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Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

“Egypt’s most senior antiquities official will visit Britain tomorrow to push on with a campaign to have the Rosetta Stone returned from the British Museum to its native country.

“Speaking in his offices, amid piles of Pharaonic books, museum records and archaeological dig requests, Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said he would not be swayed by the British Museum’s refusal to return the item, which he considers the ‘icon of Egyptian identity’.

“Dr Hawass, who will meet egyptologists in London, has been encouraged in his campaign by his success in securing the return of five ancient fresco fragments from the Louvre in Paris. Dr Hawass is also pursuing the return of the Queen Nefertiti bust from Neues Museum, Berlin, the Dendera Zodiac from the Louvre and a bust of the pyramid builder Ankhaf from the Boston Museum of Fine Art. Dr Hawass, 52, said he has an ‘entire department’ working to uncover evidence of other stolen Egyptian antiquities.

“‘We have evidence, direct evidence, that proves exactly what was stolen. For all of our history our heritage was stolen from us. It is important for Egyptians that it is returned,’ he said.” (cont’d @ TimesOnline)

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OED“Ever wonder how people really talked in the 1800s, or 1500s, or earlier?

“You can stop building the time machine. Such questions are now easier to answer than ever before, with the publication—after 44 years of work—of the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. At almost 4,000 pages and about 800,000 meanings, this mind-boggling reference work is the biggest thesaurus ever and the world’s first historical thesaurus: It takes the enormity of the OED and arranges it thematically and chronologically.” (cont’d @ GOOD)

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CB021034“Slang is like a breeze; it softly comes and goes, as new times bring new buzzwords. Some stick (‘cool’ defiantly endures); some induce cringes when dusted off (‘groovy’ is now in the dustbin of irony). It’s obvious when slang becomes less funny or less meaningful through overuse: ‘Internets,’ for example, has become too widespread to be implicitly derisive of George W. Bush. Slang, in other words, is inevitably ephemeral–but it’s not always incidental. When hip-hop listeners crack the codes of songs en masse, rappers know it’s time to invent anew. The refusal of normative, dominant culture–beginning with the fundamentals of language–is embedded in the form. Baseball vernacular, for its part, isn’t so expressly political, nor is its obscurity as deliberate. Baseball belongs to the same class of folklore as, say, jazz, hamburgers and even hip-hop–but to employ Ken Burnsian hyperbole about the significance of its wordplay is a tough sell. It is what it is. As [Paul Dickson, author of The Dickson Baseball Dictionary] writes, it’s ‘low-key and light’–slang for its own sake. In other words, the richness of baseball’s old, weird vernacular is pure, pointless creativity. . . .

“Baseball slang is an avalanche of skewed logic. The commonest words take on very precise meanings. ‘Stuff’ refers quite specifically to the totality of a pitcher’s arsenal: his array of pitches and the velocity and movement with which he throws them. A pitcher can easily have good stuff but not succeed if his ‘command’–the ability to locate pitches accurately–is erratic. Terms associated with dirt and filth are highly complimentary. A hitter respectfully calls an excellent pitcher ‘filthy,’ a term that evolved out of common adjectives from a decade ago: ‘nasty’ and ‘dirty.’ ‘Dirtbags’ and ‘dirt dogs’ are consummate hustlers, guys with perpetually soiled uniforms and caps and batting helmets stained with sweat, tobacco juice and pine tar. Naturally, dirtbags and dirt dogs play ‘dirtball.’ A player who is ‘pretty’ is the opposite of a dirtbag, as is a ‘muffin.’ Food references are as prevalent as the television announcers who longingly mention the hallowed postgame buffet in the players’ clubhouse. The ball itself can be an egg, apricot, apple or stitched potato. ‘Jelly beans’ are rookies and inexperienced kids, the type a veteran might relentlessly call bush for a year before acknowledging him properly. Reaching base for your team’s big hitters is ‘setting the table.’ ‘Fat’ pitches are hittable ones, almost exclusively delectable treats, my favorite being ‘ham-and-cheese.'” (more @ The Nation)

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baseball-lingoWhere would pols, pundits and morose mucky-mucks be without the language of baseball?

“Here’s the pitch: Despite distractions, you have to keep your eye on the ball. You have to be aware of something unexpected coming out of left field, and only if your ad-libbed response is not off base will your home team go to bat for you. You can’t be born on third base and think you hit a triple. Last year, candidate Obama took the sting out of criticism by the scribes for playing ball with a Chicago fixer by admitting, right off the bat, that his property purchase was boneheaded. Palin showed she had something on the ball, considered 2008 a warm-up in the bullpen and took a rain check for 2012, when she hopes to knock the ball out of the park, unless she gets thrown a curve by the rise of Romney, now in the catbird’s seat.” (more @ NY Times)

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pizzatheactionPuns are the feeblest species of humor because they are ephemeral: whatever comic force they possess never outlasts the split second it takes to resolve the semantic confusion. Most resemble mathematical formulas: clever, perhaps, but hardly occasion for knee-slapping. The worst smack of tawdriness, even indecency, which is why puns, like off-color jokes, are often followed by apologies. Odds are that a restaurant with a punning name — Snacks Fifth Avenue, General Custard’s Last Stand — hasn’t acquired its first Michelin star.” (more @ NY Times)

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“Short, lucid writing is needed in these uncertain times, according to the Booker prize-winning Nigerian author Ben Okri, who is releasing a new poem line by line on Twitter. . . .

“‘I sing a new freedom,’ Okri Twittered yesterday, following it up today with the second line of the poem, ‘Freedom with discipline’, today. The poem was written to mark the release of Okri’s new book, Tales of Freedom, in April. The book brings together short stories and poetry in what Okri’s publisher described as ‘a fascinating new form, using writing and image pared down to their essentials, where haiku and story meet’. The entire poem will be posted on Okri’s Facebook and MySpace pages once it is completed.” (more @ The Guardian)

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bookerprize“The Man Booker International Prize was announced in June 2004 and recognises one writer for his or her achievement in fiction. Worth £60,000 to the winner, the prize is awarded once every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language. In addition, there is a separate prize for translation and, if applicable, the winner can choose a translator of his or her work into English to receive a prize of £15,000. . . .

“The Man Booker International Prize differs from the annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction in that it highlights one writer’s continued creativity, development and overall contribution to fiction on the world stage.  Both prizes strive to recognise and reward the finest fiction.”

The 14 authors on the 2009 contenders list are:

Previous winners of the prize are Ismail Kadare of Albania and Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. (more @ Man Booker Prizes)

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