Drinking helps you slur in foreign languages

You plan a big trip to somewhere that your native language isn’t widely spoken, so you learn some important phrases. Then when you get there decide to just go with hand gestures. If only you’d had a couple drinks first.

Researchers in Europe have found that if you have a couple snorts in you, you’re more fluent in a foreign language. This seems counterintuitive, because alcohol makes us worse at talking in our native tongues. But a study found that native German speakers who have learned a working knowledge Dutch and had a buzz going were more fluent than their sober counterparts. The thinking is that alcohol gives you a little courage to speak a different language.

The down side is that you’re probably more likely to ramble in a different language, too.

Great tits: worth paying attention to

Just one of these in your hand is worth two in the bush. (When birds can express that level of sophisticated thought, then we can say they've mastered language.)
Just one of these in your hand is worth two in the bush. (When birds can express that level of sophisticated thought, then we can say they’ve mastered language.)

We always wondered what it would be like to talk with animals. It turns out that animals can talk, we just didn’t listen. Fortunately, they finally found the only means of communicating that — as women will attest — The Guys will pay attention to: great tits!

Scientists studied the calls of Japanese great tits (with that distinction, we’re obviously talking about birds) and discovered that they use combinations of chirps to convey complicated messages. Basically, they use syntax — grammar and vocabulary — just like people, albeit with far less of each and fewer stupid rules carried over from Latin.

So, we’re now retroactively offended every time a couple of tits refuse to speak English in front of us. You just know they’re squawking something about the tops of our heads.

Puns aren’t allowed in China

We all have that friend that corrects everyone’s speech. He thinks he’s the grammar police, and he’s no fun at a party. In China, they actually have grammar police.

If you’re going to broadcast yourself in any form of public media, you’d better make sure you leave out puns. The grammar police are after you. The Chinese State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television has announced a crackdown on puns.

Now you can freely call your annoying friend a communist.

Killer whales may be listening to you right now

It’s just bad news after bad news for this one. Prepare yourselves, everyone.

Bad news: Studies have found that at least two species of animals can learn each other’s languages.

Worse news: The orca (you know, killer whales) can understand and speak the language of bottlenose dolphins.

The worst news: These bilingual monsters are captive, which means they have access to humans. And that means they could learn our languages, too.

Take it from Snee: Cleaning out the language gutters 2013

Just like a picture of mouths, these words don't say a damn thing.
Just like a picture of mouths, these words don’t say a damn thing.

According to a count performed by Google and Harvard in 2010, there were 1,022,000 words in the English language with an estimated 8,500 words added each year. The average speaker, however, only knows anywhere from 12,000 to 21,000 words. And though that still seems like a lot, we manage to mangle, twist and abuse certain words until they not only lose their original meaning, but appear to have lost all meaning whatsoever.

If these words were leaves, they would have directly bypassed being dried out and brittle, lying on the ground for any old user to pick up and twirl around. Instead, they were deposited into the gutter and, through overuse, become a moldy, muddy, indecipherable goop that prevents the language from moving forward.

They are the words people resort to when they actually have nothing to say, usually when “you’re having just too much fun” or when it’s time to define insanity for everyone all over again. (This phrase, that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” is both the definition and cause of my own insanity.)

That is why, every couple of years, I contract myself out to the English language, cleaning out this meaningless morass in hopes that those who resort to them will find new words. (Or say nothing at all.) Here’s what I found in the gutters for 2013.  Continue reading Take it from Snee: Cleaning out the language gutters 2013

Court: ‘Condom’ just a city in France

A prophylactics company has not been able to contain the spunk of a city in France. Citizens of Condom, France have won their case against “The Original Condom Company,” a condoms-maker that markets itself as being from the town. However, the company’s address is to a vacant lot, while the real magic happens in Malaysia. (Ma-LAY-sia. Get it? … But, seriously, they’re not made in France, so that’s false advertising.)

This does not mean the town of Condom is off the hook, though. They’re still Condom, so they’re the butt of English language jokes, and they’re le derrière of French language jokes because the town is on the Baise river, which means “f%#k.”

No, really.

Time to remove some ankle tattoos

So, dolphins, right? They’re pretty cool. They do flips for fish. They swim with dying kids even when they have cancer due to terrible life decisions. In return, we’ve stuck with them through a television career that began with Flipper and ended with SeaQuest (and a brief foray into film with Johnny Mnemonic), and we even felt guilty about our tuna purchases when they started using up out mayo.

But, what if we told you that it was all in vain and that dolphins have been holding out on us this whole time? What if it turned out that dolphins can speak like humans since day one, but just choose not to, even when nobody else understood us and our only solace was working at the local aquarium?

Maybe they’ll start talking if we deport all their dorsals back to the Gulf of Mexico.

We’re more proud of those that “teddu rooseveltu”

In SG moonspeak, that means to “kill bears without provocation and be damn well known for it.”

Not Japan, though. They love them some Obama. How much do they love him? Enough to give him his own verb.

Obamu: v. To proceed optimistically despite challenging obstacles.

Apparently, mind you, this sort of thing isn’t unheard of. Back when President Bush (Dana Carvey edition) went and visited Japan, he lost a tennis match to Emperor Hirohito and later that evening at a dinner party, he bushu suru: vomited in public.

Of course, these words never really made it into the public’s lexicon, as most people have never even heard the terms, just mainly college students, where the phrase “obamu” is supposed to be popular. Starting out by being passed around in a Kyoto University mailer, the made up word was then mentioned on Twitter. All of one grand time. That’s apparently enough to initiate societal change among young adults. Should we begin to use the word more often and keep it alive? Or should we believe in the ability to change it?

Heh. Bushu suru.

Pet peeve much? Absolutely

Look, we hate pissing all over someone else’s linguistics work, especially when they’re pointing 0ut an overused and subsequently undervalued word. Frequent readers of this site may be familiar with my own work in this field, “Cleaning Out the Language Gutters.”

And that’s not to say that John Blake of CNN wasn’t on the right path, but it’s hard to argue why a word is frequently used in inappropriate situations since he never bothered to define that word.

So, congratulations, John: from your hamfisted examples of Barack Obama using the word, to quotes from jackoffs realizing their “problem” and an O.J. Simpson reference, you absolutely dropped the ball on this one.

Man’s best traitor

Whatever you do, don’t read this out loud. There are animals all around you. Even if you don’t have a pet, there is probably a fly or a dust mite within earshot. Why should you care? It looks like animals are getting smarter.

According to a new report, dogs can understand your gestures as well as a toddler can. This explains why they both drool a lot and are content eating food you would never touch. The bad news is that they can read our body language, the good news is that you can still swear around them without them even knowing what the hell you’re talking about.

Remember: the enemy is watching.