Evolving Language is a Beautiful Thing

How the “Gry” Riddle Used to Work

Asshat; There are three common words in The English Language that end in ‘gry.’ The first two are ‘hungry’ and ‘angry.’ What’s the third word? If you listen carefully, I’ve already told you.

You, after wracking your brain; I-I don’t know.

Asshat; Language!

You; What?

Asshat; The first thing I said was, “there are three common words in the English Language.” You should have realized that, since there is no third common ‘gry’ word, this was a trick question. Everything else was a distraction. I am so clever, for having read in a book the solution to a puzzle that you failed to figure out all on your own. 

You; Oh. That feels off but I guess you’re smarter than me. 

You laugh, more to save face than from any real enjoyment. Asshat slinks off to their lair to feed its loathsome familiars the energy it collected from your embarrassment, and cackles ominously

How the “Gry” Riddle Works Now

Asshat; There are three common words in The English Language that end in ‘gry.’ The first two are ‘hungry’ and ‘angry.’ What’s the third word? If you listen carefully, I’ve already told you.

You; Hangry!

Asshat; What? No, language

You; Language doesn’t end in ‘gry.’ 

Asshat; The first thing I said was, “there are three common words in the English Language.”

You; Right! Then you followed it with another clause, indicating that your thought wasn’t finished. That’s how English grammar works. 

Asshat; But you should have realized that, since there is no third common ‘gry’ word -

You; But there is a third common word. It’s hangry!

Asshat; But hangry isn’t a real word

You; Sure it is! 

You find it on dictionary.com and hold up your phone as proof

Asshat; But people just made it up

You; Silly, all words are made up. You don’t actually know much about language, do you?

Asshat self-destructs. We never learn its evil plan. The world is saved

Who would have believed that the perfect Wikipedia photo caption could have been improved on? (Alan Ferrier on twitter)

I love this as an example of Gricean humour. Grice’s Maxims say to only say things that are relevant (i.e. interpret everything someone says as if it adds relevant information to the conversation). In this case, the caption is “improved” by adding (right) after the name of the bagpiper. In many photo captions, (left) or (right) is used to tell us which of several similar-looking people the caption is about. If there were several bagpipers or even humans, (right) would be a neutral, informative information. 

But here, the only entities in the photo are Piper Kerr and the indifferent penguin. It’s very easy to tell the difference between them. So adding (right) brings with it the absurd interpretation that (right) is relevant information, i.e. that the piper and the penguin are hard to tell apart. 

I fucking hate languages.

The Greeks had this word, right, we have no idea where it came from, it just kinda popped up out of nowhere, and it could mean either apples, cheeks, or boobs. Problem is it looked and sounded *exactly* like another, unrelated word which could mean sheep, goat, or any animal in general really, which must have got confusing if you were a farmer talking about your livestock, but anyway…

Then the Romans, having stolen practically everything else from the Greeks, thought they’d nick this word too, because Latin isn’t confusing enough without throwing in a bunch of loan words. And they adopted it to mean a pumpkin.

Then the English came along and were all like “when in Rome”, and stole it, where it became our word ‘melon’. Which has now come back to mean boobs.

How do you like them apples.

stop 👏 saying 👏 languages 👏 and accents 👏 are ugly 👏 or awful 👏

i understand that some languages/dialects/accents may be difficult for you personally to understand because you speak differently, or they may contain sounds that you don’t like, but please don’t use value judgements like “lazy,” “bad,” or “ugly,” even jokingly

negative attitudes towards language both originate from and contribute to marginalization

How I broke my 6th Graders Today

Student: “Miss, my little brother in your 4th grader class says you speak seven languages. Is that true?”

Me: “Yes.”

Student: "He says you speak Mongolian. Is that true?”

Me: “Yes.”

Student: “Can you say something”

Me: *explains, in Mongolian, that although I speak Mongolian, being that this is an English school, I am supposed to teach classes in English, so I have to speak English, sorry*

Collective Students: “Wow! Amazing!!!” *cheering*

One student slowly raises hand: “Miss, does that mean that you can…understand us when we speak Mongolian?”

Me: *Slowly leans over desk and puts on an evil grin. Single nod*

All students: *Terrified screaming*

you can identify linguistics students by the way they stare into space with a confused expression while muttering the same sentence over and over again as they try to figure out what the syntax tree would look like.