03 Nov

My surnames book is out!

kindle-cover-wakefieldIt may not be the Great American Novel, but I do have a book out as of a week or two ago. Middle English Surnames in West Yorkshire is a book version of my MA thesis, and it should be of interest to folks into genealogy, onomastics (names), language, the SCA or similar groups, or English history.

The first part of the book is an overview of surnames and the names in the Wakefield Manor court rolls. The rest of the book — most of it — is a list of all the names with etymologies and references, divided by type.

If you are looking for a medieval name for the SCA, this is a good source. Every name in the list is from the 13th or 14th century, so they are all documented during SCA period. Many of the names are from place names as well, so this is also useful when looking for a place name to use.

Here are a few places to buy it:

It should appear in other locations soon as well.

05 Nov

An evening at the Seattle Spelling Bee

In 1979, I won the Seattle city spelling championship. I went on to the regional competition (a huge one — I think there were about 180 spellers in that event that year) and did reasonably well but did not win. So no trip to Nationals for me. And that was my last spelling bee.

Until Monday night. I went to the Seattle Spelling Bee at Jillian’s. It starts out with a written round of forty words. I tied for first place in the written round. The last time I competed in a written spelling bee round was 1979, in the first round of the Seattle championships. I won that one, so, hey! I have a win streak going! At least, in written competition.

The top 12 spellers in the written test move on to the main bee. The first round words were not too bad, words like bathysphere, insuppressible, repercussion. I got the word “apocalypse.” I know the spelling, so it was just a matter of spelling it carefully and not getting lost mid-word.

Round 2, unfortunately, is when I went out. I spelled “louvar” as “luvar” and that was that. (They said it was Italian. “Luvar” seemed more Italian to me. I’ve never seen or heard this word before so all I could do was guess.) The other Round 2 words included idunit, subclavian, pupillometer, glengarry, etc. I could spell most of the other words in the round, darn it.

Round 3 had tougher words: caimatillo, saurophagous, and… hoedown? Wow. One speller got a major gift with that one.

Round 4 was the final round: eisegesis, teetotum, stremmatograph. The guy who spelled eisegesis won.

I finished 6th. Grr. Next time I will do better. And I do think there will be a next time. It was fun! I won a $5 gift certificate to Blue Highway Games by winning one of the mini-games.

01 Feb

“Wine Spodee-O-Dee, Drinkin’ Wine”

I have a post on MetaFilter today about the Pacific Northwest party beverage “spodee” (fruit and alcohol), and it’s possible relation to the old R&B song “Drinkin’ Wine Spodee-O-Dee”. Basically, I always wondered if the name of the drink was related to the song, and did as much Google research on it as I could; I couldn’t find anything directly tying the two together, but it just seems very likely that the song inspired the name. (But it’s possible it was the other way around, I guess.) I found a lot of great songs while looking, though. (From Stick McGhee to Big Joe Turner, Big Jay McNeely, Wild Bill Moore, and lots of other pre-Elvis rock and rollers, mostly found via the Rock Before Elvis website.)

The funny thing is that I generally don’t drink alcohol (only on the rarest of occasions), and I don’t think I’ve ever had spodee. But it was an interesting topic to look into.

11 Apr

“A Roshanda by Any Other Name”

“The typical baby girl born in a black neighborhood in 1970 was given a name that was twice as common among blacks than whites. By 1980, she received a name that was 20 times more common among blacks.”

It’s typically thought that such stereotypical “black names” are a negative in the job market, and that bearers of such names aren’t as successful in life as those with “white names.” Apparently, the data doesn’t quite back this up. It’s true that a “deShawn” will do worse than a “John”, but the studies seem to show that the name isn’t the cause.

21 Jan

Does “cot” sound like “caught” to you?

In my dialect, “cot”, “Don”, and “collar” sound like “caught”, “Dawn”, and “caller”. I don’t say those word pairs differently. This is one characteristic of the Pacific Northwest Dialect. Do the characteristics mentioned in this article sound familiar to you? Some of them don’t sound like Seattle speech to me (that y-glide he describes in some of the vowels), but maybe I’m just not good at analyzing my own speech.

What I have noticed about Seattle-area speech over the years is a tendency to sound more Canadian in our vowel sounds than we used to. For example, I hear people say “sorry” with more of an “o”, less of an “ah”. This used to be the mark of a Canadian, but I hear it now in lots of younger Northwesterners. Have you noticed this too?

06 Dec

Warning to non-Chinese/Japanese speakers

It is a very bad idea to get a tattoo in a language you don’t understand. The Hanzi Smatter weblog collects embarrassing examples of the misuse of hanzi/kanji in tattoos, t-shirts, and the like. Careful, or like one ill-fated young man, your tattoo might read “At the end of the day, this is an ugly boy” instead of your intended “Love, Honor, and Obey”.

18 Oct

Real tips for studying Japanese

Thinking of studying Japanese? A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a degree in Japanese Language and Literature
has some suggestions for you.

“I don’t care how many anime tapes you’ve watched, how many Japanese girlfriends you’ve had, or books you’ve read, you don’t know Japanese. Not only that, majoring in the godforsaken language is NOT fun or even remotely sensible. Iraqi war prisoners are often forced to major in Japanese. The term ‘Holocaust’ comes from the Latin roots ‘Holi’ and ‘Causm’, meaning ‘to major in Japanese’. You get the idea.”

I studied Japanese, and enjoyed it, but I understand quite well what he means when he says “You should just be ready for a whole lot of pain.”

03 Aug

Test your language skills

I’ve posted about some of the BBC language sites before (particularly the Gaelic ones, if I recall correctly), but I just found the mainBBC Languages web site, and it’s pretty darned neat for learners of several different languages. They have lessons posted in several different levels, including audio and video content, and if you’ve previously studied French, German, Spanish, or Italian, you can take an online test to see which level you’ve achieved and which resources best suit your ability.

I passed all the questions in the German test (which might rank me a little more highly than I ought to be), and came in at the beginner level in French (which is about right), and the site recommended specific programs and exercises would be best for me. The programs and exercises are all available for free right there on the BBC site. It’s really a great resource.

Don’t forget to visit the “Other” section, where languages such as Greek, Gaelic (both Irish and Scottish versions), Welsh, and Chinese can be found, though I don’t believe there are ability assessment tests for those languages on the site.

05 May

Shaftments, halakim, and the miner’s inch

A Dictionary of Units of Measurement is a fascinating compendium of information. Yeah, I know, it sounds dry, but if you are a word-lover, this will be right up your alley. How many websites discuss German beer measurements, the measuring of solar flare intensity, tennis racquet gauges, and the definition of “smidgen,” all in one place?

Some examples of what can be found there:

mease: a unit of quantity formerly used by fishermen. The mease equals the number of herring in a basket, roughly 620.

donkey power: a somewhat light-hearted metric unit of power equal to 250 watts or about 0.3353 horsepower.

luster, lustre, lustrum: a traditional unit of time equal to 5 years. In ancient Rome the Lustrum was ceremony of expiation and purification for the whole population of the city, carried out every 5 years after the completion of the census. The use of luster or lustrum as a unit of time in English was fairly common in well-educated circles as long as “well-educated” meant classically educated; the unit has pretty much disappeared today.

25 Mar

More Old English because I am a geek.

Via Languagehat: The New Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, with periodic news reports in Old English, like the original Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Here’s a modern English translation) .

This is the latest entry in the current Chronicle:

Ymb ?isne d?g ymb Wala ceastre in Su?-Waziristan provinciam in Pakistane Pakistanes fyrd fohte wi? beorgweargum ond Bin Ladenes heafod?egne, ond neah in Afghnistane Americisce fuhton wi? Talibaniscum.

Languagehat also writes today about a book that I have sitting on my table, waiting to be read: Simon Winchester’s The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary. Like me, he got it for Christmas. Unfortunately, he didn’t like it.

18 Mar

But… it doesn’t include “blog”!

The Old English Computer Glossary is a wonderful assortment of computer terms in Old English. I’m currently typing this post in an eagðyrel of my ymbsceawere. When I’m done, I’ll uphladan it to the brytta, and it will be on the WoruldWideWebb!

(Yes, I am aware I am most likely not using the correct form of uphladan — I’m assuming that’s an infinitive, and I’ve never studied Old English so I’m not just going to guess the correct form of the top of my head. )

I love the pure straightforwardness (hey! That sounds like a good old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon compound word itself!) of some of these terms, which don’t really sound all that different from modern English. Examples:

  • welcome message: gretingword (greeting word)
  • digital: fingerlic (fingerly)
  • dust cover: dusthelm (dust helmet?)
  • hexadecimal: sixtynelic (sixteenly)
  • nerd: oferleornere(overlearner?)

Since I haven’t actually studied OE yet I’m just guessing at those literal translations there. Neat, though, aren’t they?

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