Just Watching "Heroes" and wondering
September 24, 2007 10:48 PM   Subscribe

You know how old English is so vastly different from contemporary English? And how your average person would not understand your average meideval dude? Is that also true of other languages?

Is 1600 Chinese different from contemporary Chinese? Or Ancient Farsi to modern? Was it spoken differently in cadence or rhythm? Like old English and modern English? Would today's Chinese person find ancient Chinese difficult to understand?

Also, are there "accents" in other languages? And can they be traced to the original settlers of a region, like Cajun to the French Acadians?

Lastly, the British settled the US and Australia, but we developed two very different accents. Why?
posted by generic230 to Writing & Language (47 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
keep going.
also different.
yes and no.
in most circumstances.

*Geography, time, influence, and other factors.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:01 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Short answer, yes. I suggest you spend some time on the language section of wikipedia for answers to all of your questions and other questions you didn't even know you wanted to ask.
posted by MadamM at 11:03 PM on September 24, 2007

Best answer: Is that also true of other languages?
Of course! All human languages are constantly changing.

Is 1600 Chinese different from contemporary Chinese?
Yes, very. A Chinese person today would not be able to understand Chinese as it was spoken in 1600. However, having the right background, he/she could understand the written language, Classical Chinese, which was used in formal writing until the early 20th century when authors began to write in the vernacular. Classical Chinese was also used in other countries historically influenced by Chinese culture, such as Korea, Japan, and Vietnam because those countries lacked writing systems. In fact, King Sejong's 15th-century proclamation of the Korean hangeul writing system was written in Classical Chinese and is understandable to a scholar of the language today. Consider Latin's previous widespread use in Europe among scholars and other educated people speaking different languages - English, French, German, Italian, etc.

Also, are there "accents" in other languages? And can they be traced to the original settlers of a region, like Cajun to the French Acadians?
Yes, it's the same for every language. Bavarians sound different from Hamburgers, Muscovites sound different from St. Petersburgers, and Beijingers sound different from folks from Shaanxi. How different people sound has a lot to do with history, how long different groups of people have been in an area and where they came from - for example, German dialects sound quite different despite the country being of relatively small size, whereas Russians all the way from Khabarovsk in the Far East and Kaliningrad on the Baltic sea may sound more or less the same.

Lastly, the British settled the US and Australia, but we developed two very different accents. Why?
Because Americans and Australians have not had close contact with each other ever since they began colonizing their respective areas. Likewise, the Americans who moved out West ended up sounding different from the ones who stayed in Boston. As for why Australian accents sound (to the American ear at least) more similar to English accents than American accents, you got me.

I think these topics are fascinating, but I'm just an engineering student, so you may want to wait for someone with more-than-hobbyist linguistic credentials to add further enlightenment.
posted by pravit at 11:14 PM on September 24, 2007 [3 favorites]

Also, I never watch TV, but it's good that TV shows are getting people interested in this sort of thing. Can anyone mention what was in the show that made you curious about the topic?
posted by pravit at 11:15 PM on September 24, 2007

I've been told that modern Greeks are capable of reading Homer, but have to struggle a bit with it, about like we have to sometimes struggle with Shakespeare.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:16 PM on September 24, 2007

Here are a few wiki links that might give you a good place to start reading:
List of language families
Historical linguistics
Classical Language
English Dialects
posted by MadamM at 11:16 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Note: old English is not the same as middle English, because old English was the language of England before it was conquered by France. That makes a big difference to a language. Middle English is hard to understand, but possible, with work. That's about the 14th century. By 1600 we could understand each other, though the accents would be funny. In Before the Dawn Nicholas Wade argues that the rapid changing of human languages into accents, dialects, and different languages, is an adaptive trait used by tribal people to differentiate between their own and members of other tribes.
posted by agentofselection at 11:18 PM on September 24, 2007

Warning (possibly too late): Do not click on any of those links unless you have a significant amount of time to kill.
posted by MadamM at 11:18 PM on September 24, 2007

Regarding "accents", Japanese dialects as an example.

I realized a few days ago that a series of words I was having trouble following in something I was listening to were confusing me because they were being spoken with a Tohoku-ben.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:19 PM on September 24, 2007

Is that true of other languages?
Not Icelandic!

Written Icelandic has, thus, changed relatively little since the 13th century. As a result of this, and of the similarity between the modern and ancient grammar, modern speakers can still understand, more or less, the original sagas and Eddas that were written some eight hundred years ago. This ability is sometimes mildly overstated by Icelanders themselves, most of whom actually read the Sagas with updated modern spelling and footnotes—though otherwise intact.

Also, are there "accents" in other languages? And can they be traced to the original settlers of a region, like Cajun to the French Acadians?
Yes there are "accents" in other languages; they're called accents. Other languages now also have dialects, regional slang, patois, borrowed words (though the French deny this) onomatopoeia and all sorts of neat things that English has had for some time.
posted by now i'm piste at 11:20 PM on September 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

The answer, as has been stated, is yes to everything. All major languages have zillions of accents and dialects.

HOWEVER, check this shit out. The English of a thousand years ago was a completely different language than it is today because of Latinate influences... etc etc. Read the article. All languages evolve, but English is a special case. I suspect that, with a bit of effort and a piece of paper, you could communicate pretty effectively with a literate English speaker from about 1200 onward. If you'd really like to know more, read The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson. It's entertaining AND informative!

I don't know jack about Russian, but I hear that Medieval Russian wasn't really so different from how it is today.
posted by borkingchikapa at 11:21 PM on September 24, 2007

Biblical Armenian is relatively understandable if you know modern Eastern or Western Armenian.
posted by k8t at 11:21 PM on September 24, 2007

A Chinese person today would not be able to understand Chinese as it was spoken in 1600.

I'm willing to accept this as an assertion, but I don't think it's guaranteed. China spent a great deal of effort preventing foreign influence for a good part of the time between then and now and it's inferrable that their languages changed less as a result.

By the same token, I have no knowledge of how a language with a symbolic orthography enforces stability. Then again, I don't think that English phonemic orthography has done a very good job of that (compared with Romance languages), but that may have something to do with the Romance-Germanic blend.

Also, it's been suggested that Elizabethan English is more similar to Appalachian English than either modern British or American are to each other. That is, the Appalachians took fewer outside influences than either outer culture and thereby preserved the language better. So if I were going back in time to visit Shakespeare, I'd better take Jethro to translate.

Finally, there is enough similarity among certain groups of Romance (Latin) or Northern Germanic (Scandinavian) tongues that mutual intelligibility is possible in many cases. I'd wager that that might be the case for a 1600/2000 pair of the same language, too.
posted by dhartung at 11:42 PM on September 24, 2007

borrowed words (though the French deny this)

Please pay no attention to this nonsense. French is full of borrowed words.
posted by Wolof at 12:24 AM on September 25, 2007

My last comment was a bit dim and badly targeted. A fuller version would point out that it is not "the French" who deny that borrowed words exist in French — it is rather some twits in the Académie seeking to keep the floodgates closed who seek to regulate this.

Apologies for misreading.
posted by Wolof at 12:31 AM on September 25, 2007

[Heroes Spoiler?]

Here is the Heroes scene featuring a 21st century Japanese man travelling back in time to meet a Japanese hero from the 1600s who happens to be English. Or something like that.
posted by billtron at 12:35 AM on September 25, 2007

dhartung - of course, in the 1640s, the entire governing class of China saw a massive injection of foreignness when the Manchus took over.
I think a number of China's many languages and dialects have probably been more static due to local isolation, but Mandarin has almost certainly changed significantly over the period; the basis of accepted pronunciation shifted from Nanjing dialect to Beijing, for example.
posted by Abiezer at 1:46 AM on September 25, 2007

Read Mother Tongue, by Bill Bryson. He's mostly looking at English, but he does explore lots of your questions.
posted by Helga-woo at 1:59 AM on September 25, 2007

I only saw a bit of it, but there was a television series on Swedish TV that dealt with the different accents of Sweden. Now, Sweden's a country the size of California, much of it practically uninhabited, with a population of nine million. For this TV show, though, they had subtitles, and they sure were necessary.
posted by alexei at 2:18 AM on September 25, 2007

Best answer: Just another example of how there are different dialects: Swiss German dialect is almost uncomprehensible to most non-Swiss German speakers. My "native language" is the Zürich variation of Swiss German, which differs notably from the Bern version, or the Basel version, and so on. Roger Federer switches from Hochdeutsch when speaking to non-Swiss German speakers, to Baseldeutsch when speaking to Swiss, as all Swiss do. Yet it's all the same language! Written German here is standard Hochdeutsch, so newcomers settling here have to basically learn two new languages.

'Talking' about Heroes...my Japanese wife says that the Japanese spoken on there is horrible. She likes the show, but always emits these squeaky noises of pain when Japanese speakers are on screen. She says that she needs the subtitles to understand most of what they are saying!
posted by derMax at 2:31 AM on September 25, 2007

the different accents of Sweden

And there's another can of worms: Swedish itself is really just a distinct dialect of that big wonderful Scandinavian family. A Norwegian conversing with a Dane is probably something akin to a modern English speaker talking to Shakespeare. Scots vs. English is much the same. Or even English vs. American. They might sound quite different, and have different words for lots of things, but they're still mutually intelligible -- sort of, almost.

The British settled the US and Australia, but we developed two very different accents. Why?

In Australia, the original settlers had only one major language, English, which was influenced by the Aborigine languages. America was settled by three separate yet equally important groups: The English, the French, and the Spanish -- all of which were influences upon each other and were further influenced by Native languages. In both cases, there have been even further changes as a result of multilingual immigration, but those original accents are still fairly present.
posted by Reggie Digest at 3:04 AM on September 25, 2007

derMax "the Japanese spoken on there is horrible"
I was wondering about that as I read those subtitles under George Takei.

posted by Reggie Digest at 3:09 AM on September 25, 2007

The Greeks I know, who are all philosophy post-grads, i.e. educated, say that they can read the New Testament Greek but not really anything further back than that.

I have an anthology of German poetry here and the works from the fifteenth century are presented side-by-side with their modern translation. Works from the seventeenth century however are markedly old-fashioned but comprehensible to educated Germans. As I understand it, the dialect that Martin Luther happened to use when he translated the Bible is what became standard German, so back then all "Germans" were by no means mutually understandable to each other. People travelled less, had no common medium like television, and there was no German state in the first place. Nowadays there are also many German dialects, Swiss being the most egregious. There is also a Berlin dialect. I hesitate to call it an "accent" because they say "dat" instead of "das", for example, so it's more than just vowel inflection. In fact Germans are obsessed with their dialects and can have long conversations about their relative superiority.
posted by creasy boy at 3:23 AM on September 25, 2007

English is quite a dramatic example of change from a European linguistic perspective, while the opposite is true for mainly geographical reasons of Icelandic and Euskera/Basque. Most educated speakers of the romance languages could probably read their own language from say 13-14th Cs. Because of the common roots, most of them could probably read each other and understand a lot.
The closer they are the more that obtains.
For example, with Spanish I was able to read Catalan and Portuguese long before I learned them. The further back in time you go the closer these languages were to each other. I've read 14thC Spanish and needed to look up much fewer words than if I tried the same thing in English. (and if I'd bloody studied Latin first I wouldn't have had to look up any, grumble).
Also the pronounciation shifts in Spanish are well documented (e.g. fermosa/hermosa) and used in film and TV mini-series so I think I'd be able to "talk" to a 14th century Spanish Hidalgo (whether he'd understand me is the real question)
posted by Wilder at 3:24 AM on September 25, 2007

I've been told that modern Greeks are capable of reading Homer, but have to struggle a bit with it, about like we have to sometimes struggle with Shakespeare.

A friend of mine who studied ancient Greek at university found that he could get by with it in basic conversations, though he probably sounded to locals in Greece like someone who'd arrived from the past. As an educated guess, I suspect that the bits of language that deal with the familiar and tangible are often the 'stickiest'.

On the ancient/modern question, Classical Arabic is an interesting case in point, because it's preserved and taught as a 'read-only' language -- in essence, allowing people to read a single book.

the British settled the US and Australia, but we developed two very different accents. Why?

Partly because 'the British' is a nebulous linguistic term by itself. Linguistic research on this is fairly rough, because you're dealing with sprawling, imprecise data points, but the broad regional distinctions in American English accents reflect, to a greater or lesser extent, the regional distinctions in the accents of those who settled in those regions.

Settlement in Australia began much later, meaning that the linguistic starting point is different; the demographics of settlement were quite different, as was the nature of that settlement and internal migration.
posted by holgate at 4:31 AM on September 25, 2007

You also need to remember that the make-up of the non-british immigration to Australia was different than that of the US.

As far as other languages go, Polish has 'staropolski' (literally 'old polish') and I have a really hard time reading it, even though I am a native speaker of modern Polish.
posted by jedrek at 4:40 AM on September 25, 2007

A great book to check out would be The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language by David Crystal.
posted by fallenposters at 5:28 AM on September 25, 2007

Speaking purely about the show, I would rather that they fudge this bit of linguistics, than yet another whole episode of "ha ha hiro can't understand what anybody is saying!" [in 2 different languages]. They've done that already. Move the plot along, please :)

Granted, I thought something similar at first, and I thought it would be a plot point that the English/Japanese spoken by Kensei was understandable by Hiro, and that Kensei would also be from the future or something. SARK!!!!
posted by jozxyqk at 5:31 AM on September 25, 2007

Can I suggest The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson?
posted by chuckdarwin at 5:50 AM on September 25, 2007

English compared to Old English (Anglo-Saxon) is a bit extra-different compared to the French influence. But Chaucer is readable, and that's medieval.
posted by dagnyscott at 6:50 AM on September 25, 2007

Best answer: People do like to talk about languages that have remained "unchanged" for some ridiculous amount of time. (So far in this discussion: Greek, Chinese, Arabic, Icelandic.) What they generally mean is that the spelling of the language has remained unchanged. That does mean that modern folk can read ancient texts with a little practice, but it doesn't mean they could have understood an ancient speaker of the language.

For instance, in Modern Greek, έχει ("he has") is pronounced "EY-shee," while in Classical Greek it would have been "ECK-hey," but the spelling's been essentially the same in both eras — all that's changed is the accent mark. In Modern Greek, φίλοι ("friends") is "FEE-lyee" and in Classical Greek it would have been "PEE-loy." Again, apart from the accent mark the spelling's the same. So a literate modern Greek can do pretty well reading a text that's a few millennia old — but the language has still changed, and confronted with the old pronunciations he'd likely have no clue.

I don't know any Arabic, Chinese, or Icelandic, so I'll leave the examples to those who do. But from what I've read, they're similar — the spellings may not have changed much, but the pronunciation has.

Hell, the same thing's happened in English. We can read Chaucer all right, but just try figuring out what this recording of his poetry means.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:04 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Re: accents in other languages. Spoken Spanish varies from country to country, and keen listeners can pick up on it immediately, even without some of the slang and idiom that can also give it away. It can even vary further: the Cuban Spanish spoke in, say, West Tampa is said to be different than that spoken in Miami.

As a bit of an aside, I remember seeing an interview with the talk-show host Cristina. One of the things she talked about was the crafting of a sort of "general Spanish" that could be used throughout her audience. One of the things they had to be particularly careful of was slang: what in one country means "catch the bus" might mean "molest the child" someplace else.

The Spanish taught in US schools, incidentally, is Castellano (Castilian) Spanish.
posted by jquinby at 7:10 AM on September 25, 2007

Here's a funny Norwegian video, in English, about the challenges of understanding speakers of other Scandanavian nations. I remember learning in a US linguistics class that Swedish, Norwegian, etc., were all variations of the same dialect, but when I was a child in Norway we certainly didn't feel that way.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:18 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

In high school, since I'm Canadian, we were taught Quebec French. My French teacher had studied in France for a few years and told us that one time, she'd seen Quebecois French speakers on French TV, and they'd had to put up subtitles.

Quebecois is similar to a lot of the other examples mentioned here, where it's more or less a strain of archaic French preserved into the present through separation from France-French. Since Quebec was settled by a lot of criminal types, mostly, I like to imagine that Quebecois sounds to someone from France like pirate-talk, though this may not be quite accurate.

Also, to me, European French sounds sort of like a native English speaker speaking French, just because the accent is much, much less thick. But Quebecois certainly has its charms, ben oui.
posted by ITheCosmos at 7:24 AM on September 25, 2007

dhartung -- Standard disclaimer to this would be that it all depends on what you mean by "Chinese," since the term is used to refer to something more like a language family - with lots of mutually unintelligible subfamilies (Standard Mandarin, Wu, Eastern and Southern Min, Gan, Hakka, Cantonese, etc.) - than a single language, even today.

IANAHL (I Am Not A Historical Linguist), but: Phonologically a whole bunch of sound changes have taken place over the past thousand years or so, reflected to varying degrees in different "dialects." (As noted above, 'dialect' is misleading, but since this is the standard term...) Mandarin, the official language of China, is fairly radical in the ways in which it has changed to eliminate, e.g., final -p/-t/-k consonants, complex tone sandhi, and other features still found in other Chinese dialects. One of the four tonal categories of Tang Chinese, the "entering tone," is totally gone in standard Mandarin, though some dialects of Mandarin in the northwest and Sichuan preserve it.

A tone split took place some time around a thousand years ago (not entirely sure when -- post-Tang, I think? Am guessing here) which resulted in Cantonese, e.g., having eight tones where middle Chinese had four. Going even further back, there's evidence for initial consonant clusters, which as far as I know no Chinese dialect today preserves.

So far as written Chinese goes, there have been a number of changes -- most obviously the character simplifications, but also changes in the grammar of even literary Chinese over time. And then of course beginning in the 20th century literary Chinese was phased out in favor of vernacular Chinese, which is when everything went all to hell.
posted by bokane at 7:50 AM on September 25, 2007

Also, responding more directly to I'm willing to accept this as an assertion, but I don't think it's guaranteed. China spent a great deal of effort preventing foreign influence for a good part of the time between then and now and it's inferrable that their languages changed less as a result.

There was always a disconnect between the official language -- in recent centuries, various forms of Mandarin -- and the languages spoken by local people. The uniformity of the writing system actually helped to create an environment in which different local languages could coexist without needing to standardize too much. Certain Chinese 'dialects' like Southern Min and Cantonese are more 'conservative,' but this was more a function of geography and distance from neighboring language groups than the result of official fiat -- that is, regions with lots of mountains and rivers separating them from the outside world, like the south and southeast of China, tend to have a greater linguistic diversity than the more easily travelled North China plain.
posted by bokane at 7:57 AM on September 25, 2007

To clarify some apparent misconceptions, the English of 1600 is considered Modern English. That's the English of Shakespeare. Yes, it's a little funny, the vocabulary's a little odd, but it's basically all there. I'm confident I could carry on a conversation with Shakespeare about as well as I can with someone who has a strong regional dialect from today.

Middle English, the language of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, dates back to around 1200. It shows the French influence of the Norman Conquest. Back when I took History of English, we had to memorize the opening stanzas of the Canterbury Tales as they would have been pronounced. There are a lot of more or less regular substitutions to get from there to Modern English--it predates the Great Vowel Shift and a lot of other phonological changes, not to mention vocabulary, verb conjugation, etc. You can read the Canterbury Tales with a cheat sheet, but it's work. If you found yourself transported back to 1200 AD England, you could probably fake Middle English after a week.

Old English, the language of Beowulf, dates back to about 750 AD. That's a totally different language, and has as much in common with Danish as it does with Modern English. Learning that would be like learning a foreign language.

As it happens, linguists also observe Old/Middle/Modern versions of Chinese. I know much less about that, but I get the impression that a speaker of one would have as much trouble with a speaker of the other as we would with English. And as a side note, the transition from Middle to Modern Chinese is part of the reason that kanji can be so confusing in Japanese. Japan went through several rounds of cultural borrowing from China, spread centuries apart, in which time the Chinese language had changed. That meant that the pronunciation for a given character had changed, and in many cases, both Chinese pronunciations were adapted into Japanese. That's why 明 can be variously read as "mei" "myo" or "min" in Japanese.
posted by adamrice at 8:51 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Fascinating! These answers make me giddy. Pravit, thank you for your answer. The show I was watching was Heroes, and Hiro had travelled to 1600 China and was conversing easily and I wondered if Chinese had changed at all. Then I realized I had this very weird assumption that only English had changed so dramatically over the centuries. I would have replied sooner but I fell asleep and just woke up to find all these amazing answers.

Just a TV tidbit, for Heroes fans. Hiro's last name Nakamura is a two decades old writer slang reference for when a joke or bit that the writers think is funny gets overdone in one episode. It comes from an episode of television (can't remember which one exactly) where the writers introduced a Japanese character named Nakamura. They thought the name Nakamura was so funny, they used it over and over again. When the epsiode played before a studio audience, it bombed miserably, and each successive time it was mentioned, was more painful than the last. The resulting humiliation by the writers ended up in the word Nakamura meaning a joke that only writers find funny and then overdo.
posted by generic230 at 9:15 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Spoken Spanish varies from country to country,

It also varies from city to city and neighborhood to neighborhood and class to class.
There's like 10 dialects of Spanish in Santiago alone, and that's not counting the Peruvian or Argentinean immigrants.
posted by signal at 10:06 AM on September 25, 2007

Hiro had travelled to 1600 China 1674 Japan!
posted by Asparagirl at 10:25 AM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

nebulawindphone is absolutely right: what's relevant when we talk about language change is the spoken language, not the written one, which can be kept artificially frozen (as in Greek, Icelandic, etc.—all of which have changed substantially as spoken, as do all languages).

China spent a great deal of effort preventing foreign influence for a good part of the time between then and now and it's inferrable that their languages changed less as a result.

As has been pointed out, they were conquered and ruled by people with a completely different language in the interim, but the most important point is that languages change whether there are externally imposed changes or not. It's as natural for languages to change as for the people who speak them. The whole idea of a "basically unchanged language" is a myth.

I don't know jack about Russian, but I hear that Medieval Russian wasn't really so different from how it is today.

Yes, in fact it was very different. Please don't pass on half-remembered urban legends. Sorry to sound grouchy, but people seem willing to say just any old shit about language.
posted by languagehat at 11:31 AM on September 25, 2007

As an australian, I had difficulty travelling in the US, trying to get people to understand me. More than once, I resorted to pen and paper to communicate. This was with people who were obviously native speakers of American English.

I don't know why they found my (relatively mild) accent incomphrensible.

There's a lot of drift in accent around, especially for a country that really only was colonised in the late 1700s. Regional accents are quite strong. I read a paper a couple of years ago about linguistic drift which basically said that in some way, linguistic drift tends to be related to climate. Not sure how true that is, but the classical 'strine' accent is definitely from the less cosmopolitan and warmer/more extreme climate areas.
posted by ysabet at 7:25 PM on September 25, 2007

Heh, languagehat, but that's just your confirmation bias. I in fact am willing to say any old shit about nearly everything.

Also, bokane gets my "best reply to a comment" vote, although mathowie's code is borked and I don't have that button available right now. So I just favorited them instead.
posted by dhartung at 7:58 PM on September 25, 2007

Hiro had travelled to 1600 China and was conversing easily and I wondered if Chinese had changed at all.

Japan. Japanese. Just sayin'.
posted by Reggie Digest at 10:28 PM on September 25, 2007

In high school, since I'm Canadian, we were taught Quebec French.

Someone went to high school in Quebec! The rest of Canada learns Parisian French, which is far less useless.
posted by Reggie Digest at 10:33 PM on September 25, 2007

Also, Quebecois has plenty of dialects of its own, like Joual, Magoua, et al. Acadian is interesting these days, since a bilingual New Brunswick/Nouveau Brunswick means it's mostly gone Chiac (Franglais). Quebecois is starting to get that way too, despite strong political resistance. Ask for croustilles or pommes de terre in Canada and people will shake their heads and correct you: Chips. Patates. (It is also true of things that aren't potatoes.)

So while I say Parisian French is more useful, I mean that "Quebecois" is only useful within Quebec, and even then there's no guarantee. Parisian, being the real deal, is generally understood throughout la Francophonie.
posted by Reggie Digest at 11:00 PM on September 25, 2007

Parisian, being the real deal

I understand what you mean, but Parisian isn't any more "the real deal" than Québécois, it's just got the weight of the French government and its stupid Académie behind it.
posted by languagehat at 6:44 AM on September 26, 2007

« Older Why do my cats suddenly hate each other?   |   Help me find obscure, romantic things to do in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.