Category archive: Language

Mysterious Island, colonialism, and translators' agendas

The other day, I pulled Mysterious Island, by Jules Verne, off my unread-books shelf. I decided that I didn't really... (More...)

Duolingo Spanish progress update

Every so often as I go through Duolingo Spanish lessons, I hit a wall. Right at the start, for example,... (More...)

My review of Hamilton

A friend asked this morning what the deal is with this Hamilton thing. Here's what I posted in response: It's... (More...)

David and Goliath rhymes

I just realized this is one of the things that some of the rhyme-chains in Hamilton reminded me of: ”Now... (More...)

Hamilton cast album!

Back in May, I posted about Hamilton, the new hip-hop Broadway musical about Alexander Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Ever since... (More...)

Italicizing "foreign" words in English text

On Facebook recently, Jackie asked a question: Jackie: Conversations in languages other than English: italicized or not? Do we have... (More...)

Group-of-people pejoratives, part 1: "gay"

This is part 1 in a planned series of posts about terms that are used as generic pejoratives but that... (More...)

Hidden speech of the powerless and the powerful

A while back, someone pointed me to a book called Domination and the Arts of Resistance, by James C. Scott.... (More...)

More on Scrabble scoring

I've been playing Words With Friends, and it's helping me further shape my ideas of what I want Scrabble to... (More...)

Jeanette Isabella

Mary Anne decided to learn “Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella,” and it's one of my favorite Christmas songs (though I... (More...)

Communication is hard

Something in email a couple of weeks ago indirectly reminded me of an incident from long ago: I used to... (More...)

Boggle poetry

Just posted a new entry in my words-and-wordplay blog that I thought some of y'all might enjoy: Boggle poetry. Embed... (More...)

Video remixes

I still haven't figured out how best to connect my word blog with this blog. For now, I'll keep linking... (More...)

Guest blogger on my word-blog

Over at my words-and-wordplay blog, Shmuel has joined me as a guest blogger. In his first entry, he discusses the... (More...)

Die Zeitflieger

Can you tell I don't speak German? I started out wanting to say "time flies," and picked German more or... (More...)

Computer-player gender?

When you're playing an abstract computer game against one or more computerized opponents (chess, say, or checkers, or Dicewar--any game... (More...)

Online Encore

I still haven't figured out the right way to balance my language blog with my main blog. Whenever I post... (More...)

The Rosetta Project

Amazingly cool: the Long Now Foundation's Rosetta Project has put together something called the Rosetta disk. (Official page.) It's three... (More...)

The uses of a V

I'm playing Scrabulous again with Mary Anne. Good words so far: she led with TILDE, I countered with PORCINI, she... (More...)

Philosophy of Scrabble

At some point I'll post more about Facebook. But for now, having fallen into two Scrabulous games almost immediately upon... (More...)

Hey, all you gayelles and gayettes

Tonight I learned a new word: "gayelle." It's trying to be the new word for "lesbian"; it's a feminine form... (More...)

Name parser

Got home late last night, should've gone to bed, but instead decided to write some code. The following will probably... (More...)

Obama is in

As you probably all know by now, Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President today. I just watched the announcement... (More...)

Greek suffix meets Lingua Terra

Sometimes people complain that the word polyamory is a mix of Latin and Greek roots. I've been known to make... (More...)


Arr, me hearties! Today was, of course, Talk Like a Pirate Day, as I'm sure you all knew. One of... (More...)

Patriotic fiction

I am not a patriot in the usual sense of the term. Humanity and the world are generally more important... (More...)

Neology feed

In case anyone's interested but missed it, Irilyth has kindly set up a LiveJournal feed for my Neology wordblog. At... (More...)


I've started a new mini-blog: Neology, in which I post words I encounter that I don't know the meanings of,... (More...)

Things that have made me laugh this morning

The morning's just barely begun, and already two things have made me laugh: (More...)

Words easily confused #16

And since I'm apparently being Writing Curmudgeon Guy lately, I think it's time for another installment of "words easily confused."... (More...)

Words easily confused #15

Time for another installment. (To see previous editions, search my journal for the phrase "words easily" (no quotes)—that'll show the... (More...)

Items: Shifting paradigms

Feeling a little better than yesterday, but still not up to going to work. Yesterday I didn't do nearly enough... (More...)

Another gender guesser

Geoff's Gender Guesser attempts to determine whether a given name is more likely a male name or a female name,... (More...)

Words easily confused (or misspelled, or not) #14

Time for another installment. (To see previous editions, search my journal for the phrase "words easily" (no quotes)—that'll show the... (More...)

Words easily misspelled #13

I know it's only been a few weeks since the last list, but shortly after I posted the last one... (More...)

Words easily misspelled #12

I've been saving these up 'til there were enough of them to post: As Heather noted in a comment to... (More...)


Someone's mention of Gormenghast reminded me that I didn't especially like Titus Groan (the first book) but that it did... (More...)

Fictional translation

A friend of mine used to do something interesting when running roleplaying games: he'd use real-world historical names for famous... (More...)

Words easily misused #11

I've seen two different journalers use the term potboiler correctly this morning, but I've also talked with a lot of... (More...)

Words easily confused (by Jed) #10

Half a dozen times in the last week, I've seen a reference to someone racking their brains. Each time, I've... (More...)

Gendered language

Jean pointed to The Gender Genie, where you enter some text and it applies the Koppel-Argamon algorithm (or perhaps that... (More...)

Words easily confused (that have become synonyms) #9

And then there are the words that I think are different but turn out to be acceptable variants of each... (More...)

Words easily confused (or misspelled) #8

We get an awful lot of stories in which fluorescent is misspelled florescent. Presumably partly because it's another one of... (More...)

Computer can determine author sex?

Interesting item in Nature: "Computer program detects author gender." Claim is that "[the] simple scan of key words and syntax... (More...)

Words easily confused #7

Another entry in an irregular series. skirl and swirl. Possibly because it sounds a little like swirl and a little... (More...)

Words easily confused #6

Only one item this time, but it's a remarkably common one: lightning and lightening. I suppose this should really go... (More...)

Words easily confused #5

Another entry in an irregular series. past and passed. In the context in which they're often confused, past means "beyond"... (More...)

Words easily confused #4

Only one word-pair today: The correct spelling of cell phone uses two Ls, just like a cell of the body.... (More...)

Malaprops (words easily confused #3)

More words easily confused: rein and reign. I see these confused so often that I've sometimes gotten confused about them... (More...)

Blog glossary

One last thing for tonight: in my peregrinations earlier, I chanced across the Samizdata blog glossary. I went there to... (More...)

Slink, slank, slunk (words easily confused #2)

We've had half a dozen submissions in the past couple years that include phrases of the form "[person] slunk down... (More...)

I wish I may, I wished I might (words easily confused #1)

Warning: grammar rant. Nothing to see; move along.   I've seen this at least half a dozen times in stories... (More...)

Freedom of speech

I think most Americans are unaware of the existing limitations on freedom of speech. I used to think that freedom... (More...)