Hear Leo Tolstoy Read From His Last Major Work in Four Languages, 1909

In years past, we’ve brought you rare record­ings of Sig­mund Freud and Jorge Luis Borges speak­ing in Eng­lish. Today we present a remark­able series of record­ings of the great Russ­ian nov­el­ist Leo Tol­stoy read­ing a pas­sage from his book, Wise Thoughts for Every Day, in four lan­guages: Eng­lish, Ger­man, French and Russ­ian.

Wise Thoughts For Every Day was Tol­stoy’s last major work. It first appeared in 1903 as The Thoughts of Wise Men, and was revised and renamed sev­er­al times before the author’s death in 1910. Even­tu­al­ly banned by the Sovi­et regime, the book reap­peared in 1995 as a best­seller in Rus­sia. Then, in 1997, the text was trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish by Peter Sekirin and pub­lished as A Cal­en­dar of Wis­dom. The book is a col­lec­tion of pas­sages from a diverse group of thinkers, rang­ing from Laozi to Ralph Wal­do Emer­son. “I felt that I have been ele­vat­ed to great spir­i­tu­al and moral heights by com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the best and wis­est peo­ple whose books I read and whose thoughts I select­ed for my Cir­cle of Read­ing,” wrote Tol­stoy in his diary.

As an old man (watch video of him short­ly before he died) Tol­stoy reject­ed his great works of fic­tion, believ­ing that it was more impor­tant to give moral and spir­i­tu­al guid­ance to the com­mon peo­ple. “To cre­ate a book for the mass­es, for mil­lions of peo­ple,” wrote Tol­stoy, “is incom­pa­ra­bly more impor­tant and fruit­ful than to com­pose a nov­el of the kind which diverts some mem­bers of the wealthy class­es for a short time, and then is for­ev­er for­got­ten.”

Tol­stoy arranged his book for the mass­es as a cal­en­dar, with a series of read­ings for each day of the year. For exam­ple under the date, May 9, Tol­stoy selects brief pas­sages from Immanuel Kant, Solon, and the Koran. Under­neath he writes, “We can­not stop on the way to self-per­fec­tion. As soon as you notice that you have a big­ger inter­est in the out­er world than in your­self, then you should know that the world moves behind you.”

The audio record­ings above were made at the writer’s home in Yas­naya Polyana on Octo­ber 31, 1909, when he was 81 years old. He died just over a year lat­er. Tol­stoy appar­ent­ly trans­lat­ed the pas­sage him­self. The Eng­lish ver­sion sounds a bit like the King James Bible. The words are hard to make out in the record­ing, but he says:

That the object of life is self-per­fec­tion, the per­fec­tion of all immor­tal souls, that this is the only object of my life, is seen to be cor­rect by the fact alone that every oth­er object is essen­tial­ly a new object. There­fore, the ques­tion whether thou hast done what thou shoudst have done is of immense impor­tance, for the only mean­ing of thy life is in doing in this short term allowed thee, that which is desired of thee by He or That which has sent thee into life. Art thou doing the right thing?

Tol­stoy is known to have made sev­er­al voice record­ings in his life, dat­ing back to 1895 when he made two wax cylin­der record­ings for Julius Block. Russ­ian lit­er­ary schol­ar Andrew D. Kauf­man has col­lect­ed three more vin­tage record­ings (all in Russ­ian) includ­ing Tol­stoy’s les­son to peas­ant chil­dren on his estate, a read­ing of his fairy tale “The Wolf,” and an excerpt from his essay “I Can­not be Silent.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Last Days of Leo Tol­stoy Cap­tured on Video

Leo Tol­stoy Cre­ates a List of the 50+ Books That Influ­enced Him Most (1891)

An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to Leo Tol­stoy, and How His Great Nov­els Can Increase Your Emo­tion­al Intel­li­gence

Leo Tolstoy’s 17 “Rules of Life:” Wake at 5am, Help the Poor, & Only Two Broth­el Vis­its Per Month

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Hear Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” Performed in Classical Latin

By the ear­ly nine­teen-nineties, at least in the Unit­ed States, Latin instruc­tion in schools was­n’t what it had once been. Stu­dents every­where had long been show­ing impa­tience and irrev­er­ence about their hav­ing to study that “dead lan­guage,” of course. But sure­ly it had nev­er felt quite so irrel­e­vant as it did in a world of shop­ping malls, cable tele­vi­sion, and the emerg­ing inter­net. Thir­ty years ago, few stu­dents would have freely cho­sen to do their Latin home­work when they could have been, say, lis­ten­ing to Nir­vana. But now, in the age of Youtube, they can have both at once.

In the video above, the_miracle_aligner cov­ers “Smells Like Teen Spir­it” in a medieval (or “bard­core”) style, using not just peri­od instru­men­ta­tion but also a trans­la­tion of its lyrics into Latin. Since its release a few years ago, this Colos­se­um-wor­thy ver­sion of the song that defined grunge has drawn thou­sands upon thou­sands of appre­cia­tive com­ments from enthu­si­asts of Nir­vana and Latin alike.

As one of the lat­ter points out, “most Latin words rhyme because of con­ju­ga­tion,” and when they don’t, the lan­guage’s unusu­al free­dom of word order pro­vides plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ty to make it work. Still, the song con­tains more than its share of tru­ly inspired choic­es: anoth­er com­menter calls it “just immac­u­late” how “the ‘hel­lo, how low’ rhymes as ‘salvé, parve.’ ”

As tends to be the way with those of us here in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry inclined to dig deep into a lan­guage like Latin, some take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to get into char­ac­ter: “I vivid­ly remem­ber the night Gaius Kur­tus Cobainius the Elder pre­miered this song at the Amphithe­ater of Pom­pey in the Sum­mer of 91AD. The plebs went nuts and were throw­ing Ses­ter­ti and Denari on the stage. I even saw a patri­cian woman lift her tunic! Oh how I miss those days.” In what­ev­er lan­guage it’s sung, the instant­ly rec­og­niz­able “Smells Like Teen Spir­it” will send any Gen­er­a­tion-Xers in earshot right back to the stren­u­ous slack­ing of their own youth. And the cry “Oblec­táte, nunc híc sumus” would have cut as sharply in the age of bread and cir­cus­es as it did in the MTV era — or, for that mat­ter, as it does now.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Learn Latin, Old Eng­lish, San­skrit, Clas­si­cal Greek & Oth­er Ancient Lan­guages in 10 Lessons

How Nirvana’s Icon­ic “Smells Like Teen Spir­it” Came to Be: An Ani­mat­ed Video Nar­rat­ed by T‑Bone Bur­nett Tells the True Sto­ry

Hip 1960s Latin Teacher Trans­lat­ed Bea­t­les Songs into Latin for His Stu­dents: Read Lyrics for “O Teneum Manum,” “Diei Duri Nox” & More

Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” Played By Musi­cians Around the World

The First Live Per­for­mance of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spir­it” (1991)

What Ancient Latin Sound­ed Like, And How We Know It

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

How Being Bilingual Helps Your Brain (Even If You Learn a New Language in Adulthood)

There was a time in Amer­i­ca, not so very long ago, when con­ven­tion­al wis­dom dis­cour­aged immi­grants from speak­ing the lan­guage of the old coun­try at home. In fact, “it used to be thought that being bilin­gual was a bad thing, that it would con­fuse or hold peo­ple back, espe­cial­ly chil­dren. Turns out we could­n’t have been more wrong.” These words are spo­ken by one of the vari­ety of mul­ti­lin­gual nar­ra­tors of the recent BBC Ideas video above, which explains “why being bilin­gual is good for your brain” — not just if you pick up a sec­ond lan­guage in child­hood, but also, and dif­fer­ent­ly, if you delib­er­ate­ly study it as an adult.

“Learn­ing a new lan­guage is an exer­cise of the mind,” says Li Wei of the Insti­tute of Edu­ca­tion at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don. “It’s the men­tal equiv­a­lent of going to a gym every day.” In the bilin­gual brain, “all our lan­guages are active, all at the same time.” (This we hear simul­ta­ne­ous­ly in Eng­lish and the pro­fes­sor’s native Man­darin.) “The con­tin­u­al effort of sup­press­ing a lan­guage when speak­ing anoth­er, along with the men­tal chal­lenge that comes with reg­u­lar­ly switch­ing between lan­guages, exer­cis­es our brain. It improves our con­cen­tra­tion, prob­lem-solv­ing, mem­o­ry, and in turn, our cre­ativ­i­ty.”

In this cen­tu­ry, some of the key dis­cov­er­ies about the ben­e­fits of bilin­gual­ism owe to the research of York Uni­ver­si­ty cog­ni­tive sci­en­tist Ellen Bia­lystok and her col­lab­o­ra­tors. Speak­ing a for­eign lan­guage, she explains in this Guardian inter­view, requires using the brain’s “exec­u­tive con­trol sys­tem, whose job it is to resolve com­pe­ti­tion and focus atten­tion. If you’re bilin­gual, you are using this sys­tem all the time, and that enhances and for­ti­fies it.” In one study, she and her team found that bilin­guals with advanced Alzheimer’s could func­tion at the same cog­ni­tive lev­els with milder degrees of the same con­di­tion. “That’s the advan­tage: they could cope with the dis­ease bet­ter.”

Mas­ter­ing a for­eign lan­guage is, of course, an aspi­ra­tion com­mon­ly held but sel­dom real­ized. Based on per­son­al expe­ri­ence, I can say that noth­ing does the trick quite like mov­ing to a for­eign coun­try. But even if you’d rather not pull up stakes, you can ben­e­fit from the fact that the inter­net now pro­vides the great­est, most acces­si­ble abun­dance of lan­guage-learn­ing resources and tools human­i­ty has ever known — an abun­dance you can start explor­ing right here at Open Cul­ture. If it feels over­whelm­ing to choose just one for­eign lan­guage from this world of pos­si­bil­i­ties, feel free to use my sys­tem: study sev­en of them, one for each day of the week. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s Tues­day, which means I’ve got some français à appren­dre.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Learn 48 Lan­guages Online for Free: Span­ish, Chi­nese, Eng­lish & More

Becom­ing Bilin­gual Can Give Your Brain a Boost: What Recent Research Has to Say

A Map Show­ing How Much Time It Takes to Learn For­eign Lan­guages: From Eas­i­est to Hard­est

Why You Have an Accent When You Speak a For­eign Lan­guage

What Are the Most Effec­tive Strate­gies for Learn­ing a For­eign Lan­guage?: Six TED Talks Pro­vide the Answers

Meet the Hyper­poly­glots, the Peo­ple Who Can Mys­te­ri­ous­ly Speak Up to 32 Dif­fer­ent Lan­guages

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Can You Crack the Uncrackable Code in Kryptos, the CIA’s Work of Public Art?

It can be chal­leng­ing to parse the mean­ing of many non-nar­ra­tive art­works.

Some­times the title will offer a clue, or the artist will shed some light in an inter­view.

Is it a com­ment on the cul­tur­al, socio-eco­nom­ic or polit­i­cal con­text in which it was cre­at­ed?

Or is the act of cre­at­ing it the artist’s most salient point?

Are mul­ti­ple inter­pre­ta­tions pos­si­ble?

Artist Jim San­born’s mas­sive sculp­ture Kryp­tos may inspire var­i­ous reac­tions in its view­ers, but there’s def­i­nite­ly a sin­gle cor­rect inter­pre­ta­tion.

But 78-year-old San­born isn’t say­ing what…

He wants some­one else to iden­ti­fy it.

Kryp­tos’ main mys­tery — more like “a rid­dle wrapped in a mys­tery inside an enig­ma” to quote Win­ston Churchill — was hand cut into an S‑shaped cop­per screen using jig­saws.

Image cour­tesy of the CIA

Pro­fes­sion­al crypt­an­a­lysts, hob­by­ists, and stu­dents have been attempt­ing to crack the code of its 865 let­ters and 4 ques­tion marks since 1990, when it was installed on the grounds of CIA head­quar­ters in Lan­g­ley, Vir­ginia.

The hands-on part fell well with­in Sanborn’s purview. But a Mas­ters in sculp­ture from Pratt Insti­tute does not auto­mat­i­cal­ly con­fer cryp­tog­ra­phy bonafides, so San­born enlist­ed Edward Schei­dt, the retired chair­man of the CIA’s Cryp­to­graph­ic Cen­ter, for a crash course in late 20th-cen­tu­ry cod­ing sys­tems.

San­born sam­pled var­i­ous cod­ing meth­ods for the fin­ished piece, want­i­ng the act of deci­pher­ing to feel like “peel­ing lay­ers off an onion.”

That onion has been par­tial­ly peeled for years.

Deci­pher­ing three of its four pan­els is a pelt shared by com­put­er sci­en­tist and for­mer pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Cryp­togram Asso­ci­a­tion, James Gillo­gly, and CIA ana­lyst David Stein.

Gillo­gly arrived at his solu­tion in 1999, using a Pen­tium II.

Stein reached the same con­clu­sion a year ear­li­er, after chip­ping away at it for some 400 hours with pen­cil and paper, though the CIA kept his achieve­ment on the down low until Gillo­gly went pub­lic with his.

The fol­low­ing year the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Agency claimed that four of their employ­ees, work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive­ly, had reached an iden­ti­cal solu­tion in 1992, a fact cor­rob­o­rat­ed by doc­u­ments obtained through the Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act.

(On a relat­ed note, I got Wor­dle in three this morn­ing…)

This still leaves the 97-char­ac­ter phrase from the final pan­el up for grabs. Crack­ing it will be the penul­ti­mate step in solv­ing Kryp­tos’ puz­zle. As San­born told NPR in 2020, “that phrase is in itself a rid­dle:”

It’s mys­te­ri­ous. It’s going to lead to some­thing else. It’s not going to be fin­ished when it’s decod­ed.

The pub­lic is wel­come to con­tin­ue mak­ing edu­cat­ed guess­es.

San­born has leaked three clues over the years, all words that can be found in the final pas­sage of decrypt­ed text.

BERLIN, at posi­tions 64 — 69 (2010)

CLOCK, at posi­tions 70 — 74 (2014)

NORTHEAST, at posi­tion 26 — 34

Have you solved it, yet?


Don’t feel bad…

San­born has been field­ing incor­rect answers dai­ly for decades, though a ris­ing tide of aggres­sive and racist mes­sages led him to charge 50 bucks per sub­mis­sion, to which he responds via e‑mail, with absolute­ly no hope of hints.

Kryp­tos’ most ded­i­cat­ed fans, like game devel­op­er /cryptologist Elon­ka Dunin, seen ply­ing San­born with copi­ous quan­ti­ties of sushi above in Great Big Sto­ry’s video, find val­ue in work­ing togeth­er and, some­times, in per­son.

Their dream is that San­born might inad­ver­tent­ly let slip a valu­able tid­bit in their pres­ence, though that seems like a long shot.

The artist claims to have got­ten very skilled at main­tain­ing a pok­er face.

(Wait, does that sug­gest his inter­locu­tors have been get­ting warmer?)

Dunin has relin­quished all fan­tasies of solv­ing Kryp­tos solo, and now works to help some­one — any­one — solve it.

(Please, Lord, don’t let it be chat­G­PT…)

San­ford has put a con­tin­gency plan in place in case no one ever man­ages to get to the bot­tom of the Kryp­tos (ancient Greek for “hid­den”) conun­drum.

He, or rep­re­sen­ta­tives of his estate, will auc­tion off the solu­tion. He is con­tent with let­ting the win­ning bid­der decide whether or not to share what’s been revealed to them.

“I do real­ize that the val­ue of Kryp­tos is unknown and that per­haps this con­cept will bear lit­tle fruit,” he told the New York Times, though if one takes the mass­es of peo­ple des­per­ate to learn the solu­tion and fac­tors in Sanford’s inten­tion to donate all pro­ceeds to cli­mate research, it may well bear quite a healthy amount of fruit.

Join Elon­ka Dunin’s online com­mu­ni­ty of Kryp­tos enthu­si­asts here.

To give you a taste of what you’re in for, here are the first two pan­els, fol­lowed by their solu­tions, with the artist’s inten­tion­al mis­spellings intact.

Encrypt­ed Text

Decrypt­ed Text
Between sub­tle shad­ing and the absence of light lies the nuance of iqlu­sion.


Encrypt­ed Text

Decrypt­ed Text
It was total­ly invis­i­ble Hows that pos­si­ble? They used the Earths mag­net­ic field X
The infor­ma­tion was gath­ered and trans­mit­ted under­gru­und to an unknown loca­tion X
Does Lan­g­ley know about this? They should Its buried out there some­where X
Who knows the exact loca­tion? Only WW This was his last mes­sage X
Thir­ty eight degrees fifty sev­en min­utes six point five sec­onds north
Sev­en­ty sev­en degrees eight min­utes forty four sec­onds west ID by rows

View step by step solu­tions for the first three of Kryp­tos’ encrypt­ed pan­els here.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Enig­ma Machine: How Alan Tur­ing Helped Break the Unbreak­able Nazi Code

Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence May Have Cracked the Code of the Voyn­ich Man­u­script: Has Mod­ern Tech­nol­o­gy Final­ly Solved a Medieval Mys­tery?

The Code of Charles Dick­ens’ Short­hand Has Been Cracked by Com­put­er Pro­gram­mers, Solv­ing a 160-Year-Old Mys­tery

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Hear the Dying Whistled Language of Laos, Featured in a New Short Film, “Birdsong”

Even by the stan­dards of south­east Asia, Laos is a lin­guis­ti­cal­ly inter­est­ing place. As a for­mer French colony, it remains part of la Fran­coph­o­nie, yet iron­i­cal­ly, French is not its lin­gua fran­ca; that would be Lao, spo­ken native­ly by just over half the pop­u­la­tion (as well, in anoth­er dialect, by many more Thais on the oth­er side of the west­ern bor­der). And that does­n’t even get into the 90 oth­er tongues spo­ken in the var­i­ous regions of Laos, many of which sound noth­ing like the major lan­guages in use. Ven­ture far from Vien­tiane, up into the coun­try’s north­ern high­lands, and you’ll even hear a lan­guage com­posed entire­ly of whis­tles.

You’ll hear it if you’re lucky, any­way. As con­veyed in Omi Zola Gup­ta and Sparsh Ahu­ja’s short doc­u­men­tary Bird­song, this lan­guage has pre­cious few remain­ing native speak­ers — or, in the case of one arti­san who com­mu­ni­cates through a kind of tra­di­tion­al bam­boo bag­pipe called the qeej, play­ers. They hail from Long Lan, a vil­lage inhab­it­ed by the Hmong peo­ple (who in the Unit­ed States became known as an immi­grant group thanks to Clint East­wood’s film Gran Tori­no).

“Hmong peo­ple are roman­tics because we live in the moun­tains, sur­round­ed by the sounds of the birds and the rodents, the winds and mead­ows of flow­ers,” says one of them. “The insects and birds are still singing in the for­est,” adds anoth­er, “but we don’t hear them in the city any­more. And with­out the birds, how can we tell the sea­sons?”

Like oth­er whis­tled lan­guages (includ­ing the Oax­a­can, Turk­ish, and Canari­an ones we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture), that used by the vil­lagers of Long Lan does not belong to the urban world. As Lau­ra Spin­ney writes in the Guardian, some 80 such lan­guages still exist in total, “on every inhab­it­ed con­ti­nent, usu­al­ly where tra­di­tion­al rur­al lifestyles per­sist, and in places where the ter­rain makes long-dis­tance com­mu­ni­ca­tion both dif­fi­cult and nec­es­sary — high moun­tains, for exam­ple, or dense for­est.” Though all of them are now endan­gered, “whis­tled lan­guages have come into their own in sur­pris­ing ways in the past. They have often flour­ished when there has been a need for secre­cy,” as when Papua New Guineans used theirs to evade Japan­ese sur­veil­lance in World War II — or, as one of Bird­song’s inter­vie­wees remem­bers, when he had things to say meant for his girl­friend’s ears alone.

via Messy­Nessy

Relat­ed con­tent:

Speak­ing in Whis­tles: The Whis­tled Lan­guage of Oax­a­ca, Mex­i­co

Dis­cov­er the Dis­ap­pear­ing Turk­ish Lan­guage That is Whis­tled, Not Spo­ken

The Fas­ci­nat­ing Whis­tled Lan­guages of the Canary Islands, Turkey & Mex­i­co (and What They Say About the Human Brain)

How Lan­guages Evolve: Explained in a Win­ning TED-Ed Ani­ma­tion

The Rarest Sounds Across All Human Lan­guages: Learn What They Are, and How to Say Them

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Prisencolinensinainciusol, the Catchy Italian Pop Song That Sounded Like It Had English Lyrics, But Was Actually Gibberish (1972)

Yes­ter­day a friend and I were stand­ing on a New York City side­walk, wait­ing for the light, when Stayin’ Alive began issu­ing at top vol­ume from a near­by car.

Pavlov­ian con­di­tion­ing kicked in imme­di­ate­ly.  We’d been singing along with the Bee Gees for near­ly a minute before real­iz­ing that nei­ther of us knew the lyrics. Like, at all.

Ital­ian actor and musi­cian Adri­ano Celen­tano’s cult clas­sic, Prisen­co­l­i­nensi­nain­ciu­sol, inspires a sim­i­lar response.

The dif­fer­ence being that should I ever need to prep for karaoke, Stayin’ Alive’s lyrics are wide­ly avail­able online, where­as Prisen­co­l­i­nensi­nain­ciu­sol’s lyrics are kind of anyone’s guess…nonsense in any lan­guage.

Celen­tano impro­vised this gib­ber­ish in 1972 in an attempt to recre­ate how Amer­i­can rock and roll lyrics sound like to non-Eng­lish-speak­ing Ital­ian fans like him­self.

As he told NPR’s All Things Con­sid­ered through a trans­la­tor dur­ing a 2012 inter­view:

Ever since I start­ed singing, I was very influ­enced by Amer­i­can music and every­thing Amer­i­cans did. So at a cer­tain point, because I like Amer­i­can slang — which, for a singer, is much eas­i­er to sing than Ital­ian — I thought that I would write a song which would only have as its theme the inabil­i­ty to communicate…I sang it with an angry tone because the theme was impor­tant. It was an anger born out of res­ig­na­tion. I brought to light the fact that peo­ple don’t com­mu­ni­cate.

And yet, his 1974 appear­ance in the above sketch on the Ital­ian vari­ety series For­mu­la Due spurs strangers to make stabs at com­mu­ni­ca­tion by shar­ing their best guess tran­scrip­tions of Prisen­co­l­i­nensi­nain­ciu­sol’s lyrics in YouTube com­ments, 51 years after the song’s orig­i­nal release.

A sam­pling, anchored by the cho­rus’ icon­ic and unmis­take­able “all right:”


My eyes lie, sense­less.
I guess I’m throw­ing piz­za.

And the cold wind sailor,
freez­ing cold and icy in Tuc­son



My eyes are way so sen­si­tive
And it gets so cold, it’s freez­ing

You’re the cold, main, the same one
Please let’s call ’em ‘n’ dance with my shoes off
All right



My eyes smile sense­less but it doesn’t go with diesel all right.



I don’t know why but I want a maid to say I want pair of ice blue shoes with eyes…awight.


Prisen­co­l­i­nensi­nain­ciu­sol’s loop­ing, throb­bing beat is wild­ly catchy and immi­nent­ly dance­able, as evi­denced by Celentano’s per­for­mance on For­mu­la Due and that of the black clad dancers back­ing him up dur­ing an appear­ance on Mil­lelu­ci, anoth­er mid-70s Ital­ian vari­ety show, below.

The atten­tion gen­er­at­ed by these vari­ety show seg­ments — both lip synched — sent Prisen­co­l­i­nensi­nain­ciu­sol up the charts in Italy, Bel­gium, Ger­many, France, the Nether­lands, the UK,  and even the Unit­ed States.

Its mix of dis­co, hip hop and funk has proved sur­pris­ing­ly durable, inspir­ing remix­es and cov­ers, includ­ing the one that served as philoso­pher Slavoj Žižek’s Euro­vi­sion Song Con­test entry.

Prisen­co­l­i­nensi­nain­ciu­sol has net­ted a whole new gen­er­a­tion of fans by crop­ping up on Ted Las­so, Far­go, a com­mer­cial for spiced rum, and seem­ing­ly innu­mer­able Tik­Toks.

We’ll prob­a­bly nev­er get a firm grasp on the lyrics, despite Ital­ian tele­vi­sion host Pao­lo Bono­lis’ puck­ish 2005 attempt to goad befud­dled native Eng­lish speak­er Will Smith into deci­pher­ing them.

No mat­ter.

Celentano’s supreme­ly con­fi­dent deliv­ery of those indeli­ble non­sense syl­la­bles is what counts, accord­ing to a YouTube view­er from Slove­nia with fond mem­o­ries of play­ing in a rock band as a teen in the 1960’s:

This is exact­ly how we non-Eng­lish-speak­ers sung the then hit songs. You learned some begin­ning parts of lyrics so that the audi­ence rec­og­nized the song. They heard it at Radio Lux­em­bourg. From here on it was exact­ly the same style — out­side the cho­rus of course. Adri­ano Celen­tano was always been a leg­end for us back in Slove­nia.

h/t Erik B.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Sto­ry of Lorem Ipsum: How Scram­bled Text by Cicero Became the Stan­dard For Type­set­ters Every­where

Hear All of Finnegans Wake Read Aloud: A 35 Hour Read­ing

Watch La Lin­ea, the Pop­u­lar 1970s Ital­ian Ani­ma­tions Drawn with a Sin­gle Line

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The Writing Systems of the World Explained, from the Latin Alphabet to the Abugidas of India

The Kore­an alpha­bet, hangul, is “the most sci­en­tif­ic writ­ing sys­tem.” One often hears that in South Korea, a soci­ety that has tak­en to heart Asia schol­ar Edwin O. Reis­chauer’s descrip­tion of hangul as “per­haps the most sci­en­tif­ic sys­tem of writ­ing in gen­er­al use in any coun­try.” But what­ev­er their sci­en­tif­ic cre­den­tials, all the oth­er writ­ing sys­tems in use (and indeed out of use) have fas­ci­nat­ing qual­i­ties of their own, a range of which are explained in the Use­fulCharts video above on the writ­ing sys­tems of the world — not just the alpha­bets of the world, mind you, but also the abjads, the syl­labaries, the logo-syl­labaries, and the abugi­das.

The sym­bols used in an abjad, like that of Hebrew or Ara­bic (or ancient Egypt­ian hiero­glyphs), rep­re­sent only con­so­nants; as for vow­els, “the read­ers are expect­ed to add them in on their own, based on con­text.” In a syl­labary, like the hira­gana and katakana used in Japan­ese, each char­ac­ter rep­re­sents a syl­la­ble: に for “ni,” ほ for “ho,” ん for “n” (though lin­guists no doubt argue about whether that last should real­ly count as a syl­la­ble).

But most of the Japan­ese writ­ing is adapt­ed from the Chi­nese one, a logo-syl­labary in which “a sin­gle char­ac­ter can stand for a unique syl­la­ble or an entire word or idea,” which results in “thou­sands of char­ac­ters that need to be learned for basic lit­er­a­cy.”

Abugi­das, pri­mar­i­ly used in Indi­an and south­east Asian lan­guages (but also to write Amhar­ic, the lan­guage of Ethiopia), “have unique char­ac­ters both for vow­els and for con­so­nants. How­ev­er, these vow­el let­ters are gen­er­al­ly only used in sit­u­a­tions where a word begins with a vow­el.” Oth­er­wise, a “small change” made to a con­so­nant char­ac­ter indi­cates which vow­el fol­lows. How­ev­er mechan­i­cal­ly or aes­thet­i­cal­ly diverse they may appear, none of these writ­ing sys­tems (all pic­tured on a poster from Use­fulCharts, avail­able for $19.95 USD) are so fun­da­men­tal­ly dif­fer­ent that they can’t be mas­tered by a non-native with time and effort. Not that they’re all as easy as hangul, which — as its com­mis­sion­er King Sejong the Great put it, in anoth­er quotable quote — a wise man can learn before the morn­ing is over, and a stu­pid man can learn in ten days.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Writ­ing Has Spread Across the World, from 3000 BC to This Year: An Ani­mat­ed Map

The Evo­lu­tion of the Alpha­bet: A Col­or­ful Flow­chart, Cov­er­ing 3,800 Years, Takes You From Ancient Egypt to Today

How to Read Ancient Egypt­ian Hiero­glyphs: A British Muse­um Cura­tor Explains

The Atlas of Endan­gered Alpha­bets: A Free Online Atlas That Helps Pre­serve Writ­ing Sys­tems That May Soon Dis­ap­pear

Dis­cov­er Nüshu, a 19th-Cen­tu­ry Chi­nese Writ­ing Sys­tem That Only Women Knew How to Write

How to Write in Cuneiform, the Old­est Writ­ing Sys­tem in the World: A Short, Charm­ing Intro­duc­tion

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


Discover the Regions in Italy Where the People Descended from the Medieval or Ancient Greeks, and Still Speak Greek

All of us, across the world, know that Italy is shaped like a boot. But almost none of us know that, in the regions of Apu­lia and Cal­abria at the coun­try’s “heel” and “toe,” live small com­mu­ni­ties who, among them­selves, still speak not Ital­ian but Greek. The word “still” applies because these peo­ples, known as Griko (or Gre­cani­ci), are thought to have descend­ed from the much larg­er medieval or even ancient Greek com­mu­ni­ties that once exist­ed there. Of course, it would­n’t have been at all unusu­al back then for inhab­i­tants of one part of what we now call Italy to speak a quite dif­fer­ent lan­guage from the inhab­i­tants of anoth­er.

John Kaza­k­lis at Isto­ria writes that “the Ital­ian lan­guage did not become the sta­ple lan­guage until well into the end of the 19th Cen­tu­ry dur­ing the process of Ital­ian uni­fi­ca­tion, or the Risorg­i­men­to,” which turned the Tus­can dialect into the nation­al lan­guage. Yet “there exists today a tiny enclave of Greek-speak­ing peo­ple in the Aspromonte Moun­tain region of Reg­gio Cal­abria that seem to have sur­vived mil­len­nia.”

Are they “descen­dants of the Ancient Greeks who col­o­nized South­ern Italy? Are they rem­nants of the Byzan­tine pres­ence in South­ern Italy? Did their ances­tors come in the 15th-16th Cen­turies from the Greek com­mu­ni­ties in the Aegean flee­ing Ottoman inva­sion?” Every­one who con­sid­ers the ori­gins of the Griko/Grecanici peo­ple (or their Griko/Gri­co/Greko lan­guages) seems to come to a slight­ly dif­fer­ent con­clu­sion.

“I sus­pect they speak a dialect more close­ly relat­ed to the Koine Greek spo­ken at the time of the 11th cen­tu­ry Byzan­tine Empire, the last and final time South­ern Italy was still part of the Greek-speak­ing world,” writes Gre­coph­o­ne Youtu­ber Tom_Traveler, who vis­its the Griko-speak­ing vil­lages of Gal­li­cianò and Bova in the video above. “Or per­haps it was influ­enced by Greek refugees flee­ing Con­stan­tino­ple upon its fall to the Turks in 1453.” How­ev­er it devel­oped, it’s long been a lan­guage on the decline: “the clear­est esti­mate of remain­ing Greko speak­ers seems to be between 200–300,” Kaza­k­lis wrote in 2017, “and num­bers con­tin­ue to decrease.” In the inter­est of pre­serv­ing the lan­guage and the his­to­ry reflect­ed with­in it, now would be a good time for a few of those speak­ers to start up Youtube chan­nels of their own.

via Messy Nessy

Relat­ed con­tent:

How the Byzan­tine Empire Rose, Fell, and Cre­at­ed the Glo­ri­ous Hagia Sophia: A His­to­ry in Ten Ani­mat­ed Min­utes

Map­ping the Sounds of Greek Byzan­tine Church­es: How Researchers Are Cre­at­ing “Muse­ums of Lost Sound”

Learn Ancient Greek in 64 Free Lessons: A Free Online Course from Bran­deis & Har­vard

Can Mod­ern-Day Ital­ians Under­stand Latin? A Youtu­ber Puts It to the Test on the Streets of Rome

Meet the Amer­i­cans Who Speak with Eliz­a­bethan Eng­lish Accents: An Intro­duc­tion to the “Hoi Toi­ders” from Ocra­coke, North Car­oli­na

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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