If there’s one way to get me to learn about something, it’s to incorporate food into the lesson. Especially cereal, because cereal is my Achilles heel.
Anyway, Michael Stevens of the YouTube channel Vsauce has tapped into our primal cereal-craving urges to teach us about linguistics! It’s a weird, weird journey that starts with Stevens asking if cereal is soup or salad, then saying that maybe it’s soup, but it’s not soup soup; or maybe it’s salad, but it’s not salad salad; then explaining that that linguistic phenomenon is called “reduplicating” and serves to define ideas that lie in fringe categories. He goes on a whole 8-minute shpiel, eventually doubling back to the whole cereal thing and then away from it again to express why language is awesome even though our whole linguistic system has been far, far outpaced by technology. Keep reading »
All right, that’s it, I’m done, I have to learn Spanish. Je peux lire le français et parler un peu, so while I’d like to brush up on it to be fully fluent, I could get by in French-speaking countries. But my one year of Intensive Spanish in high school is no longer cutting it. I’m still beginner-level. Here’s why I want to learn it: Keep reading »
For the last week, the world has watched Ferguson, Mo., set ablaze by racism and the calculated indifference of the town’s police force. And over the course of the same week, the media, which was slow to do any reporting at all, has now cannibalized a story about the murder of an unarmed teenager at the hands of a police officer, into one which villainizes the dead and dismisses the living.
Now dead for a over a week, there is no shortage of ink devoted to understanding who Michael Brown was, despite the fact that he is dead and his killer remains free, alive, anonymous, and enjoying paid time off. To justify racist paranoia about the perceived threat of black life, blacks who die at the hands of white vigilantes and police, the reputation of the dead undergoes an active smear campaign, perpetuated and promoted by the media. Keep reading »
I spend an inordinate amount of time reading and writing and thinking about words, why they’re used, how they’re used; how sentences are structured, what human motivations are behind those structures, and what human motivations are behind the assumptions we make about language. That all being said, there are an awful lot of words that have sort of died and become useless, and I’d like to just remove them from popular usage. Here they are, and why. Keep reading »
“Sure, you can borrow that Junot Diaz book. It’s in the tsundoku pile on my desk.”
As a writer, I’m totally fascinated and obsessed with language, including the absence of specific words from the English language that match fairly common experiences. Like, for example: I have a growing stack of books that I buy and then don’t read — at least not for awhile. When I walk into a bookstore, I just can’t seem to help myself and I know I’m not alone — so why isn’t there a word to describe this impulse?
Well, turns out there is — in Japanese. Tsundoku is defined as “the act of leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piling it up together with other such unread books.” And here is how tsundoku is visually explained by designer Anjana Iyer, who’s embarked on a 100 day project to visually explain untranslatable words from non-English languages. Iver is on Day 41 of the “Found In Translation” series and I am obsessed. So many words I’ve been dying to learn — just in other languages.
Here are 14 of my favorite words that Iver has illustrated so far, along with how you might go about integrating them into your English vocabulary. (And be sure to keep an eye on Iver’s website for a new word and illustration every day!) [100 Days Project]