No matter what you actually do as a researcher, you will inevitably be interviewed in a garden.
It’s no secret that I love running this website with Georgia. While I will happily spend all day discussing the finer points of usage of Tibeto-Burman reported speech particles with you if you’re interested, I also like getting to talk about a wide range of topics with a wide cross-section of people. Sharing what happens in academic linguistic research with an audience who may never have otherwise engaged with the topic is something I love to do, which is why I’ll often agree to media interview requests (that and I used to work on the fringes of community media, so I respect people who take on interesting stories).
One thing I’ve noticed is that a disproportionate number media requests that involve video interviews or photos to accompany articles end up with me in a garden. I think there are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that I don’t have an impressively book-lined office, nor a science-y science lab. Secondly, I work at a university with very nice gardens. So the garden adds a bit of colour.
I’m not the only person who is herded outside for media opportunities, or profile pictures for university websites. In recognition of this trend, I’ve created an Academics in Gardens Tumblr. If you, or a researcher you know, have found yourself in such a situation feel free to submit!
From the perspective of journalists and photographers I understand the appeal, and I love any excuse to be out in the sun and fresh air. Beyond the practicalities though, it gives the impression that, while we may not live in ivory towers, we dwell amongst the ivy and tended gardens. Very little of my day to day working life in Australia is spent lounging on the lawn, yet it’s where I seem to often end up for interviews.
I’ve been getting lots of giggles our of the Linguistics Sample Sentences Tumblr - Sometimes linguists makes sentences deliberately silly to entertain themselves, other times it’s a line of a story taken out of context, and sometimes it’s just a cultural practice that can translate oddly.
I’ve written about the strangeness of linguistic examples here, and Amos at Consonant Aspirations talks about the problem of violence in example sentences.
Part of my week off in Malaysia was spent relaxing on the Island of Penang. Although the Island is in Malaysia, Penang curry is generally considered to be a Thai dish. I’m not sure if the curry is unrelated to the state, or from a time of different borders, but I found a good vegetarian version out of my general fondness for eponymous travel.
Penang involved some rest time at the beaches of Batu Ferringhi. Andrew was most delighted by this choice of location, but mostly because it meant that he could made references to the Ferengi - a humanoid race from Star Trek (of course, there are morewikipages on the fictional Ferengi than the real beach). I thought he was just being silly at first - but then I read a travel brochure that said that ‘Batu Ferringhi can be translated as ‘Foreigner’s Rock”, which got me thinking. This is apparently a loanword from Persian, or more recently Hindi, and is also found in Thai and Laotian. I don’t know enough about Persian to know if this is absolutely certain, but I do know Malaysian, like Indonesian and many languages of the area, has a rich tradition of loanwords that demonstrates their rich trading history, so it seems very plausible.
I was even less certain about the likelihood that a Star Trek race would have an Earthy etymology - but it appears that the ST writers take their inspiration from many places, and fans spend a lot of time discussing these references and illusions. It would appear to be very likely that the Ferengi also have their origins in Persian. Andrew’s jokes weren’t actually that far off the mark!
Somehow this escaped our notice in 2011 - but there was an Australian TV show called Go Lingo targeted at children aged 10-12. It was produced by ABC and NITV, and it doesn’t look like it ever got a green light for more episodes.
There have been lots of language-based children’s TV shows, but what made this one so excellent is that every episode featured a different Australian Aboriginal language - including a short video about the location and history of the people, and some basic vocabulary - with participants tested at the end.
In the clip from YouTube above, host Alannah Ahmat shows participants a video about Mandandanji country and language. I knew nothing about Mandandanji, so I learnt something too. I would have been nice to know what the state of Mandandanji is today - but any show that introduces younger Australians to the linguistic wealth of this country is great.
If you’re in Melbourne next weekend The Big Issue is holding a Barefoot Bowls afternoon on Sunday March 2nd to raise money for the fabulous work that they do.
I’ll be there as a team captain - I can’t promise much in the way of bowling prowess, but as compensation I’ll be brushing up on my etymological facts about words relating to bowling. Fact: ‘bowls’ as a word is unrelated to the ‘bowl’ you eat out of - but the spelling merged some time in the 17th Century.
Not only will there be bowling, and my incredible nerdiness, but also great live music from the like including Clare Bowditch and Tim Rogers.
Details and tickets (only $25 if you book now) here. Do come and say hello!
Flying to Nepal with Malaysia Airlines allowed me to take a week off in Malaysia on my way home, which was great. Malaysia Airlines were also great because their inflight video is in Bahasa Malay, and also has a Sign Language Interpreter panel. Someone else has filmed it at put it on YouTube, so I didn’t have to. I’m guessing it’s Malaysian Sign Language, which is based on American Sign Language.
I spent a really great week up in the hills of the Ramechhap district. Although it may look at though I spend most of my time taking photos of cute things and mountains, the trip was to make a collection of recordings of traditional songs and stories with the Kagate speakers who live there.
I spent a lot of time talking to people about what they wanted to record, and about their language and lives. This meant also consuming a lot of potatos and buffalo milk. I’ll hopefully have some recordings to share with you soon!
1st ever recorded usage of the word “fucking”, preserved in a grumpy margin note to a manuscript from the year 1528, in the tower of my college. Amazing.
We love a chance to examine the history of swear words here at Superlinguo. There are some notes on the etymology of “fuck” here, where it’s posited that its first known use as a verb meaning to have sexual intercourse is in “Flen flyys,” an anonymous poem written around 1475, though in that poem the word was disguised in the text by a code and was an English-Latin hybrid word, fuccant.
Either way, it’s interesting to note the persistence of this phrase into current-day Australian political discussion, eh?