Weird Universe


English for Dirty Houses

I'm never inviting this woman to my house again!
Posted By: Paul | Date: Mon Apr 07, 2014 | Comments (5)
Category: Domestic, Education, Languages

Fox in Socks Audio

From a 1966 vinyl record, featuring the voice of Robby the Robot.
Posted By: Paul | Date: Thu Feb 06, 2014 | Comments (3)
Category: Anthropomorphism, Languages, Pop Art, Surrealism, Books, 1960's

The Backwards Multilingual Singing Career of Jeanette

Because the USA market for music is so huge, singers from other countries are always trying to break in, abandoning their native languages for English.

Maurice Chevalier. Charles Aznavour. Julio Iglesias. Shakira. The list goes on and on.

What's stranger is someone who abandons a career singing in native English to become a star abroad.

Such was the case of Jeanette.

Born in the UK and raised in America, she tried to be a folkie.

But failing that, she moved to Europe and became a great success, singing mostly in Spanish.

Of course, looking like a beautiful flower child didn't hurt!
Posted By: Paul | Date: Sun Sep 22, 2013 | Comments (10)
Category: Languages, Music, Bohemians, Beatniks, Hippies and Slackers, 1960's, 1970's, Europe, North America

Kou Kou

こうこう | koukou from takashi ohashi on Vimeo.

Here is something akin to fireworks for the 4th.

"KOU KOU is a visual work based on an abstract animation synchronized with a song comprising the unique syllabic sounds of the Japanese language, without actually using any full words."
Posted By: Paul | Date: Thu Jul 04, 2013 | Comments (1)
Category: Beauty, Ugliness and Other Aesthetic Issues, Languages, Video, Avant Garde, Asia

Prison Sign Language, 1941

Back in the 1940s, talking wasn't allowed in the dining room of the Iowa State Penitentiary at Fort Madison. So the convicts developed a primitive sign language to communicate what food they wanted:
  • Upheld hand: more bread, please
  • Upraised fist: more potatoes
  • Upheld knife, fork and spoon: more stew
  • Washing motion with the hand: water
  • Thumb up and index finger straight out: coffee or tea
  • Open and close the hand as if milking a cow: milk, please!
  • Hand flat and passed back and forth across the plate: gravy
  • Fork held up: meat
  • Thumb thrust through the fingers: vinegar
  • Two fingers thrust out: salt and pepper
  • If the person at the end of the table beats the table with his spoon: dessert is on the way
[Milwaukee Sentinel — Nov 16, 1941]
Posted By: Alex | Date: Sun Apr 14, 2013 | Comments (6)
Category: Languages, Prisons, 1940's


Honorificabilitudinitatibus, in Latin, means "the state of being able to achieve honours," but it's also an English word and is unusual for a number of reasons. First, according to wikipedia it's "the longest word in the English language featuring alternating consonants and vowels."

Second, it's used exactly once by Shakespeare, in Love's Labour's Lost:

O, they have lived long on the alms-basket of words. I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word; for thou art not long by the head as honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou art easier swallowed than a flap-dragon.

But this single use is considered highly significant by those who believe Francis Bacon wrote all of Shakespeare's works, since honorificabilitudinitatibus happens to be an anagram for "hi ludi, F. Baconis nati, tuiti orbi," which in Latin means "these plays, F. Bacon's offspring, are preserved for the world."

Watch the video below if you need help pronouncing it.

Posted By: Alex | Date: Sun Dec 30, 2012 | Comments (1)
Category: Languages

Korean-speaking Elephant

Koshik the elephant has taught himself to imitate the words of his Korean trainers. He can say five words: "annyong" ("hello"), "anja" ("sit down"), "aniya" ("no"), "nuo" ("lie down"), and "choah" ("good"). He does this by sticking his trunk in his mouth. [eurekalert]

My parents had a welsh terrier who would say "Out" whenever he wanted to go out. Though the way he said it was more like "Oooouuuuuuuttttttt." He would only make the sound when he wanted to go out, and if you said the word 'out' he would go nuts, because he knew what it meant.

Posted By: Alex | Date: Tue Nov 06, 2012 | Comments (3)
Category: Animals, Languages

In the future, we’ll all be speaking Super Cockney

Almost 87 years have passed since this professor made his prediction. Is there any chance it might still come true?
From the St. Petersburg Evening Independent, Nov. 25, 1924.

Posted By: Alex | Date: Sat May 26, 2012 | Comments (3)
Category: Futurism, Languages

Esperanto Armageddon

In a Mad Max future, Esperanto will save the day! Huh?
Posted By: Paul | Date: Sun May 13, 2012 | Comments (5)
Category: Languages, Movies, Science Fiction

Nice Universe

Craig Carver, in A History of English in its Own Words, reveals that the word 'nice' once meant something very close to 'weird':

Its early history covers such disapproving and derisive senses as 'stupid,' 'lascivious,' slothful,' and 'unmanly,' all now obsolete. Its earliest sense, 'foolish,' 'stupid,' 'senseless,' appears in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries ('He made the lady so mad and so nyce that sche whorshipped hym as the grettest prophete of God Almighty,' 1387, John de Trevisa, trans. of Higden's Polychronicon), and is from Old French nice (silly), from Latin nescius (ignorant), literally 'not to know,' a compound of ne (not) and scire (to know).

From there it is difficult to trace the convolutions of its senses, the next apparently being 'wanton,' 'lewd' ('These are complements, these are humours, these betraie nice wenches that would be betraied without these,' 1588 Shakespeare, Love's Labour's Lost), followed by 'strange,' 'rare,' 'uncommon' ('For there be straunge wonderous workes, dyverse maner of nyce beestes and whall fishes,' 1535, Coverdale Bible) and 'slothful,' 'lazy.'

So in Shakespeare's time, Weird Universe might have been called Nice Universe, or Nyce Universe.

'Weird,' on the other hand, (according to Carver) originally meant 'fate' or 'destiny.' In this form, the word was used as early as the 8th century. In the plural, the Wyrdes, it signified the three female goddesses, the Fates -- which is how Shakespeare used it in Macbeth to characterize the three witches, the Weird Sisters.

It was only in the early 19th century that the Romantic poet Shelley first used the word 'weird' in its modern sense to indicate 'uncanny,' 'strange,' or 'unusual.' In his 1816 poem Alastor, or The Spirit of Solitude he writes: "In lone and silent hours, / When night makes a weird sound of its own stillness."

And that's today's etymology lesson!
Posted By: Alex | Date: Mon Jan 09, 2012 | Comments (3)
Category: Languages
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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2008 by the author of the post, either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.