Will we one day communicate with pictures instead of words?

If i ever met someone from the Unicode technical committee again, I’m showing them this question, and yelling THIS! YOU MADE THIS HAPPEN!

  1. Rebuses do not make an international language.
  2. This is not the first attempt at an international symbolic language. Not by a very long shot.

For a look at this kind of thing done right (or at least, much more right), see Bliss Symbolics: Start . Being used by a whole lot of linguistically handicapped people.

Why did Australia decide to call their currency “dollars” instead of “pounds”?

The critical decision was not to call the new decimal currency the pound. The pound was an option: Cyprus already had a decimalised pound, for example. But that option wasn’t taken.

As indeed it wasn’t taken in the other dominions. Canada, for example, went decimal and dollar in 1858. Decimal because My God, do you really want shillings and pence? And Dollar, because they’re next door to Dollarland.

Her Imperial Majesty wished her loyal dominion of Canada not to use the same name as Dollarland, and tried to make Canada call them royals instead. Which is a translation of the Spanish real, and which is also a suitably Imperial name for a currency.

Did not happen. Overruled by the otherwise loyal dominion’s legislature itself.

At the time Australian decimalisation was put forward, and the option of the pound wasn’t taken, Australia was in the torpor of 17 years of rule by arch monarchist Robert Menzies. Menzies thought that Canadian royal thing was an excellent idea, and wished to see it emulated.

We sneer now, we unruly latte-sipping Australian elites, at how forelock-tugging our antecedents were back then. But when Menzies’ successor Harold Holt tried to implement the royal, he got death threats. He backed down, and went with what Canada had gone with: the dollar. Shortly thereafter, so did New Zealand.

If a president decided to go rogue and wants to nuke a country, what would happen?

Like everyone else said, that’s why you try to have a sane Secretary of Defence.

Anon mentioned Nixon during Nam: Anonymous’ answer to If a president decided to go rogue and wants to nuke a country, what would happen? Anon doesn’t mention Nixon during the death throes of his presidency, when Schlessinger his SecDef was convinced Nixon really was at risk of going rogue and saying “Fuck it, let’s go blow up a country.”

Schlessinger quietly got word out that any such orders from Nixon were to be ignored.

I think Haldeman was already in jail by then. That would normally have been his job. Thank God Schlessinger did Haldeman’s job.

Can linguists differentiate between all the sounds of the IPA?

Thanks, Khateeb!

When I was in second year phonetics in university, our exam was to do just that. Our lecturer would say some sounds, we had to write them down in IPA.

With some provisos.

  • Most diacritics would count, but some of them, such as the forward/backward, raised/lowered diacritics for vowels, would not: too subtle. For that matter, we would not be expected to tell apart the 5 different versions of schwa, and I’m not sure anyone does.
  • I think we were off the hook for learning the most obscure articulations: epiglottals, alveolo-palatals, and that weird Swedish combination ɧ.
  • The consonants were pronounced between vowels: awa, aɥa, aɰa, aca, aka, aqa. That’s optimal for telling the difference between consonants; the auditory cues for the differences are in the transition into and out of consonants. Final unreleased consonants, such as you routinely get in Cantonese, I have found utterly impossible to hear the difference between.

I don’t have a great ear. But under ideal test conditions, and limiting ourselves to distinct IPA letters? Yes. We do.