Shared posts

14 Apr 07:02

It’s All Greek (or Chinese or Spanish or…) to Me

by Nathan Yau


In English, there's an idiom that notes confusion: "It's all Greek to me." Other languages have similar sayings, but they don't use Greek as their point of confusion, and of course — there's a Wikipedia page for that. Mark Liberman graphed the relationships several years ago, but the table on Wikipedia references more languages now. So I messed around with it a bit.

"Chinese" is the leading point of confusion, then Spanish and Greek, and then you just move out from there. Languages with lighter border and towards the edges don't have any other languages that point to them.

Obviously the Wikipedia page isn't comprehensive, but hey, it was fun to poke at.

Tags: language

09 Apr 10:34

A tall graphic to show Mt. Everest scale

by Nathan Yau

Mt Everest scale

Mt. Everest is a tall mountain. How tall is it?? Glad you asked. The Washington Post has a tall scrolling graphic to help you understand the scale of the world's tallest mountain. But, instead of scrolling down the page, the scroller takes you to the bottom of the mountain first and against all preconceived notions of scrolling on the internet, you scroll up. Gasp.

Tags: Mt. Everest, scale, Washington Post

28 Mar 11:37

Every TV News Report on the Economy Ever

by Alex Tabarrok

Hat tip: Daniel Altman.

04 Apr 13:52


by Victor Mair

A month ago, we studied the enigma of "Anti-mouth-bowls" (3/1/15).  It was Jan Söhlke who had sent me a photograph of what were labeled "Anti-Mund-Schuessel" ("anti-mouth-bowl").  He mentioned that the same Viennese shop had other bowls with equally mystifying names and promised to go back and take pictures of them.  Jan has now delivered on his promise by sending the following photographs:


German translation of the Chinese:  "Anti-Rand Schuessel"

English translation of the German:  "anti-edge / rim bowl"

Chinese:  fǎnkǒu wǎn 反口碗

English translation of the Chinese:  "bowl with everted rim; flare-rimmed bowl"

Notes:  Is the German trying to say "bowl without an edge / rim"?  Could there be such a thing?


German translation:  "Anti-Bowl"

English translation of the German:  "anti-bowl"

Chinese:  fǎnkǒu wǎn 反口碗

English translation of the Chinese:  "bowl with everted rim; flare-rimmed bowl"

Notes:  This sounds like something from Nietzsche's kitchen or a particle physicist's laboratory.  Very mysterious.  Is the bowl meant to prevent something?  What is the bowl against?


German translation:  "Fashion Plattenspieler"

English translation of the German:  "fashion turntable"

Chinese:  shíshàng zhuǎnjiǎo pán 时尚转角盘

English translation of the Chinese:  "fashionably undulating plate"

Notes:  The German comes from Google Translate.  The Chinese word for "turntable" is zhuǎnpán 转盘.  The literal translation of zhuǎnjiǎo pán 转角盘 would be something like "plate with corners that turn".  So far as I know, "fashion" is not a German word; the German equivalent would be "Mode".

From Jan:

As for "Platte", there are two relevant meanings in this context and it isn't that straightforward: A "Teller" (plate in English) is the dish you put in front of you and it serves as the last station from which food goes to the mouth. The thing in the picture looks like a "Teller" to me. Then, there is German "Platte", the etymological relative to English plate. A "Platte" would hold a dish in the middle of the table (as in "Schlachteplatte", butcher's plate). In my mental lexicon it would be something much larger which would never be used as a "Teller", where a "Teller" could occasionally fulfill the duties of a "Platte".

The other meaning of "Platte" is "record" (think vinyl, 33 rpm). Here "Platte" is short for "Langspielplatte" (long playing plate). Thus, a record player is a "Plattenspieler".

4. (the type of bowl in the previous post)

German translation:  "Anti-Mund-Schuessel"

English translation of the German:  "anti-mouth-bowl"

Chinese:  fǎnkǒu wǎn 反口碗

English translation of the Chinese:  "bowl with everted rim; flare-rimmed bowl"

Notes:  The first two bowls in this post and the bowl in the previous post all have the same name in Chinese:  fǎnkǒu wǎn 反口碗 ("bowl with everted rim; flare-rimmed bowl").  They also have the same shape.  Their only difference is in size, and consequently in price.  How could the translator(s) come up with three such dissimilar German translations?

1. "Anti-Rand Schuessel"

2. "Anti-Bowl"

4. "Anti-Mund-Schuessel"

All of this reminds me somewhat of IKEA naming practices, which we have addressed before on Language Log:

However, this shop in Vienna has an entirely different, and much more haphazard, system, one given to generating conundrums.

26 Mar 23:30

Where/What/Who is Scandinavia? 

by ericmortensen


Where/What/Who is Scandinavia? 

23 Mar 18:01

High definition Pluto needs names

by Jason Kottke

HD Pluto

Ok, Pluto fans. They evicted Pluto from our solar system's planetary pantheon, but a NASA mission launched in 2006 is nearing the dwarf planet with its cameras. We'll soon have photos of Pluto that are much more high resolution than we currently have, which means scientists will need names for all the new geographic features. The Our Pluto site has been set up to help suggest and vote on names for these features. Naming themes include historic explorers, travelers to the underworld, and scientists and engineers. Go vote! (via slate)

Tags: astronomy   language   NASA   Pluto   science   space
22 Mar 22:05

Bollywood does Seinfeld?

by Chris Blattman


Last week Jerry Seinfeld cancelled his first ever performance in India because of traffic and parking issues. Two Indians responded with this South Asian Seinfeld spoof. Brilliant.

The post Bollywood does Seinfeld? appeared first on Chris Blattman.

20 Mar 15:11

Xiangjun Shi: Why Do I Study Physics?

by S. Abbas Raza
14 Mar 14:44

Boing Boing Hiné Mizushima’s lovely felt Apple Watch.

10 Mar 19:14

simpleescapism:flavorcountry:Dr. Mae Jemison, MD, the first...

by ajlobster

Onboard shuttle Endeavour in 1992

As Lt Palmer in TNG s06e24, "Second Chances"



Dr. Mae Jemison, MD, the first black woman in space and first actual astronaut to appear on a Star Trek show, one of the very few people on this planet of whom two pictures can be posted depicting them doing their job on a spaceship with entirely different contexts.

Holy shit this is a serious contender for the best post I’ve ever seen on tumblr.


12 Mar 21:40

R.I.P. Terry Pratchett

by abvh

R.I.P. Terry Pratchett

03 Mar 13:28


by abvh


08 Mar 09:57

The loudest bird in the world? The Blue-winged Kookaburra, Dacelo leachii

by Bob Gosford

These birds are INSANE

Last week I was sitting outside watching the last light of day slip over the edge of the world when I heard a maniacal cackle from the trees above me. First a croaky, throaty chuckle, then a deep rattle as annoying and impossible to ignore as a kid running a stick along a corrugated-iron fence.

I’d not heard Blue-winged Kookaburras call at close quarters for some time–they don’t live near where I do in the Darwin suburbs–but I’d seen a few around where I was staying on the outskirts of Katherine and was well-pleased to hear the calls of a family home to roost for the evening above my cabin.

But what I’d forgotten was just how raucous they can get and for the next ten minutes or so the calls of not only the family above me but those occupying nearby territories drowned out all other sounds.

I don’t know if this species is the loudest bird in the world but I reckon even the FA-18s from the nearby Tindal RAAF base would be hard-pressed to cut through the Blue-winged Kookaburra’s cacophonous clatter at close quarters. These guys just don’t give a shit, and have a great time doing it. I particularly like the cheeky chuckles and the sense of simultaneous black humour and sinister intent that so infects these calls that i have recorded for your listening pleasure (?) below.

You can read more about these wonderfully cheeky birds in Sarah Legge’s Kookaburra: King of the Bush. And here is their evening chorus.

Blue-Winged Kookaburra, Katherine NT. 4 March 2015

Photo: Cool-critters at Tumblr.

27 Feb 06:11

suzeart: pannan-art:Modern Disney Girls! Who’s gonna be...





Modern Disney Girls! Who’s gonna be next?

You choose!

EDIT: Updated the post to put all new Gilrs in one place!


Bonus Modern Disney Girl - my version of Leia.

Update - NEW ONES! 

Alice in Wonderland guided by Shanti (Jungle Book ), Kida and Tinkerbell
UPDATE! Lakota Tiger Lily and Polish Wendy.

So perfect

28 Feb 13:30

Clarity about ‘the gay thing’

by SoniaT

Sometimes, we say what we don’t really mean. ‘You look really tired’, for example, when we mean to be caring rather than disparaging of appearance. ‘I thought you were older than that!’ when we mean to applaud maturity rather than further disparage appearance.

And so it is with the gay thing. The accidental difference between what people are saying or writing, and their intended meaning, is becoming perplexingly polarized. It’s becoming an issue because respected news sources with style guides to guard the objectivity of their reporting are straying away from neutral. And this, in turn, is influencing what we consider to be untainted, unprejudiced language about what I’m technically going to call ‘the gay thing’.

The lexicon around neutral language when reporting or writing about lesbian and gay people can lead to misunderstanding. There are several words that sit outside the flagrantly offensive, but in a grey area. It’s not malice, but misunderstanding that causes people to use these murky terms. They don’t intend to insult, but they do intend to be unbiased. Clarity is lost with the terminology we think is clear and plain English. It’s not.

Here are some examples.

What people say: sexual preference
What they really mean: sexual orientation

I actually think that at least three quarters of people and organizations that use this term, are intending to mean something else. If you believe, as all the science available to us indicates, that being gay is attributed to nature and not nurture; that it’s genetic and not a choice, then this term is a common misuse.

My preference is for mocha rather than latte; mashed potato rather than boiled; Madonna rather than Kylie. My sexual orientation is not a casual preference or a choice, like choosing whether I want pizza or pasta. I don’t merely prefer men to women. It’s something innate.

Some gay people find it offensive when it’s suggested that their sexual orientation is a choice; it trivializes the discrimination they’ve had to overcome by suggesting that they’ve just been obstinate and could always have chosen another path. It can also load with ammunition the traditional enemies to equality who’ll argue any measures to accommodate someone’s picky preference are not high priority. 

Sexual orientation is clearer and less likely to lead to misunderstanding – without being overly fussy, it strongly insinuates that you’re born with an imaginary inner compass that points in a certain direction on the Kinsey Scale.

Even if you do believe nurture plays a part in sexual orientation, the term sexual preference could still be a misnomer. Some parts of our character are so deeply ingrained from the nurture of our early childhoods, that we have little conscious choice over how they manifest as adults. When deconstructed, the term ‘preference’ relating to sexuality seems, quite frankly, peculiar.

It’s particularly peculiar when it comes from progressive news outlets, such as the Guardian.

What people say: homosexual / homosexuals
What they really mean: gay / gay people

The Guardian, however, listens and learns as language moves on from where it once stigmatized. I write a monthly column for the Guardian’s ‘Mind your language’ section and I successfully challenged them to drop homosexual used as a noun from their official style guide. It has now been replaced with gay people.

Why did I do this? Calling gay people homosexuals is the cold, medical, dehumanizing language used when homosexuality was, until 1992, classified as a mental disorder. It’s like calling people ‘homo sapiens.’ It’s stuffy, it jars and, I argued, it can no longer be deemed to come from a neutral, objective place due to the word’s unsavoury history on medical statutes, such as those used to chemically castrate Alan Turing for being gay.

When working at gay equality charity Stonewall, I also perceived the term homosexualsto be used by enemies of equality in a very clever way; they weren’t using outright insulting language that could easily be called out, but instead this careful, distanced, clinical language that makes gay people seem like an alien breed, worthy of scientific experiment. The term’s insidiousness is its insult.

What people say: gay rights
What they really mean: equality

Fighting for gay rights all sounds very Harvey Milk and uplifting. But the term may not be as empowering as it seems. Introducing gay rights sounds like a long list of special, extra demands gay people insist on having while beating drums and shouting. When, in fact, what I believe the majority of people are really intending when they say gay rights is equality. Why is this important? Equality is measured, palatable, entirely reasonable and sensible, and more likely to be accepted by all classes, people on both the left and right of the political divide. It sounds less entitled. It’s also far harder to argue against.

Gay rights, in effect, insinuates gay people want to be treated specially and differently when in fact the opposite is true. We want to be treated the same. That’s why measures such as an equal age of consent use the vernacular of equality, as opposed to rights.

What people say: gay marriage
What they really mean: marriage

Before marriage finally became a legal reality for same-sex couples in Britain last year, much was written in the media about ‘gay marriage’ as if it were a separate institution, requiring that qualifying prefix. ‘The campaign for equal marriage’ would’ve been a more accurate descriptor of what lay behind the campaign, in a similar rationale to the significant semantics around ‘rights vs equality’. As a Facebook friend of mine posted at the time: “I’m just going to get on my gay bus with my gay girlfriend and then we’re going to the gay airport on a gay holiday” – the prefix feels superfluous on all these words, just as it does with marriage.

What people say: tolerance
What they really mean: acceptance

Another linguistic bugbear of mine. I tolerate mushrooms; I don’t really like them. I can tolerate the pain of getting a tattoo done, though I’d prefer to do without it. I tolerate people walking slowly and aimlessly in front of me – just – but I hardly welcome it. Yet, in many of the places I’ve heard ‘tolerance’ used as a synonym for open-mindedness, I’ve often felt that acceptance is the clearer term – gently implying warmth, but, in a very British way, keeping it understated and straightforward.

I accept, though, that not everyone will tolerate this.

A version of this blog post first appeared on the OxfordWords blog.

Image Credit: “Mr. and Mr. Marriage Equality.” Photo by Purple Sherbert Photography. CC by 2.0 via Flickr.

The post Clarity about ‘the gay thing’ appeared first on OUPblog.

22 Feb 17:42

ofsparrows:Breakfast sorcery: the only superpower I want to...


Breakfast sorcery: the only superpower I want to have.

12 Feb 16:46

True color picture of our moon, unfiltered by our nitrogen rich...

True color picture of our moon, unfiltered by our nitrogen rich blue atmosphere.

12 Feb 04:01

For anyone curious, below are some of the recommended twitter bots that came in in response to...

For anyone curious, below are some of the recommended twitter bots that came in in response to yesterday’s request for favorites:

Pentametron: A sonnet bot

Reverseocr: A sort of drawing bot.

The Desire Bot: Anything starting with “I just want”

Autocharts: Absurd charts, twice daily.

CrushBot: A DMing bot that connects crushes from The New Inquiry.

Anything done by Darius Kazemi.

11 Feb 15:37

Are these the best Amazon reviews ever? (Anti-vaccination edition)

by Chris Blattman

61bNGvoLVYL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Salon reports:

In 2012, a proactive Australian anti-vaxxer named Stephanie Messenger self-published a children’s book called “Melanie’s Marvelous Measles.” With the book, Messenger endeavored to “educate children on the benefits of having measles and how you can heal from them naturally and successfully.”

It also highlights some truly, truly wonderful Amazon reviews:

“This book has been a wonderful distraction while I sit in the hospital to support my friend whose baby has this delightful disease. Since the child now has both pneumonia and encephalitis, I’ll have to check out the additional titles mentioned in Michael J. Gulgoski’s wonderful review. We’re going to be here a while. Unfortunately, I had to give this only one star because I hate the name Melanie.” –This Daydreamer

“Finally! A children’s book with an agenda I can get behind! I always thought I loved kids until I actually had one of my own and boy was I wrong! I researched anything and everything I could possibly do to get rid of the little brat, but I didn’t want to be arrested for murder and childhood cancer is just too darn unpredictable. Fortunately, I stumbled upon ‘Melanie’s Marvelous Measles’, and learned that there is a huge community of people who hate children as much as me! Thanks to Melanie, I was able to ignore my pediatrician’s recommendations to vaccinate my daughter before our trip to Disney World, all while acting like I want what is ‘best’ for my child.” –brittany

Amazon page is here in case you want to add your voice.

The post Are these the best Amazon reviews ever? (Anti-vaccination edition) appeared first on Chris Blattman.

26 Jan 01:00

Eyeing up

by Rick Kurshen


A cartoon by Edward Steed in the New Yorker

18 Jan 20:57

FuzzBeed Parody social news site which algorithmically generates...


Parody social news site which algorithmically generates listicle content (often with absurd results).

See for yourself here

10 Jan 18:51

dollychops: Happy Birthday David Bowie! This should be on the...


Happy Birthday David Bowie!

This should be on the Tumblr Radar

04 Jan 22:51


30 Dec 22:28

…and a happy new yearOriginal illustration by Neil Evans

by abvh

…and a happy new year

Original illustration by Neil Evans

15 Dec 15:42


by Grant

15 Dec 10:09

lgbtlaughs: Photo of ‘twins’ used in Virginia billboard by...


Photo of ‘twins’ used in Virginia billboard by ‘ex-gay’ group are of same man - and he’s gay

"I was obviously quite shocked, so that why I decided to send you guys an email saying hey, I’m that guy in that billboard," Roux said.

Roux hasn’t thought about that photo shoot in nearly a decade. He says the pictures used on the billboard were part of a stock photo shoot he did. Roux signed away the rights and was told the pictures would be used in commercial and corporate ads and brochures.

Thursday morning, friends, family and even Roux’s trainer asked if he was featured in the ad, which claimed to show identical twins and the statement, “Nobody is born gay.”

It’s ironic, says Roux, given that he’s not a twin and openly gay.

"It just seems like there no place in today’s world for an organization that is promoting this as being some kind of deviant or distasteful lifestyle, because I’ve lived my life openly gay and happy for my entire life," he said.

15 Dec 01:29

It’s the Happy Gnome Dance.

by nanoramas

It’s the Happy Gnome Dance.

14 Dec 22:21

Punch A Monet Silly brief browser game lets you virtually punch...

Punch A Monet

Silly brief browser game lets you virtually punch a certain piece of fine art.

Try it out for yourself here

15 Dec 19:19

Surveillance Camera Captures a Fastidious Elephant Picking Up Litter and Properly Putting It in the Trash

by Lori Dorn

This elephant is tidier than you (or me)

A surveillance camera captured the sight of an elegantly fastidious elephant as she picks up litter from the ground and properly puts it the trash can at the Thornhill Safari Lodge in Limpopo, South Africa.

via Nothing To Do With Arbroath

14 Dec 20:34

p-kyle: Merrry Xmas from Thatcher’s Britain. 


The Yule burned true


Merrry Xmas from Thatcher’s Britain.