Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

September Links

Posted by Neal on September 15, 2009

It’s just about time for Talk Like a Pirate day again, so with that in mind, here is a useful resource on how to speak pirates’ language.

Seriously, though, I wonder how much play TLAP Day will get this year, now that piracy off the Horn of Africa has been making pirates much less entertaining. Just the other day, I saw an announcement that the Wiggles were going to be in town soon, and it mentioned Sam, Murray, Jeff, Anthony, and the characters of Dorothy the Dinosaur, Wags the Dog, and Henry the Octopus. I immediately noticed the absence of their fourth extra character, Captain Feathersword, the friendly pirate. Anyway, about this time last year I wrote about arrr-colored vowels; now, here’s a very informative Wikipedia page on how the vowels before /r/ used to sound in English.

Next, here’s Arnold Zwicky writing about one of my favorite topics, non-parallel coordination. This time we’re dealing with the correlative conjunctions not … but.

Michael Erard writes in Search magazine about the uneasy, increasing reliance of linguists on Christian missionaries to do most of the linguistic fieldwork since the 1960s.

The origin of the word hut in football contexts gets the full Ben Zimmer treatment in his latest Word Routes column.

If you like that, then you’ll love this week’s episode of This American Life: “Frenemies” (#389). In Act Two (about 22 minutes in), Rich Juzwiak traces the history of the phrase I’m not here to make friends. Can you guess where you hear this phrase before you click over and read the summary? The fun doesn’t end with Act Two; immediately following is a history of the word frenemy, as told to Ira Glass by none other than Erin McKean.

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