According to Wikipedia, l’Hexagone (“the Hexagon”) is a casual synonym for the mainland part of Metropolitan France […], for its approximate shape, and the adjective hexagonal may be a casual synonym of French (usually understood as metropolitan only, except in topics related to the foreign affairs and national politics of France as a whole).


I recently encountered a political article that contrasted the classes against the masses. At first I assumed there was a word missing—maybe the writer meant upper classes? But a bit of research revealed to me that the word classes by itself has long been used to refer to the upper class, especially in contrast to […]

Auto-translating sound effects

A friend recently posted (to Facebook) a video of an animal eating something, and added the following text as a commentary/description for the video: MONCH MONCH MONCH Facebook offered to translate that for me. I accepted the offer. Facebook’s translation read as follows: Monch monch monch monch monch monch It then offered to let me […]

On Pound’s “translations” from Chinese

I’ve been hearing Ezra Pound’s name for decades, but it recently occurred to me that I didn’t know anything about his life or his poetry. So I went looking online for more information about him, and quickly came across an entertainingly written 1958 takedown of Pound’s and Ernest Fenollosa’s approach to translating Chinese poetry: “Fenollosa, […]

Bad transliterations

I’ve tried a couple of times to start reading William Gibson’s novel Idoru, but I keep getting too distracted and annoyed by the title to focus on the book. Apparently the title is supposed to represent the Japanese version of the English word idol. But the Japanese word that Gibson intended to refer to, the […]


I recently read the following line in Orson Scott Card’s novel Prentice Alvin, talking about a magical thing shaped like a hexagon: …lay hexes down on a table and they'd fit snug together, as perfect as squares, only stronger, woven not with warp and weft, but with warp and weft and hax. I’m guessing that […]

Inapt review combos

I recently read Tom Holt’s 1987 fantasy novel Expecting Someone Taller. On the front cover is this blurb: “RECALLS BOTH TOLKIEN’S LORD OF THE RINGS AND TWAIN’S CONNECTICUT YANKEE … AN ENTERTAINING ROMP!” —Publisher’s Weekly I’ve never been terribly fond of the style of review where you describe a work as a cross between two […]

tribe (biology)

According to Wikipedia: In biology, a tribe is a taxonomic rank above genus, but below family and subfamily. I don’t think I had ever encountered that meaning of the word tribe before. That Wikipedia article also says that in zoology, tribe names tend to end in -ini and subtribe names tend to end in -ina, […]