7 May 2006

How much can a bare bear bear?

Submitted by Karl Hagen
Linguists often like to explore sentences that are grammatically well formed but hard for people to parse. Apart from provoking simple curiosity, they also suggest things about how the mind processes language. So, for example, there are "garden path" sentences such as "The horse raced past the barn fell." There are also sentences composed from homophones. Stephen Pinker (in The Language Instinct) provides one from Buffalo (the city), buffalo (the animal), and buffalo (to deceive or intimidate):

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Which means "Bison from Buffalo (that other) bison from Buffalo intimidate (themselves) intimidate (other) bison from Buffalo."

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24 Apr 2006

How do you pronounce "Impress"?

Submitted by Karl Hagen
For the most part, I use OpenOffice, unless I am absolutely forced to do otherwise. I've found it to be a good replacement for Microsoft Office (apart from a few annoyances). One thing that has been bugging me, though, has nothing to do with its technical deficiencies. What I want to know is how are we supposed to pronounce "Impress", the PowerPoint equivalent for OpenOffice. In other words, are we suppsed to read it as a verb, with the stress on the second syllable, or a noun, with the stress on the first.
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4 Sep 2005

Old English Profanity

Submitted by Karl Hagen
So one of the first requests I received in my capacity as expert on all things Old English was for a list of swear words. This is one of tasks that seems simple on the surface: hit the dictionary and find the equivalents, but there are all sorts of problems that come up in trying to produce anything adequate. In a project like this, of course, scholarly uncertainty is simply not an option. We might not know, but we still need to have something for the characters to say.
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6 Aug 2005

The Script is Here

Submitted by Karl Hagen
So I'm officially on as a consultant for Beowulf. My wife is jumping up and down with excitement. She's a Neil Gaiman fan--our koi are named after the seven immortals from the Sandman series. I had to sign a confidentiality agreement, so don't expect me to give you any juicy details. I will say that the script very much bears the style of Neil Gaiman. I think his fans will be pleased.
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31 Jul 2005

Butterflies and Beowulf

Submitted by Karl Hagen
Today I was forcefully reminded of how our inconsequential decisions can snowball--the proverbial butterfly wing that unleashes a hurricane. I received an e-mail out of the blue from a production assisstant for Robert Zemeckis. They are doing a major Hollywood film of Beowulf and want an Old English consultant who can translate into OE and coach the actors on pronunciation. They're filming in Culver City, and so they want someone local.

It sounds like a blast, but I can't help thinking about the chain of decisions that led them to me. Apparently they called the English department at UCLA and asked a medievalist there (Andy Kelly) for someone who had the necessary skills. He gave them my name.

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