The Chaos

Posted: 2012-01-06 15:02   |  More posts about art funny linguistics poetry words

A poem by Gerard Nolst Trenité demonstrating the abundant irregularities of English spelling and pronunciation. More info here. 



Comb-me quickly; don't put me so much pomatum. What news tell me? all hairs dresser are newsmonger.

Posted: 2011-04-17 21:33   |  More posts about funny oddities words

The title of this blogpost is taken from English As She Is Spoke, a 19th century Portugese-English phrase book which I've spent the last hour reading on the train. It's living up to all expectations. You can enjoy the entire book here.


Qaeda Quality Question Quickly Quickly Quiet

Posted: 2010-12-03 23:51   |  More posts about america art film media oddities short film war words

I rather like the "A", "Amer-kawh", "and", "for" and "great" bits.


Yo dawg, I heard you like linguistics...

Posted: 2010-10-10 16:15   |  More posts about linguistics oddities poetry words

Came across this amusing Inception / Yo Dawg meme face-off the other day on reddit. It led me back to one of my favourite linguistic peculiarities, the sentence "Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo." Its Wikipedia page seems to have been updated since the last time I had a look at it, as there are a few other interesting linguistic cases linked, none of which I'd come across before. I especially enjoyed the sentence "James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher". And then I stumbled across this old Chinese poem, "The Lion-eating Poet in the Snow Den":

The text, although written in Classical Chinese, can be easily comprehended by most educated readers. However, changes in pronunciation over 2,500 years resulted in a large degree of homophony in Classical Chinese, so the poem becomes completely incomprehensible when spoken out in Standard Mandarin or when written romanized in Standard Mandarin.

Pretty remarkable. Its Wikipedia page, linked above, is rather detailed and well worth a read.

Here's a video of the poem being read aloud in Standard Mandarin:

More: A List of Linguistics Example Sentences


Welcome to Reykjavík

Posted: 2010-08-16 22:25   |  More posts about art funny oddities politics words

An eccentric little piece from Reykjavík's Mayor. Click to enlarge.

Thanks to Hugh for bringing this to my attention.


For a soldier he leads a very fine life and he always is blessed with a charming young wife

Posted: 2010-07-17 16:01   |  More posts about art ireland music poetry war words

Paul Brady's legendary 1977 recording of the old Irish anti-recruitment song Arthur McBride:



Writing without reading

Posted: 2010-06-23 19:15   |  More posts about animation film linguistics literature oddities science short film words

A curious case of a professional writer who awoke one morning to find his capacity to read crippled by a stroke. Animation and narration from Lev Yilmaz. You can watch the video here. For some reason the embedding seems to be a bit mucked-up.


The biggest problem with Libertarian thinking

Posted: 2010-06-18 13:05   |  More posts about america idiots politics words

A member of reddit, quag7, contributes to a thread entitled "I am a registered Libertarian, but it seems the party has lost its way" in /r/Libertarian. Reposting here in full. Thanks to Hugh for bringing this to my attention:



a good day

Posted: 2010-04-22 19:05   |  More posts about words

A while back, I ordered a netbook to use primarily for "getting stuff done" while out-and-about, and also for writing blog entries on. What's ironic is that since getting it, there has been what is most likely the longest period of neglect suffered by Well, it's at most a shame, as things have been very hectic lately...

However, I had a remarkable day when I went out to Blanchardstown to pick the new laptop up. On the bus was a pair of African women, who had the amusing and interesting habit of peppering their mile-a-minute speech in their own native language with very Irish interjections. One would start "It's just, like," before launching into a rapidly told story and ending with "d'ye know the way?" I eventually got off, found the depot, picked up my laptop and left, only to return a few seconds later when I realised I had no change for the bus. After planting a €5 note down on the counter and asking whether I could get change, the chap behind the counter refused, pulled out some loose change and insisted I simply take it.

Waiting at the bus stop now, I flagged down the first bus that came along and asked if he was driving into town. It turned out he wasn't, but ordered me on-board anyway, saying he'd give me a free trip down to another bus stop which was serviced by many more buses than the previous one. I happily obliged, and thanks to the man's kindness, spent maybe only a minute or two at the next bus stop before I was headed back home.

Home, where I opened the door to find a curious package in the hallway. A book, by Alan Watts - and despite there being no note I knew just who had sent it, given we'd both recently discovered the eachother's interest in his work and ideas. A lovely surprise with a friendly nod-and-a-wink.

I'd started the day with the not-so-minor annoyance of having to trek quite a bit across the city in terrible weather, but with the help of others' acts of kindness and goodwill, everything changed beyond recognition.

A good day!


Rette deine Freiheit

Posted: 2010-01-05 22:19   |  More posts about art censorship computers design digital rights germany internet politics words

At the moment in Germany, there is fierce opposition growing against plans by the CDU to implement internet censorship under the guise of attacking the spread of child pornography. A movement championed by the German Piratenpartei has dubbed ex-minister for family affairs Ursula von der Leyen "Zensursula", a portmandeau of Zensur (Censor) and Ursula, and is referring to the CDU's plans as Stasi 2.0, a nod to the brutal secret police which operated in former East Germany.

Not only is there to be a secret list of blocked websites, such as exists in Australia, but the government is pushing for more data to be collected from citizens and retained for a long period of time.

A video which caught my attention a while back was entitled Du bist Terrorist (You are a terrorist). With soft ambient music playing, and deceptively pleasantly designed imagery, the two-minute video parodies the Du bist Deutschland ad-campaign with a soft, reassuring voice informing you of what the German government has in store for you, in terms of heavier and more invasive surveillance -- because You are a terrorist.

Earlier this week I found that the same people had created a new video in the same vein, entitled Rette deine Freiheit (Save your freedom). The video focuses much more on the coming internet censorship in Germany than just data retention and physical surveillance.

Since there was no English translation available, I decided to translate it and re-upload to Youtube. The result is below:

The translation is by no means perfect, but at least it's something. There were a few tricky problems with it:

  • Einfach wegschauen: Literally "simply look away", the video describes this as the method tried-and-tested by members of families with a history of domestic abuse. I was going to translate it as "simply look the other way" in its first instance, since this is the closest phrase in English that pertains to such a situation. However, this doesn't exactly capture the double-meaning employed in the video, since it implies wilful ignorance which isn't quite applicable to what the government is doing, so I decided to settle on "simply block it out". I'm not sure I'm happy with this, however. Suggestions?
  • In the sentence, "In Prävention, Therapie und Personal investiert hätte dies vielen Opfern helfen können: Reinste Verschwendung", the meaning that is sarcastically implied is that the money that could be invested in preventative measures, therapy and personelle is much better spent on building an internet block. I don't think I captured this very well.

In any event, there's likely to be an official translation soon (I just saw an "Englisch (bald verfügbar)" notice at the top of the official page now -- perhaps my emailing asking for a transcript of the video got them in a rush) and these issues will cease to be.

One last thing -- if you are interested in learning more about the situation in Germany regarding internet freedom and the child pornography scare, I'd not only urge you to visit the links above, but also this shocking, but morbidly fascinating account of one techie's work in the murkiest of subcultures. Thankfully, he doesn't go into detail about actual child abuse, but instead details exactly how child pornography rings work, using the internet and computers.

Put simply, it proves what anyone with a clue already knows: current proposals for internet censorship will have absolutely no impact whatsoever on paedophiles and child pornographers and will only serve to infringe the rights of normal, law-abiding internet users.

Thanks to Áine and Patricia for help with one or two minor parts of the translation.