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Why No Emoji for "Bullshit?"

Some people do get enjoyment from visiting Native American petroglyphs, but I am not one of them. You could say the fault is mine. But it would help if the whole subject was stripped of its sanctimoniousness, Noble Savage romanticism, and the pop-cultural baggage of the 1960s. Then I could look on it the way you look on other ancient writing systems.

Wikipedia had a good article on the history of writing systems. By the way, don't be scared off of the topic because you confuse it with linguistics. Linguistics articles are horrendously technical and impossible to understand.

It is easy to believe it was a huge step upward for civilization when written symbols went from picturing tangible things or numbers to conveying ideas or the sounds of a spoken language (which can then convey ideas.)

So the topic is inherently interesting, given a chance. But rather than look backward, perhaps we should consider the significance of a new contemporary writing system, the emoji.

My new phone has An…

Modest Proposal for Improving the English Language

The most obvious way to improve the English language is to make spelling and pronunciation agree with each other. Isn't that the whole point in having an alphabet?

The old excuse used to be, "But new readers won't be able to read the books published some time ago." But eventually that excuse will be obsolete, as information becomes stored digitally. 

But a more timely complaint for me is the difficulty in understanding people's questions on internet discussion forums.  Is English the poster's third language? Or maybe they just don't know how to type.

Actually, most confusion is due to one syndrome: they ask a question in sentence #1, which has three or four nouns in it. Then sentence #2 refers to "it".  It what? The reader can't tell which noun in sentence #1 the pronoun in sentence #2 is referring to. It becomes a reinvention of Abbott and Costello's classic "Who's on first?" comedy routine.

Why does it even use them? Perhaps …

Saying Much With Little, to a Foreigner

I've said it before: that in my next life I am coming back as an international traveler. Among other things, it gives you a chance to be a practical linguist. There are people who pick up foreign languages easily. But you needn't be one of those to find the subject of language fascinating. 

In a Walmart parking lot, of all places, I just finished talking to a French family who is traveling in the Southwest with their motorhome, imported from France. Eventually they will make their way to Argentina. I am proud to say that I did not start off the conversation with, "Soooo, whar ya frum? Do you gahs really eat frawgs?" I spoke with the father and his 10 year old son.

Speaking with someone who knows a little English is an intellectual challenge and pleasure. And it takes so much self-discipline! You must not grin at their mistakes, or be over-corrective. You must build their confidence.

Obviously you must speak slowly and repeat frequently, but it also helps to leave space …