The Yiddish roots of "glitch"

I had no idea that the word "glitch" comes from Yiddish, the language spoken by Ashkenazi Jews that gave us words like "klutz," "nosh," and "shlep." From Air & Space:

Glitch is derived from glitsh, Yiddish for slippery place, and from glitshn, meaning to slide, or glide. Glitch was in use in the 1940s by radio announcers to indicate an on-air mistake. By the 1950s, the term had migrated to television, where engineers used glitch to refer to technical problems...

In Into Orbit, a 1962 book by the Mercury Seven, John Glenn mused about the word, which he evidently hadn’t used before joining the space program. “Another term we adopted to describe some of our problems was ‘glitch.’ Literally, a glitch is a spike or change in voltage in an electrical circuit….”

image: glitch art by Michael Betancourt (CC BY-SA 3.0) Read the rest

Fun interactive way to see what words were first used in print in a particular year

Visit Merriam-Webster's "Time Traveler" and select a year from the drop-down menu. Instantly you'll see the English words that were first used in print that year! More specifically, "the date is for the earliest written or printed use that the (dictionary) editors have been able to discover."

Above are the words first used in print in 1989, the year of the very first bOING bOING print 'zine! Cybernaut! Nanobot! Cyberporn! Those sure were the good ol' daze...

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How to speak chimpanzee

Evolutionary psychologist Katja Liebal literally wrote the book on Primate Communication. A professor of developmental psychology at the Freie Universität Berlin, Liebal's research focuses "on the cognitive and communicative skills that might be uniquely human and those shared with other primate species." According to BBC Earth, Liebal observes chimps in "hopes to compile the world's first chimpanzee dictionary."

I think learning chimpanzee should be an educational requirement beginning in elementary school to prepare our children for when, y'know, they take over.

(via The Kid Should See This) Read the rest

AP's how-to-use-hyphens-wisely guide causes consternation among pedants

English is a glorious syncretic mess of a language, what you get when you blend together a bunch of mispronounced German, French and Latin words and then salt with the vernacular of a hundred other languages, without having to heed stern pronouncements from an official language academy. Read the rest

Jeopardy!'s Alex Trebek saying "genre" over and over and over

A: This clip is an example of a certain genre of Internet video.

Q: What is a supercut?

Bonus video below, the time Boing Boing was part of a clue on Jeopardy!

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Open archive of 240,000 hours' worth of talk radio, including 2.8 billion words of machine-transcription

A group of MIT Media Lab researchers have published Radiotalk, a massive corpus of talk radio audio with machine-generated transcriptions, with a total of 240,000 hours' worth of speech, marked up with machine-readable metadata. Read the rest

Scite: a tool to find out if a scientific paper has been supported or contradicted since its publication

The Scite project has a corpus of millions of scientific articles that it has analyzed with deep learning tools to determine whether any given paper has been supported or contradicted by subsequent publications; you can check Scite via the website, or install a browser plugin version (Firefox, Chrome). (Thanks, Josh!) Read the rest

Because Internet: the new linguistics of informal English

Conversational language is not the same as formal language: chatter over the dinner table does not follow the same rules as a speech from a podium. Informal language follows its own fluid, fast-moving rules, and most of what we know about historic informal language has been gleaned from written fragments, like old letters and diaries -- but now, the internet has produced a wealth of linguistic data on informal language, which is explored in Canadian linguist Gretchen McCulloch's new book, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language. Read the rest

App-based English-language tutors say they frequently witness their Chinese students suffering brutal physical abuse by their parents

There is a booming market for app-based English-language tutors, many in the USA, who serve Chinese families where the parents are eager to have their children acquire English proficiency; these tutors are often also moonlighting teachers, or former teachers, who have been trained to spot and report signs of abuse. Read the rest

How F Scott Fitzgerald conjugated the verb "To cocktail"

F Scott Fitzgerald, in a 1928 letter to Blanche Knopf: "As ‘cocktail,’ so I gather, has become a verb, it ought to be conjugated at least once." (via JWZ) Read the rest

The nine rules of "Freddish": the positive, inclusive empathic language of Mr Rogers

From an excerpt from last year's The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, the rules of "Freddish" -- as Mr Rogers' crewmembers jokingly referred to the rigorous rules that Rogers used to revise his scripts to make them appropriate and useful for the preschoolers in his audience. Read the rest

Self-driving car jargon

Bruce Sterling republishes the acronyms in a recent Daimler white-paper on self-driving cars: Read the rest

What old English perhaps sounded like

In this clip, an Englishman circa 800 A.D. is asked to chatter about his life. He understands the eallníwe léasspellung but prefers the old talk.

A fun little thing to show reconstructed pronunciation of textbook Old English in a casual setting. I've tried to throw in a few natural abbreviations (for example 'c rather than ic), but I know I missed the mark on one or two of the diphthongs. Either way, hopefully this gives some idea as to how the language sounded in casual speech. Message or comment if you'd like any clarifications, want to correct me on anything, or if you're just interested in the topic and would like to know more! I didn't have any decent Anglo-Saxon clothing...

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Movie theater changed "Hellboy" to "Heckboy" on marquee

The Roxy 8 Movie Theater in Dickson, Tennessee changed the title of Hellboy to Heckboy on its marquee. From WZTV:

(Owner Belinda) Daniel told FOX 17 News that she has never displayed any words on the sign that may be seen as profanity, especially since the Roxy is next to Oakmont Elementary School...

“As it turned out, our play on words became a little more exciting than we expected,” Daniel said. “We are glad that we could share a small bit of our great community while also sharing a laugh with the rest of the world...”

Daniel said the sign is the only place where the movie’s title was changed. It appears as “Hellboy” both on the theater’s website, and on the billboards posted on the front of the theater.

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A madlibs science fiction plot generator

Grether Labs's Science Fiction Plot Generator can sure pick 'em: "You are friends with a talking fireplace, and you are working to solve this ancient puzzle before the creatures consume you"; "You are a cyan-eyed cartographer who is finding the awful truth beneath this false utopia, and who is struggling with the terribly thick underbrush and terrible isolation"; "You are friends with a penniless government agent, and you are working to gather the spice before the computer system becomes self-aware"; "You are a science fiction writer and activist who has been made obsolete by a small perl script." Read the rest

Soap for grammar police

The Whiskey River Soap Company's funny soap varieties mostly fall flat for me, but there's one exception: the Grammar Police edition. (Thanks, Fipi Lele!) Read the rest

Watch French people try to say difficult English words

Hitting them with "Throughout" first is pretty sadistic. But that they stumble on "choir" suggests that they are hamming it up, un peu? Read the rest

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