When you’re a traveling pig, you need a good phrasebook. Estonian pigs go rui, French groin, Polish chrum, and Czech, improbably, chro. English pigs have been oinking only since 1940. And in Rome, presumably, they speak Pig Latin.
Dutch tongue twisters:
De koetsier poetst de postkoets met postkoetspoets.
The coachman cleans the stagecoach with stagecoach cleaner.
De kat krabt de krullen van de trap met drie droge doeken.
The cat scratches the woodcurls of the stairs with three dry cloths.
De knappe kapper kapt knap, maar de knappe knecht van de knappe kapper kapt knapper dan de knappe kapper kappen kan.
The clever barber cuts hair well, but the clever helper of the clever barber cuts hair more cleverly than the clever barber can cut it.
De meid snijdt recht, en de knecht snijdt scheef.
The maid cuts straight, and the servant cuts crooked.
Liesje leerde lotje lopen langs de lange lindenlaan.
Liesje taught Lotje how to walk along the long tree lane.
Si bene te tua laus taxat sua laute tenebis
If you are considered praiseworthy, you, elegant man, will keep your own property.
Et necat eger amor non Roma rege tacente,
Roma reges una non anus eger amor
And sick love kills, not from Rome, while the king is silent,
Rome, you will rule together, an old woman is not your sick love.
A favorite among Roman lawyers was Si nummi immunis, which means “Give me my fee, and I’ll warrant you free.”
Films with the most prolific use of the word fuck:
- Tigerland (527)
- Nil By Mouth (470)
- Casino (422)
- South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (399)
- Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat (347)
- Another Day in Paradise (327)
- Summer of Sam (326)
- Twin Town (320)
- Ken Loach’s Sweet Sixteen (313)
- Narc (298)
The winner, Joel Schumacher’s 2000 infantry-training drama Tigerland, packs 527 fucks into 100 minutes, for a fuck-per-minute ratio of 5.27, or one fuck every 12 seconds. (“Damn it, Cantwell! Shit, man. Shit! Fuck, I don’t even know you, man! You sittin’ there telling your fucking stories. You make me want to fuckin’ cry! What’s that about?”) Schumacher got a lump of coal that Christmas.
Ambigrams are word renderings that can be read both right-side up and upside down (or, sometimes, in a mirror). They’re hard to do convincingly, though some designers are pretty good at it. The one above was actually generated by a computer: Word.Net’s Ambigram.Matic. It’s not as elegant as the others, but I’m surprised that a machine can do this at all.
- “I’d just as soon kiss a Wookiee.” = “Preferiria besar a un Wookiee.”
- “Artoo! You’re playing the wrong message!” = “¡Artu! ¡Pusiste el mensaje equivocado!”
- “I see you have constructed a new lightsaber.” = “Veo que has construido una nueva espada laser.”
Luke Skywalker is Lucas Trotacielos, and the Force is la Fuerza. Yeesh. I suppose some Spanish films must sound embarrassingly dorky in English, too.
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.”