Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language 10 Comments

When is an MBA a person?

An article I added to Omniglot today, The Most Valuable Languages for an MBA to Learn, uses “an MBA” to refer to a person with an MBA. I’ve also seen students referred to in a similar way: for example a student of French might be ‘a French Major’, and someone with a PhD in linguistics might be ‘a linguistics PhD’.

This usage appears to be common in American English, as far as I can tell, but sounds rather strange to my British ears.

Does this sound normal to you?

Are people with particular qualifications referred as ‘a [name of qualificaiton]’ in other languages?

English, Language 6 Comments

The Power of Procrastination

Are you a procrastinator? Do you find yourself doing all sorts of things to avoid doing something you have to do?

For example, when you should be revising for an exam you keep finding other things to do which you convince yourself are essential and have to be done right now, such as cleaning, putting your books/CDs/DVDs into alphabetical order, researching the origins of knitting, or whatever.

I certainly do this – at times I can be a prolific procrastinator. I try to study a bit of at least one language every day, for example, but often find excuses not to, and other things to do that seem more important. The kinds of things I do instead of studying include working on Omniglot, playing music, singing, writing tunes and songs, juggling, reading, shopping, gardening, and cleaning and tidying. I do enjoy discovering and exploring languages, but sometimes find the process of studying them a bit tedious.

Maybe if I set myself another task that I don’t really want to do or find difficult, such as setting up databases, then I would end up studying languages as an alternative displacement activity. That is, I could embrace the power of procrastination.

English, Language, Language learning 1 Comment

Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 8 Comments

Awakening forgotten languages

Last night at ukulele club there was a new member from Spain, and I talked a bit with her in Spanish. It’s a long time since I’ve studied any Spanish, and I rarely use it these days, so I thought I’d forgotten most of it, but I found that I can still have a basic conversation, even if I make mistakes. I had similar experiences with German in Berlin last year and the year before at the Polyglot Gathering – I could understand quite a bit and found that when I tried to speak it I could at least make myself understood.

At the moment I have no real need to awaken my Spanish or German, but if I do need them, I’ll try to find ways to bring them back.

How do you brush up, bring back, awaken or revive languages you have forgotten or not used for a long time?

English, German, Language, Language learning, Spanish 3 Comments

Totes amazesh!

According to an article I found the other day, some people on Twitter are playing with language in interesting ways and creating new abbreviations and words like tradge (tragic), bluebs (blueberries), emosh (emotional) and hilars (hilarious) and atrosh (atrocious).

This phenomenon has been dubbed totesing by the linguists Lauren Spradlin and Taylor Jones, who have collected and analyzed many examples of totesing and discovered that such abbreviations are not random. Instead they follow a definite pattern which involves removing the parts of words after their stressed syllables, but retaining a consonant or two after it. For example, subconsciously becomes subconsh and aphrodisiac becomes aphrodeez – the spelling is also altered some times.

The favorite intensifier is totes, from totally.

Some such abbreviations have been around for quite a while, others are new.

Here are a few I found on Twitter:

– You people are so totes adorbs when you’re watching a game.
– Hey guys it’s #nationalhugday! So we’re asking, ever received a totes awks hug?
– You got me. I’m totes jelz of guys too dumb to know supporting Trump should be a point of shame instead of pride.
– totes inapprops
– it’s gonna be a totes perf weekend

Do you use these kinds of words? Have you come across any interesting ones?

Are similar things being done to other languages?

English, Language 4 Comments

Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 5 Comments

Stalls, stinkards and parterres

In theatres in the UK the seats at ground level in front of the stage are usually known as stalls or orchestra stalls. If there are balconies above that level, the first balcony might be known as the dress circle, grand circle or balcony, the second as the upper circle, grand circle, first circle or circle, the third as the upper circle or gallery, and the fourth as the gallery. There may also be private boxes along the sides of the theatre. The exact terms vary from theatre to theatre.

In French the stalls are known as l’orchestre, les fauteuils d’orchestre or le parterre, the first level balcony might be le balcon, the second level balcony might be la galerie, and the third level might be le paradis (paradise) – ‘the gods’ is sometimes used for the highest level of balconies in English. Boxes are les loges.

A parterre in English is a “a formal garden constructed on a level surface, consisting of planting beds, typically in symmetrical patterns, separated and connected by gravel pathways.” [source]. Parterre can also refer to the ground level part of a theatre (stalls) and the audiences who congregate there. The word pit is also used [source]. The denizens of the pit or yard in Shakespeare’s Globe theatre were known as a groundlings, stinkards or penny-stinkers [source].

The French word parterre has also been borrowed into Russian as партер and is used to refer to the stalls in a theatre.

What terms are used in theatres you go to?

English, French, Language, Russian, Words and phrases 2 Comments

Dystopias and Utopias

Why is it that so many films and novels set in the future are dystopian?

I thought about this after watching The Hunger Games last night, and tried to think of any stories of utopian futures. The only films I could think featuring non-dystopian futures of were Back to the Future II and Bicentennial Man. Can you think of any others?

The word dystopia combines the Ancient Greek δυσ (dus – bad), and τόπος ‎(tópos – place, region) with the Latin/Ancient Greek suffix ia/ία ‎(-ía). It was derived from the word utopia, which was coined by Thomas More for his 1516 book Utopia. The u part of utopia comes from the Greek ou (οὐ – not) and by the 17th century was used to refer to a place or society that was considered perfect or ideal. The prefix ou possibly got confused with εὖ ‎(eû, – well, good). Dystopia was first used by J. S. Mill in a parliamentary speech in 1868 [source].

English, Greek, Language, Words and phrases 6 Comments

Language quiz

Language quiz image

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 5 Comments
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