…cultures themselves can be categorised in terms of how well they deal with linguistic ambiguity. Some cultures accept the limits of their own language, and of language itself, by understanding that there will always be things that cannot be cleanly parsed. Others become obsessed with ever-finer levels of categorisation as they try to rid their system of every pangolin-like ‘duck-rabbit’ anomaly. For such societies, Douglas argues, a kind of neurosis ensues, as the project of categorisation takes ever more energy and mental effort. If we take this analysis seriously, then, in Douglas’ terms, might it be that particle-waves are our pangolins? Perhaps what we are encountering here is not so much the edge of reality, but the limits of the physicists’ category system.
via Margaret Wertheim – The limits of physics.
A team of researchers has come up with a list of two dozen “ultraconserved words” that have survived 150 centuries. It includes some predictable entries: “mother,” “not,” “what,” “to hear” and “man.” It also contains surprises: “to flow,” “ashes” and “worm.”
via Linguists identify 15,000-year-old ‘ultraconserved words’ – The Washington Post.
…the literature on guns is just as messy as the statistics—often completely contradictory, with some studies showing convincing correlation between guns and homicide, while others equally convincingly show none. In the end, most of it shares an unfortunately quality: too much of the language implies causation or lack thereof between guns and death but only really shows varying levels of correlation.
via Bad Land – The Morning News.
Even the words that they used to describe snacking were revealing. Virginie talked about an en cas which translates as “just in case,” implying a once-in-a-while deviation from your ordinary routine and grignotage from grignoter, which means to nibble or gnaw. The implication is that it is both unusual, and somehow deplorable, to snack.
via The Real Reason Why French are Healthier — Including Their Kids | Family Kitchen.
This rearrangement, called the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, is the result of a chain reaction of vowel changes on an epic scale similar to the process that transformed vowels from Middle English to Modern English between 1400 and 1600.
via Votes and Vowels: A Changing Accent Shows How Language Parallels Politics | The Crux | Discover Magazine.
“When I use Orwell’s term ‘unpeople,'” he gripes, “it is changed to ‘unpeopled.'”
via Why does auto-correct still stink? – Fortune Tech.