The amazing whistling language of Greek shepherds

In the village of Antia on Greece's Evia island, shepherds use whistling to communicate over long distances. This isn't a code but rather a real language.

"Whistles let shepherds communicate between distant hillsides because a whistled sound wave travels farther than spoken words."

(Scientific American)

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This joyful Xhosa song demonstrates click consonants

Qongqothwane is a cover of a famous Xhosa click song performed at weddings. In it, you can hear click consonants found in two language groups in southern Africa. Here's a nice overview. Read the rest

Synthetic linguists file a new brief (with Klingon passages!) about Paramount's fan-film crackdown

2016's lawsuit between Paramount and the Trekkers who crowdfunded Axanar, a big-budged fan film set in the Trekverse, continues its slog through the courts, and continues to be enlivened by the interventions of the Language Creation Society, an organization of synthetic language enthusiasts, whose amicus briefs ask the court to reject Paramount's claim of a copyright in the synthetic language of Klingon, which has many speakers, including some who learned it as their first language. Read the rest

Australia names "Democracy Sausage" as the 2016 Word (sic) of the Year

The Australian National Dictionary Centre has declared the two-word compound phrase "democracy sausage" to be its 2016 Word of the Year, defining it as "A barbecued sausage served on a slice of bread, bought at a polling booth sausage sizzle on election day." Read the rest

Stop calling it "Puppy-Burning" -- it's the "Alt-Warmth Movement"

"And I’m proud to say that when we get there, it will be as the Alt-Warmth. Just think: under the old name, we couldn’t even get anybody elected dogcatcher." Read the rest

Apple's ebook store bans books that use Apple trademarks in unapproved (but legal and accurate) ways

Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz's must-read new book The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy (read an excerpt) is not for sale in the Apple ebook store, and won't be until they agree to change their text to refer to Apple's ebooks as "iBooks" rather than "iBook." Read the rest

Whaling: phishing for executives and celebrities

A fraudster's term of art, "whaling" refers to phishing attempts targeted at "C-level corporate executives, politicians and celebrities" -- it's a play on "phishing" (attacks that trick users into downloading dangerous files or visiting attack sites by impersonating known sources) and "whales" (a term of art from casinos, referring to high-stakes gamblers). Read the rest

Word of the day: Kakistocracy

Kakistocracy n. (kak·is·toc·ra·cy / kækɪsˈtɑkɹəsi) Government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power. Read the rest

"Post-truth" is the Oxford Dictionaries word of the year

Also in the running was "coulrophobia," the fear of clowns, and "hygge," a Danish concept meaning "a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being." From The Guardian:

Defined by the dictionary as an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”, editors said that use of the term “post-truth” had increased by around 2,000% in 2016 compared to last year. The spike in usage, it said, is “in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States”...

Contenders for the title had included the noun “alt-right”, shortened from the fuller form “alternative right” and defined as “an ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, characterised by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content”. First used in 2008, its use “surged” this spring and summer, said the dictionary, with 30% of usage in August alone. Brexiteer was also in the running for the crown, along with non-political terms including coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, and hygge, the Danish concept of cosiness.

But the increase in usage of post-truth saw the term eventually emerge ahead of the pack. “We first saw the frequency really spike this year in June with buzz over the Brexit vote and Donald Trump securing the Republican presidential nomination. Given that usage of the term hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, I wouldn’t be surprised if post-truth becomes one of the defining words of our time,” predicted Oxford Dictionaries president Casper Grathwohl.

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An "ahem" detector that uses deep learning to auto-clean recordings of speech

Train the Deep Learning Ahem Detector with two sets of audio files, "a negative sample with clean voice/sound" (minimum 3 minutes) and "a positive one with 'ahem' sounds concatenated" (minimum 10s) and it will detect "ahems" in any voice sample thereafter. Read the rest

Learn the Russian alphabet in ten minutes

With Putin and Russia in the news more and more thanks to Trump and Steven Seagal, maybe it's high time to learn how to pronounce Russian text. Thanks to the instructor's lovely accent in this ten-minute tutorial, you'll be pronouncing (if not understanding) in short order. Read the rest

Dig this Beatnik Glossary

I don't know the source of this hip glossary that translates beatnik slang into the King's Jive but it would be such a gas if tuned-in cats spoke like this (even if they never really did). (via Weird Universe) Read the rest

Philippines president Duterte says God threatened to crash his plane if he didn't stop swearing

Duterte has vowed to stop using "epithets" (for example, he called Pope Francis a "son of a bitch" and told Obama to "go to hell") because God threatened to crash the airplane he was flying home from Japan in if he didn't cut it out. Read the rest

Trolling Trump with an Arabic billboard

The billboard went up in Dearborn, MI, which has a large number of Arabic speakers, and reads "Donald Trump, he can't read this, but he is afraid of it" (a riff on the bags printed with "This text has no other purpose than to terrify those who are afraid of the Arabic language"). Read the rest

California DMV thinks "INFOS3C" is a dirty word

The California DMV has rejected Opendns founder David Ulevitch's application for an "1NFOS3C" vanity license plate because it includes "a term of lust or depravity." Read the rest

Computer-mining poetry from the New York Times's obituary headlines

The standard format for a New York Times lead obit headline goes NAME, AGE, Dies; STATEMENT OF ACCOMPLISHMENT (e.g. "Suzanne Mitchell, 73, Dies; Made Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders a Global Brand. Read the rest

Your In America, an anti-racist Twitter account devoted to Muphry's Law

Muphry's Law predicts that "if you write anything criticising editing or proofreading, there will be a fault in what you have written." Read the rest

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