Thursday 18 April 2024

10x10 (11. 496)

the cloud under the seas: the fleet of secret submarine cable repair ships 

sarbox: US Supreme Court appears skeptical about charging January Sixth rioters with obstruction of justice as defined by a law made in the aftermath of the Enron accounting scandal  

mix-and-match orthography: how Japanese writers navigate a choice between four writing systems—via Cardhouse  

walled gardens have deep roots: the imperative of rewilding (previously) the internet lest the duopolies take over—via Waxy 

bongo bash: Wild Stereo Drums (1961)  

embroidered surveillance: cross-stitch works of closed-circuit security camera footage  

the questor tapes: a 1974 television sci-fi drama about an android with incomplete programming by Star Trek alumni Gene L Coon, D C Fontana and Gene Roddenberry—via r/Obscure Media  

tegelwippen: Dutch towns compete to remove garden paving and embrace weeds—via Miss Cellania  

voir dire: jury selection continues for the criminal trial of Donald J Trump—with some potential jurors being unintentionally doxed by the media 

 atlas 2.0: Boston Dynamics’ new humanoid robot


one year ago: Atelier Elvira, an unwoke chatbot plus assorted links worth revisiting

two years ago: more gachapons plus an introduction to risography

three years ago: the launch of the Disney Channel (1983), an experimental light house plus Wham in China (1985)

four years ago: more links to enjoy, the International Amateur Radio Union plus The Spirits Book (1897)

five years ago: concrete monoliths moved by hand plus Mueller Report redactions

Tuesday 9 April 2024

anticipation of joy (11. 479)

We liked this Guardian column—and not only for the vocabulary lesson with the concept of Vorfreude, roughly translated above, and antithesis of Schadenfreude—and advice on cultivating anticipatory joy as something to defer and to look forward to. Whilst future-oriented, the practise does not estrange oneself from the present here-and-now but rather can instigate calm and focus and the opposite of the adage, “if you worry, you suffer twice,” (which itself is not necessarily even true considering the suspense and potential to catastrophise tends to be worse than the actual event often times) with a gradual affirming routine that anyone can manage, regardless of circumstances, and mitigate hedonistic regression—that is, becoming enured to how good one has it. More strategies and pro-tips from Rachel Dixon at the link up top.


one year ago: an omnibus of easter eggs, a jolly 3-D printing torture test plus a mysterious cave in Finland

two years ago: an accomplished French chemist, Dreamcoat (1968), artist Witkiewicz plus assorted links to revisit

three years ago: Concrete and Clay (1965), your daily demon: Marbas, automotive designer Robert Opron, more links to enjoy, the Duke of Edinburgh passes away plus the Lost Tapes of Club 27

four years ago: studies in kineticsmechanical casts, Maundy Thursday plus Easter Witches

five years ago: found sounds, cognitive flexibilities, Moscow’s Nakomfim Building, Alta y Baja California plus a proposed tax on digital giants

Wednesday 3 April 2024

it’s horseradish to me (11. 466)

Language Hat directs our attention to an interesting comparative discussion of vulgar expressions of indifference across different idiomatic phrases, linking to an isogloss of colourful terms, prompted by asking what equivalents were there to the relatively new and niche “ZFG,” like the more polite Russian version above. The accompanying image is from the 2021 film Rien ร  foutre which is a considered to have the corresponding meaning in French. While these may not be in common parlance and not necessarily the default (especially in polite company), it is an engrosssing look at contemptuous dismissiveness and how other languages do not fall into the negation trap that the straightforward English rendition sometimes carries with “I could care less” versus “I couldn’t care less” plus related sayings, like the figure of speech “you can’t have your cake and eat it [too]”—variants of the proverbial language fossil quoted by such writers as Jonathan Swift, Ayn Rand’s John Galt and Ted Kaczynski in the Unabomber manifesto (who’s particular turn of phrase helped lead to his apprehension)—which by dent of its similar and somewhat impenetrable logic gives rise to a cakeist factor who wish for two desirable but exclusive alternatives. The Italian version, probably the least rustic in literal translation, Volere la botte piena e la mogile ubriaca, goes something akin to wanting both the full barrel of wine and the wife drunk.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

9x9 (11. 453)

 you are old, father william, the young man said: Better Living Through Beowulf has been applying Lewis Carroll characters to the trials and tribulations of Biden and Trump  

gรผneลŸ enerjili santrali: power plant in Turkeyi’s Konya region is straight out of science fiction  

rotoscopio: artist Antoni Sendra celebrates his daring daughter’s favourite things with more than two thousand hand painted frames of animation ahead of her sixth birthday 

toto, i don’t think we’re in kansas anymore: the Ruby Slippers theft saga continues 

read/write drive: Infinite Macs and making computing history accessible, including an emulation of the original World Wide Web browser—via Waxy  

licensed broker: the rise and fall of the professional appellation electragist  

fleischer studios: the history and evolution of animation from the phenakistiscope to Pixar  

low-vacuum pipeline magnetic levitation technology: a hyperloop test track in the Netherlands 

come to jesus moment: Trump attempts to capitalise on Biden’s split with Israeli leadership

Sunday 24 March 2024

11x11 (11. 448)

inauspicious beginnings: a rift opens up in a group of official astrologers employed by the Sri Lankan government to pick ideal dates for new years rituals  

disco arabesquo: record label Habibi Funk aims to introduce Middle Eastern vintage music to wider audiences 

typecraft: a transformative font foundry in India 

the allegory of the cave: on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the film’s premiere, we may be still trapped in the Matrix 

banjaxed and bockety: two curious Irish terms 

der buch der hasengeschichten: Tom Seidmann-Freud’s 1924 collection of hare fables 

working for tips: bizarrely robot baristas will accept gratuities, in a service sector landscape already fraught with insecurity and precarity—via tmn  

the juice is on the loose: a sequel thirty-six years in the making, reuniting the original cast—via Miss Cellania  

international system of typographic picture education: an archive of the pictograms of Gerd Arntz—see previously  

pocket full of kryptonite: the preponderance of alternative rock songs about Superman in the 1990s, 2000s 

prosopometamorphopsia: a new study on generalised social anxiety disorder tries to see from the perspective of those with a rare condition that causes faces to appear distorted, demonic—via the New Shelton wet/dry

Saturday 23 March 2024

the noodle bar scene (11. 445)

The always excellent Language Hat brings up the topic of the auxiliary, cosmopolitan argot, Cityspeak, used in at the beginning of the film (and peppered throughout) in the exchange between Decker (Harrison Ford), the snack counter’s proprietor (Bob Okazaki) and later the undercover arresting officer Gaff (Edward James Olmos, credited with its invention to a large extent). The Blade Runner pretends not to understand this polyglot creole of German, Korean, Spanish, Japanese, Hungarian, Chinese and French but of course knows exactly what the dialogue is about. Monsieur, azonnal kรถvessen engem bitte! Whilst this 1982 vision of our contemporary present has not exactly come to pass linguistically, it is an interesting study in diglossia and language as a cultural indicator rather than purely, functionally communicative and what else the movie and novel got right about the future.

Sunday 17 March 2024

you sad pocketbook of polluted purulence (11. 431)

Via Nag on the Lake’s always excellent Sunday Links, we are directed to a handy password generator created and coded by Ron Hardin that generates randomised phrases in the form of rather arch insults, which satisfies the hallmarks behind this top layer of security by being hard to guess, not readily susceptible to a brute-force attack and deliciously memorable, mostly alliterative, adhering to the techniques of champion memorisers. Especially if it’s work-related, it’s cathartic to hurl such aspersions into the void even if it is only for one’s benefit, aghast and empowerment—and are probably as secure as any alternative. See what scornful phrases you can come up with, you dear old harrowing can of cantankerous claptrap.

Saturday 16 March 2024

featherstonehaugh (11. 427)

Thanks to raft of gossip and speculation from 2019 revived in part due the obsession over the whereabouts of the Princess of Wales, we’ve been educated that the Marchioness of Cholmondeley of interest holds the peerage style of the Most Honourable Lady CHUM-lee, and so we appreciated these further lessons in pronunciation of historic British and Irish titles and surnames (respecting the fact that one’s name is pronounced how they tell you to pronounce it and subject to variation). There are some really non-intuitive examples like the title—usually said like Fernshaw—and while we would have liked more detailed explanations like with family name Menzies with its archaic letter ศ (yogh), it was nonetheless interesting to contemplate how those estranging shifts might have occurred, like with Geoghegan (GAY-gษ™n) or Wriothesley as RIZZ-lee.

Thursday 14 March 2024

7x7 (11. 421)

triple word score: the undisputed champion of competitive Scrabble  

boyard cigarettes: unused geisha footage for an Offworld advertising campaign

statutory interpretation: a forthcoming book on the ideology of originalism and its malleability 

the apprehension engine: custom suspenseful sounds for horror movie incidental music—via Things Magazine  

penmanship: the resurgence of cursive—see previously  

raktajino: a supercut of Klingon coffee in Star Trek: DS-9  

game theory: selfishness and enlightened self-interest through the lens of novelist and philosopher Iris Murdoch

Sunday 10 March 2024

counter culture (11. 413)

The revitalised linkroll of Mx Tynehorne’s cabinet of hypertext curiosities reminds of another venerable old school Wunderkammer, very much en vivant and worth checking out on a regular basis, in the aperiodic blog of Peter Blinn, Curious Notions. Covering anniversaries and superlatives and obscure but useful tools in the main, it’s easy to get lost down a rabbit hole of shifting and surprising facts, which is undoubtedly a good feature for this sort of curation. Starting with a Monty Python-inspired cheesemongers’ survey of the rarest and most precious varieties just published for us turophiles, we learn that the among the most dear are traditionally caciocavallo—that is, transported by horseback, and derived from the milk of donkeys, derived from a tiny herd in the Balkans, a small-batch production influenced by folkways and the fact that the milk of an asinine jenny is counted as one of the leanest in the mammal family and produce sparingly compared to bovine sources.

Tuesday 5 March 2024

7x7 (11. 402)

beyond the edge: the paradox of an infinite Cosmos  

why don’t you come up some time, see me: vocal fry and the valence of husky voices  

the complete commercial artist: the graphic design that informed modern Japan  

urschleim: primordial ooze as animated putty from 1911 

l’urythmics: an anaerobic exercise routine led by jazz dance pioneer Eugene “Luigi 5-6-7-8” Faccuito  

auteur: an omnibus collection of the most beautiful shots in cinematic history from the Solomon Society—including Barry Lyndon—sure to elicit lots of movie memories 

biosigns: an array of telescopes trained on potentially habitable exoplanets confirm a sample size one in a demonstration of its capability

Saturday 2 March 2024

shai-hulud (11. 395)

The always excellent Language Log, ruminating over the cycle of linguist extinction and the propagation of artificial or constructed languages after being directed toward a lengthy piece on making fictional dialogue for cinematic features and how Arabic influences and signifiers from Frank Herbert’s original novel were in large part removed from the latest adaptation, afforded us the chance for the same reflection and to revisit linguist David J Peterson, one of the foremost talents in the field of alien speech. Off-world and removed from outside influence for generations, the Fremen are not extraterrestrials but descendants of the original diaspora of Earth settlers and adherents of the fusion Zensunni faith—which is in itself a controversial suggestion of a hybrid faith—and apparently the production crew wanted to blunt some of the Islamic undertones, despite some of the main concepts of the native society of Arrakis being directly derived from Arabic words, creating a diglossia of Chakobsa and their unique, secret language. Set twenty thousand years in the future, Peterson’s challenge was to imagine how grammar and vocabulary might shift over the countless generations within isolated colonies and considering the depth and fullness of time and space, decided when authoring the exchanges, no directly corresponding or recognisable words would remain, causing some to criticise the change as further whitewashing and continuing the colonial narrative. It is a delicate balancing act.  What do you think? Should the Fremen language have stayed truer to Herbert’s vision? There are plenty of other anachronisms and contemporary artefacts that require suspension of belief.

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