Tag Archives: Language

1895: A-ka-u-ku

In 1895, King Njoya of the Bamum, an ethnic group from what is now western Cameroon, invented an alphabet to record the history of his people. Njoya, who traced his linaege back 16 or 17 generations of kings, was insipred … Continue reading

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1964: Oh, My Mangled Head!

In his book Alice in Many Tongues (1964), Warren Weaver spends the last chapter using a curious method to evaluate various translations of Alice in Wonderland. He takes the same passage from each translation—a portion of the Mad Tea-Party—and asks … Continue reading

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12th Century: The Unknown Language

Saint Hildegard, a 12th century German Benedictine abbess, was a mystic, composer, and philosopher who wrote works on topics as diverse as theology, botany, and medicine. She began experiencing visions at the age of three, ultimately chronicling a lifetime of … Continue reading

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1910: Definition

Eervar; the last pig in a litter. This bonnive [sucking-pig] being usually very small and hard to keep alive is often given to one of the children for a pet; and it is reared in great comfort in a warm … Continue reading

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1997: Translation / Transformation

In a 1997 essay on translation, the writer Harry Mathews cites Marcel Benabou’s version of Keats’s “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”: Ah, singe débotté, / Hisse un jouet fort et vert! It’s not quite a translation: the … Continue reading

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1635: A Kind of Speech They Could Not Understand

In 1635 at Brampton near Gainsborough an Ash Tree shook both in the Body and Boughs, and there proceeded from thence Sighs and Groans, like those of a Man troubled in his Sleep, as if he felt some sensible Torments. … Continue reading

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1874: Lost Beauties

A few entries from Charles Mackay’s Lost Beauties of the English Language: An Appeal to Authors, Poets, Clergymen and Public Speakers (1874): Airt, the quarter from which the wind blows. “Helter skelter from a’ airts, In swarms the country drives.” … Continue reading

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