Rants & Ramblings

random commentary about culture, media, politics, technology and whatnot.

language

dec
10
2011

Vowels Control Your Brain | Krulwich Wonders… | NPR

Robert Krulwich writes, “When comparing words across language groups, says Stanford linguistics professor Dan Jurafsky, a curious pattern shows up: Words with front vowels (“I” and “E”) tend to represent small, thin, light things. Back vowels (“O” “U” and some “A”s ) show up in fat, heavy things.”

oct
18
2011

Brits And Americans Don't Speak The Same Language In The Kitchen | The Salt | NPR

NPR’s Alison Richards on translating British recipes for American audiences.

aug
31
2011

Falser Words Were Never Spoken | NYTimes.com

Brian Mortan writes, “In a coffee shop not long ago, I saw a mug with an inscription from Henry David Thoreau: ‘Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.’ At least it said the words were Thoreau’s. But the attribution seemed a bit suspect. Thoreau, after all, was not known for his liberal use of exclamation points.”

jul
20
2011

Americanisms: 50 of your most noted examples | BBC News Magazine

The Magazine’s recent piece on Americanisms entering the language in the UK prompted thousands of you to e-mail examples.” Some of these pet peeves are just funny, others are just bad grammar.

jun
04
2011

He spells it as it sounds. It’s not a bad strategy. The alternative is to guess where the errant letters are hidden, and in that way lies madness.

— From “American Bee” by James Maguire (source)

mar
27
2011

From Churchill to Libya: How the V symbol went viral | The Washington Post

Nathaniel Zelinsky on the history of the “V for Victory” / “peace” hand sign.

oct
09
2010

Fighting Words

This week at work we launched Fighting Words, an experimental effort to track the use of certain keywords on the campaign trail this fall. NPR editors have identified about 40 political figures to track — Democrats and Republicans, active candidates …

oct
31
2007

what price decadence?

At the Silver Diner, decadence apparently can be found for just $4.99.

sep
20
2007

flick-arr!

I love how Flickr got into the spirit of things for yesterday’s Talk Like a Pirate Day. The site, which offers a variety of language options (from English to Chinese to Portuguese), added a “pirate” language option for the day, …

sep
18
2007

quote of the day: small talk

Small talk is small in every way except when you try to get around it. Then it’s enormous.” — Chip Kidd on avoiding awkward conversations, in the novel The Cheese Monkeys

aug
22
2007

word of the day: meh-tastic

Spotted today in a comment thread on DCist: Naan and Beyond is meh-tastic. Ugh. “Meh” — as in, “an expression of indifference and and a decided lack of enthusiasm, bordering on disdain.” The “tastic” suffix just multiplies the inherent “meh”-ness …

aug
15
2006

a story in search terms

Much has been made recently of AOL’s inadvertent public release of its logs of user search terms. Doug took a look at the data and came up with some fairly sad, PostSecret-like narratives, told through individual users’ interactions with the …

feb
22
2006

life imitates art

A new contest announced in this week’s iTunes Music Store “New Music Tuesday” e-mail sounds like a certain Saturday Night Live sketch come to life: Win A Private Showby Prince at His Home Universal/Motown has the ultimate prize for the …

dec
16
2005

zeitgeist

Just as it’s interesting to see what kind of traffic search engines direct my way, it’s also fascinating to see what people are searching for in general. With the end of the year approaching, Yahoo! has posted a list of …

dec
13
2005

too addicted

From the makers of addictive typing game Letters2 comes Words, which is just like Letters except you’re typing words rather than individual letters. I actually like it better, because with Letters I kept trying to find some kind of order …

nov
22
2005

rhetorical strategies

The Post’s Howard Kurtz explains the rhetorical flourishes politicos use to smear each other and renounce the blame for said smearing: It is an age-old device in politics, making a personal slam sound more high-minded by attributing it to someone …

oct
22
2005

news lingo decoded

Lost Remote has a funny list decoding frequently-used terms heard on television news. The list explains what the terms used to mean, and what they mean now. Among my favorites: “We have new details…” OLD: We have found out additional …

sep
19
2005

the pirate made me do it

Once again, it’s time for the annual Talk Like a Pirate Day. The Going Out Gurus at washingtonpost.com last week offered a list of ways to celebrate the occasion here in the D.C. area. Arrr.

aug
17
2005

silver surfer

BBC News uses a novel term to describe older Internet users: silver surfers. It’s a cute play on words, particularly if you’re a comic book aficionado. I’d never heard the term used with respect to a particular online demographic before, …

aug
04
2005

snarkfest

I must express my love for one of my favorite domain names ever: SnarkMarket.com. (It comes a close second to SnarkyBlue.com.) I love how “snark” is carried through the site, like the “permasnark” for each entry. Related: See the entry …