Through the magic of Technorati, I’ve become aware of two blogs I want to bring to your attention, and through the kindness of a correspondent a news story only tangentially related to language, but what the hell. First the blogs:

Transient Languages & Cultures “covers many different projects and groups all with the common theme of endangered languages and culture”; it’s hosted at the University of Sydney and has been going since June. The latest post, by Jane Simpson (it’s a multi-author blog), is about an online course in Pitjantjatjara:

It’s been very hard for ordinary city-dwelling Australians (i.e. most of us) to learn Indigenous Australian languages. Most universities don’t teach them, and getting to Alice Springs for courses at the Institute for Aboriginal Development is out of most people’s reach. Summer schools, such as the Gumbaynggirr and Gamilaraay ones mentioned in a previous post are rare. So it had to come, and it has, but in a rather unusual way. The first public online course in an Australian Indigenous language is run out of a demountable building in Alice Springs by the Ngapartji Ngapartji group…

All Mouth and Trousers has a more limited ambit: “Dedicated to preserving and promoting the great Northern English phrase ‘All mouth and trousers’ against barbarism and neglect.” It has only one post so far, and for all I know it may never have another, but that one is enough to make it immortal in my eyes; he says his mission “requires defending this venerable phrase against the more recent Southern perversion ‘all mouth and no trousers'” and goes on to quote Michael Quinion (“This strange expression comes from the north of England and is used, mainly by women in my experience, as a sharp-tongued and effective putdown of a certain kind of pushy, over-confident male”) and rail against “promulgators of the Metropolitan vulgarisation.” Such extreme devotion to authentic local usage deserves our honor and respect.

Finally, Seth Borenstein of the AP reports “Grammar-based peptide fights bacteria”:

Using grammar rules alongside test tubes, biologists may have found a promising new way to fight nasty bacteria, including drug-resistant microbes and anthrax.

Studying a potent type of bacteria-fighters found in nature, called antimicrobial peptides, biologists found that they seemed to follow rules of order and placement that are similar to simple grammar laws. Using those new grammar-like rules for how these antimicrobial peptides work, scientists created 40 new artificial bacteria-fighters…

So study that grammar, kids, if you want to fight disease! (A hat tip to Songdog for sending me the story.)

Update. Mark Liberman has blogged this story at Language Log; please proceed thither for actual scholarly discussion. It turns out the paper is Christopher Loose, Kyle Jensen, Isidore Rigoutsos and Gregory Stephanopoulos, A linguistic model for the rational design of antimicrobial peptides, Nature 443, 867-869 (19 October 2006).

Further update (Dec. 2019). My “for all I know it may never have another” was too pessimistic; that delightful blog went on for some years, its final post (with a comment by JC!) was on February 17, 2012. And it’s still there — no need to use the Wayback Machine for this one.


  1. Ain’t this about the grammar-based peptide, too?

  2. Hi Languagehat,
    Thanks for the mention. Most appreciated. We’re having great fun with our new blogging project.

  3. “Demountable buildings”? Hmmm.

  4. Uh oh, these bacteria sound almost like lethal prescriptivists! I jest, not really, it’s a bad joke.
    Thanks for the links, these look good.

  5. All mouth and no trousers – on a par with “All fur coat and no knickers” (a remark made by Rachel Nordlinger about people who give powerpoint presentations…)

  6. Thanks for the All Mouth and Trousers link – you found it within hours of its low-key launch! Be assured that there will be further posts as and when, most likely including a complaint against a wholly anachronistic use of the ‘no trousers’ variant in David Peace’s recent novel ‘The Damned Utd’.

  7. I’ve always been partial to the phrase “away for slates” myself, which seems to have one meaning in Ireland and a different one in the North of England.

  8. Thirteen years later: “Away for slates is Irish slang for on the way to success.” Don’t know what it means in the North of England.

  9. PlasticPaddy says

    I suspect “away for slates” comes from horseriding or horseracing slang, compare “away in/on a hack”. The word slat in Irish means yard or ruler (measuring stick). But there is also “clean slate”.

  10. Thanks!

  11. PlasticPaddy says

    I am beginning to think the more literal replacement of thatch with slate tiles may be a better explanation. But why “away” for them? Mollymooly might know…

  12. The appearance of the plural “slates” makes me think it might be schoolroom related, but that’s just a guess.

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