Tag Archives: language

You say “Hippopotamuses”, I say “Hippipotamus”

Apparently, a herd of hippos derived from animals kept by deceased drug cartel lord Pablo Escobar have been running amok in Colombia for something like two decades1. Unfortunately, I could not find any references to extinct South American members of the Hippopotamidae family. So, this cannot be considered an accidental experiment2 in rewilding.

The multiple articles that have sprung up (no reputable news organization could ignore this story) have heightened the focus on a key question of grammar. What is the plural of hippopotamus. In terms of authority, we have disagreement, with the Oxford University Press voting for hippopotamuses, “The Smartest Man in the World” comedian Greg Proops arguing on behalf of  hippopotami, and would-be Internet language scholars suggesting hippopotamoi from the Greek.

What should the plural of hippopotamus be? Continue reading

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Astronomy + Poetry from CosmoAcademy

As you know*, we like to mix our science and our poetry. Mike has generously loaned this Philistine the reins to the Sunday Science Poem franchise, which I promptly moved to Tuesday; but I had to move it to Tuesday because I don’t want you to miss out.

CosmoQuest is offering an online course (via Google+ Hangouts) looking at the intersection of astronomy and poetry:

Astronomy has played a role in human culture for thousands of years and appears in literature from every era.  We can see not only the influence of the heavens on our writings, but also the influence of language itself on our conception of astronomy. Heralding the dawn of the International Year of Light in 2015, join us now to explore how light from the stars has been important to humans for millennia.  We will begin with Gilgamesh and Homer, and continue through Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, and into contemporary music and literature.  Along the way, we will also examine how the structure of language has influenced the perception of astronomical phenomena. – CosmoQuest Academy

The classes start on Monday, 17 November 2014 at 9PM (ET). Sign-ups (cost $99) are open until Monday, but there are only 8 spots left.

HT: Matthew Francis

*Frankly, I’m tired of coddling you newbies**.

**Have we decided on a sarcasm font***?

***I imagine all those exchanges are constantly derailed by people writing, “I think this one really works” in a proposed font, and then wondering, “Do they really like it or are they being sarcastic****?”

****…which may actually be a sign that it is working.

Time to step up your baby talk game

kidThe literature investigating developmental differences between children from affluence and from poverty is both large and controversial. Many studies present evidence that children from impoverished homes have weaker language skills and delays in reading that cause them to lag behind their peers in school. This topic has always been fraught with controversy because it lies at the intersection of child development, racial politics, and demographic discrimination.

A recently published study examined language skills in VERY young children, 18-24 months old, from different socio-economic backgrounds. The differences they found were surprising and raise questions about how we raise our children. Continue reading