Word of the Day: Shenanigan

April 9, 2008 at 7:13 am | Posted in Language | 1 Comment

A beautiful word which seems to be used in American English rather than in British English; or at least the Cambridge dictionary doesn’t mention it, but Merriam-Webster does:

Main Entry: she·nan·i·gan
Pronunciation: \shə-ˈna-ni-gən\
Function: noun
Etymology: origin unknown
Date: 1855

1: a devious trick used especially for an underhand purpose2 a: tricky or questionable practices or conduct —usually used in plural b: high-spirited or mischievous activity —usually used in plural

It seems it can also be applied to people:

If Perez Hilton plays nice, he could name his price
By Andrew Wallenstein
April 9, 2008
The Oprah comparison certainly smacks of delusional grandeur, and yet it’s not so easy to dismiss, either. As for overcoming his original sleazy incarnation, it’s worth noting that Winfrey didn’t exactly start out as squeaky clean as she currently is, trafficking in the same kind of talk-show shenanigans as Jerry Springer earlier in her own career.

Dict.cc suggests Schwindel, Streich – maybe Mogelpackung would also work.

Related articles

Overseeing an IT project is like herding cats

April 6, 2008 at 10:45 am | Posted in Language | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,

…is they key message of this video. The bit of language wisdom to be learned by speakers of German: The prase Herding cats is pretty much the equivalent of “Das ist wie einen Sack Flöhe hüten!” (for speakers of English: herding a bag a fleas).

Word of the Day for German speakers of English

February 21, 2008 at 9:53 am | Posted in Language, Word of the Day | Leave a comment
Tags: ,

postmarked: abgestempelt, oder: Es zählt der Eingang des Poststempels (btw: This is a strange expression in German, isn’t it?)


The jury will consist of the current editorial staff of Packingtown Review.

The deadline for the submissions is March 31, 2008 (postmarked). Winners will be announced on the Packingtown Review web site on May 31, 2008.

The contest is open to the public and there is no fee.


How to Write Rich Blog Entries Faster (In The Future)

February 3, 2008 at 11:26 am | Posted in Blogging, Language | 11 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I came across* the nifty Zemanta WordPress plug-in which automatically enhances your text with semantic links, tags, pictures – and does quite a good job at it. Using their demo, I entered the plain text of the recent Carnival post:


And Zemanta returned it as follows:

Zemanta Output

The text highlighted in orange identifies the words that are automatically converted into links. In the full working version, you can add and delete words to the list.

The obvious downside, however, is that Zemanta is not available yet – and if it was, it could probably not be used by wordpress.com users like me, but only by those who have installed WordPress on their own server space. On their own blog and website, Zemanta are not exactly spilling the beans about their immediate plans to release or not to release this plug-in (I quite like Jochen’s notion of a blog being something like a personal tabloid).

It’s also too bad that one cannot just grab the source code of an enhanced page from their demo, as the way it is coded (lot’s of div’s and id’s instead of straight links) is not accepted by wordpress.com! Neither can one simply copy the tags as they use space separation whereas WP uses comma separation (I am all for comma separation, btw, as it allows for collocations). Yet I guess their server would soon be flooded with requests if they offered a demo that allowed you to enhance a page and take the code with you.

*I’ve subscribed to a couple of blogs from Barcamp presenters, and even though I didn’t go to the next one in Klagenfurt (and would not have had anything to contribute anyway), I still get the fresh news that gets circulated there. Nice:-) According to one of those blogs, Zemanta will go beta towards the end of March. By then I might have switched to wordpress.org – and then the decision will be pending whether it wouldn’t be wiser to switch to German, too – blogging in German, however, does oddly not feel natural to me.

Knowing Languages Is Bad for Good Laughs

January 28, 2008 at 10:09 pm | Posted in Fun, Language, video | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , ,

On Realpop, I read about the latest “The Downfall” meme: Take the scene from The Downfall in which Hitler/Bruno Ganz learns that Steiner couldn’t gather enough forces to attack and add new subtitles to it, changing The Downfall of Hitler to The Downfall of HDVD or The Downfall of the Cowboys. While Ganz’ acting features the theatrical type of speech that is known from Hitler speeches – and which is on a phonetic level sufficiently close to Chaplin’s idiom as Hynkel in The Great Dictator – it is certainly good material for being subtitled. Too bad though that the trick won’t work if you know German: It’ impossible to shut out and not understand the words of your mother tongue:-(

Word of the Day: Fit as a Fiddle

January 13, 2008 at 12:54 pm | Posted in Language, Word of the Day | Leave a comment
Tags: , , ,

Word of the Day for German Speakers of English:

fit wie ein Turnschuh (m.) = (as) fit as a fiddle

While we’re at it: I got the suspicion that this German idiom is not used in Austria – but I think they have a similar one, yet couldn’t find it on Ostarrichi.org, the German-Austrian dictionary.

Today’s example comes from the musical “Singing in the Rain”:

Fit as a fiddle and ready for love.
I can jump over the moon up above.
Fit as a fiddle and ready for love!

I haven’t a worry, I haven’t a care,
I feel like a feather that’s floating on air,
Fit as a fiddle and ready for love!

Soon all the church bells will be ringing
And I’ll march with Ma and Pa.
All the church bells will be ringing,
With a hey naughty-knotty and a hotcha-cha darling.

Hi, diddle-diddle, my baby’s OK,
Ask me a riddle, I’m waiting to say
Fit as a fiddle and ready for love!

Soon all the church bells will be ringing
And I’ll march with Ma and Pa.
All the church bells will be ringing,
With a hey naughty-knotty and a hotcha-cha darling.

Hi, diddle-diddle, my baby’s OK,
Ask me a riddle, I’m waiting to say
Fit as a fiddle and ready for love!

WOTD: Outlier

January 12, 2008 at 12:24 pm | Posted in Language | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,

A word of the day for German speakers of English that I had been searching for in the past:

(statistischer) Ausreißer (m.) = outlier


Results very stable, no strange outlier values as often found with other techniques. Interactive Petrophysics needs to be seen to fully appreciate the …

WOTD: Creature of habit

January 9, 2008 at 12:36 pm | Posted in Language | Leave a comment
Tags: ,

Mein Word of the Day für German speakers of English:

Gewohnheitstier (n.) = creature of habit


Jake GyllenHO is a creature of habit.

The actor, once again, goes out to lunch to his favorite restaurant, Joan’s On Third, Monday in Los Angeles.

Jakey took his mom.

Where’s Reese???????

These four words don’t rhyme in English

January 7, 2008 at 12:17 am | Posted in Language | 5 Comments
Tags: , ,


Makes you think – why three colours? And this one doesn’t rhyme in German:

Mensch (man, meaning mankind)

W00t! Word of the Year 2007

December 13, 2007 at 12:00 am | Posted in Language | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,

W00t! I actually do not know how to pronounce “w00t!” – I mainly knew it through Lenina’s blog, but have no phonetic representation for it. I thought it was a variation of ‘what!’, but that may not be true.

Regardless of my confusion, w00t! has become Merriam-Webster’s word of the year 2007. The New York Times writes:

Merriam-Webster’s president, John Morse, said ”w00t” was an ideal choice because it blends whimsy and new technology. ”It shows a really interesting thing that’s going on in language. It’s a term that’s arrived only because we’re now communicating electronically with each other,” Morse said. […] ”W00t” was among 20 nominees in a list of the most-searched words in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary and most frequently submitted terms from users of its ”open dictionary.” The choice did not make Allan Metcalf, executive secretary of the American Dialect Society, say ”w00t.” ”It’s amusing, but it’s limited to a small community and unlikely to spread and unlikely to last,” said Metcalf, an English professor at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill.

W00t has not yet been added to the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary – at least I couldn’t find it – but it is supposedly going to be added soon. I admit that I kind of disapprove of that – which official word can have two numbers in its middle in particular if these aren’t pronounced like numbers?

Here is the complete top ten – I’d also prefer if brand names wouldn’t be granted access (I know, I know – dictionaries are no longer prescriptive, they have become merely descriptive:

2. facebook

3. conundrum

4. quixotic

5. blamestorm

6. sardoodledom

7. apathetic

8. Pecksniffian

9. hypocrite

10. charlatan

Btw, am I correct in assuming that w00t is – more or less – pronounced like the German ‘Wut’ (anger)?

How to identify the stressed syllable of any English word

October 14, 2007 at 9:35 pm | Posted in Language | 8 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

It works by using your intuition. I found it here (via. J.A. from Cape Town):

As an aside, once, whilst drinking with a psycholinguist (say that after a few pints) I was taught a useful way of quickly working out the stressed syllable in any English word – something which is apparently called the ‘fuck test’.

Simply insert the word ‘fucking’ into the word, as if you were using the swear word for emphasis, and the syllable that follows the ‘fucking’ is the stressed syllable.

For example, absolutely -> abso-fucking-lutely. The stressed syllable is the third: i.e. absolutely. It works for every multi-syllable word I’ve found so far.

Which just goes to show that psycholinguists are some of the coolest melonfarmers in the whole of cognitive science.

I am no longer an English teacher, but my guess is that students would love this method to memorize stress patters:


Lolcats and their Flawed Language

May 20, 2007 at 7:11 pm | Posted in Blogging, Culture, English, Language, Learning English, Lolcats | 3 Comments
Tags: , , ,

As a an addition to Lenina’s recent txt spk post, it might be worthwhile to have a (brief) look at the I Can Has Cheezburger blog which has been consistently among the top ten blogs in the past weeks. It works as follows: The owner(s) post a picture of a pet, mainly a cat, and add a bubble to it to indicate the ‘thoughts’ of the pet. The thoughts are offered in flawed English, the flaws supposedly representing the inferiorness of the animal to the human. The humans who visit this site, however, seek to come up with even more faulty language, and they assess each other’s comments too. The trashiest or most infantile comments (or those of members who have earned a standing in the group) get the highest ranking of 5 out of 5 cheeseburgers. Lolcats, according to the group’s language, are photographic representations of cats that make you laugh out loud.

Starten a gang

And while I am struggling to suppress an allergic reaction when reading the comments, the ‘lolcats tagged for you convenience’ do make me chuckle:-)

Wikipedia in Alemannic!

January 23, 2007 at 10:35 am | Posted in Language, Web 2.0, Wikipedia | Leave a comment

AlemannicHail to the wisdom of smart mobs! I ‘ve just come across the Alemannic Wikipedia – Alemannic being a group of German dialects which are spoken in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, parts of France, Germany and Austria. In Austria, specifically, in Vorarlberg, the province that I live in. For people who speak standard German (or let’s say: standard German with a light regiolect and that includes me), it is one of the least comprehensible varities thinkable. As a matter of fact, it seemed completely outlandish to me when I got here, and one of the reasons for that is that a common greeting here is “Heil” – known to the rest of Germans only as part of the Hitler salute. So I guess that it is understandable that such language might put off the ignorant urban intellectual in a first encounter.

But no unified Alemannic language exists, and the articles in the Alemannic Wikipedia seem to have been written by people from all regions. Read the articles about Vorarlberg and the Vorarlbergian language to get an idea of how the people speak here (and why this can be so alienating).

Here is small teaser:

Ma ka säga, dass im untera Rhytal (ab Götzis abwärts gegat da Bodasee) ender Niederallemannisch gredt würd, witter dom (äppa Götzis ufwärts) würds wiedr meh Hochalemannisch, mit gwüssa Eigaarta. So üsserat si all no dr Untrschied zwüschat am Unterland und am Obrland. Historisch gseha isch des o Gränz zwüschat am alta Bistum Chur und am alta Bistum Konschtanz, dia alt Gränz zwüschat am Vorarlbergr Obr-und Unterland. So weachslat “gehabt” vum Breagazerischa “ghet” zum Dorabirarischa “ghia” zum Obrländr “kha”, eppa bis Fraschtatz (Frastanz) und Nenzig (Nenzing) redt ma aso. So hoaßts z’Breagaz “I hob ghet”, z’Rankl (Rankweil) seet ma “I ha kha” (Ich habe gehabt),id’r Mehrzahl “Mir hond kha”, eppa aso hoaßts o uf dr Schwiizer Sita vum Rhytal und im Liachtaschtoa (Liechtenstein). Im Walgau ischas wiadr a kle andrsch. “Ich weiß” würd denn vu “I woaß” zu “I weiß”. “I ha” würd zu “I hon”.

33 lurking around corner

January 12, 2007 at 8:59 am | Posted in Language | Leave a comment

Yesterday I bought a carton of milk that has my birthday as best before date printed on it. Barely three months to go until I complete the double three.

Mein Geburtsdatum

Trivia for you learners of German: A double-digit number with identical digits is called Schnapszahl (schnapps number) – the idea being that all drunks see double.

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.