the whole world burns

Archive for category 'language'


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Glorious esolang where programs can be written as power-ballads, e.g.:

A poetic number literal begins with a variable name, followed by the keyword is, or the aliases was or were. As long as the next symbol is not a reserved keyword, the rest of the line is treated as a decimal number in which the values of consecutive digits are given by the lengths of the subsequent barewords, up until the end of the line. To allow the digit zero, and to compensate for a lack of suitably rock'n'roll 1- and 2-letter words, word lengths are parsed modulo 10. A period (.) character denotes a decimal place. Other than the first period, any non-alphabetical characters are ignored.

  • Tommy was a lovestruck ladykiller initialises Tommy with the value 100

Ask Reddit: Your favourite culturally untranslateable phrases?

  • "Piele vleg" - braiding penises : to engage in male bonding
  • "Qué te comiste? Las manos de Perón?" - What did you eat? Peron's hands? (Peron's hands were cut off and stolen from his grave. The whereabouts of the hands remain unknown. This phrase may be used when someone farts and the smell is really, really bad. Implies the one who farted ate something rotten...)
  • "Wearing a cat on your head." - 猫をかぶる (neko o kaburu) - It means to feign innocence.
  • "pensando la inmortalidad del cangrejo" - "thinking about the immortality of the crab" which somehow translates to "daydreaming"

In Search of the World’s Hardest Language

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English spelling may be the most idiosyncratic, [...] But spelling is ancillary to a language's real complexity; English is a relatively simple language, absurdly spelled. [...]

For sound complexity, one language stands out. !Xóõ, spoken by just a few thousand, mostly in Botswana, has a blistering array of unusual sounds. Its vowels include plain, pharyngealised, strident and breathy, and they carry four tones. It has five basic clicks and 17 accompanying ones. [...]

Beyond sound comes the problem of grammar. On this score, some European languages are far harder than are, say, Latin or Greek. Latin's six cases cower in comparison with Estonian’s 14, which include inessive, elative, adessive, abessive [...]

"Ghoti" before Shaw

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Now traced back to before he was even born.

The Etiology and Elaboration of a Flagrant Mistranslation

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How bad translation software and an ambiguous ideogram blazoned the f-word all over China.

FSI Language Courses

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"...the home for language courses developed by the Foreign Service Institute. These courses were developed by the United States government and are in the public domain."

A Word A Day: sprachgefuhl


A feeling for language or a sensitivity for what is correct language. ... If you have Sprachgefuhl, you have an ear for idiomatically appropriate language.

fan/geek habits of language and body language

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On those occasions when she showed up at a con to meet Elise, she saw lots of fans in groups talking. To her they seemed angry and rude. To Elise they seemed nothing of the sort. [...]

She did suggest that many of the common features of fanspeak seem to be related to thinking in "written English".

A Japanese guide to Japanese grammar

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The root of this problem lies in the fact that these textbooks try to teach you Japanese with English. They want to teach you on the first page how to say, "Hi, my name is Smith," but they don't tell you about all the arbitrary decisions that were made behind your back. [...] In fact, the most common way to say something like "My name is Smith" in Japanese is to say "am Smith". [...] But does the textbook explain the way things work in Japanese fundamentally? No, because they're too busy trying to push you out the door with "useful" phrases right off the bat.

punctuation love story

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It might be the shortest novel ever, and it might be the only novel without a word. But Hu Wenliang, the author the novel entitled 《。》, claimed that he spent one year to write a novel with five sections as follows:






Hu is offering to reward those who can understand the hidden story.

BBC Wordhunt

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In conjunction with a major forthcoming BBC2 series, the OED invites you to hunt for words and help rewrite 'the greatest book in the English language'.

rotor: experimental rotating font

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Rotor is an experimental script created to realize the concept of letters that literally move on the “page”. It consists of seventeen minimal pairs of graphemes in which the members of each pair are identical except for the way they move ...

Hideous, but an interesting idea. I'd like to see one using the simplest possible glyphs, like a motion-based Morse code.

Japanese Name Trivia

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Compare these numbers: China only has about 500 surnames. Korea only has 249. Japan has about 120,000. [...]

Yes, in the Heian period and after, it was common to use "Kuso" in names, which means just what you think it means. The famous poet "Kinotsurayuki," who wrote the Tosa Diaries, is a notable example. His birth name was "Ako Kuso," which means "my child...shit."

Interesting comments at languagehat.



Laughing My Ass Off With My Hands Squeezing Your Throat, And As The Final Breath Exits Your Body I Stand Over Your Filthy Corpse And Begin To Beat It With A Sledgehammer.



RikaiXUL is a plugin version of the Japanese Reading function of In runs in (and requires) the Firefox browser.

That is, mouseover kanji to get English and hiragana translations, plus radicals. It's too cool.

Small things, links and miscellany, sparkling with light. Sam's tumblelog.

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