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Weird Languages

24 Aug

South Korean students always complained that English grammar and vocabulary is riddled with annoying inconsistencies. it’s not freakishly weird, but still comes in at #33 (via The Daily Dish).

A recent study by a language-processing company called Idibon tried to establish not which languages are “hard”, but which are “weird”. It used a resource called the World Atlas of Linguistic Structures (WALS). WALS indexes hundreds of languages across hundreds of different features (from whether verbs precede objects to whether the language uses click-sounds as consonants). The Idibon study tried to find which languages use the greatest number of unusual features—ie, those features shared with few other languages. But for tricky methodological reasons, the study had to limit itself 21 features. The languages that have the least “normal” values of these 21 features are the “weirdest”.

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Another Revolt Against Fate Is Not Korean

24 Aug

duck faceJust when I thought I had left South Korea, it pulls me back in! Rob Beschizza (incorrectly, it seems) thinks he’s identified a new fad – Joker face, or duck face. Westerners are responsible for this bizarre revolt against genetics and – life.

The trend of Duck Face photos can be attributed to the emergence of social networking profiles, most notably with the launch of MySpace in 2003 and its rise to mainstream popularity in July 2005. Myspace users could create profiles including biographical information and photographs of themselves, many of which exhibited the facial expression that eventually became known as the “duck face.” On May 13th, 2006, the first Urban Dictionary[2] definition for “myspace face” was submitted by user Crohnser, which described the female version of the expression as a combination of pouty eyes and pursed lips (shown below). On September 13th, an Urban Dictionary[3] definition for “duck face” was submitted by user Mair Mair, which defined the mannerism as a two-lipped pout.

What seems to have changed from 2003 is that the intent fuelling the procedure has evolved from flirtation to mood. The original emphasis on poutiness almost sounds ironic, but trying to look happy is depressing. At the risk of sounding morose, being able to read on a person’s face, that he/she is sad is useful. If no one can tell if one is having a bad day, how would anyone know when to intervene? Reading faces is a very important skill for humans.

But, it’s clear that Americans, not Koreans, started this bad practice.

Thank You, Can I Have Another?

16 Mar

huckster-marketing-blogI got hoaxed the other day. Thank you, Alun Hill. Like P.T. Barnum, who “…saw nothing wrong in entertainers or vendors using hype (or “humbug,” as he termed it) in promotional material, as long as the public was getting value for money.”, Hill’s humor encourages us to be humble and not go looking after experts. Journalists are not morons; we are all just credulous.

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