The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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Entries Tagged as 'Language'

The Language of the Crows

August 31st, 2011 · 2 Comments

Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739-1817) was an ardent naturalist, and earned a bit of notoriety in his time for his research into the language of birds.  In his 1807 work, Quelques mémoires sur différens sujets, la plupart d’histoire naturelle, ou de physique générale et particulière (Some notes on different subjects, mostly on natural […]

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Tags: Animals · Language

Solrésol: The Phonetic Alphabet

August 25th, 2011 · 2 Comments

Solrésol has had somewhat of a revival in recent years, due at least partially to a popular article by Paul Collins. The system is an early attempt at an auxiliary artificial language, developed by François Sudre in the 19th century, and based on the seven notes of the diatonic scale.  He spoke it with solfeggio […]

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Tags: Language · Music

On the Absence of Acrostics in Raymond Roussel

August 15th, 2011 · 1 Comment

Raymond Roussel does seem like the kind of writer who would write acrostics.  His works are steeped in wordplay.  The procédé is based on homonyms; “Parmi les noirs” throws in a rebus and a cryptogram; there’s a sonnet with a hidden message in La Poussière de Soleils; and so on.  Acrostics seem inevitable.

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Tags: Language · Literature

A Homophonous Restoration of the “King James” Text of Psalm 23

February 17th, 2011 · 1 Comment

The “King James Version” of the Bible gives every indication of a garbled text.  Some words are omitted (for example, that curious hapax legomenon, επιουσιος, in the Pater Noster); some words seem to be approximations or guesswork (particularly the names of animals and musical instruments).  Much of it simply makes little sense. We encounter similar […]

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Tags: Education · Language · Literature


July 19th, 2010 · 1 Comment

I’m happy to inform you that you can now savor that notorious lipogrammatical curiosity, Gadsby, simply by following this link.  Gadsby has long had an almost mythological status among linguistic buffs (and Oulipo fans); most of its original printing was lost long ago, but luckily a microfilm proof copy still sits in a public library (in California, I […]

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Tags: Language · Literature

Not Dirty, Just Spicy: it was good for us, was it good for you?

May 18th, 2010 · 1 Comment

On Sunday, May 16th, hardcore fans of the suggestive braved suspended subway service and a glorious sunny afternoon to take in some harmless smut at the Ullage Group’s “Not Dirty, Just Spicy” event at Jalopy. Doug Skinner started things off by reviewing the rhetoric of extended double-entendre. To drive the point home, he performed the […]

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Tags: Bulletins · Cartoons · Clubs and Associations · Diversions · Education · Language · Literature · Stereoscopy · Ukulele

Defining “Spiritual”

January 1st, 2010 · 4 Comments

I’m puzzled by the word “spiritual.”  I understand it as a noun, meaning a genre of vocal music.  But as an adjective, it has me stumped. When I meet someone who spatters his or her sentences with it, I sometimes ask what it means.  She or he usually refuses, often with projectile hostility.  One woman […]

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Tags: Education · Language · Mysteries

Vulgar Wit

August 22nd, 2009 · 7 Comments

There are plenty of ways to make a point quickly and emphatically, but few are as economical as a good interjection. Compared to the expressions one never runs across anymore except in Shakespeare, eighteenth century novels, and Mad Libs, most recent examples are pretty unmusical, uninspired, and linguistically dull: “wow,” “cool,” “awesome,” “Jesus.” This extends […]

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Tags: Ancient History · Diversions · Education · Language · Literature