Gretchen: On the International Space Station, you have astronauts from the US and from other English speaking countries and you have cosmonauts from Russia. And obviously it’s very important to get your communication right if you’re on a tiny metal box circling the Earth or going somewhere. You don’t want to have a miscommunication there because you could end up floating in space in the wrong way. And so one of the things that they do on the ISS – so first of all every astronaut and cosmonaut needs to be bilingual in English and Russian because those are the languages of space.

Lauren: Yep. Wait, the language of space are English and Russian? I’m sorry, I just said ‘yep’ and I didn’t really think about it, so that’s a fact is it?

Gretchen: I mean, pretty much, yeah, if you go on astronaut training recruitment forums, which I have gone on to research this episode…

Lauren: You’re got to have a backup job, Gretchen.

Gretchen: I don’t think I’m going to become an astronaut, but I would like to do astronaut linguistics. And one of the things these forums say, is, you need to know stuff about math and engineering and, like, how to fly planes and so on. But they also say, you either have to arrive knowing English and Russian or they put you through an intensive language training course.

But then when they’re up in space, one of the things that they do is have the English native speakers speak Russian and the Russian speakers speak English. Because the idea is, if you speak your native language, maybe you’re speaking too fast or maybe you’re not sure if the other person’s really understanding you. Whereas if you both speak the language you’re not as fluent in, then you arrive at a level where where people can be sure that the other person’s understanding. And by now, there’s kind of this hybrid English-Russian language that’s developed. Not a full-fledged language but kind of a-

Lauren: Space Creole!

Gretchen: Yeah, a Space Pidgin that the astronauts use to speak with each other! I don’t know if anyone’s written a grammar of it, but I really want to see a grammar of Space Pidgin.

Excerpt from Episode 1 of Lingthusiasm: Speaking a single language won’t bring about world peace. Listen to the full episode, read the transcript, or check out the show notes. (via lingthusiasm)


(via suspected-spinozist)


You rarely see a “wend” without a “way.” You can wend your way through a crowd or down a hill, but no one wends to bed or to school. However, there was a time when English speakers would wend to all kinds of places. “Wend” was just another word for “go” in Old English. The past tense of “wend” was “went” and the past tense of “go” was “gaed.” People used both until the 1400s, when “go” became the preferred verb, except in the past tense where “went” hung on, leaving us with an outrageously irregular verb.



per herbam ad astra means “from grass to the stars” and i was like damn that’d be a sick tattoo but its literally the motto for the british lawn mower racing association 


per herbam ad astra means “from grass to the stars” and i was like damn that’d be a sick tattoo but its literally the motto for the british lawn mower racing association 










Chewbacca… his arms open.

This is some NEXT LEVEL nerd-ing and I nearly cried reading it.

I don’t get it

Please explain ;_;

There is a star trek TNG episode where Picard encounters a race that doesn’t speak in actual structured sentences but conveys ideas through story parralels. The ones referenced here are “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” – cooperation, “Shaka, when the walls fell” – failure and Temba, his arms wide/open" – signifying a gift.


OK, but here’s what’s awesome/hilarious about this.

The whole point about why communicating with the Tamarians was so frustrating was because all of their communication was contextual. The problem wasn’t that Picard couldn’t understand what words they were saying (the universal translator worked fine) the problem was that he didn’t understand what THOSE WORDS TOGETHER HAD TO DO WITH ANYTHING.

Why is this hilarious/fascinating to me? Because this is essentially what people are doing today with memes. They are posting pictures and writing sentences THAT MAKE NO SENSE WITHOUT PRIOR CONTEXT.

If Picard beamed down right now, and you told him that Data is a cinnamon roll… you are a Tamarian.

Reblogging because A) YES! and B) That commentary. It’s so true, it’s scary. 

I also just want more. ^_^

Actually, this isn’t something just present in memes but it seems to be a foundation of human language and partly why a universal translator could never work (or if it somehow did, it should be programmable to handle Tamarian). It’s just that most metaphors in language are so accepted or necessary to fluency that we don’t really notice them (or they seem to be a common human perspective… which aliens don’t necessarily have to share).

It is why when speaking German I have to remember it is, “How much Clock is it?” and not “What time is it?”. The metaphor in English seems to be that moments are separate entities/temporal locations that we visit through the day so we need to determine what one we are visiting now. Whereas in German, leaving aside the fact the “clock” can clearly be a stand-in metaphor for “time” the overall metaphor there seems to be that moments in time are accumulative entities that we collect through the day and we need to determine how much we’ve collected. 

And speaking of time, human languages tend towards two metaphors, either favouring one or the other or happily indulging in both… either time is a stationary path which the focus moves along (”… as we’re traveling into the month February…”) or time is a river the flows past a stationary focus (”his birthday is rapidly approaching”). Technically those are metaphors to handle an abstract concept, time could just as easily be metaphorically an object that “appears” rather than “approaches” or a location you “turn towards” instead of “move into”… and I don’t know if any human language allows you to metaphorically be a man in a boat traveling up a river (or what that would look like/imply) but it is a possibility (especially if you are considering an alien perspective on time).

Leaving behind time, some emotions are metaphorically a direction. Happy is up, sometimes way up ‘til you’re “on Cloud 9″ (and there’s no obvious reason for it to be the 9th cloud but you accept it) and on the opposite end of that spectrum sadness is down (in the dumps) when it isn’t busy being a colour (blue). And naturally you yourself are a container for your emotions, or more specifically your heart is (at least in English, in Indonesian it’s your liver) and the container can be put under pressure until it is “bursting with joy” or it “explodes in anger”.

And then there are true idioms which actually do reference historic events (which is what I assume is happening in Tamarian’s “Shaka, when the walls fell”) like “Read The Riot Act” or if you “heard it through the grapevine” your people had a mess of telegraph wires at some point and grapevines to compare them to. And “apple of one’s eye” is weird for being a double metaphor… the pupil was once believed to be a solid object metaphorically called an “apple” but then, after Shakespeare popularized the phrase in reference to a person in terms of affection, and science let us know the pupil is not apple-like at all, it came to exclusively mean “this person is very dear to me” and we all forgot why apples were involved in the first place.

Of course, I am far from a linguistic expert so you should take this all “with a grain of salt” 😉