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You Learn Something Every Day

A couple little linguistic tidbits I ran accross today:

  • An investigation of the urban legend that went around a little while ago claiming that "it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae." It turns out that the example sentence relies on a few extra tricks to make it work. What really caught my attention, though, were some of the foreign language ones. Finnish didn't work too well, in part because Finnish uses really long words instead of all the little un-jumble-able function words (like "by" and "and") that English has. On the other hand, I found the Spanish version to be just as readable as the English.

  • An answer to the origin of the racial term "Caucasian": apparently Johannes Blumenbach, the guy who invented it, thought Caucasians got their start when Noah's Ark ran aground in the Caucasus Mountains. This, of course, leads one to wonder where the other races got started, if they weren't on the Ark. I haven't been able to track down more information on Blumenbach's system. My best guess would be that, of Noah's three sons, two -- Japheth and Shem -- were thought at the time to be the ancestors of groups (Europeans and "Semitic" people, respectively) that would be classified as Caucasian. This means that the remaining four of Blumenbach's five (I'm guessing Negroid, Mongoloid, Australoid, and ... ?) split from Ham's descendants at a later date.


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