Category Archives: Language and Linguistics


Rice that Sticks to the Pan


November 15, 2018 ||

The relationship between food and language can be fascinating. The idiosyncrasies of a culture’s cuisine are often reflected in its vocabulary, and it is common for food words in one language to lack direct translations into other languages due to the uniqueness of cuisines around the world. Of course, a culture can adopt other foods, […]



Palindrome reflections


October 11, 2018 ||

There are 54,270 palindromes within the 5,691 languages contained in the PanLex database. A sampling: ʻuhū ʻuhūʻuhū meaning “moan” in Hawaiian gilibilig meaning “soft” in Umbugarla (Australia) àyáyáyáyá meaning “low light” in Perge Tegu (Mali) eibohphobie meaning “fear of palindromes” in French بی عیب ـ بیعیب  or ba’eab ba’eab meaning “faultless” in Persian ibikíbiníbikíbi meaning “wherever” in Yoruba (Nigeria) aawalawaa meaning “get better” in Wayuu (Colombia) апоко́па or apokopa meaning “apocope” in […]


How Bamboo Shaped the Batak Script


October 1, 2018 ||

Don’t crane your neck In the late 18th century, European travelers first began to penetrate the dense forests of the interior of northern Sumatra. From earlier reports, they expected to find tribes of headhunters and cannibals. What they found were highly literate cultures with centuries-old writing traditions and vast collections of books (and yes, a […]