This is a companion post to last month’s Alcoholic Watergate Hamburgers post. (I just learned that a com-pan-ion is someone with whom you eat bread. So adorable.)

So my friend [ɦɑnɑ] has been playing Jeremina Paxmina for the University of York University Challenge team for the last few months, and while their fate in the tournament is a mystery until July, Hannah’s involvement in British quizzing got me to look into the serious fare offered in the UK. Here’s what I found: Serious British quiz shows are MEAN. They are unforgiving, humorless, exacting, and demanding of minutiae in zero seconds. I checked out University Challenge episodes on Youtube, as well as Only Connect, a Question of Genius, Countdown, Eggheads, and Mastermind.

My favorite of the bunch is Only Connect, which ruthlessly demands teams to find the connection between words with the fewest clues possible. (I made my own Only Connect Wall but I wasn’t able to upload it onto the site.) On the Champions of Champions episode last August, one question revealed the word Marathon, followed by Hamburger, Alcoholic, and finally Watergate. Having recently written about this, I knew the connection when I saw Hamburger.

[and then suddenly…]


March 22, 2012

in best post ever,career,english,greek,IPA,neologism,wordnik,Words & Origins,yiddish

This week in Articulatory and Impressionistic Phonetics, we’re learning about rhotics, otherwise known as ‘r sounds.’ As opposed to fricatives, laterals, or nasals, the class of rhotic sounds do not fit together neatly under a simple definition. They are said in different places in the mouth, with different types of stricture, and with different tongue positions. Ladefoged and Maddieson say there may be phonological, acoustic, or auditory connection, but it doesn’t look like there’s a phonetic one.  All of them are oral continuants with neutral lip posture, and they are most clearly linked through their IPA symbols resembling ‘r’ in some way: [r ɾ ɹ ɺ ɻ ɽ ʀ ʁ]. Rhotics are weird. I’m rhotic and proud.

In the seminar about rhotic sounds, we practiced the rhotic trills, which are associated with Spanish and French, and Richard Ogden mentioned that phoneticians have fun by trying to make the 3 trill sounds of the IPA at the same time, which looks something like this: [ʀ͡r͜ʙ]. The diacritic means that the sounds are spoken simultaneously. On paper, I could make the arch go over all three, but this is the best I can do for the internet. The 3 parts are:

  • [ʀ] uvular trill – French ‘r’
  • [r] alveolar trill –  Spanish rolling ‘r’
  • [ʙ] bilabial trill – pretend to be a motorboat.

I’ve been bursting into simultaneous trill attempts around campus for the last 24 hours, and wondering if anyone had recorded their attempts. I couldn’t find anything on the internet with the same keywords, so I made my own video and put it on YouTube. It helps to build up from back to front. This has to be done quickly, before the air pressure is lost. Every attempt has ended in giggling, and this video is no exception. Enjoy!


March 6, 2012

in french,IPA,lips,phonetics,spanish,University of York,Words & Origins

This can be found elsewhere on QuickMeme.com


February 13, 2012

in #7,2012,elsewhere,IPA,Linguistics jokes,Monday Comic,Webcomic,Words & Origins

Does that title make you as happy as it makes me? Probably not, but let’s see if I can change that.

Linguistics Llama Knows What I’m Saying

Part 1: Ghoti is a satirical spelling of fish [fɪʃ]. It is often attributed to George Bernard Shaw, but he doesn’t take credit for it. Ghoti is used to mock spelling inconsistencies in English and advocate reform. (There’s a clever bunch who even say ghoti should be silent). I don’t deny it, English spelling is very irregular. It’s a Germanic language at heart, but with massive word-borrowing from French and Latin, and PTSD from the GVS (Great Vowel Shift). This is the phonetic thinking behind ghoti:

GH is [f] as in TOUGH
O is [ɪ] as in WOMEN
TI is [ʃ] as in NATION

Obviously, the ‘sh’ in nation needs a larger environment to have its unusual pronunciation, as in ghotion.  Likewise, ‘gh’ in tough needs to be syllable-final, as in roughotion [rʌfɪʃən]. That works, I guess, except for that tricky vowel. That silly vowel that makes people say WOAH-man. [and then suddenly…]

{ 1 comment }

January 24, 2012

in best post ever,career,english,Etymology,history of language,insignificant linguistics mystery,IPA,Words & Origins

This week at the University of York I learned how to do ejectives and implosives in Articulatory and Impressionistic Phonetics class. Yay! Written in IPA, ejectives look like this: [p’, t’, k’] and implosives look like this: [ɓ,ɗ,ɠ]. Watch them now in a tiny video I just did to show off to my mom!

If the above video isn’t working, you can find it on YouTube itself.


January 19, 2012

in Autobiographical,IPA,University of York,Words & Origins


September 5, 2011

in #36,2011,IPA,Linguistics jokes,Monday Comic,phonetics,Webcomic,Words & Origins

A few years ago, I took first year Latin at PSU. I didn’t continue Latin because I got a job, and it turns out I hate declining nouns and adjectives. It is three times as much work. The professor was great, seemingly normal, but with a great unexpected affection for Elvis (pronouced Elwees in Latin). I really liked learning the new vocab and connecting it to modern words I know in English, Spanish and French. I also loved conjugating the verbs and learning the four principle parts like in the verb ‘regere,’ to rule or reign: Rego, Regere, Rexi, Rectum.

[and then suddenly…]


May 15, 2011

in best post ever,career,etymonline,history of language,insignificant linguistics mystery,IPA,latin,morphemes,spanish,wordnik

I have written or presented about this topic at least 3 times in school, and it still amuses the hell out of me. I have distilled it down to 5 words, but I just found a paper that lists the whole 10, and I think it’s worth recording these down while the information still bubbles and frolicks around for me when I talk about it.

1. Fabular

-Spanish is one of the Romance languages which means it comes from Latin. Other Romance languages include French, Italian, Romanian, Catalan, and Portuguese, unfortunately.
-Fabular means ‘to tell a tale,’ which has morphed over the years to become the verb hablar, to speak. There are many words which begin with ‘f’ in Latin that changed to ‘h’ in modern Spanish. Exceptions are words with a diphthong after the ‘f’ like fuente (fountain), fuerza (force), and fuego (fire). [and then suddenly…]


March 21, 2011

in arabic,basque,best list ever,best post ever,diphthong,Etymology,history of language,IPA,izquierda,left-handedness,not basque,old-timey,patronyms,phonological constraints,spanish,Words & Origins,zurda



n. the unfortunate state of being in which one must wait for it to be time to eat cake.
Related terms:
n. the state of being in which Dr. Frankenfurter sees you shiver, waiting for cake. (obsolete)
n. the reasoning that leads one to justify eating cake. i.e. “I had a salad for lunch and I’ve never seen a cake like that before.”


August 9, 2010

in cake,IPA,neologism,new term,Words & Origins