialect confirmed and confounded with very modern QR-code—seems to me not terribly effective since the majority of Ukrainians also have a good command of Russian phonetics.

Friday, 16 December 2022

mistletoe and magic ✨ (10. 340)

Whilst OpenAI’s ChatGPT (previously) invent more plausible and predictably formulaic output instantaneously and in a way that addresses all the tropes—and stereotypes—in a more natural and less forced way, these rather vanilla spec-scripts for a generic Hallmark Holiday special, safe and concise as they may be, do fall short of the genius of an earlier artificial intelligence model’s product, set in a small town snow-globe refillery. Plus as a bonus treat, we are referred by Strange Company to the origin story of the Snow Globe—through the lens of its most famous cinematic appearance in the first few moments of Citizen Kane—from a Viennese family trying to provide surgeons with brighter operating theatre lighting, a convoluted story that sounds like it could have been written by the above neural network.  Give it a try yourself at the link up top and be sure to share.

Thursday, 15 December 2022

7x7 (10. 386)

de-evolution: Dangerous Minds interviews Devo’s Gerald V Casale  

santa baby: Cher’s 1975 Christmas Show—see previously  

risky ebay alternative: a round-up of poorly considered gift ideas from Tedium 

๐Ÿ‘️‍๐Ÿ—จ️: an infinitely recursive Game of Life—see previously—via Waxy  

going to be out of pocket today: a Gen-Z lingo quiz—via Language Hat⊙  

december will be magic again: a 1979 BBC Kate Bush Christmas Special with guest star Peter Gabriel  

crack that whip: the group’s signature song was inspired by Thomas Pychon’s Gravity’s Rainbow

Friday, 9 December 2022

wort des jahres (10. 374)

The Gesellschaft fรผr deutsche Sprache in Wiesbaden (previously) has announced its Word of the Year for 2022, Zeitenwende—the end of an era and the beginning of a new one, for among other things real and feared declines in German leadership and influence economically, in industry, armaments and FuรŸball and for the return to war in Europe, and other terms and neologisms in the running. Rounding out the top ten were: Krieg um Frieden—war for peace, Gaspreisbremse—price controls for utilities, Inflations-schmerz—inflation pains, Klimakleber—for the Last Generation protesters glueing themselves to artwork, Doppel-Wumms—a double-boon for the electro-auto tax credit in the US “Inflation Reduction Act” that skews heavily in favour of American manufacturing at the expense of other markets, neue Normalitรคt, das 9-Euro-Ticket, Glรผhwein-WM—for the fact that the Qatari World Cup wasn’t held in July but rather during Weihnachtszeit, and lastly Waschlappentipps—that is, government-issued suggestions on energy conservation in the shower.

Wednesday, 7 December 2022

zol and gel (10. 370)

Via Waxy, we are directed to the collaborative handiwork of Dylan Black from Maximum Effort, Minimum Reward whose exercise in a reversal of sorts with an OpenAI chat model (previously and trained on such dialogue originally) on inventing a new agglutinative language with grammatical rules and then to translate it back into an actual language is really quite astounding in terms of demonstrating the recursive nature of communication and inflection. Building off a series of a few simple prompts, the artificial intelligence constructs Glorp, the language of slimes—which albeit a little like Huttese and perhaps lacking the sophistication of an evolved language—is nonetheless very impressive. Gloop slog sploma slurpi. See the entire learning process, generated vocabulary and methodology at the link about.

Tuesday, 6 December 2022

yulehole (10. 367)

Via Language Hat, we are referred to a love letter to obscure and superannuated words—like the above that refers to the slacker notch in one’s belt that might be necessitated by the attendant feasting that goes along with the Festive Season—from Guardian contributor and logophile Paul Anthony Jones who offers a selection of Christmas-related terms like boun—that is, to dress with evergreen boughs, the snowballing effect of rolling across a field to accrue size is a hogamadog (also the name of a nascent snail shell that matures into something substantial), bull week, the period preceding the holiday and a time to sort out the rest of one’s business and particularly the Tudor-era term for a hangover, a barleyhood.

Friday, 2 December 2022

jeremy’s hammer? (10. 355)

Britney Spears, the Princess of Pop, is the only perfect anagram of Presbyterians, a mainline American Protestant denomination. Although Ms Spears never to my knowledge took the occasion to employ this anagrammatisation as a pseudonym like Jim Morrison did in the Doors song “LA Woman” as Mr Mojo Risin, born this day—coincidentally—in Mississippi in 1981, she was born into a milieu of socially conservative evangelicalism and quickly retreated from those influences.

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

oh-noetry (10. 348)

Ars Technica refers us to a sandbox experiment from Open AI for beta testing for the public that makes available its latest large language models that are better at understanding complex instructions and is capable of generating rhyming lyrics and verse.

There is an interesting aside to deflate the novelty despite the acknowledged breakthrough with a reference to the Eureka machine, demonstrated in 1845 by inventor John Clark that churned out Latin hexameter in the style of Virgil and Ovid. Give it a try and do share your results. 

Paratum, Roqueforte caseus
Mihi pretiosum esse videtur
Pinguem, sapidum, mollibusque
Mihi sapor est optimus!

Monday, 28 November 2022

gaslighting (10. 342)

By dint of search statistics, Merriam-Webster reports that its word of the year is the manipulative, misdirecting term that causes the target to question the surety of their own sanity taken from the title of the George Cukor 1944 classic. Though a perennial favourite of late, look ups are still exponentially high over a range of real and perceived dauntless reasons to doubt credulity. Other terms that caused people to consult the dictionary this past year were oligarch—driven by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and attendant sanctions, codify, as in enshrining laws once taken for settled and loamy—another Wordle-driven hunt (like ‘homer’) though the correct answer was clown.