October 19, 2014
"I obeyed your command and went to Dunhuang. Surely the gods were angry with me on the day when I did your bidding! I would rather be a dog’s or pig’s wife than yours!"

— Miwnay, Sogdian woman in Dunhuang, wife of Nanai Dhat, c. 313 CE. She was dependent on a Zoroastrian priest for support after Nanai abandoned her and saddled her with his debts, and wrote two bitter letters to her husband.

October 10, 2014
"He’s so dumb he counts his fingers on his fingers."

— Overheard on the street.

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Filed under: quotes 
September 26, 2014

Santa Maria by PerKelt. Some fine recorder work!

September 20, 2014

Little cutie Luca, two years old, sings the blues. (Via Language Log.)

The standard blues has 12 bars grouped 4, 4, and 4, which important harmonic changes at the beginning of each 4-bar group. In traditional blues the vocal lines not only are cut to those 4-bar phrases, but they may take a call and response pattern: 2 bars call, 2 bars response (& the response may be purely instrumental). The kid is clearly aware of all that, but doesn’t quite follow it. Either he doesn’t quite have it, or he’s a young master and is playing around with the form. (Bill Benzon)

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Filed under: music blues 
September 12, 2014
"I was taking my wife to Brighton. This is bad form, I know. You should take someone else’s wife to Brighton."

— Andrew Martin, Belles and Whistles.

September 11, 2014
"Objecting to the phrase “As dull as ditchwater”, GK Chesterton insisted in one of his essays that, “Naturalists with microscopes have told me that it teems with quiet fun.”"

— Nicholas Tucker, reviewing a book, Good Ideas by Michael Rosen, in the Independent.

September 10, 2014

Perhaps it’s because of spellcheck or the exigencies of global business English, perhaps it’s because we read on the bus rather than in the armchair, perhaps it’s because IQs are falling, but this is an age that misunderstands Hemingway’s terseness as simplicity and one in which James Patterson is the world’s best-selling novelist: “Dressed now in a black leather jacket, black jeans, black polo shirt, and black harness boots, Marcus Sunday hurried…”

Come on, James. Why not make that jacket obsidian, the jeans melanoid, that shirt atramentous, those boots stygian? Here’s to Will.


— James Kidd, ‘How to read Will Self’, The Independent.

September 9, 2014
"He re-experiences this metempsychosis now: the hydrocephalic brow of his foetal self, its vestigial limbs, its premature thumb-suck and the neon-blue delta of arteries worming over its fontanelle"

— Sesquipedalian eructation by Will Self, author.

September 9, 2014
"Tom rolled his lovely eyes back in their soft, scented sockets as if picturing the psychiatrist’s matitudinal routine."

— Sesquipedalian eructation from Will Self, author.

September 8, 2014
What Germany is called in various European languages

What Germany is called in various European languages

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Filed under: language germany map 
August 25, 2014

Khalil Ullah (Hindustani Muslim) to Ganiullah (Muttra District, UP)

2nd Lancers, France
3rd March 1918

I am sending you a picture of an American lady aviator, I want you to study it and see what the women of Europe and America are doing. I want you to contrast them with our womenfolk, and to think what sort of education they can give to our children when they themselves are lacking in knowledge and training. I am hopeful that, if you pay careful attention to what I have written, you will be able to effect some improvement. The advancement of India lies in the hands of the women; until they act, India can never awake from her hare’s dream. Forgive me if I have spoken too strongly.

- See more at: http://www.caravanmagazine.in/vantage/what-indian-soldiers-first-world-war-wrote-home-about#sthash.OSeJnQJg.dpuf


Indian Voices of the Great War: Soldiers’ Letters, 1914-1918, edited by David Omissi.

August 24, 2014
"Readers of this interview … will find that Mrs. Parker had only contempt for the eager reception accorded her wit.” “Why, it got so bad,” she had said bitterly, “that they began to laugh before I opened my mouth."

Dorothy Parker’s Art of Fiction interview, from 1956, in the Paris Review.

August 23, 2014
"If the rich could hire others to die for them, we, the poor, would all make a nice living"

— Jewish proverb

August 22, 2014

Haruspicy, by Jed McGowan, in Appendix.

August 21, 2014
"I’d like to start with the chimney jokes – I’ve got a stack of them. The first one is on the house."

— Tim Vine.

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Filed under: humour puns tim vine 
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