Whether you are as odd as I am – a select number, to be sure – or only wish you were – you should be delighted to hear that the wonderful Futility Closet website has just released its second book-length compilation of curiosities and oddities, Futility Closet 2: A Second Trove of Intriguing Tidbits. Greg Ross has consistently, for nearly a decade, offered up a panoply of weird facts, puzzles, historical tidbits, trivia, and other strangenesses, virtually every day, at the website. The book, which follows in the wake of Futility Closet: An Idler’s Miscellany of Compendious Amusements, is on my short list of ‘things to buy many copies of for my clever and interesting friends’. I should add that Greg and his wife Sharon Ross also run a weekly podcast of the same name, which is just as wonderful as the site and the books.
Language is a recurring theme at Futility Closet, and so, given the readership over here, I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite language and linguistics- related posts from the past several years:
– You could check out the phylogenetic identification of the world’s hardest language by means of the idiomatic expressions used by speakers of other languages of the form, “It’s all Greek to me“.
– Of course, no one thinks that Esperanto is the world’s hardest language – but did you know that there was once, very briefly after World War I, a micro-state whose official language was Esperanto?
– But even if you don’t have access to such a universal lingua franca, no worries – in some the Romance languages, you can write a poem that can be read in multiple languages!
– In contrast, the poor parrot of Atures could not be understood by anyone – it mimicked an Amazonian language whose human speakers had all passed away!
– This brave interpreter’s act of political rebellion told the truth to a select few.
– Check out Solresol, a language whose phonemes were the seven ordinary notes of the scale, combined in thousands of variations to create words.
– Or if you’re in a less musical mood, try out this well-known offensive quasi-verb.
– Tackle the lexical taxonomy of Borges, which is hardly more strange than any number of real languages.
– Or, also from fiction, the Whorf-inspired Láadan language oriented towards women’s experience.
I can’t recommend it highly enough – go now! I’ll wait for your return!