Archives for March 2003


The 950 members of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe of a reservation outside Port Angeles, Wash. (and nearby areas) have taken steps to stop the apparently inevitable decline of their language, according to this Washington Post article by Robert E. Pierre.

After a century of open hostility toward these languages, the federal government is helping to foot the bill. But the task is daunting: Of about 175 indigenous languages still spoken in the United States, about 20 are being passed on to another generation. The pressure to converse in English, the worldwide language of commerce, also isn’t abating….

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We’ve had Iraqi ire; here‘s Irish ire. Choose your terms and it will give you an Irish curse, with pronunciation. Example:

English: May the hounds of hell destroy your underwear.
Irish: Go scriosa cúnna ifrinn do chuid fo-éadaigh.
Phonetic: guh SHKRIH-suh KOO-nuh IHF-rin duh khwihj FO-AY-dee.

Via Out Of Ambit.


Through the kind offices of David Quidnunc I have discovered this list of words used by Iraqi Information Minister Muhammad Said Al-Sahhaf at his morning press conferences. Some samples:

Isabat al-Awghad al-Dawliyeen: The Gang of International Villains
a reference to the American administration
Akrout (pl. akarit): loathsome, pimp
a reference to British Prime Minister Tony Blair
Ahmaq: stupid
usually a reference to President Bush
al-Tabe: The subordinate
a reference to PM Blair
al-Tabe al-Jadid: The New Subordinate
a reference to Spanish Prime Minister Aznar

The information was provided by the Middle East Media Research Center, who are to be commended for their diligence.


That’s the title of a book by Akira Miura that I picked up on my last visit to the Strand. It contains a selection of the many English loanwords in Japanese, and it has that combination of scrupulous accuracy (in this case, even giving pitch contours, which I have replaced with an acute accent on the last high-pitched vowel) and wide-ranging, even eccentric, commentary that I find almost impossible to resist. Some sample entries:

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A comprehensive collection of links. Via Plep.


Avva describes how he hit upon the word “uglyography” (an invention of Southey’s) in the OED, looked for it online, and found exactly one Google hit: on a page of Forthright’s Phrontistery [since 2006 at this URL]. I thought I’d share this remarkable site with you; its primary feature is a “14000-word dictionary of obscure and rare words, the International House of Logorrhea,” and anyone who enjoys the dustier corners of the English vocabulary will want to explore it.


Via Ilya Vinarsky comes this 1975 article (pdf format) by Eugene Garfield urging Russians to give up their ugly Cyrillic (“Cyrillic has nothing but capitals”) for the flexible, international Roman alphabet. Before you join the lynch mob (“I have been accused of scientific and linguistic imperialism and chauvinism…”), let me remind you that none other than Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov thought the same thing! (Edmund Wilson, naturally, disagreed: “This alphabet, since five useless characters were got rid of at the time of the Revolution, is one of the only features of Russian that are really convenient and logical—far more practical than the English alphabet.”)


A couple of quotes from one of my favorite cynics and masters of language (“I master only the language of others; mine does with me what it will”), Karl Kraus:

How is the world ruled and led to war? Diplomats lie to journalists and believe these lies when they see them in print. (Wie wird die Welt regiert und in den Krieg geführt? Diplomaten belügen Journalisten und glauben es wenn sie`s lesen.)
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn’t any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone’s being worse off. (Krieg ist zuerst die Hoffnung, dass es einem besser gehen wird, hierauf die Erwartung, dass es dem anderen schlechter gehen wird, dann die Genugtuung, dass es dem anderen auch nicht besser geht, und schließlich die Überraschung, dass es beiden schlechter geht.)


The very first Languagehat post was about the language spoken by Adam and Eve, or rather theories thereof, so my eye was lured by a book by Maurice Olender called The Languages of Paradise on that very subject. I managed not to buy it (I’m trying to cut back, honest), but I found an article (pdf file) by Olender from a post on crank linguistics by Cinderella Bloggerfeller, who seems to know a lot about language, so you can find the story (or his version of it) there. If scholarly wackiness amuses you, you’ll enjoy it.


A big hello to Meredith, whose Linguistiblog looks very promising; she doesn’t give an e-mail address, so I can’t drop her a line, but I assume she’ll see this eventually. Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!