Original image
Google Maps

The Australian Town That Invented A Language

Original image
Google Maps

In the outback of Aboriginal Australia, there’s a blink-and-you-miss-it desert town named Lajamanu, sandwiched between Darwin and Alice Springs. There are no paved roads in the alcohol-free community, and only one store, which is restocked by a supply truck once a week; mail gets delivered just twice a week. But half of the town (population: 700) is making headlines for pioneering a new native tongue: Light Warlpiri.

What does Light Warlpiri look like? Something like this: “Nganimpa-ng gen wi-m si-m worm mai aus-ria.” In English, that’s “We also saw worms at my house.” Most verbs in the language draw from English, but tacking on suffixes is straight from traditional Warlpiri, a language that relies on suffixes to denote grammatical meaning since words can be put in any order.

The town’s citizens all speak “strong” Warlpiri, a “highly endangered” language exclusive to some 4000 people. Light Warlpiri, on the other hand—a language that’s a cocktail of Warlpiri, English, and Kriol (a local dialect dating back to the 19th century and based on creole)—whittles its number of native speakers to just 350, and no one who speaks it is older than 35.

Though several words of Light Warlpiri are derived from their English and Kriol counterparts, linguists have determined it’s a new language in its own right. Carmel O’Shannessy, a University of Michigan linguist who has studied Lajamanu for about a decade, mapped a two-part development process from which Light Warlpiri sprung.

The language started at birth—literally. Lajamanu parents would speak in baby talk that combined English, Kriol, and Warlpiri, which youngsters borrowed as its own language, adding twists to verb structure and syntax like creating a tense that stands for “present or past, but not future” (‘nonfuture time’)—an alien tense for both English and Warlpiri.

O’Shannessy’s best guess is that the language emerged in the 1970s and ‘80s, when Aboriginals first started hopping from language to language in conversation. But Light Warlpiri is still new enough that it doesn’t exist in written form—there’s simply no need.

The youth language movement makes sense for the upstart community—Lajamanu’s 2006 census showed that half of the town’s population was younger than 20 years old. By Australian federal government estimate, the number of citizens indigenous to Lajamanu will spike to 650 from about 440 by 2026. And according to Australian linguist Mary Laughren, many of Light Warlpiri’s pioneers are still alive, giving linguists a rare chance to chronicle a language still in development.

It’s a long way from the town’s beginnings. In 1948, Australia’s federal government, worried about overcrowding and droughts in Yuendumu, forced 550 unlucky citizens to up and leave to what would become Lajamanu. Lajamanu’s population vacated for Yuendumu at least twice, only to get sent back.

The last time Lajamanu made international headlines was for a rainstorm of biblical proportions in 2010, when hundreds of spangled perch fell from the sky on the desert town, to which local Christine Balmer said, “I’m thankful that it didn’t rain crocodiles.”

Original image
Live Smarter
Including Smiley Emojis in Your Work Emails Could Make You Look Incompetent
Original image

If you’re looking to give your dry work emails some personality, sprinkling in emojis may not be the smartest strategy. As Mashable reports, smiley emojis in professional correspondences rarely convey the sentiments of warmth that were intended. But they do make the sender come across as incompetent, according to new research.

For their paper titled "The Dark Side of a Smiley," researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel looked at 549 subjects from 29 countries. After reading emails related to professional matters, participants were asked to judge the "competence and warmth" of the anonymous sender.

Emails that featured a smiley face were found to have a "negative effect on the perception of competence." That anti-emoji bias led readers to view the actual content of those emails as less focused and less detailed than the messages that didn’t include emojis.

Previous research has shown that sending emojis to people you’re not 100 percent comfortable with is always a gamble. That’s because unlike words or facial expressions, which are usually clear in their meanings, the pictographs we shoot back and forth with our phones tend to be ambiguous. One study published last year shows that the same emoji can be interpreted as either positive or negative, depending on the smartphone platform on which it appears.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to communicate effectively without leaning on emojis to make you look human. Here are some etiquette tips for making your work emails sound clear and competent.

[h/t Mashable]

Original image
9 Sweet Old Words for Bitter Tastes and Taunts
Original image

Whether you’re enjoying the sharp taste of an IPA or disliking some nasty words from a colleague, it’s hard not to talk about bitterness. But we could all use a few new—or old—terms for this all-too-common concept. So let’s dig into the history of English to find a few words fit to describe barbs and rhubarbs.


Have you ever spoken with bile and gall? If so, you’ll understand why stomachous is also a word describing bitterness, especially bitter words and feelings. This is an angry word to describe spiteful outbursts that come when you’ve had a bellyful of something. In The Faerie Queen, Edmond Spencer used the term, describing those who, “With sterne lookes, and stomachous disdaine, Gaue signes of grudge and discontentment vaine." You can also say someone is “stomachously angry,” a level of anger requiring a handful of antacids.


Artemisia absinthium (wormwood) is the patron plant of bitterness, which has made wormwood synonymous with the concept. Since at least the 1500s, that has included wormwood being used as an adjective. Shakespeare used the term in this way: “Thy secret pleasure turnes to open shame ... Thy sugred tongue to bitter wormwood tast.” George Parsons Lathrop reinforced this meaning in 1895 via the bitterness of regret, describing “the wormwood memories of wrongs in the past.” Unsurprisingly, some beers are brewed with wormwood to add bitterness, like Storm Wormwood IPA.


The earliest uses of brinish are waterlogged, referring to saltiness of the sea. The term then shifted to tears and then more general bitterness. Samuel Hieron used it in his 1620 book Works: “These brinish inuectiues are vnsauory” [sic]. Nothing can ruin your day quite like brinish invective.


Crabby is a popular word for moods that are, shall we say, not reminiscent of puppies and rainbows. Crabbed has likewise been used to describe people in ways that aren’t flattering to the crab community. The Oxford English Dictionary’s etymological note is amusing: “The primary reference was to the crooked or wayward gait of the crustacean, and the contradictory, perverse, and fractious disposition which this expressed.” This led to a variety of meanings running the gamut from perverse to combative to irritable—so bitter fits right in. Since the 1400s, crabbed has sometimes referred to tastes and other things that are closer to a triple IPA than a chocolate cookie. OED examples of “crabbed supper” and “crabbed entertainment” both sound displeasing to the stomach.


This word, found in English since the 1600s, is mainly a literary term suggesting wormwood in its early uses; later, it started applying to the green alcohol that is bitter and often illegal. A 1635 couplet from poet Thomas Randolph sounds like sound dietary advice: “Best Physique then, when gall with sugar meets, Tempring Absinthian bitternesse with sweets.” A later use, from 1882 by poet Egbert Martin, makes a more spiritual recommendation: “Prayer can empty life's absinthian gall, Rest and peace and quiet wait its call.”


Now here’s a bizarre, and rare, twist on a common word. Though we’re most familiar with rodents as the nasty rats digging through your garbage and the adorable hamsters spinning in a wheel, this term has occasionally been an adjective. Though later uses apply to corrosiveness and literal rodents, the earliest known example refers to bitterness. A medical example from 1633, referring to the bodily humors, shows how this odd term was used: “They offend in quality, being too hot, or too cold, or too sharp, and rodent.”


The first uses of nippit, found in the 1500s, refer to scarcity, which may be because this is a variation of nipped. In the 1800s, the term spread to miserliness and narrow-mindedness, and from there to more general bitterness. OED examples describe “nippit words” and people who are “mean or nippit.”


This marvelous word first referred to physical and mental quickness. A “snell remark” showed a quick wit. But that keenness spread to a different sort of sharpness: the severity or crispness of bitter weather. An 1822 use from Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine uses this sense: “The wintry air is snell and keen.”


The Latinate term for bitterness and harshness of various sorts appears in José Francisco de Isla's 1772 book The History of the Famous Preacher Friar Gerund de Campazas, describing some non-sweet folks: "Some so tetrical, so cross-grained, and of so corrupt a taste." A similar meaning is shared by the also-rare terms tetric, tetricity, tetricious, and tetritude. Thankfully, there is no relation to the sweet game of Tetris.


More from mental floss studios