More speak Arabic at home than Polish, Italian

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StatelineWe’re still a melting pot of cultures and languages, according to a Stateline analysis of Census data.

A hundred years ago, our houses will filled with the sounds of German and Italian, Polish and Russian, Yiddish or, bien sûr, French, only three of which, as you can see, remain in the top 10. Continue reading

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Mystery solved: Dying grandmother left message of faith

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imgurGrandmasCode1

For nearly two decades, a family has been trying to decipher index cards filled with seemingly random letters by a beloved grandmother dying of brain cancer.

This week, they posted them on AskMetaFilter with this explanation:

My grandmother passed away in 1996 of a fast-spreading cancer. She was non-communicative her last two weeks, but in that time, she left at least 20 index cards with scribbled letters on them. My cousins and I were between 8-10 years old at the time, and believed she was leaving us a code. We puzzled over them for a few months trying substitution ciphers, and didn’t get anywhere.

The family has guessed that the letters represented song lyrics, “based on some of the repeating segments.” But in her final, lucid hours, their grandmother — who would die before she reached 70 years of age — wasn’t thinking of pop songs that were played in their Minnesota house “in the 50s, 60s and early 70s.” Continue reading

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Yinz wanna play the dialect game?

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yinz

Y’all or yinz? Soda or pop? Hoagie or grinder? Highway or freeway?

The words we use map our origins. Linguistic researchers at Harvard and Cambridge have been conducting surveys for years and here are the results.

The questions go way beyond soda or pop, and will make you think twice about your word choice and your pronunciation. Continue reading

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Pope Francis, you’re the top

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The Web has gotten an “f” this year, according to the Global Language Monitor, which tracks English words used online. In 2013, the “words” that popped up most often were 404 (the error code that announces the URL can’t be found) and “fail.” The most common phrases? “Toxic politics” and “federal shutdown.” Top names are Pope Francis and ObamaCare.

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