Archive for the ‘Languages’ Category

Lexical adventures in the Sacred Harp

February 23, 2018

Two explorations in the vocabulary of The Sacred Harp, 1991 Denson revision, provoked by songs called at shapenote singings in Palo Alto: most recently, the occurrence of dragon(s), serpent(s), and hurricane(s) in Florence #121 (all of them unique in the book, according to Chris Thorman’s 1992 Concordance to the songbook); and a while back, the striking use of vice in Mission #204’s “luring scenes of vice” (one of two occurrences in the book, the other being in Columbus #67).  Elsewhere, there’s Cambridge #287, a hymn of resistance to temptation; and O Come Away #334, a rousing temperance hymn (with a history in German student drinking songs).


Adventures in alcohol

February 21, 2018

A recent Pinterest e-mail with boards on food and drink offered a number of remarkably named drinks, including two that were new to me: the Purple Fuck (powerfully alcoholic and powerfully sweet) and the German drink Gockelsperma ‘cock’s cum’, lit. ‘rooster sperm’ (made with Waldmeister syrup, from the sweet woodruff plant).


Reindeer and lynx — and wolves and bears, oh my!

January 16, 2018

Latest ad from the Daily Jocks folks, for the newest line of Helsinki Athletica underwear, with the ad copy:

(#1) ilves ‘lynx’ at top, front view; peura ‘reindeer’ at bottom, rear view

Helsinki Athletica: Ilves & Peura: Limited edition of Helsinki Athletica underwear featuring Finnish native animals. The low rise design is great for everyday wear with the soft, stretchy cotton fabric ensuring all day comfort and you can be sure of excellent support in the dual layered pouch.

A whimsical turn for a company mostly noted for its homo-steamy Lukas line of briefs, jockstraps, and trunks:


Theft and retrieval

January 14, 2018

A posting about my life, though there will be incidental music (Glenn Gould’s 1955 recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations) and a linguistics book (Julie Tetel Andresen & Phillip M. Carter, Languages in the World, 2016).

The story starts with the music, piped during the night from my laptop computer (a MacBook Pro 15.4 from 2010) in the front of the house to my bedroom in the back. Around 2 a.m. yesterday, I came partially to consciousness, feeling the beginning of an old man’s need to take a middle-of-the-night leak but enjoying the Gould Goldberg in a semi-conscious state — when the music cut out. This sometimes just happens, for reasons I can’t discern, so wasn’t alarmed but dozed for a while, then did the bathroom thing and stumbled into the front of the house to check out the computer’s settings.

And discovered that the laptop was gone. Vanished, which would explain why the music had died. Everything unplugged, the scraps of notes on top of the laptop put aside on a chair, but nothing else disturbed in any way. Creepy.

This is Act 1, The Theft Discovered.


The silence of the H’s and the nastiness of the narg

November 9, 2017

Two recent One Big Happy strips on linguistic themes, one phonological / orthographic, the other semantic / pragmatic:




Comics about comics

November 9, 2017

Recently in Zippy, two poignant strips about cartoonist Bill Griffith’s childhood and the cartoon character Little Max; and then today, a strip in which Zippy wakes up three days in a row transformed into a cartoon character, only to emerge from these dreams on the fourth day — but as yet another cartoon character.


Herons in the garden

October 30, 2017

Came by on Pinterest some considerable time ago, a photo billed as “Gartenkeramik Reiervogel – ein Designerstück von Brigitte Peglow”, showing a ceramic bird posing in a luxuriant garden, much like this:

(#1) Ceramic bird among variegated vinca, hostas, ferns, and more

Certainly looked like a heron, but I was puzzled by the German noun Reier.


Lilyturf, bronze pin heads, and ungrammatical yucca

October 15, 2017

All on a recent trip to Stanford Shopping Center, where I hadn’t been for several years. After massive reconstruction, it’s even more upscale than before, with a huge range of very high-end stores with designer facades and interiors (the older buildings, like Macy’s, now look like commercial architecture from a previous age), plus, in the mall’s ad copy, “breathtaking gardens, sculptures and fountains” and places to sit everywhere — the last important to me as I cope with shortness of breath under exertion. The effect is of world-class shopping streets located in the middle of extraordinary public parks (though it’s all very much private property).

A quick general tour, then three specific items: masses of lirope, or lilyturf, an amiable and modest plant, in the midst of extravagantly showy plantings; whimsical “pin head” bronze sculptures by Albert Guibara; and the oddly named fusion-Cantonese restaurant Yucca de Lac (with plenty of yuccas and a lot of dim sum, but, here in Palo Alto, no lake; lakelessness is not, however, the real problem with the name).


Livin’ La Vida Multilingüe

October 3, 2017

Yes, Ricky Martin is the hook for this posting. Aside from the fact that I’m a big RM fan, this is not at all a forced connection, as you’ll see. For the moment, this:

  (#1) See also #1 in this posting on RM, showing him in a performance of the song.

Back in June, I posted (here) about the retirement party for Stanford’s Eve Clark, prominently mentioning Herb Clark’s comments about the 2014 Festschrift for Eve edited by

Inbal Arnon, Marisa Casillas, Chigusa Kurumada, Bruno Estigarribia

There I said, of Eve and Herb, that

each of them read and critiqued almost everything the other wrote, and they talked about their research essentially on a daily basis. As Herb remarked yesterday, this made it incredibly difficult for him to write his contribution to the Festschrift … without tipping Eve off to the project; complex ruses were resorted to.

Herb also reflected on the diversity of the editors’ names, each from a different language — Bruno’s, from Basque, being the most exotic of the four. They are all multilingual (and multicultural), Bruno pretty spectacularly so. And, being linguists, they all know at least a bit about a huge number of languages (and the cultures and societies those languages are part of).

Such experiences, I think, incline linguists to a certain liberality of spirit: openness to new ideas, appreciation of social, cultural, and individual variety, and resistance to prejudice. Characteristics to be seen in Eve and all four of the editors. And, arrived at by a somewhat different route, in Ricky Martin.


Cat on a silken thread

September 12, 2017

My Swiss friend Guido Seiler (now professing linguistics in the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München) just sent me the latest news from the Zwicky thread company, a firm I’ve posted about several times on this blog, partly because it’s a Zwicky company and partly because of this famous 1950 ad poster by Donald Brun: