Showing posts from August, 2007

You Can Say Anything With Words

Of all the pithy sayings I've ever devised, the following is surely among my favorites: You can say anything with words. If one keeps in mind what I wrote a few days ago about original ideas, one might wonder whether I was the first to formulate this sentence. I'm quite certain the answer is no. A quick Google search shows that whether I was the first or not, I'm surely not the only, although the sentence does appear surprisingly infrequently in the Google database. I think the statement is true, although it may sometimes be difficult to find the appropriate words, and it may (on rare occasions) be necessary to invent new words to achieve the objective. An interesting side-effect of this ability to say anything with words is that it's possible to say things that make no sense. Even more exciting: It's extraordinarily easy to say things that nobody has ever said before. This, despite many people's claims that "there's nothing new under the sun" or

Hanging On For Dear Life (A New Photograph)

I came home the other day and the sun was setting and there was a very bizarre light out there. I decided to wander out to the flower garden that's in our side yard. I don't go out there very often, which means that when I do go out there, I'm almost always pleasantly surprised by what I find. All summer long, something is blooming, and I never know what it will be. There were some flowers out there this time that were obviously past their prime, and I just found this shot to be irresistible: That last petal was just holding on for dear life. It was this incredibly vivid color, contrasting with this bizarre hub which used to contain so very many petals and had become so very barren. I think it's lovely. Let me know what you think of it.

Having Original Ideas (even when other people had them first)

I'm always disturbed by people claiming that Columbus did not "discover" America, on the grounds that people were already here. (There are other grounds on which to argue with the Columbus discovery myth, like (a) where he landed and (b) that there seems no good reason to call him Columbus. (Cristóbal Colón seems more likely the guy's name.)) Discovery does not require being the first to discover something. All it requires is finding something when you weren't already certain it was there. Although, even that requirement is a little sketchy. I think you can "discover" the truth, even though you were already aware of its existence. Anyway, I've gone off on a tangent even before I've started with the topic of this post. Today, I thought I'd mention some original thoughts I've had. They were original thoughts, because as far as I knew, nobody had previously had them. I've since discovered that I was not the first person to have them, how

Meet the Donkephant! New T-Shirt Design

Well, after many months, I've finally put a new design on my on-line store . If you like the design, and want it on a shirt (or even if you don't especially like the design but want to show that you're a free thinker), you're invited to go there and order. As always, comments are welcome.

Some Insect Photography

Today I spent a couple of hours in my kayak on Willard Pond in Antrim, NH. This was my second visit to this particular pond. It's not very large, but there's an island towards the east end. To the east of the island, there's a field (for lack of a better term) of these aquatic purple flowers. Being no botanist, I don't know what kind of flower they are. What I do know is that the bumblebees seem to love them. So there I sat, surrounded by hundreds or thousands of bumblebees (none of which made any effort to cause me any harm--way too busy going about their pollination activities), probably a few dozen dragonflies, a pretty good number of damselflies and a few lovely butterflies. I had brought my camera with my longest lens, which I set to Macro mode and fired off a bunch of shots. I think I got a few good ones, some of which I'll share here. I hope you enjoy! I also got to see a couple of fish jumping out of the water. If I had to guess, I'd probably guess perch

Another Swig from the Linguistic Trough, and Another Poll

I also happened to invite the Linguistic Mystic to have a look at my July 31 post. He did so and was kind enough to give me a nice credit as the inspiration for his latest post , an interesting discussion of the mysteries of whether "tomorrow" begins at midnight or at wakey-time. Thanks, Linguistic Mystic. Today's the third in my little series of linguistic discussions, again inspired by newscasters: Why would you say "an historic event"? I believe Peter Jennings used to do this. I always considered Peter Jennings to be the perfect exemplar of accent-free American English, despite his Canadian origins (Eh?). (Of course, it's all accents, really...and what I think of as "accent-free" is just as much an accent as is Apu-speak from The Simpsons . At the very least, however, Jennings didn't drop his R's or his H's and there was no chance of confusing the white race with the white rice.) So why Jennings (and others who don't drop their

Linguistic Discussions

This morning, I invited most of the authors of the Language Log blog to take a look at my last blog entry. (Most, not all, only because there were a few whose e-mail addresses I was unable to locate.) Anyway, what has ensued is a fairly fascinating discussion that's been carried on via an e-mail thread rather than as comments to my blog. Oh well. At least they all included me in the e-mails, which have been most edifying. (They're a bunch of professional linguists, and I certainly am not.) So here's the gist of what seems to be the consensus: Both usages are in common parlance. This does cause confusion when people of one camp converse with people of the other camp (especially when scheduling, as the "next Wednesday" issue is just as much a problem as is the "last Wednesday" issue). The rift does not seem to be a recent development. This has been previously studied from a linguistic perspective. Such divergent dialectical usages are probably more common