Monday 26 February 2024

7x7 (11. 383)

bacile calmette-guรฉrin: a century-old variolation against bovine tuberculosis technique might present a treatment route for dementia  

endangered language alliance: a survey of the rare forms of communication in communities in New York City  

marketable skill: Nvidia executive says kids shouldn’t learn to code 

icc: renewed calls to make ecocide the fifth international crime and within the scope of the UN’s court—via tmn  

kรผrschรกk’s tile: a visual proof a complex geometric tessellation  

project ceti: how, powered by AI, a first contact could play out between humans and whales—see previously, see also 

goldplate: research suggest that a treatment with nanoparticles of the element might be a cure for neurodegenerative diseases

Friday 23 February 2024

london breed (11. 372)

With a population exceeding twenty precent of residents of Chinese descent, San Franciscan politicians have a long-standing practise of adopting a Sino-English campaign (whatever their heritage) including Chinese name, with what some critics characterise as at worst cultural appropriation and at least aggrandisement that has little to do with their actual names. The former policy of allowing, for instance a local magistrate running for re-election with a rather pedestrian name with the characters ็ฑณ้ซ˜็พฉ connoting “high” and “justice,” has been displaced by a cadre of translators commissioned by the city to come up with more phonetic translations, though not universally embraced as an improvement as some figures are closely associated with flowery and bombastic nicknames, hoping to preserve the label to avoid confusion, and the transliteration can be awkward and still convey unintentional entendre. More from Language Log at the link above, including in the abundant commentary how the US Food and Drug Administration (and most other competent authorities) prohibit trade names suggestive of efficacy, hence Pfizer’s vehement denial of any derivation for Viagra® and the Sanskrit เคต्เคฏाเค˜्เคฐः (vyฤghraแธฅ), tiger.

Thursday 22 February 2024

totally and utterly carparked (11. 370)

We enjoyed this essay on the supposition that most any English (or foreign for that matter) word can be turned into a posh, polite euphemism or intensifying drunkonym, which piqued the interest of linguists in Chemnitz and Erlangen to assay the subject and prove the adage, compiling an impressive five hundred synonym list in common parlance, following a long tradition of glossing terms, which includes contributions by Benjamin Franklin among others. There are the standards like blotto, totalled and gazebo’d, tosspots and more colourful, improvised for the nonce examples like tangled-legged, zozzled and slug-nutty. More from Jennifer Ouellette at the link above and let us know your favourites.


one year ago: assorted links to revisit plus the Florida Purchase (1819)

two years ago: more links to enjoy plus National Cat Days

three years ago: more links worth the revisit, the throne of St Peter, delightful idioms plus Navajo Star Wars

four years ago: Pope Sanbinian, a virtual news anchor, division bells plus a daytrip to the Milseberg

five years ago: Mister X and the Long Telegram, Rihanna’s fashions as a guiding compass plus racing ranks of Big Tech

Wednesday 21 February 2024

lipogram (11. 366)

Being a fan of constrained writing (previously), a storytelling technique that imposes a specific pattern, meter, rhyme, or bound by a rule that outlaws a certain letter, we quite appreciated being directed towards the book that developed out of a COVID-times project called Ebb by Grant Maierhofer to produce a novel without using the first letter of the alphabet. From a passage about the author’s inspiration—e’s been done already:

Limiting yourself is oddly opening. Limiting your view of things, like stopping yourself from doing something, brings this sense of bliss when you do some close thing to this. This feeling like you’re freed up from thinking one style. This feeling like you’re freed up from being bogged down in your every moment mind. The mind of every moment is too open to every flitting possibility. The mind with one limit put on it knows where it might like to go. To run even. This mind brings out something new in you. Like Wittgenstein’s brother. The composer. The piece written for just one of his sets of fingers. The possibility there. Tehching Hsieh’s work, opening himself to the possibilities in limiting himself for long stretches. The possibility opening up from this kind of thing. I only wish to tell someone to consider it. The possibility even in just considering it. This might be enough. Cut yourself off from something. Limit yourself. See the things which creep out from the sides of the thing you’ve skipped. You’ve stopped yourself from something, now something else opens up there. This is incredible. Simply incredible. The most wonderful thing which could’ve occurred.

One hardly notices the letter’s absence and catch myself juggling with a similar awareness and avoidance in choice of words. Tehching “Sam” Hseih is a retired Taiwanese performance best known for durational works and feats of stamina and endurance and deferment, exploring time and struggle—solitude and commitment, for example not leaving a cell for a year with no human interaction or not stepping inside for another. Much more at the links above.


one year ago: the Communist Manifesto (1848) plus a landmark US Supreme Court ruling

two years ago: the foresight of the US founders plus Nixon in China

three years ago: another Roman holiday, life-sized scale models plus an iceberg simulator

four years ago: bridging continents, assorted links to revisit plus AI antibiotics

five years ago: a bacterial battery plus mergers and acquisitions

Saturday 10 February 2024

7x7 (11. 338)

caught between the moon and new york city: taking a harrowing subway ride in 1981  

homing: Nikola Tesla’s love for pigeons and telepathy—via Strange Company 

 : more on the interrobang—see previously  

stringe-watching: the opposite of binging a series to indulge in the experience  

hash mark: the works of artist Ding Yi coinage: TikTok has seen an (irritating) explosion in linguistic novelties to promote niche microtrends—via Miss Cellania  

in the aeroplane over the seas: Neutral Milk Hotel covers for the album’s anniversary 

castro street: Bruce Baillie films Riverside, California in 1966


one year ago: assorted links to revisit, Tapestry (1971) plus a pioneering hypertext novel

two years ago: the Dread Pirate Roberts plus a geographical challenge

three years ago: the Simpsons’ intro, the feast of St Scholastica, vernacular ceramics, no fly free zones plus profiting from conspiracy

four years ago: more Orange Menace

five years ago: more links to enjoy

Friday 9 February 2024

lady wonder (11. 334)

Born on this day in 1924 and later adopted as a weeks’ old filly by Clarence and Claudia Fonda of Richmond, Virginia, and trained by Mrs Fonda with children’s lettered wooden blocks before graduating to an oversized custom typewriter in hopes of establishing equine-human communication—see also—Lady Wonder was one of a number of famous clairvoyant horses, making several predictions for a massive visiting public over the course of the mare’s long life. The outcome of boxing matches, turns in the stock-market, presidential elections (credited with picking the winner for everyone for nearly three decades except Truman’s victory over Dewey, which pollsters and prognosticators couldn’t have guessed were popular subjects but also participated in police investigations, helping lead authorities to missing persons and solving cold cases. Though some skeptics concluded otherwise, parapsychologist J B Rhine assessed Lady Wonder’s psychic abilities, finding that telepathy and extrasensory perception were the only possible explanations. In 1952, the horse shared a by-line in Life magazine on an article about herself and other gifted animals.


one year ago: colour-coding the Periodic Table plus an omnibus of Olympic pictographs
two years ago: assorted links to revisit, a 1982 hit from Trio plus more of the shorthand of Charles Dickens

three years ago: your daily demon: Andrealphus plus more links to enjoy

four years ago: an ancient game piece plus “splendid isolation

Friday 2 February 2024

stag & nag (11. 316)

The apparatus of a seagoing vessel’s box compass was suspended in alcohol in order to prevent freezing and the magnet from seizing up, and through this rather incredible punitive process imposed on a serial offender with a particular craving for tapping the navigation of ships, we encounter an impressive clipping’s introductory copy—cited without the aid of a ready resource like a Wikipedia stub—on an etymology which with we weren’t familiar. Whilst acquainted with the likely disappointingly spurious folk roots of the Elephant & Castle, more authentic instances of canting as branding like ‘spread-eagle’ (in reference to the imperial arms of the Reichsadler) to indicate an establishment where German wine and beer was sold, the public backlash against publicans’ paired namings as early as the start of the eighteenth century with often incongruous results, as opposed to patronage or services provided, like the cheese inn of Stilton. The not uncommon pub name “Goats and Compasses,” (see above) may come from, like “Pig and Whistle” the corruption of a benediction, piggin wassail in Anglo-Saxon and might be derived from a mishearing of ‘God encompasses [us]’—either that, of the canting arms of two guilds, the Worshipful Companies of Cordwainers and Carpenters, each with three of the domesticated livestock and three compasses, the drafting instruments rather than the navigation aid. More on the recidivist James Wishart Lyon and his unusual compulsion at Weird Universe at the link up top.

Tuesday 30 January 2024

8x8 (11. 307)

1,44mb: some Japanese ministries are phasing out the requirement of submitting official documents on physical media 

forensic linguistics: language experts and crime-solving 

jurassic lark: Poseidon’s Underworld recaps the 1960 cinematic experience Dinosaurs!  

painting with plasticine: Olive Harbutt, daughter of the medium’s inventor, creates art in this 1958 short  

: Letraset fill patterns—see previously 

throwing eggs: popular Chinese card game Guandan may receive sanction for the classroom  

esperantido: linguist Manuel Halvelik created an auxiliary diglossia to make translations sound more archaic 

omnichord: Suzuki brings back the portable music-maker from 1981

Friday 26 January 2024

12x12 (11. 294)

brownstone: Gotham Gothic rowhouses as playing cards  

wall of eyes: Radiohead spinoff artist Jonny Greenwood’s latest album 

scrabblegram: a form of constrained writing using all one hundred tiles of the game  

blackula: a look at the brave inversion of exploitation cinema  

research purposes: profiles in the pornographers of Wikimedia who image and caption—see also—human sexuality, via Web Curios  

parks & rec: a map of sites in the US funded by FDR’s New Deal programme—via Waxy 

best laptop 2024: readership, AI and the collapse of media outlets  

nullification: Texas governor, alleging the US federal government has failed to protect the country from an immigrant invasion, hints at secession  

the compaynys of beestys & fowlys: revisiting how animal groupings (see previously on the subject of venery) received such colourful names—via the morning news  

schluckbildchen: sixteenth century edible devotionals  

mixtape: Kim Gordon, formerly of Sonic Youth, raps her grocery list in new song Bye Bye 

ephemerama: a growing archive of modern illustrations from circa 1950 to 1975—via Things Magazine


one year ago: more trompe l’oeil paintings, assorted links to revisit plus pie-chart studies

two years ago: morphing logos plus more links to enjoy

three years ago: zorbing, the Council of Trent (1545), Australia Day, more links worth the revisit plus Tubman on the twenty

four years ago: modular, prefab kiosks plus the first television demonstration (1926)

five years ago: the longest government shutdown in US history, architect Sir John Soane plus all the world’s writing systems

Thursday 25 January 2024

anapodoton (11. 293)

From the Greek แผ€ฮฝฮฑฮฝฯ„ฮฑฯ€ฯŒฮดฮฟฯ„ฮฟฯ‚ for “I give back,” the ellipsis refers to a rhetorical device by which the gist of a saying is supported by its subordinate clause without mentioning it, like if the mountain won’t come to the prophet, when in Rome, a bird in the hand, if the shoe fits or when the cat’s away. As with the spoonerism I heard once and since incorporated “paying Peter to rob Paul,” I thought the former idiom (fabricated by Francis Bacon) was “Let the mountain come to Mohammed”—an anacoluthon, a disruptive thought expressed in reported speech by my favoured em-dash to mark the divergence—and is entirely missing the intention and making a postproverbial or preverb. The study of such maxims and their variants, dating back to Aristotle’s collections, is called paremiology, classing them into the categories of comparison, interrogation, their above misuse and metaphorical or allusory.

Sunday 21 January 2024

8x8 (11. 285)

80s chillpill: a nostalgic, slow-dance playlist 

topdressing: an appreciation of the world’s “ugliest” utility airplane, the Airtruk, designed for crop-dusting in New Zealand—via Clive Thompson’s Linkfest  

future-proof: an advertising campaign from a pen company in the early 1960s strangely forecasts our technological present 

these children aren’t french—they’re american: a retrospective look at the BBC’s language learning mascot Muzzy 

night-climbers: John Bulmer’s photographs of a secretive group that scaled the campus of Cambridge under the cover of darkness—more here  

crochet coral: an evolving nature and craft hybrid project to memorialise and raise awareness about our disappearing reef—see previously—via Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links 

money pit: a tour of the world’s abandoned airports  

doses & mimosas: a remix by Vintage Culture featuring Zerky

stochastic parrot (11. 284)

Despite having encountered and cited the extremely apt coinage several times in various contexts beforehand, we realised that we never knew the term’s etymology—the leading part’s anyways—as coming from the Ancient Greek for something determined at random or derived from guesswork (ฯƒฯ„ฯŒฯ‡ฮฟฯ‚—also a pillar to prop up a fishing net to mend it) from the office of the stokhastes attempting to predict an outcome by divination, later coming to mean a probabilistic conjecture or augury by allocation. Though a good word of caution against mimicry and anthropomorphising, it does perhaps underestimate the faculties and experience of our feathered friends. More from Language Log at the link above.

Thursday 18 January 2024

7x7 (11. 278)

you are not a product: the demise of the social network Ello’s ambitions  

right: US to UK export Word of the Year—see previously  

mystic pizza: a new popular regional style from the US state of Connecticut  

arbustum: ancient Roman wine-growing techniques and forest agriculture may help battle modern climate change  

sora-q: Japanese space agency is poised to land a transforming robot on the Moon  

gloogo: a lexicon of words that don’t exist yet but should (see also) from Burgess Unabridged—the source of the term blurb  

๐„: time spent pausing is a worthwhile pursuit—see also on the fermata

Wednesday 17 January 2024

10x10 (11. 276)

durianrider and banana girl: a personal account of joining a fringe diet community and subsequent de-programming  

curricula: an archive of Japanese school books from 1898 

i’m feeling lucky: a mostly facetious collection of laws about discourse from Osmo Antero Wiio that posits that communication usually fail except by accident 

it’s not your imagination: research shows that Google search, overrun by competition for rankings, has gotten worse—along with other indexing engines  

flickr commons: sixteen stories for the image platform’s sixteenth birthday—via Waxy  

pps: Chuck Wendig warns against using AI to enhance one’s creative outlets

chevron v natural defence council: US Supreme Court posed to overturn a forty-year precedence on regulators and agency enforcement—more here   

rewatch: Netflix is airing a bevy of classic films, celebrating their milestone anniversaries 

reference desk: as part of an “inappropriate content review,” a US school district is banning dictionaries and encyclopaedias 

the ouroboros of the passive-income scam: an escape from a get rich quick cult

Tuesday 16 January 2024

lighthouse customer (11. 274)

Whilst not exactly synonymous, most alternatives to the designation of lighthouse in other languages come with deference to the Pharos of Alexandria, the hundred metre tall structure, unsurpassed for centuries and advertised as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, as phare, faro, farol, ั„ะฐั€ะฐ and so on, and perhaps not exactly to purpose, we were pleased to learn of the term obeliscolychny as a substitute (we alway try to play by Just a Minute rules, with no repetition, hesitation or deviation*). Coined by the sixteenth century bon vivant and academic Franรงois Rabelais (see also here) from the Greek แฝ€ฮฒฮตฮปฮนฯƒฮบฮฟฮปฯฯ‡ฮฝฮนฮฟฮฝ for a spit used as a lamp-stand, the obscure word is also employed by playwright Alfred Jarre.

Monday 15 January 2024

remigration (11. 268)

For the thirty-third time, a jury of linguists and journalists from Darmstadt has selected the German Unwort of the Year in a portmanteau for the return of refugees, asylum-seekers and Einwander introduced into common-parlance by members of the Identitarian Movement and other rightwing groups (see previously) a euphemism for forced expulsion and even mass-deportation of those considered to be of a non-native background. The organisation fears that this “un-word” is being harnessed to normalise extremist positions in political discourse. Runners-up that the jury also criticises for its rise in use include “Sozialklimbim”—social climate as a classist dog whistle for the poor and disenfranchised as destined to remain on the margins of society and politics, joining a constellation of disparaging expressions, including a soziale Hรคngematte, a safety-net viewed as a hammock, Gratismentalitรคt, entitlement-thinking, and “Heizungs-Stasi,” from the perceived dictatorial approach of regulatory framework meant to make heat and homes more energy-efficient.


one year ago: signature martinis, Land Down Under, the endangered apostrophes of London plus Kurosawa’s Macbeth

two years ago: a history of the crossword puzzle, Un-Word of the Year, Bloody Mary plus assorted links worth revisiting

three years ago: more links to enjoy, Snowflake Bentley, a curation of ignored artefacts plus whaling ship logs

four years ago: more links worth the revisit, the Republic of Vermont plus Swiss land-use

five years ago: the launch of Wikipedia (2001), 1999 in film, seedlings on the Moon, more on Trump’s atrocities plus other smokable plants

Sunday 14 January 2024

stepford authors (11. 265)

We really were in agreement with this comparison of AI plagiarism to the 1975 horror film premising that the human wives of Stepford, Connecticut are having their identities transferred to more able cyborg replicas (to excel at household chores, cooking, sexual acts) without all the shrewish, independent aspects of their personalities that make the slightest bit objectionable to their husbands, having dispatched their biological templates and replacing them. Substituting a human writer with a synthetic one, for the publisher—or any employer for that matter—strikes one as far less bothersome. Meanwhile, the tech giants’ behind large language models arguments for “fair-use,” that machines are digesting and learning from the written word in the same way human readers do and not merely copying them is keeping lawsuits at bay within a legal-framework wholly unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with wholesale violation and lacking attributions—insufficient to even form a rigorous standard to hold the robots to. 


one year ago:  the Human Be-In (1967), Davy Jones changes his professional name (1966), ten years of Question Hound plus assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: Davie Bowie’s Low (1977), a short by Gรฉrald Frydman plus training an AI on vintage Batman comics

three years ago: a celebration of donkeys, Trump’s second impeachment, Laocoรถn, the US Congress’ electronic voting machines, marijuana and the munchies, premium pluralisation plus more on snail compasses

four years ago: forty-five-plus years of Fresh Air, US-Iranian relations, for America, separation of Church and State is becoming blurred plus Germany’s Un-Word of the Year

five years ago: pop-up poetry, view from a bus plus Cherubrashka

Saturday 13 January 2024

nuance (11. 264)

Via Kottke, we discover the Emoji Kitchen by Jennifer Daniels that allows one to combine and remix emoji (see previously here and here) as symbols for different accents, ranges of expressions and moods for angry kisses, pensive cowboys and forlorn robots to capture all the feels as well as some truly surreal abstractions (available directly only for certain platforms), like monkey cactus or monocled dustbin. See what you can come up with.


Tuesday 9 January 2024

⢹⣇ (11. 255)

Via the latest instalment of Clive Thompson’s Linkfest, having explored ambigrams in the past, we were quite taken with this compilation of braille transformations collected by Sean M Burke (in Unicode) that convey a certain unexpected poetry and symmetry—like pondering the I-Ching for those unfamiliar, and would be a worthwhile effort to be able to re-orientate and read them for oneself. Much more to explore and contemplate at the links above.

Sunday 7 January 2024

ensh*ttification (11. 250)

As shared by Waxy, the venerable American Dialect Society, founded in 1889, selected as its Word of the Year (technically referred to in the broader sense as a “vocabulary item”) the coinage from Cory Doctorow used to describe, and perfectly encapsulate, how digital platforms degrade and become decrepit, following a tragic bait and switch trajectory of first being good and usefully, then abusing users by commoditising them for the sake of advertisers to finally abuse those sponsors and shunt value for themselves as a brand—to die the death. Among other contenders short-listed were ceasefire for those calling to stop the hostilities in Palestine, context for its invocations from university presidents on free-speech, Kenaissance for the depiction of the heroine’s companion in the Barbie movie, “let someone cook” as an urging to allow an individual to do something they are good at without interference and stochastic parrot for the tendency of language models to generate plausible text without any understanding. The jury also announced categories of most useful, mostly likely to succeed, such as a gendered-x, girl math, boy math and era defined as a personal period of defining style or behaviour. Their euphemism of the year nominees included effective altruism as a movement to benefit all of humanity but as an excuse to spend the money of others, and in the politics category, ๐Ÿ‰ (employed for the similar colours to the flag) was picked as a symbol of solidarity with the people of Gaza with hot labour summer in second place. More at the links above.


one year ago: close-up photos of the year, the US House of Congress elects a Speaker, a tiny generative remixer, Emperor Norton I plus assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: the Slovak gaming community, the Tokyo metro in real-time, Powers of Ten, St Distaff’s Day, more links to enjoy, Web 3.0 plus Macron’s vulgarities

three years ago: words that are their own opposites plus the introduction of DALL·E

four years ago: here come the seventies, an animated medieval songbook, the tattoos of a Danish king, fancy apple varieties plus covering GITMO

five years ago: more Japanese New Year cards plus more on the Year of the Periodic Table