November 06, 2009

Allahu Akbar

So, this Allahu Akbar (or Allahu Akhbar sometimes) phrase: who says it, when where and why?

The short answer is that it's the Arab phrase for "God is the Greatest". It's said a number of times in Muslim nations. It can simply be an expression of joy, a part of prayers or an expression of faith. In fact, as this article shows, Allahu Akbar can even save your life:

Allahu Akbar can also be used as a fast and colloquial manner of converting to Islam. The simple repetition of the phrase three times, "Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar" is taken by most Islamic jurists as being sufficient expression of the core Islamic beliefs that those who say it are now Muslim. Traditionally (and perhaps anecdotally) those who say this either in battle or afterwards when captured will be deemed to have converted, become part of the Ummah (the Islamic community) and thus no longer be considered as enemies.

November 6, 2009 in Language | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 22, 2008

Typo eradication advancement league

It sounds as if some people have been reading a little too much Lynne Truss. There's now the typo eradication advancement league (TEAL) whicg goes around correcting public signs which have grammatical or spelling mistakes on them.

It's and its, were and we're, that sort of well as the ghastly grocer's (or grocers' perhaps?) apostrophe. You know, people who write "we have tomato's" and so on.

There's a couple of other names possible formembers of the typo eradication advancement leagues as well: sad, sad people or grammar nazis.

More about them here:

It's a case of what Dave Chappelle would call "keeping it real gone wrong." In their zeal to rid the world of typos, a pair of asshats defaced a 60-year-old sign painted by architect Mary Colter.

Jeff Michael Deck of Somerville, and Benjamin Douglas Herson, of Virginia Beach, Va., members of the Typo Eradication Advancement League, or TEAL, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court of defacing the irreplaceable Grand Canyon sign, which had been a registered National Historic Landmark.

That is going a tad too far in one's zeal:

Cops say that Benjamin Douglas Herson of Virginia Beach and Jeff Michael Deck of Somerville, Massachusetts, took a trip around the world removing typographical errors from public signs.

Authorities found out that Herson and Deck altered the park's sign through the website Typo Eradication Advancement League.

Each man pleaded guilty in federal court in Flagstaff, Arizona, to conspiracy to vandalize government property. In addition to the ban, they must spend a year on probation and pay restitution.

Yup, way too far.

August 22, 2008 in Language | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 12, 2007


I'm really not sure about this:

First came Franglais. Then there was Spanglish. Now start getting used to Runglish, the English-laced argot of "kool" young Russians that has traditionalists weeping into their borscht.

To the horror of their parents, Russia's 'Koka-Kola' generation has developed a vocabulary that has more to do with MTV than Pushkin.

By mobile phone text message or on the internet, young Russian men invite their "friendessi" (female friends) for a "drrink" at the "Pab". And if you don't understand what they are talking about, you are clearly a "loozer".

The small amount of Russian that I actually did end up speaking convinced me that they'd drag in a word from any and every language at the drop of a hat. Russian has an absolutely huge vocabulary (it's said that to read Pushkin you need a vocab three or four times larger than the one you need to read Shakepeare) and there are often several words meaning much the same thing but with fine gradations of meaning. There's a word for jam (which I can't remember) and then one for good jam: confitura I think (from the French confiture) and then there's one for mushrooms and another for fine ones (from champignons). I know, many languages do this, but Russian, at least to my untutored ear, seems to do it more than most.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Anglicism spread rapidly - in part because there was a dearth of vocabulary to describe the technicalities of market capitalism....

Now that does ring true. I was only able to mangle my way through business Russian because of it.

September 12, 2007 in Language | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 02, 2007

When Languages Collide

We're all familiar with the old phrase, knock me down with a feather, or blow me down?

Some of us will also be familiar with the more American "blow me"?

A little odd of a British newspaper to use the Americanism, don't you think?

Blow me - wind farms don't work

September 2, 2007 in Language | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 28, 2007

CiF Comment of the Day

A little arch perhaps but fun all the same:

Things are a bit odd for "milk", as the verb in ancient Gk and Lat has a "melg" / "mulg" element, clearly connected with the modern English "milk", but the noun in Anc Gk is "galact-" (whence "galaxy") and the Lat seems to be from the second bit of that - "lact-". Readers will, of course, be able to check the details of this in their copies of Charles Darling Buck's Dictionary of Selected Synonyms in the Principal Indo-European Languages. The info about milk is in sections 5.86-7.

Followed by:

Surely the existence of proto Indo European is almost certain. Do you believe in Colin Renfrew's 'Anatolian hypothesis' re the origin of proto-IE, or the more standard hypotheses identifying this as one of the steppe kurgan cultures?

What is this, the TLS now?

August 28, 2007 in Language | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 14, 2007

Tired and Emotional

As  we all know, language changes over time. It appears that the honourable phrase, "tired and emotional" has been replaced:

Normal service will be resumed, the BBC has promised, after Radio 2 listeners raised concerns over another baffling early-morning performance by Sarah Kennedy.

The broadcaster mispronounced words and let sentences tail off in a rambling show that prompted a number of listeners to voice fears for her health on the station’s website.

Kennedy, 57, referred to Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a “pink polka blot” dress and described the victim in the Phil Spector murder trial as having a “gunshot to her month”. She offered to send some “panties” to soldiers in Afghanistan and also appeared to have difficulty reading the newspaper review.

After garbling one phrase, the former Game for a Laugh host explained: “I’m sorry, I have got a bit of a breathing problem today but I will get that sorted out by going to see the docs.” The BBC blamed Kennedy’s difficulties on a sore throat and said that she hoped to return to the airwaves this morning.

Useful to know, don't you think? 'Tis a little odd that it should make its appearance now though: surely, now that you can't smoke in a pub, that couldn't be the cause of breathing problems, could it? Or a sore throat?

August 14, 2007 in Language | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 08, 2007

New Words

From here:

Testiculating: waving your hands around and talking bollocks.

Seagulling: flying in, crapping everywhere while squawking then flying off again. Traditionally used as a description of higher management.

August 8, 2007 in Language | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 12, 2007

Learning Russian

I fear that Robert Crampton is doing this the hard way:

I have spent half an hour each day for the past two weeks trying to learn Russian. I’m finding it extraordinarily painful, particularly the alphabet, in which our P letter is their R sound, their R is backwards and means ya, ya is one of five different letters denoting a Y noise, N is P, B is V, C is SS and the letter H is actually N, while the sound H doesn’t exist as such but is replaced by a wide variety of very finely delineated hissing and spitting. Friends keep saying to me, that looks impossible, why are you doing it? Here’s what I reply.

Forget, for a start, the alphabet. Makes it all far too complicated, concentrate only on the sounds. Then, you only need a few words. Remember that Muscovites are the cultured ones, so that moloko (milk) is correctly pronounced malako, whereas only rubes from the Volga say moloka. A little bit is "choot, choot", making sure to "t" the t. Finally, get the word for ice cream correct. Morozhenue (moro-jen-you-eh).

At this point everyone will assume that you are indeed a cultured Muscovite and go back to speaking English.

For bonus points you can learn a few numbers: adin, dva, tree, cheteree and then adinatsat, dvatsit, threenatsit, cheterinatsit and then devsti etc but forty becomes sorok.

Note, not the same root as four or fourteen. Nor four hundred, nor four thousand, it reappears again at forty thousand. This is because in olden times counting went 37, 38, 39, many. Knowing that will mark you out as being on a par with Professors of Languages.

You don't actually need any more and you certainly don't want to learn enough of the language to discuss Gogol or Dostoevsky in the original: it's impolite to even think of doing that in English, let alone any other language.

July 12, 2007 in Language | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

July 10, 2007

Which Language?


Or in plain English: head of the country's most visited paying heritage attraction.

Which language was that?

July 10, 2007 in Language | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 10, 2007

More Words We Need

First identified by Harry Haddock.


From the context, we all know what it means, but can we arrive at a proper dictionary definition?

The bureaucratic relief found in restricting freedom?

I'm sure that some of you can do better than that.

(BTW, strongly recommend adding Mr. Haddock and The Shopkeeper to your RSS feeds.)

June 10, 2007 in Language | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack