This is my primary blog and I run a few others, including queerandpresentdangr (angry political blogging) and veritablevoyage (feminism. fandom. random.).

Now, then. This blog: Power, political language usage, language learning, multilingualism, sociolinguistics, frame narrative, language lols.

I'm a native English speaker and a fluent French speaker. My Spanish and German are both basic at best. (They will probably stay that way until I take a class, b/c I'm awful with self-motivation).

Anyway, find me on Duolingo @ veritablevoyage!

Gaza and the language of modern war

The propaganda battle in a modern war begins with its name. Israel’s attack on Gaza this summer was given an official Hebrew name meaning “resolute cliff”, so as to assure its victims of the futility of resistance. Only a fool would try to fight a cliff, even an irresolute one. The name in English was “Operation Protective Edge”. This, an Israeli military spokesman explained, was chosen to “give a more ‘defensive’ connotation”. (The bombing was supposedly “protective”, though not of those bombed.) Just so, the Israel Defence Forces are quite often seen to be on the attack, and every civilised country has a department or ministry of “defence” in which aggressive campaigns may be plotted.

Word of the day: espárrago (Spanish)


n. Asparagus.

Image: Asparagus spear by Liz West. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

Fr. - une asperge






*moves to France and becomes a cheerleader*
“Where are my apple apples?”

only french wil get


I want to cry, that’s how beautiful this is.

Pffff hey my minimal french works here @mitovox18

Anonymous asked: What's the difference in usage between "para mi" and "por mi"?


para mí = “in my opinion” / “from my point of view”

por mí = “(done) for me, (done) for my benefit” / “instead of me” / “through me”


24 months old Ava talking to her mum in BSL (British Sign Language) at dinner.


Am I the only person that whenever they’re speaking their native language (English for me) and say a word they don’t know in Spanish, they pull their phone out and look it up immediately?

I do this more than you’d think…

“…consider language a building and language learning its construction. The Russian language is a complicated, massive cathedral harmoniously fashioned in every arch and corner. The learner must accept this in order to have sufficient motivation to ‘build’ it.”
- Kató Lomb (via ahamsterforhightop)

Free Resources for Most Major Languages:



Can we throw away that “everyone speaks English in the Netherlands so you don’t have to learn Dutch” mentality?

I’ve had a person literally refuse to speak to me until I spoke Dutch and while that sucks I understand. I live here and need to speak Dutch. Anyone who goes somewhere for an extensive amount of time should have the courtesy to learn the language. Even if they can’t, the arrogant mentality of “everyone speaks English” hinders you.

Nine years ago, I was inspired to write a post after hearing a flight attendant give the pre-flight safety presentation, and say, “Please move from the exit rows if you are unwilling or unable to perform the necessary actions without injury.” On my most recent flight, instead of listening to the attendant, I tried to pick up some Spanish vocabulary by reading the safety-information card from the seatback in front of me. And what do you know, inspiration struck again, when I read this Spanish sentence on the very same topic of sitting in the exit rows:

Toda persona que esté sentada en un asiento de salida debe estar dispuesta y ser capaz de realizar las siguientes funciones.
Every person who is seated in an exit seat must be willing and be able to execute the following functions.

Once again, the interesting part comes from trying to coordinate the adjectives for “willing” and “able”. If you’ve taken even first-year Spanish, you’ve had to learn about the two Spanish verbs that both mean “be”: ser, and estar. The former usually goes with what semanticists call individual-level predicates: properties that are generally true of someone, and less subject to change, such as hair color or nationality. These predicates stand in contrast to stage-level predicates, which are true of someone only for a limited time, such as emotional state or physical location. Now if I had thought of it when I was learning about ser and estar in junior high school, I would have tried to stump the teacher by asking something like, “What if you want to say that someone is Chinese and happy? Do you use ser or estar?”

It looks like the answer is that you don’t choose one or the other; you use both, each laying claim to one of the adjectives: estar dispuesta “be willing”; ser capaz “be able”. What a burn! English speakers don’t have to say be twice, but Spanish speakers do! A similar thing happens in French. If you like your salad with oil, it’s à l’huile (literally “at the oil”). If you like it with with vinegar, it’s au vinaigre (“at the vinegar,” with “at the” collapsed into the single word au). But if you’re like me, and like your salad with oil and vinegar, do you choose à or au? Neither! You have to use them both: à l’huile et au vinaigre.

On the subject of prepositions, though, I realized I needed to take a closer look at the adjectives dispuesto and capaz. The single preposition de goes with both of them in this sentence, but is de actually the preposition that typically goes with dispuesto in Spanish? A bit of Googling indicates that it’s not; the typical collocation seems to be dispuesto a. So why didn’t the translation have to use both a and de, along with both ser and estar, like this?

estar dispuesta a y ser capaz de realizar las siguientes funciones

One possibility is that for adjectives that take complements with mismatching prepositions, you just choose the one that goes with the closest adjective, in the same way in English we say Neither you nor I am the winner, because the closer subject is I. (This kind of solution is known as a resolution rule.) Another possibility is that both prepositions should have been used, and the translator simply made a mistake by using only one.

If we’re considering that possibility, though, maybe Spanish uses a rule of resolution to choose between ser and estar, too, and the translator should have just used the one appropriate for the nearest adjective, dispuesto.

So now I’m curious. I ask my Spanish-speaking readers, which of the following sounds best?