Tag Archives: language

Even the word “literal” is a metaphor.

Because of how language develops, it’s nearly impossible to be completely literal.

For example, the literal meaning of drift is not “to move as if driven or borne along by current” (OED again). The “literal” (by the letter) meaning is the letters d-r-i-f-t. It is only when one is metaphorical about the meaning of “literal” that “drift” can mean “to move downstream”. Only by further metaphorical extension can it mean to simply wander, as in drifting thoughts.

Via The Dish.

Also tagged , | 5 Comments

The only two speakers of a dying language don’t like talking to each other

This year will see the release of a dictionary of the dying language of Ayapaneco. It’s an indigenous Mexican language, and Documenting it has been a challenge.

There are just two people left who can speak it fluently – but they refuse to talk to each other. Manuel Segovia, 75, and Isidro Velazquez, 69, live 500 metres apart in the village of Ayapa in the tropical lowlands of the southern state of Tabasco. It is not clear whether there is a long-buried argument behind their mutual avoidance, but people who know them say they have never really enjoyed each other’s company.

Via The Morning News.

Also tagged , , | Leave a comment

I could care less

Here’s a history of the controversy over saying “I could care less” rather than “I couldn’t care less”. The author also summarizes a parade of former usage arguments.

Among the peeves of 100 years ago, there are plenty of short-lived scandals, nits nobody has picked since the Treaty of Versailles. Usagists once scorned ovation (for “applause”) because the word “really” meant a minor Roman triumph. Dirt was supposed to mean “filth,” not good clean soil. Reliable was called a “monstrous” coinage, practitioner “a vulgar intruder.” But none of these rulings had much effect.

Via The Morning News.

Also tagged | 7 Comments


Apparently, the “worldwide dialect of the third millennium” is something called Globish, a simplification of English that is easy for non-native speakers to understand. Here is Wikipedia’s article, and here is Globish.com, which contains some simple directives to help English-speakers to speak Globish. My favorite rule is this:

One thing you never do in Globish is tell a joke.

The only jokes which cross frontiers involve sex, race and religion and you should never mention those in an international meeting.

Someone should tell these guys:

Also tagged | Leave a comment