Aug 032014

in Other WordsChristopher J. Moore’s In Other Words is a beautiful sideswipe at the variability of languages and cultures.

A short cross-section of words and expressions from around the world that make language such a fun topic.

The selection ranges from seen this to way beyond eclectic, with plenty of interesting midway stops along the path.

A short nice read, and one that would really benefit from a consistently updated website that continues the work begun here.

(And yes, this is very much the same concept as Adam Jacot de Boinod’s Tingo, which is an exquisitely crafted book as well).

Dec 292013

Bongauksen Hurma coverBongauksen Hurma is a collection of tales from the finnish birdwatchers.

And by birdwatchers the authors mean more or less obsessive collectors of bird sightings. They are a bunch of twitchers, in the british side of english language.

A lot of the stories precede mobile telephony, GPS receivers and as such read as heroics in a pre-digital world. It was quite a different thing to see a stray nököhuittinen back in the eighties.

A lot of the stories sadly do not read very well. They come off as war stories for a small audience. A small audience able to understand the jargon. At worst the tales use (apparently) outdated words or are written in the local dialect of swedish.

However, at times the authors transcend the borders of clique and actually provide a meaningful story on how seeing a bird was either world-shattering news or somehow extremely meaningful to them.

And while I wouldn’t be able to differentiate between the scores of small passerine birds (the most populous group in Finland), I did get an itch to actually list the bird species that I’ve encountered. It’s not an itch I’ve scratched thus far, but one that remains.

Jan 072013

Lake Superior University has once again decreed what words, terms and idioms should not be used in this side of the New Year.

The twelve listed fall into four buckets:

  • Unavoidable: Fiscal cliff (the euphemisms are even worse), job creators/creation (not that Huimio aims to be one this year, but yeah), passion (yes, even referring to other things than the fruit), spoiler alert (when among geeks, there’s always somebody with holes in his repertoire, usually that’s me).
  • Been there, done that: Double down (I think, even outside a blackjack table), bucket list (inspired by the movie, obviously), guru (only used on other people).
  • Only ironically: Superfood (it’s just healthy food).
  • Really, some people use this?: Kick the can down the road, YOLO, trending (never as an adjective), boneless wings.

That’s not a very good tally, isn’t it.

And yeah, it would be nice to check up on this at the end of the year (and repeat the exercise annually), time to add yet another seasonal thing to the blog, then.

Jul 312012

Not from Moneyball this time, but from a random australian post, where the role of a “bogan” is left ambiguous.

The description is pretty clear:

The term bogan is Australian and New Zealand slang, usually pejorative or self-deprecating, for an individual who is recognised to be from an unsophisticated background or someone whose limited education, speech, clothing, attitude and behaviour exemplifies a lack of manners and education.

No Marvel superhero answering to the name seems to exist.

Jul 302012

Moneyball is a treasure trove for new expressions. Today’s addition to my vocabulary is catbird seat, as defined by wikipedia as follows:

“The catbird seat” is an idiomatic phrase used to describe an enviable position, often in terms of having the upper hand or greater advantage in all types of dealings among parties. According to the Oxford English Dictionary,[1] the first recorded usage occurred in a 1942 humorous short story by James Thurber titled “The Catbird Seat,”[2] which features a character, Mrs. Barrows, who likes to use the phrase. Another character, Joey Hart, explains that Mrs. Barrows must have picked up the expression from Red Barber, a baseball broadcaster, and that to Barber “sitting in the catbird seat” meant “‘sitting pretty,’ like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him.”

And yeah, there IS such an animal as a catbird (naukumatkija in finnish).

Jul 242012

Stumbled upon “shaggy dog story” while reading Michael Lewis’ Moneyball.

And as expected, wikipedia delivers the goods on the subject:

In its original sense, a shaggy dog story is an extremely long-winded tale featuring extensive narration of typically irrelevant incidents, usually resulting in a pointless or absurd punchline. These stories are a special case of yarns, coming from the long tradition of campfire yarns. Shaggy dog stories play upon the audience’s preconceptions of the art of joke telling. The audience listens to the story with certain expectations, which are either simply not met or met in some entirely unexpected manner

Jul 112011

Mr. BeanMyötähäpeä, the feeling of mutually induced embarrassment on behalf of someone else, does not have a proper translation in english (or in most other languages).

I’ve been using “vicarious embarrassment” for years.

It’s not a perfect translation, but hits close enough.

Last Friday, while reading the Nyt-magazine, I stumbled upon a beauty of a new portmanteau: embarrathy.

It sounds pleasantly like the product of an illegitimate union of concepts, and boasts a nice Igor-like sound to it as a hefty bonus.

Mar 152011

Supermoon sounds like a villain from a particularly bad batch of sixties superhero comics.

But it’s not. It’s the culprit of the recent earthquake if “some of the leading astrologists” are consulted.

Fortunately, it’s still astronomers that have a monopoly on truth.

Dec 192010

Upon seeking the correct spelling of habanero for the previous entry, I stumbled upon definition of “hyperforeignism“:

A hyperforeignism is a special type of hypercorrection resulting from an unsuccessful attempt to apply the rules of a foreign language to a loan word (for example, the application of the rules of one language to a word borrowed from another), or occasionally to a native English word believed to be a loan word. The result may be “absurd,” reflecting “neither the … rules of English nor those of the language from which the word in question comes.” For example, habanero is sometimes spelled with a tilde (habañero), which is incorrect in the Spanish from which the word comes, and this error is perhaps influenced by the correct spelling of another Spanish-named pepper, jalapeño.