Tag Languages

Citation Needed

wikipedia

This year marks the tenth birthday of Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia that anyone (with a computer, an Internet connection, and nothing better to do) can edit. Quite often I fit those categories to a T, but the sad truth is that in my years of wikiresearching, wikiquoting, and wikiforwarding article links to unsuspecting friends, I have only one edit to my name (or rather, my IP address). It’s not that I haven’t found mistakes, or inconsistencies, or editorial potholes: rather, it’s that those are part of what I’ve come to love Wikipedia—all ten years and 3.5 million entries of it—for.

The joys and perils of overlapping reading

cc Shutterhacks/flickr

There are many reasons why I was never able to finish reading Crime and Punishment—the type was a bit on the small side, the names and the chapters were a little too long, the plot reminded me of a bad experience I had in high school—but, in hindsight, I’d say the blame falls heaviest at the feet of two men. I am speaking, of course, of Gandhi and Hitler.

Allow me to explain.

Subtleties

Still from Fellini’s (1963). Not the movie I’ve been talking about, but you get the idea.

One Friday night in the early 1990s, my family rented an old black-and-white foreign film for our weekend’s entertainment. I don’t recall the movie’s title, let alone what any of us thought of it when we viewed it, but I remember very clearly a bit of promotional copy on the front of the VHS cassette’s cardboard slipcase, in the space usually reserved for Siskel and Ebert’s thumbs: NOW WITH YELLOW SUBTITLES!

A graphical analysis of national anthem lyrics

With attention to religious expression, Olympic performance,
and general bloodthirstiness

One of my 2010 New Year’s resolutions was simple: I wanted to learn the words to the French national anthem. My reasons for memorizing “La Marseillaise” were twofold: first, I’d always wanted to sing along with that climactic scene in Casablanca where Bogart, Bergman, and the whole gang at Rick’s Café Américain join together to drown out an annoying chorus of Nazi officers. And second, for the past few years I’ve undertaken an unsuccessful effort to teach myself the language of Voltaire and Hulot, largely by watching Le 20 Heures, the French national broadcaster’s nightly newscast.

You had me at ‘hello’

Telephone Booths

image cc Richard Stowey/flickr

A few days ago I followed a link to Omniglot, a treasure-trove of comparative linguistics for laymen and the lovers of global alphabets, of which I am both. The page I landed on was titled Translations of Hello in many languages and featured a giant three-column table offering standard greetings in 182 languages, scrolling from goeie dag (Afrikaans) all the way to sanibonani (Zulu). Perusing this chart brought two questions to my mind. First, why do I have a link to Kanye West’s blog on my browser’s toolbar, but not one for Omniglot? And second, wait, a three-column chart? For along with “Language” and “Hello” there was the distinct-yet-apparently-essential column labelled “Hello (on phone).”