Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Language’

Qapla’! Easy Klingon phrases that may save your life

September 07, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Language, Movies No Comments →

LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 9: Michael Dorn as Lt. Worf in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "The Big Goodbye." Season 1, episode 11.  Original air date January 9, 1988.  Image is a screen grab.  (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

quSDaq ba’lu’’a’ (Is this seat taken?)
Usage: When you’re sitting down to negotiations with a Klingon, it’s probably best to proceed with caution—although your polite question may betray your humanoid tendencies.

vjIjatlh (Speak)
Usage: As a greeting. “A Klingon will not waste time on trivial pleasantries,” notes Windsor. Why say “hello” when you can issue an order, instead?

Read it in Wired.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the series that saved my life. I was an antisocial 11-year-old nerd when Star Trek reruns started airing on local TV (We martial law kids only had 4 channels). It introduced me to science-fiction and the idea that the universe was bigger than I could possibly imagine, and crammed with possibilities, including people I could talk to who would not think I was a freak. Thank you, Gene Rodenberry and all the brilliant writers who boldly went where no one had gone before, and took us with them.

Friending, trending, messaging: You’ve been verbed

September 05, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Language, Technology 8 Comments →


Mothers and fathers used to bring up children: now they parent. Critics used to review plays: now they critique them. Athletes podium, executives flipchart, and almost everybody Googles. Watch out—you’ve been verbed.

The English language is in a constant state of flux. New words are formed and old ones fall into disuse. But no trend has been more obtrusive in recent years than the changing of nouns into verbs. “Trend” itself (now used as a verb meaning “change or develop in a general direction”, as in “unemployment has been trending upwards”) is further evidence of—sorry, evidences—this phenomenon…

New technology is fertile ground, partly because it is constantly seeking names for things which did not previously exist: we “text” from our mobiles, “bookmark” websites, “inbox” our e-mail contacts and “friend” our acquaintances on Facebook —only, in some cases, to “defriend” them later. “Blog” had scarcely arrived as a noun before it was adopted as a verb, first intransitive and then transitive (an American friend boasts that he “blogged hand-wringers” about a subject that upset him). Conversely, verbs such as “twitter” and “tweet” have been transformed into nouns—though this process is far less common.

Sport is another ready source. “Rollerblade”, “skateboard”, “snowboard” and “zorb” have all graduated from names of equipment to actual activities. Football referees used to book players, or send them off: now they “card” them. Racing drivers “pit”, golfers “par” and coastal divers “tombstone”.

Read it in 1843.

It’s the End of The Word As We Know It

November 20, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Language 2 Comments →


Read it in words.

The mathematics of history

August 18, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: History, Language, Science No Comments →

via 3QD

We now return to regular programming.

June 06, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Cats, Language, Pointless Anecdotes, Television 1 Comment →

Regulars may have noted that we have not been posting articles daily. This is because the last week of May always tries to kill us, so we took time off from writing columns and blogging. Also our ancient Mac and slow internet connection were sucking all the joy out of going online. The allergy (to prickly heat powder) is gone, the Mac is new, and the connection is fast, so we are back.

This is how we spent our “vacation”.

1. Defrosted the fridge. Why we do not do this regularly is a mystery, since all it entails is pushing a button. Maybe because we think of it as housework and we hate housework. We only remember to defrost the refrigerator when the icebox is sealed shut. When the ice has melted after a day or so, we expect to find The Thing in the freezer.

2. Thought of writing fake family history to claim relationship to the late billionaire Edmond Safra. There’s so much unsubstantiated information online, just posting a claim gives it traction. The only thing stopping us is the sheer weirdness of Edmond Safra’s story.

3. Read The Love Object by Edna O’Brien.

4. Shopped for feline overlords. We have found a regular source of Fancy Feast, which of course we will not reveal.

Sidebar: We’ve mentioned the cat epidemic in February which killed three of our outdoor ampon. We did not mention that Meriadoc disappeared on the day the outdoor cats started falling ill, because we could not accept the possibility that he had gotten infected.


Yesterday the guard reported that Meriadoc has been turning up very late at night, wearing a collar. He has found other humans. Traitor! Deserter! Then we realized that he did the smartest thing in order to avoid the epidemic. Humans get sentimental about cats; cats are not sentimental. They survive.

5. Watched 6 seasons of The Good Wife, which we had avoided seeing because everyone told us to. The full review in our column on Friday. We enjoyed the show, but cannot rein in our indignation: What is the point of casting Matthew Goode, possessor of the most adorable overbite on the screen, and then not giving him anything to do?

According to reports he won’t be back for the 7th season as he is joining the cast of Downton Abbey. So we’ll start watching Downton again, but not the two seasons we missed since Cousin Matthew died in the Xmas special. Here’s Matthew Goode in Stoker, which we missed for some reason or other but have to look up because it’s inspired by Hitchcock’s Shadow of A Doubt, which we love. Stoker was directed by Park Chan Wook (Old Boy) and written by Wentworth Miller (Prison Break).

6. Started listening to Basic Russian audiofiles. It’s supposed to be easier to learn Russian than Hungarian. It occurred to us while pronouncing common Russian names (Boris is “Ba-REES”) that world leaders have gotten Putin wrong. If you want anything from him, you challenge him to single combat.

Sleeping cat in Venetian store window

May 08, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Language, Places, Traveling No Comments →


This is one of exactly two cats we’ve seen on the whole trip. One was inside a carrier at the Market Hall in Budapest. This one was in a store window in Venice, around Castello. The sleeping cat looks like Saffy. (Saffy: That was me. I bilocated.)


Next to the cat, a sign telling people not to tap the glass. Some linguistic confusion here. “E io mi irrito!!!!”— The cat gets irritated by the tapping, the storekeeper gets irritated, or is the cat in the window because she annoyed the storekeeper?