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Of Interest:

First Impressions Last

Well, this is bound to give rise to argument...

A
recent study shows an apparent link between academic success and a child’s first name. While naming traditions vary across cultures and socioeconomic strata, the study seem to show that certain names saddle the bearer with preconceptions that have a negative impact on classroom grades, which in turn limits further opportunities as the child grows. More simply put: some names give the impression that the bearers are more stupid than they may actually be, and people will treat the bearer accordingly.
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Hair Band Word Salad

The BBC addresses an issue that has confounded us for decades: what is a “Bohemian Rhapsody?” The associated comments are equally enlightening.

Fun fact: Queen’s guitarist Brian May is an actual
rock star scientist.
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Turning to Japanese...

The New York Times reports today on recent academic investigations on the origins of Japanese and the Japanese people. The findings suggest a much later arrival of the language than commonly held, and thus that the indigenous Jomon hunter-gatherer culture, whose presence has been dated to 30,000 years ago, were not the immediate forebears of the Japanese of today. Instead, the study seems to indicate the Yayoi people brought the language that became Japanese with them when they brought their agricultural “wet rice” culture to the Japanese islands from the Korean peninsula about 2,200 years ago.

We have some reservations concerning the fact that the lead researcher is not an historical linguist, and that the methodology relies on something called
Bayesian phylogeny and computer-generated charts of language relation later sampled for statistical relevance. We can see a lot of potential problems here, but some professionals in the field - with far more knowledge of the actual work done than we have - are lauding the findings and suggesting it fits with previously known facts about the culture and settlement activity in the area.

The internal and sociopolitical repercussions amongst the famously insular Japanese will be something to watch.
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Word Search

The English language is a vast, wonderful thing. It is, in fact, the language with the largest number of words, and arguably the best documented, with most every word tracked to its sources, etymology and first use in print courtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary

We note with pleasure
a new attempt to corral a large number of the words we have in English which have no apparent derivation - ‘orphan’ words, in the field. Prof. Anatoly Liberman at the University of Minnesota has made this effort is life’s work.

He seeks to account for words we use every day, but which have no apparent source or discernible etymology. Words like frog, boy, girl, oat, dwarf or heifer seem to have shown up out of nowhere, and while getting a first date of use for many of these will be easy, sorting out their backstory seems nigh on impossible to us.

Brave lexicographer, credit to linguists everywhere...
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Shakespeare, again?

Well, this one doesn’t show any signs of slowing down...

Another scholar seeks to diminish The Bard asserting proof of Shakespeare as “collaborator” - there’s a loaded word - as divined by computer analysis of the text of his 58 (?) plays. The evidence is that a three-word phrase appears once in Henry V, and then nowhere else in Elizabethan plays but a fourth edition of Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy.

Perhaps we’re straw-manning it a bit, but that seems a tough one to swallow. The most interesting bit about the story is the
existence of a program built to spot plagiarism in the work of law students. What, do they doubt the ethics of those who seek to enter that noble profession?
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