In their 1983 book, The meaning of Liff, Douglas Adams and John Lloyd created new words for ‘common experiences, feelings, situations and even objects for which no words exist’. All the words are place names: ‘spare words which spend their time doing nothing but loafing around on signposts pointing at places’. Here are 5 examples:…… Continue reading Meaning of Liff
A village on the island of Anglesey in North Wales is famous for having the longest place name in the British Isles. Reciting the full name was the favourite party trick of a boy who was in my class in the first year of secondary school. Name and history This is the name: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllandysiliogogogoch English…… Continue reading That Welsh place with the long name
In the card game Contract Bridge, players transmit information by making bids. So, is bidding in Contract Bridge a language? Bidding systems used in Bridge: are like language, because they use a vocabulary of words that convey meanings. But there are important differences between the 2 types of vocabulary.are not like language, because they have…… Continue reading The language of Contract Bridge?
Transport for London finally opened the Elizabeth Line today. It is only 3½ years late and £4 billion over budget. And this after TfL and the project managers announced proudly 6 months before the originally planned opening date that this project was a unique example of how large-scale public works really could be delivered on…… Continue reading The Elizabeth Line line and Battersea Power Station station
A team of cognitive scientists is trying to develop a ‘visual grammar’ of letter shapes. Would you like to help them? You can do so by playing a new online game developed by the research team. Players compete to develop rules that describe the shapes of letters in a wide range of writing systems. Using…… Continue reading Play an online game to help science
We’ve all had that feeling that we’ve gone too far with search-and-replace when editing a document quickly. A contributor to Language Log found a great example, blending overhastiness with naked defence of your own commercial interests. For the Nook edition of War and Peace, the sub-editor decided, quite understandably, that they shouldn’t plug Nook’s competitor,…… Continue reading Search and destroy
On a train from Paris to Lausanne in 2018, we came across the world’s most inconsiderately named rail junction. The train crew told some Chinese tourists they would need to change at Frasnes. (The first ‘s’ is silent.) They kept thinking they were being told to change in France.
I’ve heard of taking your pooper scooper to clear up after your domestic animal, but this is taking a good idea to extremes.“Pferdemist” = horse manure. Arosa, Switzerland, 2018
A new online craze called Wordle is in the news because of differences between American and British spelling. Players have to guess a 5 letter word. On each go, the player must enter a valid 5 letter word as a guess. The system then tells them how many: correct letters are in the right place.correct…… Continue reading Wordle
If an idea isn’t really thought through and doesn’t make sense, we call it half-baked. So if an idea is completely half-baked, how baked is it? More than 50%? Less than 50%? Exactly 50%?