A glossary of colors

rainbow

“Dream when you’re feeling blue”, sang Ray Charles. Shakespeare’s Cleopatra talked famously of her salad days when she was “green in judgement”; the Everley Brothers sang of all their friends being “just about green with envy”. Depeche Mode wrote a whole song about a black day, and Cyndi Lauper saw someone’s “true colors shining through”. The poetic use of color in a metaphorical rather than a literal sense — to describe everything from moods to bank-balances, political affiliations to social classes — dates back centuries and permeates most modern languages. Colors themselves have metaphorical meanings that are universal across cultures and languages. Here’s a summary of their figurative meanings, which are often evoked as keenly and understood as universally as the hues they describe literally. Continue reading

I say sked-yule, you say shed-yule; I say nego-she-ate, you say nego-see-ate …

“Stand well away from Platform 4. The approaching train is not SHEDuled to stop at this station.” So pronounces the Very British voice actor Celia Drummond, who happens to be the the voice of London’s Jubilee and Northern tube lines, as well as of some of the other British transport systems. But is this the “correct” pronunciation of the word schedule? Or do Americans come closer to the way the word was pronounced in its original language? Continue reading

“I have a dream …” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Continue reading

“You said you wanted a smoking gun; how about a smoking proverb?”

That’s a line out of Manhunt: Unabomber, the gripping new(ish) TV series about how a notorious serial killer was tracked down and apprehended, largely thanks to the relatively young science known as “forensic linguistics.” If you want to know what forensic linguistics is all about, watch this series. (And read Glossophilia’s earlier post about another famous crime in which this particular form of detective work played an important role.) For a quick taster of the series, and to see how linguistics came into the crime in question, watch the video clip below to discover how a common proverb was the key to cracking the case of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. Which proverb was it, and how did its history help the FBI to solve the case? Continue reading

To print or not to print: Presidential expletives

During a bipartisan meeting on immigration reform, President Trump reportedly asked lawmakers why “all these people from sh*thole countries” should be allowed to move to the United States. (He was referring, apparently, to Haiti and African countries.) Many news media outlets yesterday took to their keyboards and airwaves quoting him verbatim: the word “shithole” was suddenly seen and heard all over the world, even without the censoring asterisks in many cases. The New York Times reports on how the media is tackling this new peculiar challenge: the regular use of vulgarity and profanity by our nation’s leader in his public outbursts statements.

Here’s what the Associated Press’s style guide says about profanity: “AP Style holds that you should not use obscenities in stories unless they are part of direct quotations and there is a compelling reason for them.”

It seems there’s a good reason today.

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