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1886 posts tagged with language.
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Help me remember this webcomic/illustrated story.

I've Googled and Googled and can't find it nor any reference to it. Several years back, I read this illustrated story/webcomic (I FEEL like I found it via Metafilter but that might be wrong). I think it was about the origins of spoken language? It featured a group of cave-dwelling protohumans, scenes of sex and female copulatory vocalizations, and possibly psilocybin mushrooms. Did I dream this? If not, what is it and where can I find it again?
posted by Knicke on Jun 26, 2013 - 2 answers

"What you look for in a bag was once found in a sack"

Is there a Swedish speaker in the house? In the Swedish film Call Girl, one of the characters utters a phrase that is translated in the subtitles as: "What you look for in a bag was once found in a sack." To me it's a total non-sequitur... Any idea what it means? Here's the clip on YouTube. Thanks!
posted by Silky Slim on Jun 26, 2013 - 7 answers

Looking for simple rules/sayings that your three-year-old knows

I'm compiling a list of simple, abstract rules that three-year olds are likely to know, along the lines of "green means go" or "a smile means they're happy". I need some more rules/patterns/abstract properties that kids this age in the US usually know about. [more inside]
posted by heyforfour on Jun 25, 2013 - 23 answers

How should I use my potential Rosetta Stone subscription?

I just got a new job where I will have access to Rosetta Stone for a single language. I don't need to learn any languages for work so please help me decide how I'd like to use it. [more inside]
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl on Jun 24, 2013 - 11 answers

More examples of a specific type of metaphorical 'pun' in song lyrics?

I really like metaphors and I really like song lyrics. Every once in a while I run across a particular type of cleverly extended metaphor in a song lyric. I'm trying to develop this idea a bit and looking for more examples of this particular thing. I've included some explanatory examples I've found. [more inside]
posted by iamkimiam on Jun 22, 2013 - 17 answers

Examples of background clues from vocabulary and/or usage?

When someone says head or latrine for bathroom its likely that they were in the military or around the military. A less common example,when someone says "avoid the near occasion" about something its likely that they are from a Roman Catholic background, I'd even say its use indicates a likelihood that they are or were a priest, seminarian, religious, in a kind of serious catholic family or school etc. Reckon is a common word and its being used once doesn't mean anything but when its use is pretty frequent it might be indicative of someone's having lived in the south east United States. When people say pop instead of soda or coke they likely are from somewhere roughly between Chicago and Denver, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Things like this interest me and I'm sure I know only a infinitesimal fraction of a percent of them. Do you have any like observations to share? [more inside]
posted by logonym on Jun 19, 2013 - 92 answers

Have I been acting rude for most of my life?

Is it rude to refer to someone in the third person (he/she) while they are present? [more inside]
posted by Shouraku on Jun 19, 2013 - 50 answers

What is this song?

I'm trying to source this haunting voice. Is this arabic? A sung prayer? Stumbled on this by accident, no idea what it is. Thanks for any tips...
posted by brownbat on Jun 18, 2013 - 7 answers

Small Erlang: An answer looking for a problem

What are some practical, small (meaning not necessarily enterprise scale) uses for Erlang? [more inside]
posted by ignignokt on Jun 18, 2013 - 5 answers

"When my ship comes in"?

The 1983 Billy Joel song "Uptown Girl" has the line "But maybe someday when my ship comes in / she'll understand what kind of guy I am / and then I'll win." It just occurred to me that, though I'm in my thirties, I don't think I've ever heard the expression "when my ship comes in" used by anyone but Billy Joel. Has this ever been a commonly-used expression? If so, does anyone still use it? And what the heck does it even mean? I mean, I can tell what it figuratively means, from the context. But what is the connection between a ship arriving and someone becoming successful?
posted by Mechitar on Jun 18, 2013 - 48 answers

What word or phrase sums up this pattern of human interaction?

I'm looking for a word or phrase to sum up the following sentiment: [more inside]
posted by bac on Jun 11, 2013 - 42 answers

Americans do not have a British accent. Why?

I was at lunch today and asked my friends "Why don't American's have British accents in their speach?" They were dumbfounded and began to wonder themselves so I turn to Ask MetaFilter to find the answer.
posted by usermac on Jun 6, 2013 - 34 answers

Who's the (Grand)Daddy?

Asking for a non MeFi friend. His daughter is a single parent to a 3 year old girl, his only grandchild. There is no contact with the father for Reasons. Friend is separated himself. His granddaughter adores him and he loves to babysit her when he can (they live in another city about an hour away), about once a week for a day. He also Skypes her during the week. For the last while she has been referring to him as “Daddy”. Apparently she was being teased at nursery for not having a Dad (at 3!) and she told them that she did have a Daddy, and he was called Granddad. Her Mum thought this was hilarious. Today I was visiting with both of them and she wrote his name (just scribbles) and said “That’s your name.” He said “Granddad?” and she said, “No. Daddy”. Does this matter in any way? [more inside]
posted by billiebee on Jun 3, 2013 - 22 answers

Prep for Jure Sanguinis -> Help me find a great Italian textbook

Preparing for Jure Sanguinis and trying to brush up on my non-existent Italian. I haven't had much luck with various websites and apps (FSI is an exception), can't afford Rosetta Stone, and can't leave work long enough for an immersion course. I've found that I do well with language textbooks in that I get a better sense of the grammar and they allow for rote memorization of words and phrases. With that in mind, can anyone recommend a good textbook (or system, or correspondence course) for learning Italian at home? Thank you.
posted by NYC-BB on May 27, 2013 - 3 answers

What is this weak form of pun called?

You know the kind: "DemoCRAPS" and "RepubliCONS" I find these constructions incredibly tiresome and would like to address them with a technical term. What are these forms of speech called?
posted by salishsea on May 27, 2013 - 19 answers

How can I talk with my friend about his dating life given our history?

I have a very good friend who I spend time with on a regular basis. In recent history (and maybe probably for the foreseeable future) he has been depressed about his dating life, so naturally, it is a subject that comes up and I discuss it with him. However, given our past history together, it's been a really hard subject for me to discuss with him and I would like some help navigating this from the hivemind. [more inside]
posted by anonymous on May 26, 2013 - 11 answers

Is my writing style overly complicated?

I learned English as a second language (native is Finnish). The emphasis in school was on vocabulary and very basic grammar; we did not to my recollection deal with stuff like passive voice etc. So in terms of writing in English, much of my "voice" has developed simply from what sounds right inside my head. However, I've been told that the way I write is overly complicated. Is this so? [more inside]
posted by Unhyper on May 22, 2013 - 48 answers

Recommendations for non-English language hip-hop

International MeFites can you recommend great hip-hop either entirely in non-English language, or featuring mainly non-US English dialects? previously
posted by roofus on May 22, 2013 - 40 answers

What single word describes these things that my employer sells?

I need one word, in singular form, that is synonymous with product, service, and experience (experience as in, taking a tour, sitting for a lecture, watching a live band..) The company I am working for provides many products, services and experiences for their customers, and I need a single, general noun that describes all of these. Help!
posted by Glendale on May 21, 2013 - 21 answers

What would you really like to know about language and language learning?

I run a blog about language learning and have ~9 months until a book of mine gets published. During that time, I'd like to grow my audience as much as possible, which basically means writing as many interesting articles as possible. While I have a list of blog-post ideas, I'm currently living in book-related tunnel vision, and could use some outside input. If you knew someone who knew a lot about foreign languages and language learning, and was willing to do some research and write an article about anything you wanted, what would you want him/her to write about? What burning, unanswered questions do you have about languages, language learning, memory or any other related topics?
posted by sdis on May 19, 2013 - 37 answers

"Hosed" etymology - When did this phrase come into use?

At what point did the phrase "I'm/you're/we're hosed" come into play in the US vernacular? Earliest record? From pop culture somewhere? Are there regions of the US that did not ever use this turn of phrase?
posted by juniperesque on May 17, 2013 - 17 answers

List of simple word roots

I am looking for a text file of a list of words (roughly the 5000-10000 most common English words) and their root word and root word language. My Google Fu only turns up single words or pages that I can type in a word to get to another page to get the etymology. Wikipedia has some stuff, but it is sorted by language root, which is not what I am looking for. I would like to have a long list of words in a text file so that I can manipulate it programatically. Comma separated or whatever, any format would be great. Here is one use case: Yoke - [list of words that have yoke in the etymological history] (Many, many many English words come from the root work for Yoke.) All answers appreciated!
posted by Monkey0nCrack on May 16, 2013 - 6 answers

How can I relearn Spanish?

I studied Spanish in high school and college, and I even spent a semester abroad in Spain. At that point, I was very proficient at reading, writing, and speaking it. Sadly, in the 8 years since graduation, I feel as though I have forgotten everything. I am looking to get into a field where knowing Spanish would be very helpful, and I am trying to figure out the best way to both relearn what I knew (and possible go beyond that). Obviously for speaking, I will need to get out there and practice, but before that, should I just pick up my old textbooks and get going? Or, is there a better way?
posted by aka_anon on May 15, 2013 - 14 answers

Who should I send early copies of my book to?

I'm writing a book about language learning and the science of memory for a major publisher. We're a couple months away from sending galley copies around to various people for blurbs and reviews, and they've asked me for input as to who might be interested. So! Who should read this thing? Name some people who, if you saw their name on the back of a science-y book on language learning and memory, you'd buy it.
posted by sdis on May 4, 2013 - 20 answers

Is Australia just the West Island?

Quick question for folks who've lived in both Australia and NZ: what cultural and language differences did you notice?
posted by superfish on May 3, 2013 - 12 answers

How to pronounce an equation in English.

Please help me pronounce this formula related to projectile motion as it would be spoken out loud: L = v0^2 sin2θ / g [more inside]
posted by misozaki on Apr 30, 2013 - 15 answers

Examples of beautiful writing

I aspire to write beautifully -- what is some great writing that uses colorful, creative language and style? [more inside]
posted by switcheroo on Apr 29, 2013 - 53 answers

How to find a job using Chinese language skills?

Hey Mefis! I am asking this question on behalf of my brother-in-law who recently got laid off. Does anyone here have advice to give to a guy with a degree in Chinese and minor in business who would like to work in manufacturing/ sourcing for a US company either in the US or China? [more inside]
posted by catrae on Apr 25, 2013 - 6 answers

How do you say "statistically significant" in your native language?

In English, scientists customarily use the word "significant" or "statistically significant" to refer to an effect that is distinguished from zero at a p < .05 confidence level. On the other hand, the word "significant" in non-technical English carries a connotation of being meaningful, important, or substantial; this creates confusion when researchers write about "a significant effect," since the effect might be significant in the statistical sense while being so small as to be insignificant in the common-English sense. In your native language, what word is used for "signficance" in the statistical context? Is the same word used outside the technical context, and if so, is it a word whose common meaning is something more like "detectable," more like "important," or something else entirely? In particular, does the confusion that arises in English also take place in your language?
posted by escabeche on Apr 24, 2013 - 5 answers

한글 filter - help me stress "NO MEAT" in Korean.

I speak a very small level of Korean - enough to engage in commercial transactions (especially in restaurants) but not political theorizing. When we go to Korean restaurants, I try to use my 한글 so that I'm as clear as possible. My husband and I don't eat meat. We do eat fish, but not shellfish - but no chicken, pork, beef or otherwise. (Insert quote from My Big Fat Greek Wedding here.) Husband likes to order 돌솥 비빔밥 in Korean restaurants (as do I!) but the past few times we've done so, we end up with a dish containing ground beef, despite my protestations. Here is what I say: 그는 고기를 먹지 않는다. I thought that would do it - AFAIK, it means, "he don't eat no meat." Tell me what I'm saying wrong and what I should say to avoid this issue!
posted by mccn on Apr 23, 2013 - 5 answers

Etymology of "I know, right?"

I have a theory about the origin of the expression “I know, right?” that’s been fairly popular among young and youngish Americans (and others, for all I know) for the past several years. I’m testing that theory with this question. I understand that Mexicans (and maybe other Latin Americans) have an equivalent expression, “Sí, ¿verdad?” - even with the same intonation as “I know, right?”. Well, one source has told me this, anyway. Can other people verify this? And if so, how common is/was the Spanish version of the expression, and roughly when (and where) did people start saying it?
posted by Mechitar on Apr 18, 2013 - 9 answers

Help me name my book!

I'm writing a book for a major publisher on language learning, and we're currently in the process of figuring out/fighting over a title+subtitle(+sub-subtitle) combo. Here's the issue: the book crosses two genres. Originally, it was simply a how-to book, with a step-by-step method for learning any language quickly. But over the course of writing and researching it, it's turned into a discussion about the science of memory and learning, how we learn languages, why we generally don't succeed at learning them in school, and what to do differently. It's become interesting, not just on a how-to level, but on an intellectual how-do-our-brains-work sort of level. This is great news from an audience standpoint – we've added a whole new potential audience (people who aren't looking for a how-to-learn-a-language book, but *are* interested in how their brains work) – but it's very tricky from a title standpoint. How do you choose a title that conveys the How-to nature of the book and the How-your-brain-works part at the same time? [more inside]
posted by sdis on Apr 17, 2013 - 14 answers

The Good Book as good read

I am looking for recommendations for bibles in languages other than English, specifically for their literary qualities. [more inside]
posted by ricochet biscuit on Apr 16, 2013 - 8 answers

Why do letters have letter names? (B = "bee", H = "aitch"...)

I first came across this about 20 years ago in a Calvin & Hobbes strip where Hobbes taunts his friend: "Calvin and Susie, sitting in a tree. Kay-Eye-Ess-Ess-Eye-En-Gee!" I never understood why Hobbes was making "words" out of letters; I assumed it was something unique to comics (or tigers). Then today, a poem linked to in this FPP reminded me of that old comic strip and got me thinking: Why is there an entire parallel alphabet to spell out the letters of the alphabet? [more inside]
posted by andromache on Apr 14, 2013 - 29 answers

SimCity 4 Mac language change?

So I have a copy of Simcity 4 for Mac OS, and the patch to run it on Intel. I'm looking to switch the language from US to UK English (I want left-side traffic) but all of the instructions I've found online to do such a thing are for the Windows version, and involve modifying the Registry, which by definition ain't gonna happen for the Mac OS version. What can I do? How do I change the game's language settings on Mac OS?
posted by DoctorFedora on Apr 12, 2013 - 7 answers

Looking for two letter slang/colloquialisms

"Ne" in Japanese can mean many things, same with "eh" in Canada. "Ya" and "Da" appear many places. "OK" is a favorite around the world. "OI" for Punks and for "Oy" for Jews. Can you think of any others?
posted by parallax7d on Apr 12, 2013 - 40 answers

Novels about language?

I'm looking for some recommendations of novels that are in some way about language. [more inside]
posted by Joseph Gurl on Apr 7, 2013 - 48 answers

So?

Where is this mystical land where it is acceptable to answer statements with: "So?" [more inside]
posted by 256 on Apr 5, 2013 - 40 answers

How many words do we really use?

What is the average working vocabulary (and outliers) of various languages? Is the working vocabulary of English English different from American English or Australian English? and how does this compare with other languages?
posted by adamvasco on Apr 4, 2013 - 11 answers

What does this note say? Possibly arabic?

A friend of a friend posted a picture of a note to facebook. Can any of you identify the language and offer a translation of what it says? [more inside]
posted by knapah on Apr 3, 2013 - 8 answers

Cocktail party linguistics

How come that various forms of the verb "to be" have different degrees of similarity across German/English/Romance languages? The third person singular ist/is/est seems to have an obvious common root, whereas I don't see it jump out on me for bin/am/suis at all, and in other forms it seems like German and French are close with English the odd one out (sind/sommes/are), which I found puzzling given that I usually think of English as the bastard child of these two.
posted by themel on Mar 31, 2013 - 6 answers

The visual equivalent of 'Prisencolinensinainciusol'

There are Latin fonts designed to mimic Cyrillic, Asian characters, and many other scripts. What are some examples of foreign-script fonts which mimic Latin characters?
posted by Gordafarin on Mar 30, 2013 - 4 answers

US politicians' multilingual chops

Can you give me specific instances of US political candidates or elected officials publically speaking in a language other than English? [more inside]
posted by threeants on Mar 27, 2013 - 31 answers

Standard American pronunciation training

Hello, I'm a French student preparing for English interviews and in my last mock session my interviewer talked about my accent that could put me at a disadvantage. I can't afford and don't have the time to see a speech therapist so I'm looking for books with audio tracks that are aimed at mastering the standard American accent. Do you know or know somebody that had had great results with a particular book? Thank you!
posted by lite on Mar 27, 2013 - 19 answers

What I meant to say was "safe travels and have a nice evening." Really.

Does the term "homegoing" have a wide use across Christian denominations? [more inside]
posted by psoas on Mar 20, 2013 - 36 answers

The English Police Is Coming!! I Mean, Are Coming! Oh, Crap...

I've been living abroad for several years, and my proficiency in my native language seems to have taken a hit. Is this normal, and what should I do? [more inside]
posted by anonymous on Mar 19, 2013 - 14 answers

Karaoke-like software to speak Norwegian like a native

Is there any software out there which can give me feedback on rhythm, timing and flow for language learning? Karaoke for Norwegian speech patterns? [more inside]
posted by Eltulipan on Mar 18, 2013 - 3 answers

Think Thank Thought Leader

'Think tank' and 'thought leader' not 'thought tank' and 'think leader'. Can you help me construct a good argument for why we have settled on the first two and not the second? [more inside]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken on Mar 17, 2013 - 7 answers

Touché

I think I don't understand the meaning, in English, of "touché." [more inside]
posted by Snarl Furillo on Mar 17, 2013 - 32 answers

Give me some examples of rephrasing a question into a statement

I've heard that men don't like questions. I'm a woman and would like to have better relationships with the men in my life. Give me some examples of ways to rephrase questions into statements, directives or imperatives. [more inside]
posted by geekgirl397 on Mar 15, 2013 - 40 answers

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