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Euphemisms, eh?

Given the vagaries of English spelling:

It was a shock and awe tactic that divided opinions, with some critics branding it a “Gerald Ratner approach”, the British jewellery magnate who called his own company’s products “total c—”.

Given that I have a long memory I remember what he actually said – total crap.

But given what is usually elided that actually reads, to a modern, as “total cunt” which doesn’t really quite work, does it?

I see the Tentifada continues

Some Americans I know are calling the campus camp outs for Gaza the “Tentifada” Which I think is pretty good.

Once they start the drag story hours as well does it then become the campifada?

In English English dictionaries are positive, not normative

This is less so in American Englsih and obviously, both vastly less so than bleedin’ French:

It’s fine to end a sentence with a preposition, according to a shock ruling from the American dictionary publisher. But is it OK to recklessly split infinitives?

It is an observation that these things are now OK, not a decision that they are. Just because that’s how the English language works. We do it, they then write up the apparent rules of what we do.

Apparently German academics read this blog

Britain’s unique drinking culture and sense of humour have given the English language 546 words meaning drunk, researchers have found.

Linguists have discovered that in Eng­lish virtually any noun can be transformed into a “drunkonym”, a synonym for intoxication, by adding “ed” at the end, and have listed hundreds of formally identified examples. These ­included expressions such as “trolleyed”, “hammered”, “wellied” and ­“steampigged”.

Professor Christina Sanchez-Stockhammer, of Chemnitz University of Technology in Germany, believes that it is down to Britain’s drinking habits and absurdist sense of humour. “In Eng­lish there’s an extremely large number of words that can mean drunk, and more can be formed simply by adding ‘ed’ to the end. It means pretty much any word in Britain can inherit the meaning ‘drunk’ from the context.

One reader here – and it must have been at least a decade back – once explained his son’s (hmm, maybe nephew?) go to comedy routine. Which was to tell a story about copious drinking while creating these new synoyms for being drunk. One of which I recall was “lawnmowered”. The linguistic point of the routine being absolutely what our German Professor has now discovered.

So, you read it here first. The Tim Worstall blog, beating academia by a decade.

Now, to get really linguistically interesting, you can also do the same with tits. The technique is a little different but the linguistic trick is the same. Boobs, boobies, baps, puppies, norks and on and on. The meaning comes from the context, not the word.

Simple solution

Ultimately, we need to find robust, reliable forms of language learning that aren’t driven by profit or demand. While there’s certainly a place for big tech, we can’t depend on it alone to provide us with resources to maintain endangered languages. Anna Luisa Daigneault echoes a similar thought, advocating for language learning “made by the people, for the people”.

Speak Welsh to each other then. If no one wants to then that’s it for Welsh.

Shrug. It is what happened to Mercian, Northumbrian, Cumbrian and on…..

Would your 30th language actually be Scots Gaelic?

Say you had something that coule be translated into other languages. Presumably you’d go with the ones that provided the largest possible market. Not everything will work in every language, obvs. Scrabble would be difficult in Chinese perhaps, given ideograms.


Scots Gaelic version of Scrabble released after Isle of Lewis campaign
Latest edition of the board game which is available in 29 languages will be in 1,500-year-old dialect spoken by 60,000 people


Is there one in Lallans already?

So, what is it?

He just said the most famous Hitler phrase there is in this world,” Zverev told the umpire of a fan in the stands to his left.

What? Drive East? They don’t actually tell us what was said…..

Toss off

‘Black market’ is racist phrase and should not be used, say bank leaders

We have a well established vocabulary here. Black market – illegal. Grey market – legal but not tax paying. Or possibly legal but not wholly so – so things like parallel imports without IP protection and so on. White market – fully law and tax abiding.

Just bugger off and go touch yourself up over your virtue signalling somewhere else.

Language guys, language

Volvo’s got a car called the “Recharge” At least in Portuguese it does.

Isn’t that rather reinforcing range anxiety in potential buyers?

Reminds of the problems Chevy had selling the Nova in Iberian speaking countries. Nova or No Va?

Centimated sounds like a good word

Investors have started legal action against the Swiss financial regulator over its decision to wipe out bonds worth more than £14 billion during the emergency rescue of Credit Suisse.

The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority, known as Finma, caused uproar among debt investors last month by writing down some bonds issued by Credit Suisse to zero but preserving some value for the troubled bank’s shareholders.

It emerged yesterday that a group of investors representing SwFr4.5 billion (£4.1 billion) of the SwFr16 billion of decimated bonds

Decimated is one in ten, or 10%. So centimated, no?

Not quite le mot juste here

In the field of cryptozoology — the study of animals which have not yet been proven to exist — there are no bigger questions than what is Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster.

Now, a scientist has used statistics to try and explain the legends of two of the world’s most high profile urban myths.

Given that we don’t spot Bigfoot on Brtaodway, Nessie in the Thames, I think they’re rural, not urban, myths, no? Something brought on by an excess of turnips in the diet, not the pressures of city life?

Misunderstand how language works

Language is us applying words to some feature of life that we’d like to use a word to describe. Changing the word doesn’t change that feature. Therefore, over time, changing the word doesn’t in fact change the meaning being conveyed.

N-word to Negro to colored to African-American to Black to Person of Color is still a description of the melanin tinteness of the one being so described. Cretin to retard to disabled to differently abled to arrives on the Variety Club Fun Outing coach is still describing that same sad feature of some lives.

Members of the department’s Homeland Security Group, which leads work on Britain’s counter-terrorism response, attended a talk last week focused on “the right language” around LGBT issues.

On Monday, the Home Office moved to distance itself from its contents, which it said did not represent “departmental or government guidance”.

Across 12 slides on gender issues, first reported by Guido Fawkes, Whitehall staff were told: “Be aware a person’s sex, gender identity, and gender expression may not correspond.

“Genderqueer is a blanket term for those who don’t define their gender in binary terms … It is not a modern invention. Each identity is valid and deserves respect.”

A slide on language to avoid using included the terms homosexual and homosexuality, which it said is “generally considered a medical term now. People tend to use gay instead. Can reduce the person to purely sexual terms”. It also warned against the use of the word transsexual.

We can call it gay, homosexual, shirt-lifting or bum banditry. Genderqueer if we prefer. But it’s not going to change the connotations of the description because they are what exist and what is being described. Changing the word doesn’t change those connotations.

British society has long made distinctions here – Mrs. Patrick Campbell and not frightening the horses is different from going all John Gielgud at Praed St Gents for example. Thus cottaging is different from homosexual. But that’s very much the point being made here. We can call cottaging seeking love in a public manner if we wish, even a human right as some try to insist, but it’s still willy waving in the council privy. Changing the word doesn’t change the thing that is being described.

But this always happens to languages

The Welsh language is being threatened by social media, as a study found “the erosion of a language online would threaten the cultural identity of a nation”.

Last month, it emerged that the number of Welsh speakers had fallen to a record low of 17.8 percent, as fewer children are speaking the language.

Academics at Swansea University found nearly 70% of Welsh speakers used English “often” or “always” on social media, with the vast majority using it more than Welsh.

All of them, always, are subject to two contrasting forces.

1) They become increasingly fissiparous. Latin into Catalan, Andalucian, Galician, Portuguese, Provencal, D’Oc, Florentine, Sabian and on and on. A household comes up with a new word or two – happens in every household all the time. Some of those spread and become the accepted version in the village – or town, county and so on. Continual changes bubbling up from the bottom and the accumulated changes create those new languages over the years. Latin took 1600 years or so to become many really entirely different languages. Old Germanic took about the same to become The varied Germans, Norses, Cloggie and so on. Some languages are a bmic across boundaries – English.

Shrug, well that happens. Happened to Welsh too – Cumbrian, Cornish, Scots, Irish, Manx and so on. Wouldn’t surprise me at all to find that northern Welsh is different from southern.

2) Certain events consolidate languages. New methods of communication being one of them. Radio, newspapers, they both consolidate the previous fissiparity. Because there becomes a standardised version which exists across the distribution area. One of the most common was in fact the Bible. When it first started appearing in the vernacular (c. 15th c) which version of the local language was used became the nailed down and formal version. The King James had a lot to o with the creation of English as a unitary language. The other one I know of was the selection of which variant of Slovakian to use – the selection then led to the language of one subset of the greater becoming the formal version of that language.

This is all just normal about languages. OK, so now we’ve got a new comms method, Twitter. To some extent – and only some, nothing is 100% here – this will mean the standardisation of language across the platform. Just because that’s what happens. And, also, there will be the neologisms there some of which spread. As with texts – KTB, LOL and so on.

This doesn’t greatly help the Welsh with their cultural identity of a nation shtick of course. Because the Welsh language is their unifying factor in that official and give me more culturalmoneyforthebureaucracy sense. The population of the south is – genetically, culturally a century back – near entirely unrelated to that of the North. The mines and steelworks were populated not by the local farmers of yore but by vast waves of immigration from the Midlands, SW and Ireland. Pretending they’re all Welsh by shouting Yakki Da at each other is the only cultural identity they’ve got in common.

That last paragraph might not be as entirely and wholly true as those preceding it.

Stanford’s loonie, we know that

But they’re also wrong:

Even “rule of thumb” appears to have fallen foul of the university’s initiative, because it refers to “an old British law that allowed men to beat their wives with sticks no wider than their thumb”.

Sounds remarkably unlikely. Partly because there is no such thing as “British law” and never has been. The constituent Kingdoms have always had their own laws. But rather more to the point, back when we could have had such a law we didn’t have such laws. We can imagine (no, go on) that back in that past it was considered OK for some mild and unconsensual chastisement to go on. But back then we never did have laws which detailed what you may do. We only had laws which said what you may not do. That was just the way the English (and Scots etc) legal systems worked. Everything was legal except that which is illegal. Just the way the system rolled.

So we couldn’t have had a law which said that you were allowed to do so.

Quite apart from all the other reasons that the derivation is bollocks of course. Rule of thumb coming from the same source as the measurement the inch – a rough guide to something, around and about, as measured by the size of a thumb – the inch.

One of those things where Wikipedia is in fact correct:

In English, the phrase rule of thumb refers to an approximate method for doing something, based on practical experience rather than theory. This usage of the phrase can be traced back to the 17th century and has been associated with various trades where quantities were measured by comparison to the width or length of a thumb.

A modern folk etymology holds that the phrase is derived from the maximum width of a stick allowed for wife-beating under English common law, but no such law ever existed. This belief may have originated in a rumored statement by 18th-century judge Sir Francis Buller that a man may beat his wife with a stick no wider than his thumb. The rumor produced numerous jokes and satirical cartoons at Buller’s expense, but there is no record that he made such a statement.

English jurist Sir William Blackstone wrote in his Commentaries on the Laws of England of an “old law” that once allowed “moderate” beatings by husbands, but he did not mention thumbs or any specific implements. Wife-beating has been officially outlawed for centuries in England (and the rest of the United Kingdom) and the United States, but continued in practice; several 19th-century American court rulings referred to an “ancient doctrine” that the judges believed had allowed husbands to physically punish their wives using implements no thicker than their thumbs.

The phrase rule of thumb first became associated with domestic abuse in the 1970s, after which the spurious legal definition was cited as factual in a number of law journals, and the United States Commission on Civil Rights published a report on domestic abuse titled “Under the Rule of Thumb” in 1982. Some efforts were made to discourage the phrase, which was seen as taboo owing to this false origin. During the 1990s, several authors correctly identified the spurious etymology; however, the connection to domestic violence was cited in some legal sources even into the early 2000s.