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How One Institution is Helping to Revive the Lakota Language

There are 170,000 members of the Native American Lakota tribe, most of whom live in North and South Dakota, but only 6000 speakers of the Lakota language. The average age of those speakers is approaching 70, meaning that without some kind of revitalization, the language could die out in a few generations.

Working to prevent that fate are staffers at the Lakota Language Consortium. Those at the institution are creating and encouraging a new generation of Lakota speakers with textbook development and teacher training for students starting at pre-school. Rising Voices, a new documentary on public television stations this month, shows these efforts to save the Lakota language in action.

One problem for language revival efforts is how to adapt the language to new concepts and ideas, or subjects that may not have had the opportunity to be discussed in the language before. The Lakota vocabulary is expanded through a yearly meeting where fluent speakers gather to coin new words to be used in teaching materials. They come up with words like wethebshala, meaning red blood cell, that take advantage of language features like compounding and suffixes. Wethebshala breaks down to we (blood)+theb (ball)+sha (red)+la (small), or small-red-blood-ball. 

In the scene above, the panel discusses a new word for Antarctica, exploring possibilities like “cold land” and “ice continent.”

To see more clips and the documentary trailer, visit the Rising Voices YouTube page. To see when it's airing near you, check the broadcast schedule

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26 Facts About LEGO Bricks

Since it first added plastic, interlocking bricks to its lineup, the Danish toy company LEGO (from the words Leg Godt for “play well”) has inspired builders of all ages to bring their most imaginative designs to life. Sets have ranged in size from scenes that can be assembled in a few minutes to 5000-piece behemoths depicting famous landmarks. And tinkerers aren’t limited to the sets they find in stores. One of the largest LEGO creations was a life-sized home in the UK that required 3.2 million tiny bricks to construct.

In this episode of the List Show, John Green lays out 26 playful facts about one of the world’s most beloved toy brands. To hear about the LEGO black market, the vault containing every LEGO set ever released, and more, check out the video above then subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with the latest flossy content.

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Of Buckeyes and Butternuts: 29 States With Weird Nicknames for Their Residents
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Tracing a word’s origin and evolution can yield fascinating historical insights—and the weird nicknames used in some states to describe their residents are no exception. In the Mental Floss video above, host John Green explains the probable etymologies of 29 monikers that describe inhabitants of certain states across the country.

Some of these nicknames, like “Hoosiers” and “Arkies” (which denote residents of Indiana and Arkansas, respectively) may have slightly offensive connotations, while others—including "Buckeyes," "Jayhawks," "Butternuts," and "Tar Heels"—evoke the military histories of Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. And a few, like “Muskrats” and “Sourdoughs,” are even inspired by early foods eaten in Delaware and Alaska. ("Goober-grabber" sounds goofier, but it at least refers to peanuts, which are a common crop in Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Arkansas.)

Learn more fascinating facts about states' nicknames for their residents by watching the video above.

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