Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Geoff Pullum on the IPA

Studying the full array of symbols (see the definitive one-page copyright-free chart here) reveals that for almost any point in the mouth or throat where an obstruction or radical restriction of the airflow from the lungs can be made by lips or teeth or tongue or pharynx, such a restriction will be used to produce at least some consonants: sounds produced either by complete occlusion of the airflow or by narrowing or interrupting the channel to produce hissing, buzzing, scraping, trilling, rattling, or clicking.
And for every reasonable position in which you can hold the tongue and lips and cheeks while permitting unimpeded airflow, there is a vowelsound employing that oral posture.

the whole thing here

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

GG über alles

Reading Gerd Gigerenzer's "Mindless Statistics" (here).

In a café. Back in Berlin. A better blogger would include quotations from this splendid article, but we at pp are somewhat threadbare after months of showing the flag.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Reading Michael Booth's The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia.

Bought for my Kindle off, even though I'm in London, because Amazon fought me tooth and nail when I tried to change the location of my Kindle and buy off

This turns out to mean I get an Americanized version of the book.

"Not all nationalism is bad, for a start," he told me over the phone from his home in Sheffield, England.

I spent some time in Vermont. I sometimes explained that I normally lived in Berlin. I would then need to specify: Berlin, Germany. (There is a Berlin, Vermont.) I am trying to imagine the circumstances in which I would not go berserk if required to specify this in a book destined for publication.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


While I was in New York Andy Beckerman interviewed me for his podcast series, Beginnings. It's now up, here

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

rereading Scribes and Scholars

Have been rereading Scribes & Scholars, by L.D. Reynolds and N.R. Wilson, largely for the civilised tone and dry wit of Leighton Reynolds.

S&S says of Politian that he had the following response to those who criticised him for being insufficiently Ciceronian:

'Non exprimis,' inquit aliquis, 'Ciceronem.' Quid tum? Non enim sum Cicero, me tamen (ut opinor) exprimo. (Epistle 8.16)

It's the 'ut opinor' that's so lovely. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

LR and We Second That

Lightning Rods has been selected for We Second That, the Slate/Whiting list of great second novels (the 5 best in the last 5 years); Dan Kois has written about it on Slate, here.

The other novels on the list are Eileen Myles' Inferno, Daniel Alarcón's At Night We Walk in Circles, Marlon James' The Women of the Night, and Akhil Sharma's Family Life. (Click on links for reviews.)

I am a little leery of saying much about the plight of the second novel, or LR in particular, since LR was so frequently a casualty of behind-the-scenes machinations; talking about this sort of thing never seems to do much good.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

plus ça change

Gauguin wrote to van Gogh: mon cher Vincent
van Gogh to Gauguin: mon cher Gauguin

So lovely.

van Gogh to Gauguin of discussions with Theo, 3 October 1888:

Dans ces discussions il s’est souvent agi de ce qui nous tient si fort au coeur à mon frere comme à moi, des mesures à prendre pour sauvegarder l’existence materielle des peintres et de sauvegarder les moyens de production (couleurs, toiles) et de sauvegarder à eux directement leur part dans le prix  que ne prennent leurs tableaux actuellement que longtemps après avoir cessé d’etre la propriété des artistes.

In these discussions, it was often a matter of the thing that’s so dear to our hearts, both my brother’s and mine, the steps to be taken in order to preserve the financial existence of painters, and to preserve the means of production (colours, canvases), and to preserve directly to them their share in the price that their paintings at present fetch only when they have long ceased to be the property of the artists.
[translation borrowed from out of sheer sloth]