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I fucking hate languages.

The Greeks had this word, right, we have no idea where it came from, it just kinda popped up out of nowhere, and it could mean either apples, cheeks, or boobs. Problem is it looked and sounded *exactly* like another, unrelated word which could mean sheep, goat, or any animal in general really, which must have got confusing if you were a farmer talking about your livestock, but anyway…

Then the Romans, having stolen practically everything else from the Greeks, thought they’d nick this word too, because Latin isn’t confusing enough without throwing in a bunch of loan words. And they adopted it to mean a pumpkin.

Then the English came along and were all like “when in Rome”, and stole it, where it became our word ‘melon’. Which has now come back to mean boobs.

How do you like them apples.

I fucking love languages.

In case anyone doubts the veracity of this:

[ source ]

Calling boobs ‘melons’ literally transcends culture, time, and language.
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Just got done reading an interesting article about how language affects the way we think and perceive the world. There were some interesting examples. Like how in Spanish, the word bridge is masculine, while in German, it is feminine. So native speakers of these languages describe the same thing differently. Spanish speakers will comment on how strong or sturdy a bridge is, while German speakers will comment on how elegant or beautiful it is. Another example that blew my mind was the Guugu Yimithirr language. So, most languages, including English, use an egocentric type of directional language (turn right, left, behind, in front.) these directions are relative to you as a person. Well, the Guugu Yimithirr language uses fixed geographical directions (North, East, South, and West) no matter the context. If you were to put an English speaker and a Guugu Yimithirr speaker in the same hotel, and put them in rooms opposite sides of the hallway from each other, the English speaker will see the exact same room (that person will see the desk to the right of blah and the closet in front of blah) but the Guugu Yimithirr speaker will see a COMPLETELY different room because the bed will be facing south instead of north, and all of that jazz. And the article went on to state how speakers of this language might even have a lower sense of egotism, because directions do not revolve around them, they’re just another part of the picture. Really fascinating.
It made me think really long about language imperialism and how rapidly we’re moving towards a world that deals almost exclusively in English. It makes me sad to know that we’re losing completely different ways of thinking. Completely different perspectives, just gone. I guess that’s why I always get upset when people say that language imperialism isn’t so bad, and that English as a language is connecting people together. The world is a great big place, with completely different perspectives, and I think the fastest way to kill a culture is to take away the language, because not only are you taking away a method of communication, but a way of thinking.
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When English isn’t your first language, reading fanfics in your first language (if there are even any) becomes so much more embarrassing???? And sometimes I wonder why native English speakers don’t get that feeling when they are reading in their native language???

scrolling through the comments on this people with at least three separate native languages have chimed in to agree that English is the porn language. This… is amazing. I never knew.

oh oui. tu m’étonnes.

There is actually an interesting cultural/linguistic theory of explanation for this! I’m not a linguistics expert, just a person who likes learning languages, so my explanation will probably be a bit muddled, but I hope people find it interesting anyhow. You can read a relevant paper here; the authors of the paper call this phenomenon (or a phenomenon that’s very similar to it, at least) “emotion-related language choice theory,” but I don’t know if there’s a widely accepted term for it yet, despite the fact that people have been studying it for– I think close to 20 years? Quite a while, anyhow.

So basically, the cultural “naughtiness” of swear words/taboo words in your first language is something that’s very deeply ingrained– you might not hear these words at all in your early years, and if you do hear them there’s a good chance that there was some shame/reproach/anger involved if someone slipped and used them around you, or if your peers whispered them to each other on the playground to show how cool and grown-up they were. Also, people are generally very thoroughly versed in the complex nuances of how and when to use swearwords in their first language, and they fully understand the cultural weight of using these words to convey intense emotions.

When we’re reading, speaking, or writing in a non-primary language, however, we don’t bring all of that cultural baggage with us. For years linguists assumed assumed that it was easier to talk about highly emotional topics in one’s native language, because people generally feel more comfortable speaking the language(s) they’ve grown up with. A newer theory, however, posits that sometimes it’s actually easier to discuss these very taboo topics in a second or non-primary language, because we don’t have that culturally loaded sense of shame and emotional intensity weighing us down. Reading, for instance, smutty fanfic in a second language allows us to have a degree of removal from the topic at hand, which can be very liberating, because we get all the fun and excitement of reading smut with a great deal less socio-cultural nonsense.

(There’s another at least tangentially relevant thing here that I know even less about, which is a recently-studied mechanism wherein our brains basically refuse to fully translate non-primary language words with negative connotations all the way back to our native language, which lets us maintain a greater degree of distance from the negative thing, but I’ve been rambling for long enough, so I’m just gonna link the paper, and if people want to hear more about it I’d be happy to expound: link).

I am a linguist and I approve this addition.
There’s something about swearing in the first language that actually bypasses the higher brain functions entirely; you can take someone with global aphasia (complete inability to speak) due to a traumatic brain injury, and electrically stimulate that person’s amygdala (part of the limbic system that regulates emotion) and there’s a very good chance they will swear.
But, unless you’re exposed to multiple language from a young age, there’s a clear structural difference in how we process and store L1 vs. L+. No language but your first gets that built into the architecture of your brain, and the swearing just doesn’t work as well.
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idk I just love how we Young People Today use ~improper~ punctuation/grammar in actually really defined ways to express tone without having to explicitly state tone like that’s just really fucking cool, like

no    =    “No,” she said. 

no.    =    "No,” she said sharply.

No    =    “No,” she stated firmly.

No.    =    “No,” she snapped.

NO    =    “No!” she shouted.

noooooo    =    “No,” she moaned.

no~    =    “No,” she said with a drawn-out sing-song.

~no~    =    “No,” she drawled sarcastically.

NOOOOO    =    “No!” she screamed dramatically.

no?!    =    “No,” she said incredulously.

I’ve been calling this “typographical nuance” and I have a few more to add: 

*no* = “No,” she said emphatically. 

*nopes on out of here* = “No,” she said of herself in the third person, with a touch of humorous emphasis.

~*~noooo~*~ = “No,” she moaned in stylized pseudo-desperation.

#no = “No,” she added as a side comment.

“no” = “No,” she scare-quoted.

wtf are you kidding no = “No,” she said flatly. “And I can’t believe I have to say this.”

no no No No NO NO NO NO = "No,” she repeated over and over again, growing louder and more emphatic. 

nooOOOO = “No,” she said, starting out quietly and turning into a scream.

*no = “Oops, I meant ‘no,’” she corrected, “Sorry for the typo in my previous message.”

I cannot express how strongly I absolutely love language and writing and communication but if anyone asks why I will be showing them this post from now on

I sometimes forget that no everyone can read all of these correctly and tend to create misunderstandings. It’s honestly fascinating to see there are certain nuances to written language that are completely inaccessible to certain groups of people, while for others it’s second nature. Not to mention how easily people sometimes navigate these different kinds of written languge, switching from one to the next in a moment.
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why is it humans not humen

bc “human” comes from a latin root (homo > humanus > humaine > human) and “man” (and thus “men”) comes from a germanic root (mann > man) 

so you get humans, not humen, since “humans” doesn’t play by germanic rules

look at that i asked a question and i got an answer THANKS

English isn’t a language, it’s three languages stacked on top of each other wearing a trenchcoat.

That is the best description of the English Language I’ve ever seen. Thank you for that
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People who are blind from birth will gesture when they speak. I always like pointing out this fact when I teach classes on gesture, because it gives us an an interesting perspective on how we learn and use gestures. Until now I’ve mostly cited a 1998 paper from Jana Iverson and Susan Goldin-Meadow that analysed the gestures and speech of young blind people. Not only do blind people gesture, but the frequency and types of gestures they use does not appear to differ greatly from how sighted people gesture. If people learn gesture without ever seeing a gesture (and, most likely, never being shown), then there must be something about learning a language that means you get gestures as a bonus.

Blind people will even gesture when talking to other blind people, and sighted people will gesture when speaking on the phone - so we know that people don’t only gesture when they speak to someone who can see their gestures.

Earlier this year a new paper came out that adds to this story. Şeyda Özçalışkan, Ché Lucero and Susan Goldin-Meadow looked at the gestures of blind speakers of Turkish and English, to see if the *way* they gestured was different to sighted speakers of those languages. Some of the sighted speakers were blindfolded and others left able to see their conversation partner.

Turkish and English were chosen, because it has already been established that speakers of those languages consistently gesture differently when talking about videos of items moving. English speakers will be more likely to show the manner (e.g. ‘rolling’ or bouncing’) and trajectory (e.g. ‘left to right’, ‘downwards’) together in one gesture, and Turkish speakers will show these features as two separate gestures. This reflects the fact that English ‘roll down’ is one verbal clause, while in Turkish the equivalent would be yuvarlanarak iniyor, which translates as two verbs ‘rolling descending’.

Since we know that blind people do gesture, Özçalışkan’s team wanted to figure out if they gestured like other speakers of their language. Did the blind Turkish speakers separate the manner and trajectory of their gestures like their verbs? Did English speakers combine them? Of course, the standard methodology of showing videos wouldn’t work with blind participants, so the researchers built three dimensional models of events for people to feel before they discussed them.

The results showed that blind Turkish speakers gesture like their sighted counterparts, and the same for English speakers. All Turkish speakers gestured significantly differently from all English speakers, regardless of sightedness. This means that these particular gestural patterns are something that’s deeply linked to the grammatical properties of a language, and not something that we learn from looking at other speakers.


Jana M. Iverson & Susan Goldin-Meadow. 1998. Why people gesture when they speak. Nature, 396(6708), 228-228.

Şeyda Özçalışkan, Ché Lucero and Susan Goldin-Meadow. 2016. Is Seeing Gesture Necessary to Gesture Like a Native Speaker? Psychological Science 27(5) 737–747.

Asli Ozyurek & Sotaro Kita. 1999. Expressing manner and path in English and Turkish: Differences in speech, gesture, and conceptualization. In Twenty-first Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 507-512). Erlbaum.

Incredible! I have nothing to add because I had no idea, but may I just say **WOW**!!!
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also guys i think it’s time to start spelling ‘small’ right again,, it’s been long enough

see the thing is, at this point, smol isn’t even a “mispelling” of small anymore; it has its own connotations. while small is a regular adjective, smol acts more like a diminutive marker, which English has been lacking

in essence, a smol dog will always be a small dog, but not all small dogs are smol.

what the fuck are you talking about

Linguistic evolution. Accept the smolness into your vocabulary and be cleansed.

@nentindo, assuming you’re asking in good faith & not just trying to dismiss a perfectly accurate analysis, here’s an elaboration of what @princeofdoomrps said:

small and smol mean different things, so they’re different words. smol means something like “small in a cute way” & not just like both small and cute but the two are related. This is what makes smol more like a diminutive marker (c.f. -tje in Dutch, or -let/-ling/-ie [like in kidlet/kidling/kiddie] in some forms of English*)

note that:
1. not all small things are smol. Microbes and electrons? Generally not considered smol.

2. similar-sized things in the same category can be smol or not depending on cuteness. So, a tiny cottage may be a smol house, but an equally tiny tenement room that is an awful place to live? Not smol.

3. smol can refer to youth (e.g. the people I call my “smol frens” are mostly taller than I am but much younger)

4. It also can have implications of fondness/emotional attachment, especially, from what I’ve seen, in fandoms where people call characters things like “my smol son”, which doesn’t have to mean someone who’s actually young, short, or cute at all. Like, IDK if anyone uses that to refer to Hannibal but I wouldn’t be surprised?

So! There are contexts where you could call something/someone small but not smol, and contexts where you could call something/someone smol but not small. This is the textbook definition of “different words”. They are no longer the same word and op, you are very welcome to only use one of them! Anyone is! 

Just be aware that pretty much every part of your vocabulary, someone at some point has decried as “wrong” usage and complained about people mangling the language this way, and when you do this thing you’re carrying on a long tradition of pompous silliness.

* English isn’t completely lacking in diminutive markers just kinda deficient. And some of those markers have become derisive or dismissive in usage, which i hope never happens to my smol word-child, smol.

[edited for clarity]

This is how we do language. This is language happening.
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well bust my button, i was typing too fast and my brain went WHOOP and skipped over the entire joke of the story god damn it

OKAY SO. I will correct this in the post. Caxton’s egg story, written in 1490 when England was experiencing a period of a myriad of regional dialects borrowed from all over but a LOT from French, tells the story of two Northern Englishmen going to South England, and they stop and ask a lady for “egges”, an Old Norse derived term. The woman, however, uses the word “eyren” which derives from Old English, and assumes THEY are using a French word because she’s never heard the word before. 

THAT is the joke. Whomp whomp.
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“mine uncle” somehow got turned into “my nuncle” in the 1600s this sounds so fake but i assure you “nuncle” was a real word people used, all thanks to MISDIVISION, also called REBRACKETING. It’s the same reason “a napron” (from mappa, then nappa) got turned into “an apron” and for some crazy fucking reason we decided to drop “nuncle” and go back to “uncle” but kept “apron” instead of “napron”

“indeed” used to be “in deed” as in “i will do this in word and in deed” meaning your ass was gonna go DO something FOR REAL, you can COUNT ON ME. It got turned into one word, which then wound up meaning almost the same thing. Kind of like “all right” vs “alright”. 

“shamefaced” originally was the archaic “shamefast” as in you’re so ashamed you’re stuck there 

“bridegroom” came from OE “bridgome”, “gome” being a word for “man”

eggs were called “eyren” (as in things from eyries) in England until the french derived term “eggs” became the standard term. there’s a story about some dudes in the middle ages who sailed from London down the Thames 20 miles and asked a lady to make them some eggs and she was like “i don’t speak french what the hell are you saying to me”

“explode” once meant “to force a performer off the stage”

the word “funk” dates from the Tudor era and was a word for the smell of tobacco smoke. that’s right, shit was funky with Henry VIII

“noon” comes from the latin “novem” meaning “nine”. the roman way of counting time meant that the ninth hour of the day was about 3 PM. (they started at dawn being hour one and moved on from there)

“slut” just meant “an untidy messy dirty person” up till actually fairly recently

“cumberground” is an archaic word meaning “a useless person who just takes up space”. i expect you all to make good use of this when referring to a certain british actor who looks like the middle stage of an animorph

“woman” is derived from “wifmann” (wif- meaning wife, a really old word for woman, and -mann meaning human being) meaning “female human”. so the next time you see anyone deciding they’re being A Super Radical Feminist and spelling “woman” like “womyn” because the word MAN is in there and THEREFORE it must be the WORST, gently remind them that “woman” and “man” don’t have the same god damn etymological root and they’re fucking up the part of the word that denotes the noun as being a human being. congrats radfems you done it u saved the city

that last one is why I get so miffed about the obsession with GREEK THEORY for everything and no Romans.

I have seen a trend that lifts its head once in a while, to advocate ‘herstory’. No, please don’t imply to a generation of little girls who are no longer taught etymology that ‘history = his story’.

‘story’ is short for history (Greek ἱστορία) means ‘enquiry’. The Romans had two words for the function of historians, one was ‘historia’ borrowed from Greek, while the Latin term was ‘memoria’, which meant ‘the act of creating something by remembrance’.

Don’t teach history/herstory, teach creation by remembrance.


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