Favourite podcasts

The Hidden Brain by NPR:

I listened to this one all about debt:

This episode all about scarcity was particularly impressive: https://www.npr.org/2019/08/05/748207152/you-2-0-tunnel-vision

podcast time

Ted Radio Hour by NPR:

About loneliness: https://www.npr.org/2020/07/01/886292087/listen-again-meditations-on-loneliness

How I built this by NPR:

How Ben and Jerry Ice Cream was founded: https://www.npr.org/2020/03/20/818918341/ben-jerrys-ben-cohen-and-jerry-greenfield

The Story behind Recaptcha: https://www.npr.org/2020/05/22/860884062/recaptcha-and-duolingo-luis-von-ahn

ARD Radio Tatort (crime fiction in German):

L’Italiano Vero:

The only language learning podcast that I like listening to.

Affordance – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I read a new, unknown word today: Affordance – See definition on Wikipedia.

A potential action that is made possible by a given object or environment; especially, one that is made easily discoverable.

Hadn’t heard of it before.

This is the context I heard it in:

The term has further evolved for use in the context of human”“computer interaction (HCI) to indicate the easy discoverability of possible actions.


I stumbled across this Swisscom poster showcasing Leo’s mobile app to sell a smart phone:

leo on swisscom poster

I started using Leo’s English – German dictionary regularly long time ago – in the late 90s. I think it must have been about 1997 or 1998 at my first full-time job after uni. The vocabulary wasn’t as extensive as it is today. And at the time many people questioned and challenged its reputation as a reference. But, working in an IT company, we had unlimited access to the Internet. And Leo’s website was accessible from every workplace, whereas hard copy dictionaries were few and bulky.

I remember lively discussions with a secondary school teacher for German and English. Her main point was that there was too little information on usage and folks studying English as a second language would be confused and misled by the simple list views. I felt that this also applied to most hard copy dictionaries. Regarding usage I – in turn- recommended Oxford’s monolingual Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.

From early on, Leo offered access to a forum where dictionary users could ask questions, make suggestions, improve dictionary entries, clarify usage, etc. And they added links to other language resources. Which indirectly helped me to find a job during the dotcom downturn.

Well, here I am walking to the office in Züri on a fine, sunny morning… just 13 years later… and Leo is helping to sell smartphones:


Related links:
Leo’s history
Online version of Oxford Advanced Learner Dictionary

Malawi Blog on Learning Tumbuka

Monire monire! Muli uli?

Tobias Kumwenda has started a blog to teach Tumbuka ( via Global Voices):

The mission of this weblog is to teach those people who are not ChiTumbuka speakers located across the world, but have developed passion to learn this language.

Manyani Chiyowoyero Cha ChiTumbuka

A great idea. Keep up the good work!

See also Wikipedia:

The Tumbuka language is a Bantu language which is spoken in parts of Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania.

The language of the Tumbuka people is called chiTumbuka – the ‘chi’ in front of Tumbuka meaning ‘the language of’, similar to ‘ki’ in kiSwahili or ‘se’ in seTswana.

The World Almanac (1998) estimates approximately 2,000,000 Tumbuka speakers exist in the aforementioned three countries.

There are substantial differences between the form of Tumbuka spoken in urban areas (which borrows some words from Chichewa/Nyanja) and the “village” or “deep” Tumbuka spoken in villages. The Rumphi variant is often regarded as the most “linguistically pure”, and is sometimes called “real Tumbuka”.

Disclaimer: Coming from Blantyre, my Tumbuka knowledge is non-existent, except for some vocab overlaps with Chichewa, even though I went to college with lots of northern Malawians.

Most People Are Multilingual

Here’s my comment I submitted a couple of minutes ago at Climb to the Stars on Most People Are Multilingual (cos I’m not sure if my comment wasn’t gobbled):

In southern Africa (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, SA) most people are multi-lingual with varying levels of language competency in at least 3 languages.

For example in Malawi, children learn English and Chichewa from the first class onwards. Their mother tongue being Chitumbuka or Chisena or Chilomwe. At secondary school level, nearly all subjects are taught in English.


It’s been a while since I’ve written anything personal in my blog. Mostly because this isn’t a confessional blog. A couple of weeks ago I read thu all entries here at chiperoni.ch. And I like the nice side-effect that I can hold onto a fleeting moment by documenting it in words (even if it’s just a link to the plug-in du jour). Time is flying so fast. And we need to spend our time savouring the moment.

Usually I just skim thru the weekly Duden email newsletter. Not today. Here’s a quote from today’s newsletter regarding the spelling of foreign (usually English) loan words in German:

Neue Rechtschreibung 2006 – Zusammengesetzte Fremdwörter

Zusammengesetzte Fremdwörter werden zusammengeschrieben. Besteht die Zusammensetzung aus Substantiven, kann zur besseren Lesbarkeit ein Bindestrich gesetzt werden:
– Desktoppublishing (auch: Desktop-Publishing)
– Airconditioning (auch: Air-Conditioning)
– Sciencefiction (auch: Science Fiction)
– Midlifecrisis (auch: Midlife-Crisis)

Ist der erste Bestandteil ein Adjektiv, kann zusammengeschrieben werden, wenn die gemeinsame Hauptbetonung auf dem ersten Bestandteil liegt. Andernfalls gilt nur Getrenntschreibung:
– Longdrink oder Long Drink
– Hotspot oder Hot Spot
– Aber nur: High Fidelity, Electronic Commerce, Top Ten

Bei Substantivierungen aus dem Englischen, die auf eine Verbindung aus Verb und Partikel (Adverb) zurückgehen, setzt man gewöhnlich einen Bindestrich; daneben ist auch Zusammenschreibung möglich:
– Black-out (auch: Blackout)
– Count-down (auch: Countdown)
– Kick-off (auch: Kickoff)

Weird. Anyway, who cares about spelling on a Friday evening…

A couple of links that crossed my paths this week:

Buon weekend.

About the inhabitants of JavaPolis

Linguistic nit-picking on a Friday afternoon:
I noticed this phrase over at the JavaPolis 06 website (a login is required):

17 299 JavaPolians registered

And I started wondering why JavaPolian, why not JavaPolitans?

After all, people living in a metropolis are metropolitans or have metropolitan characteristics.

The same applies for people from Minneapolis.

Maybe the ending for metropolis is different in French or Flemish…
And what about the inhabitants of Atlantis, what are they called?

As you can see, the benefits of a linguistics degree are endless.

More linguistic nit-picking available here.

MarComm Writing Tactics

Can technical writers be good marketing writers – and vice versa?

The above presentation notes are old (from 2002 i.e. definitely Web 1.0), but the question is interesting…

what’s your opinion on this?

(update: unfortunately the site seems to be down. Note to myself: write a short summary of the main points for future reference.)

experimenting with WordPress plugins

yesterday evening I started playing around with some WordPress plugins I’d found.

I made a small code change in wp-config.php. Everything was working fine… I thought. But this morning I got this error message (please skip the next paragraph if you’re a wp/PHP geek, you’re probably going to throw your hands up in utter exasperation and unsubscribe from my RSS feed for ever and ever and ever):

Warning: Cannot modify header information – headers already sent by (output started at /home/chiperon/public_html/wordpress/wp-config.php:65) in /home/chiperon/public_html/wordpress/wp-includes/pluggable-functions.php on line 247″

Turns out that the editor I was using added a couple of empty lines to the end of the file; quickly resolved with the help of the WordPress Codex.

So far I haven’t been using many WordPress plugins. SlimStats looks promising. But why add more stats if I already have Webalizer and co? So far the top benefit is that I can see the stats directly from the wp admin panel… saves me 2 to 3 clicks!


This Day displays old postings I’ve made on the same day in previous years. That’s a bit of a lottery for my readers… ‘cos the old postings will only be visible on days where I’ve posted something in the past.

I’ve started reading the book “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” and, I think, my continuous use of “…” would be listed as an example of bad, bad punctuation!

Help Save the German Language

Adopt a German word for 5 Euro:

Apparently the German language needs your help:

…Werden Sie Wortpate! Beschützen Sie ein deutsches Wort und übernehmen Sie dafür die Verantwortung: Entwickeln Sie das Wort weiter, pflegen Sie es, hüten Sie es vor MiàŸbrauch oder Verdrängung! Schreiben Sie Gedichte mit Ihrem Wort, tauschen Sie sich aus mit anderen Wortpaten und schaffen Sie Wörterbiotope oder -museen, ertüfteln Sie Wortspielereien. Und helfen Sie gleichzeitig mit einer kleinen Spende dem gemeinnützigen Verein Deutsche Sprache. Ihr Einsatz für die Gemeinschaft!

Sie sind der einzige. Jeder kann nur ein Wort betreuen. Jedes Wort wird nur einmal vergeben. Unsere Datenbank sagt Ihnen, ob ihr Lieblingswort (noch) zu haben ist. Sie erhalten dafür eine Urkunde, welche Sie als offiziellen Paten dieses Wortes ausweist. Das Wort “kostet” fünf Euro. Der Erlös geht an den Verein Deutsche Sprache e.V. Der VDS setzt sich ein für Pflege und Weiterentwicklung der deutschen Sprache. Sie helfen also unserer schönen Muttersprache (die über 1500 Jahre alt ist) und stärken unsere kulturelle Identität. Sie helfen uns allen – und helfen sich damit selbst. Geistiger Umweltschutz.

And here’s a list of anglicisms you should avoid.

Internet-Wörterbuch, das den Vergleich mit dem Duden nicht zu scheuen braucht

via Radio32.ch:

Telephon? Telefon? Televon? Canoo.net gibt Auskunft. Das Online-Wörterbuch wurde von zwei Schweizer Firmen* entwickelt, in Zusammenarbeit mit den Universitäten Basel und Amsterdam. Die Einstiegsseite sieht fast genau so aus wie bei Google: es hat nicht viel mehr als ein Eingabefeld. Wer hier „Telefon“ eingibt, bekommt nicht nur die richtige Schreibweise, sondern auch alle anderen Grammatik-Fragen beantwortet: Z.B. ob es „die Telefone“ oder „die Telefons“ heisst. Canoo.net ist ein Internet-Wörterbuch, das den Vergleich mit dem Duden nicht zu scheuen braucht und erst noch gratis benutzt werden darf.

*Just one correction: Canoo.net is developed and maintained by the Basel-based company, Canoo Engineering AG, in cooperation with IDSIA, Uni of Basel, and Uni of Amsterdam.