The Language Museum has samples of more than 2,000 languages, rather amazingly compiled by one guy in Beijing. Showoff.
- “Mr. Speaker, I smell a rat; I see him forming in the air and darkening the sky; but I’ll nip him in the bud.”
- “While I write this letter, I have a pistol in one hand and a sword in the other.”
- “All along the untrodden paths of the future I can see the footprints of an unseen hand.”
- “He is the kind of opponent who would stab you in front of your face and then stab you in the chest when your back is turned.”
- “We should silence anyone who opposes the right to freedom of speech.”
- “I answer in the affirmative with an emphatic no.”
The best I’ve seen: “It would surely be better to give up, not only a part but, if necessary, the whole of our constitution, to preserve the remainder.”
A memo to every parent who’s ever lived: Giving your kid a special name does not make him special. It never has. It never will.
You know what I mean. It’s one thing to give yourself a screwy moniker. Body-modification enthusiasts have changed their names to Swirly Wanx Sinatra, Grenade Bee of Death, and RooRaaah Mew Crumbs, among other things, and there’s a U.S. Army Ohio National Guard firefighter who named himself Optimus Prime. That’s fine, you’re the one who has to live with it.
It’s worse when you inflict a harebrained epithet on a newborn, who will have to drag it through life like a neon hairshirt. Celebrities are notorious experts at this. Sylvester Stallone named his kid named Sage Moonblood. Jason Lee’s son is named Pilot Inspektor. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their daughter Apple. And Welsh TV personality Paula Yates had daughters named Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches Honeyblossom, Pixie, and Heavenly Hirrani Tiger Lily.
This does nothing but embarrass the kid, and it’s not even original. In the late 17th century there was actually a member of the British parliament named Isaac Praise-God Barebone. And that’s nothing — he had brothers and sons named Fear-God Barebone, Jesus-Christ-Came-Into-The-World-To-Save Barebone, and If-Christ-Had-Not-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barebone. The last changed his name — I just love this — to Nicholas.
Of course, the parents see it differently, and a few have even gone to court to defend these monstrosities. In 1996 a Danish woman decided to name her son Christophpher, and she paid more than $45,000 in court fines for not using a government-sanctioned name. In the same year a Swedish family named its child Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 (pronounced “Albin”), claiming it’s “a pregnant, expressionistic development that we see as an artistic creation.” The court still charged them $680.
If you’re going to do this, fine, but at least be practical. Comedian Louis C.K. recommends naming your kid Ladies and Gentlemen. (“Ladies and Gentlemen, please!”) And Bill Cosby says, “Always end the name of your child with a vowel — so that when you yell, the name will carry.”
Hey, what happened to acronyms all of a sudden? SAT no longer stands for anything, we are informed. Neither does AT&T, KFC, or AARP. Their meanings are obsolete, but their organizations keep using them. The whole thing is vaguely Orwellian.
Good acronyms are useful because they’re simple and memorable. But for every perfect flower (BASIC = Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) there’s a misbegotten weed (USA PATRIOT = Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism).
Deeper in the muck are bureaucracy-spawned monsters like ADCOMSUBORDCOMPHIBSPAC, Navy-speak for “Administrative Command, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet Subordinate Command.”
Only the Soviet Union could have produced this:
It stands for “The laboratory for shuttering, reinforcement, concrete, and ferroconcrete operations for composite-monolithic and monolithic constructions of the Department of the Technology of Building Assembly Operations of the Scientific Research Institute of the Organization for Building Mechanization and Technical Aid of the Academy of Building and Architecture of the USSR.”
And I think the American Symphony Orchestra League must be very careful in training its receptionists. You can’t have them saying, “Good morning, ASOL.”
For the itinerant gregarious insomniac, here’s how to say “hello” in more than 800 languages.