Language

Category archives for Language

The current issue of Vanity Fair (#606, February 2011) has an interesting piece on the collaboration between Wikileaks, the Guardian and other old media. On page 110 we’re told that Wikileaks is “partly hosted on a server in Sweden that is lodged in a former nuclear bunker drilled deep inside the White Mountains”. This confused…

Double-False Conditionals

One of my pet peeves in academic prose of the more pretentious kind is the double-false conditional statement. Here’s one that I’ve made up. “If the adoption of bronze casting can be seen as a sign of increasing preoccupation with eschatology, then it follows that we must be continually vigilant against any appropriation of the…

And here’s star philologist and religion scholar Ola Wikander with a guest lesson in Akkadian. The word of the day is nuḫatimmu. It means “a cook” in Akkadian (or sometimes “a baker”). Maybe something to interest Gordon Ramsay? And wouldn’t it be great if there was an Akkadian version of the TV show MasterChef, named…

Heretical Room Mate

My buddy Micke and his Japanese college room mate: “I’m Ken Nakamura. Ken means ‘heresy’!” “Really? That’s kind of… odd.” “Yes! It means ‘HERESY’! Rike when you are never sick!” “Ahaaa, you mean ‘healthy’…” “Yes! Correct! What does your name mean?”

Little Interpreters

When a family migrates, the members who pick up the local lingo first and best are generally the children, and they soon become little interpreters. My wife wrote letters to the Swedish authorities for her Chinese dad from the time she was 11. And when time rolled around for the biannual talk with the teachers…

Hernia Brand Glue

Scandinavians generally speak pretty good English. But every now and then you come across reminders that they are still very far from being native speakers. Witness this pail of wall-paper glue that I bought earlier today. Dear Swedish glue-maker, “hernia” means brock and is defined as “the protrusion of an organ or the fascia of…

Recent Archaeomags

The non-profit Center for Desert Archaeology is located in Tucson, Arizona and publishes a fine magazine, Archaeology Southwest. These generous people contacted me one day out of the blue and offered me a complimentary subscription. On Monday issue 23:3 (summer ’09) reached my mail box on snowy Boat Hill, and I was soon enticed to…

Danes often have tripartite names, like famous Roman Iron Age scholar Ulla Lund Hansen or NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. And I’ve been wondering how these names are inherited. Specifically, which names get dropped and which ones get passed on to the kids. So I wrote my erudite buddy, osteologist Helene Agerskov Madsen, and…

Rutabaga

Everybody knows that English has borrowed the words ombudsman and smorgasbord from Swedish. But did you know that rutabaga is another Swedish loan? And that it was borrowed from a rural Swedish dialect, not standard Swedish? “Rutabaga” is an American word for the kind of turnip known to Englishmen and Australians as swede. Indeed, the…

Runologist James E. Knirk has published a report on the recently found Hogganvik rune stone. His transliteration is [?]kelbaþewas:s(t)^ainaR:aaasrpkf aarpaa:inanana(l/b/w)oR eknaudigastiR ekerafaR His translation is Skelba-þewaR’s ["Shaking-servant's"] stone. (Alphabet magic: aaasrpkf aarpaa). ?Within/From within the ?wheel-nave/?cabin-corner. I NaudigastiR [="Need-guest"]. I, the Wolverine. So there isn’t actually an explicit lord-retainer relationship in the text, just a…