JJ: Youse Jivin’ Me

In the movie Airplane, a couple of characters converse in Jive, a parody of the overblown black slang featured in the "blaxploitation" movies of the '70s. In 1986, Daniel Klein and Clement Cole created a software filter that would take ordinary text as input and translate it into some approximation of Jive. A variety of […]

II: One Act Short of a Full Play

[Warning: this week's column may not be for the faint of heart, as it contains at least one word (besides "contumelious") not generally considered acceptable in polite company. Read at your own risk.] In an earlier column, I mentioned the Shakespearean Insults magnetic-poetry kit, which yielded up such mellifluous phrases as "malignant swagger-nosed contumelious sot." […]

HH: Goodnight, Sweet Prince

Another item gleaned from the Net, but hopefully unfamiliar to at least a few of you. I've lightly reformatted it for Web publication. Saturday Morning Hamlet by Michael S. Schiffer This recently discovered folio edition of "Hamlet" follows other known versions closely until Act V, Scene II, where it begins to diverge at line 232, […]

GG: Tidbits

A man got engaged to two women at the same time: one named Edith, and the other named Kate. Unfortunately for the rascal, the two women met by accident, discovered the truth, and confronted him with the following admonition: You can't have your Kate, and Edith, too. My files are full of short jokes, riddles, […]

FF: A Matter of Definition

In February '97, someone named Steve crossposted a request to half a dozen (mostly inappropriate) newsgroups, asking for help locating citations for nine archaic and semi-obscure words (at least one of which he misspelled). Bill Oliver provided this helpful set of definitions in response (which I've reformatted for HTML and lightly edited): Subject: Re: Help […]

EE: And So On (Reader Comments and Addenda)

Mea culpa. There were several goofs, misstatements, omissions, and errors in this week's column... I forgot to mention a point associated with the mispronunciation "eck cetera" (or sometimes "ect cetera"): people often misspell the abbreviation as "ect." I don't know which (the mispronunciation or the misspelling) is cause and which is effect, but I suspect […]

EE: And So On

On most computers running the UNIX operating system, there's a directory named /etc. Some people pronounce that directory name as "etcetera"; others simply say /'Et si/. Some may even spell it out as /'i 'ti 'si/. Another standard UNIX directory name, /usr, is generally pronounced like "user," but sometimes spelled out to avoid confusion with […]

DD: Excuse me, what was that?

Sometime around the early 1980s, Logical Business Machines (creators of computers with names like David and Goliath, and a programming language called English) released a computer system called Mike. This system came with speech-recognition software and a microphone. An executive of the company attempted to demonstrate the product on a television show; he stood at […]

CC: Pidgin Carriers

When two groups of humans who don't share a language come together, they generally try to communicate. Often, the result is a pidgin—a simplified language that combines features of the groups' languages while leaving out the more difficult parts, allowing the groups to speak to each other. This sort of lingua franca is often used […]

BB: Who Are You Thinking Of?

The game of Botticelli is played like this: One player, the chooser, thinks of a famous person (living or dead, real or fictional). The chooser says the initial letter of that person's last name (or of the person's only name if there's only one). The other players then try to guess who the chooser is […]