Today’s post is brought to you by my language nerd side.
First of all, this weekend brings the O’Henry Pun-Off World Championships in Austin, Texas. Read more about the Pun-Off in an excerpt from John Pollack’s book, The Pun Also Rises, which is also the prize of an online pun contest run by the online store Marbles.
(My submission: “Hey baby, you must be a Latin noun, because I could never decline you.”)
More good (bad?) puns from Chemistry Cat and Condescending Literature Pun Dog.
For DC-area residents, today is also the first day to register for summer language classes with the Global Language Network. Whether you want to hone your Spanish, start on Mandarin, or get exposed to something more uncommon (Azerbaijani, Georgian, Yoruba?), I highly recommend the GLN. It’s potentially free — your $150 deposit is returned to you unless you miss more than a quarter of the classes. (Even paying the full price, it’s still a great deal.) I’ve taken a couple of Turkish classes there, then taught Polish for the past year, and it’s been a great experience both as student and teacher.
DC word nerds may also enjoy the Spelling Buzz, held most Fridays at 8pm at Rock & Roll Hotel on H St NE. It’s a spelling bee with drinking: contestants must have a drink in hand at all times, and the MC can make you drink at any point. Pro tip: he usually uses the Sharon Herald spelling bee word lists, so if you study ahead of time you might do reasonably well. At the very least, be sure you’re solid on “diphtheria” and “ophthalmology” before you go.
Finally: If pun contests, language classes, and spelling bees are still not nerdy enough for you, then have you heard of linguistics olympiads? They’re like math olympiads but with these language puzzles that I find amazingly addictive. For example, given a few words in a language you’ve never learned, can you find translations (or pronunciations) of new phrases? Or can you figure out the patterns behind an alternative to Braille?
I wish I’d had the opportunity to do a linguistics olympiad in high school. But luckily there are some excellent problem sets online thanks to the folks behind the International Linguistics Olympiad, North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad, and Princeton and University of Oregon. If you like cryptic crosswords, these might be up your alley too.