Disorder of a Man of Letters — Xah Belles-lettres

from the haughty emotions of lexicon, stylistic concerns, decipherment of grammar and idioms, linguisticality, literature, and logicality.

World Literature Classics (major update)

behold a pale horse

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.


behold a pale horse (1964), movie. Buy at amazon

Based on the real-life exploits of Francisco Sabater, this is the story of a Spanish guerrilla living in exile in France and still leading raids on Spain, long after the Spanish Civil War has ended. An elaborate trap is set for him by a vicious police chief, using his mother and a priest as bait.


Spanish Civil War

history of alphabet

evolution of alphabet 88012
evolution of alphabet [from https://usefulcharts.com/blogs/charts/evolution-of-the-english-alphabet]
history of alphabet

Poem: The Bell Tolls for Thee; 鐘為汝鳴

The Arabian Nights

“Oppression hideth in every heart: power revealeth it and weakness concealeth it.”

from The Tale of the Wazir and the Sage Duban

of all literature i've read in my life, 2 most enjoyable are Shakespeare's stuff and Arabian Nights of Sir Richard Burton.

arabian nights 93255
The Arabian Nights
arabian nights 71404
Synopsis of Tales of Sir Richard Burton's Arabian Nights

Q: What to do if someone is bugging you?
A: Growl.

Q: What to do if you disapprove?
A: Hiss.

English Vocabulary: Animalistic Cries (Onomatopoeia)

To Build a Fire

the Story of Cupid and Psyche. classic. #ValentinesDay ♥

[The Shallowness of Google Translate By Douglas Hofstadter. At https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/01/the-shallowness-of-google-translate/551570/ ]

Light Bulb Color, Soft White vs Daylight

Cultural References Lost in Movie Subtitles




English translation:

you can say you want to quit learning yangqin,
but it's not up to you.


it guided you to this world
you've been together for 11 years
you are destined to be together
you may not want it
but you are all its got.

talk to your yangqin.
if it agrees, then that's it
i won't object

from 闪光少女 (Our Shining Days), Cosplay Culture, and Chinese vs Western Music

when doing translations, there's a tricky business. There's literal translation, and at the other extreme is translation by the intended meaning, subsuming context, which may have NOTHING to do with the words uttered. (called “pragmatics” in linguistics)

In most “good” translations, eg big movie's subtitle, the latter is done. By that, you can readily enjoy foreign films, but you are completely robbed from seeing how Chinese say things, and any cultural references are necessarily removed.

here's a more literal translation:

you don't want to learn yangqin anymore
but what you say doesn't count


because it guided you to the world
together for 11 years
it's your karma of reincarnation
now you don't want him anymore
but he has feelings for you

talk to him.
if he agrees, no need to tell mom
mom has no opinion on this

Note the word “karma” and “reincarnation” used. If you are a nerd hipster, you probably knew what it means. But to most English speakers, it's a blank.

It fact, the actual word used is 缘分 (“yuanfen” in English), and Chinese language colloquial usage actually don't have or use the word “karma”.

If you are a Chinese, you would hear and use word 缘分 yuanfen, several times a month, thru out your life. It's a Chinese folk concept tied to bddhism and taoism. It is applied to relationships.

缘分 yuanfen means:

Japan Net Jargon: “2D World”

in Japan, China, there's net jargon of “2D world”, meaning, the world of anime. i.e. idealized, fantasy, unrealistic. Many anime fans (what westerners'd call gamers), is said to live in 2d. As opposed to 3d world, real world. This is analogous to @SecondLife gamers of USA.

This award-winning movie from China, is a depiction of such youngsters in that world.

闪光少女 (Our Shining Days), Cosplay Culture, and Chinese vs Western Music

Lesson of the widow's mite

He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Lesson of the widow's mite

The Tempest


  1. governed by conscience; controlled by or done according to one's inner sense of what is right; principled: She's a conscientious judge, who does not let personal prejudices influence her decisions.
  2. careful and painstaking; particular; meticulous; scrupulous: conscientious application to the work at hand.

that's the dictionary definition.

Apparently, the word has a particular meaning in psychology, different from dictionary meaning. Its meaning focuses on fulfilling obligation, duty, disciplined, dependable.

Conscientiousness is the personality trait of being careful, or vigilant. Conscientiousness implies a desire to do a task well, and to take obligations to others seriously. Conscientious people tend to be efficient and organized as opposed to easy-going and disorderly. They exhibit a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; they display planned rather than spontaneous behavior; and they are generally dependable. It is manifested in characteristic behaviors such as being neat and systematic; also including such elements as carefulness, thoroughness, and deliberation (the tendency to think carefully before acting.)[1] Conscientiousness is one of the five traits of both the Five Factor Model and the HEXACO model of personality and is an aspect of what has traditionally been referred to as having character. Conscientious individuals are generally hard-working and reliable. They are also likely to be conformists.[2] When taken to an extreme, they may also be “workaholics”, perfectionists, and compulsive in their behavior.[3] People who score low on conscientiousness tend to be laid back, less goal-oriented, and less driven by success; they also are more likely to engage in antisocial and criminal behavior.[4]


Google Doodle is showing the pinyin inventor Zhou Youguang (周有光), died today. 111 years old.

During the Cultural Revolution, Zhou was sent to live in the countryside and to be “re-educated”, as were many other intellectuals at that time. He spent two years at a labour camp.

this book, is epic, but is $360. It's by Zhou Youguang. The Historical Evolution of Chinese Languages and Scripts

简体繁體字表; List of Simplified/Traditional Chinese Characters (minor update)

Decoding English: “I'm not at liberty to say” = i won't say. I can't say. I'm not allowed to say.

Xah's Log, 2018-01-10, I Met a Beautiful Girl.

The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov, classic novel, on amazon kindle is now $10. More and more expensive. Kindle edition used to be $4 or such. Also note, this is public domain text, you can download from the web.

The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov (Russian: Бра́тья Карама́зовы, Brat'ya Karamazovy, pronounced [ˈbratʲjə kərɐˈmazəvɨ]), also translated as The Karamazov Brothers, is the final novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Dostoyevsky spent nearly two years writing The Brothers Karamazov, which was published as a serial in The Russian Messenger from January 1879 to November 1880. Dostoyevsky died less than four months after its publication.

The Brothers Karamazov is a passionate philosophical novel set in 19th-century Russia, that enters deeply into the ethical debates of God, free will, and morality. It is a spiritual drama of moral struggles concerning faith, doubt, judgment, and reason, set against a modernizing Russia, with a plot which revolves around the subject of patricide. Dostoyevsky composed much of the novel in Staraya Russa, which inspired the main setting.[1] Since its publication, it has been acclaimed as one of the supreme achievements in world literature.

2017-12-15 Wikipedia The Brothers Karamazov

translational poetry, the world consumed by fire and ice

some say the world will be consumed by fire, some say ice. My understanding of desire, agrees with fire. But if consummate twice, i think i understand hatred well too and know ice's power is also bottomless.

translational poetry.

烈 火滅。但如果世界得滅
夠 會        它
也 為 ,有人說在冰 個
, 認 滅    裡 兩
底 的 裡 有人 。 回
得 人 火  說 就 ,
了 些 在會界世 我 我
是 那      對 想
也 意同我解了的慾欲 我
力          對

source https://twitter.com/xah_lee/status/937541505652105216

一笑万古春,一啼万古愁。(one smile spring comes, one cry the valley echos) sometimes, a poetic language like chinese, solves the human expression problem. While, a logical language like English, tries.

Etymology of Provincial and Insular

growth hacking, a new euphemism, meaning, aggressive, abusive, psychology exploiting, tactics for online marketing to grow a business.

word of the day: conviviality

I found Cohen a good listener, but a less interesting thinker, possessed of that relentless conviviality that routinely afflicts career generalists and Rhodes scholars.

from https://wikileaks.org/google-is-not-what-it-seems/

prosumer, what a hateful word.

consumptive: relating to or affected with tuberculosis.

Time Machine: Chapter III

etymology of slate

mid-14c., from Old French esclate, fem. of esclat “split piece, splinter” (Modern French éclat; see slat), so called because the rock splits easily into thin plates. As an adjective, 1510s. As a color, first recorded 1813. Sense of “a writing tablet” (made of slate), first recorded late 14c., led to that of “list of preliminary candidates prepared by party managers,” first recorded 1842, from notion of being easily altered or erased. Clean slate (1856) is an image from customer accounts chalked up in a tavern.


etymology of slab

late 13c., “large, flat mass,” of unknown origin, possibly related to Old French escopel, escalpe “thin fragment of wood,” which according to Klein is possibly a Gaulish word (compare Breton scolp, Welsh ysgolp “splinter, chip”). But OED rejects this on formal grounds. Meaning “rectangular block of pre-cast concrete used in building” is from 1927. Slab-sided is “having flat sides like slabs,” hence “tall and lank” (1817, American English).


shoe size measures f5c74
shoe size measures f5c74

be my first patreon

now i have a patreon account. be my first patreon. see first post at https://www.patreon.com/xahlee

Pinyin 拼音, Zhuyin 注音, IPA Comparison (updated)

Segmented Sleep and Sleep Hours/Schedule Experiment

i've experimented with sleep hours and schedule since 1991. And my current sleep hours remain ephemeral.

Sometimes i sleep twice a day, 4 hours each.

Usually, my sleep hours shifts by 1 hour per day. For example, if today i sleep at 1, next day i sleep at 2, and next day i sleep at 3.

been doing these since 1991. In the first decade or two, when i was young, the intention is to reduce total hours slept.

but as i'm older, now, it's basically chaotic life habit. I sleep, when i'm tired.

of course, you can't do this if you are not a free man.

here's 2 books i found.

[At Day's Close: Night in Times Past By A Roger Ekirch. At Buy at amazon ]

“Remarkable…Ekirch has emptied night's pockets, and laid the contents out before us.” ―Arthur Krystal, The New Yorker

Bringing light to the shadows of history through a “rich weave of citation and archival evidence” (Publishers Weekly), scholar A. Roger Ekirch illuminates the aspects of life most often overlooked by other historians―those that unfold at night. In this “triumph of social history” (Mail on Sunday), Ekirch's “enthralling anthropology” (Harper's) exposes the nightlife that spawned a distinct culture and a refuge from daily life.

Fear of crime, of fire, and of the supernatural; the importance of moonlight; the increased incidence of sickness and death at night; evening gatherings to spin wool and stories; masqued balls; inns, taverns, and brothels; the strategies of thieves, assassins, and conspirators; the protective uses of incantations, meditations, and prayers; the nature of our predecessors' sleep and dreams―Ekirch reveals all these and more in his “monumental study” (The Nation) of sociocultural history, “maintaining throughout an infectious sense of wonder” (Booklist).

[Evening's Empire (New Studies in European History) By Craig Koslofsky. At Buy at amazon ]

What does it mean to write a history of the night? Evening's Empire is a fascinating study of the myriad ways in which early modern people understood, experienced, and transformed the night. Using diaries, letters, and legal records together with representations of the night in early modern religion, literature and art, Craig Koslofsky opens up an entirely new perspective on early modern Europe. He shows how princes, courtiers, burghers and common people 'nocturnalized' political expression, the public sphere and the use of daily time. Fear of the night was now mingled with improved opportunities for labour and leisure: the modern night was beginning to assume its characteristic shape. Evening's Empire takes the evocative history of the night into early modern politics, culture and society, revealing its importance to key themes from witchcraft, piety, and gender to colonization, race, and the Enlightenment.

Third World Blind

word of the day: atavistic, predicated, cross-talk, banality

There may be an atavistic longing for quasi-divine kingship that surfaces in unsettled times. Especially after 9/11, with its diffuse sense of peril, we should beware of the seductive dream of the strong man or clan who will shield us from harm. Democracy is predicated on sometimes chaotic cross-talk, not on governance by fiat, the whims of a hereditary elite.

Political dynasties are mythic foster families whose princes rise and fall like flaming stars. Does it signify democracy’s nostalgia for royalty? The irony is that authentic royalty, re-glamorized by Diana in the 1980s, has waned back into banality in England and everywhere else.

[Our failed political dynasties, Pelosi's stylish appeal and George W. Bush as Queen Victoria. Plus: The hot air about global warming. By Camille Paglia. At http://www.salon.com/2007/04/11/global_warming_14/ , accessed on 2017-05-17 ]

Classic Paglia, u no unstand!

The Adventure of the German Student (added illustration)

The Arabian Nights (updated intro)

Arabian Nights Art Gallery

“whatso woman willeth, the same she fulfilleth, however man nilleth. ” from Story Of King Shahryar And His Brother

rereading arabian nights. truly a wonderful story. I spent a year annotating it in 2005. Story Of King Shahryar And His Brother

“The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade” By Edgar Allan Poe (added artwork)

Vocabulary In Too Much Too Soon

English: Etymology of Science

coöperation and preëxisting! the art of diaeresis.

Oscar Wilde's Tomb and Quips

Definition of Fascism, But is it Left-Wing or Right-Wing?

The Masque of the Red Death (added many illustrations)

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

Tristram Shandy

[Talking in Euphemisms Can Chip Away at Your Sense of Morality By Laura Niemi, Alek Chakroff, And Liane Young. At http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2017/04/indirect-speech-talking-in-euphemisms.html , accessed on 2017-04-12 ]

Etymology of Sinister and Dexterity

word of the day: acquiescing. see Word of the Day

word of the day: • beguiling • patchwork • floundering

see Word of the Day

word of the day: • galvanized • pugnacious • relishes • muckraker • facile

see Word of the Day

简体繁體字表; List of Simplified/Traditional Chinese Characters

Hegel and the Girls

hegel and girls 07040
[image source twitter ]

Zelda, Breath of the Wild, Inscriptions

Orthography, narrowly, means correct spelling according to established usage. Broadly, It includes capitalization, word breaks, emphasis, punctuation.

English Writing Style: Oxford Comma and Strippers (repost)

Alaeddin; Or, The Wonderful Lamp (new navigation bar)

“The Tragedy Of Titus Andronicus” (new navigation bar)

Alice in Wonderland, and Through the Looking-Glass (new navigation bar)

The Time Machine by H G Wells (also updated with nav bar. Added more pictures.)

FLATLAND: A Romance of Many Dimensions

Classic scifi. Make you understand 4 dimensions by analogy. Now new navbar.

神奇的二维国 中文版.(Flatland Chinese version). 神奇的二维国 (Flatland)

Gulliver's Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. New navigation bar.

西游记 (Journey To The West) (page redesigned)

How to Tell the Difference Between Chinese, Japanese, Korean? (updated)

China Dollar Bill Multi-Lingual

the Story of Cupid and Psyche, by Lucius Apuleius (~123 to 180). Classic story.

“Paglia presents herself as a willing academic pariah

SAT Words

Etymology of Drum, Disk, Cylinder

books on writing you liked?

what are some of books on writing? any related to writing, style, grammar, words, linguistics, etc. Suggest away. must be you've read.

comment at:



English: Etymology of “label” and “legend”

poignantly train your dragon
poignantly train your dragon

see SAT Words

etymology of manual: manus = hand. Handbook.


Arabian Nights, The Tale Of The Ensorceled Prince

Arrival, Movie 2016

Chinese Text 瘟疫論 (On Plague Dieases), 1642. beginning of bacteria/virus study. https://zh.wikisource.org/zh/瘟疫論_(四庫全書本)

amazing that Chinese text thousand years back we can still understand some 60% sans training. this has significant impact on culture.

Etymology of Parenthesis and Bracket

[Has the Internet Killed Curly Quotes? By Glenn Fleishman. At https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/12/quotation-mark-wars/511766/ , accessed on 2016-12-31 ]

on betterment of technical writing with a creative streak

today's wandering in humanity.

on betterment of technical writing with a creative streak.

unless you don't know kindergarten grammar, when anyone tell you about grammar, spit.

if you want to improve your technical writing exposition skill in written English, study logic and linguistics.

there's 2 parts to writing. 1, the content, 2 the presentation. The content part is much more important. You've got something to say, and solid about the subject matter. This is intrinsic, and you really have to have this before writing. But the topic of writing, is about the skill of presentation per se. Most writing guide is shallow on this, focus on tradition and convention, on grammar, on punctuation, on diction, on sentence length, etc. But the most important part, for technical writing, is the ability to understand the logic and linguistics aspects of what you put down. That means clarity and precision. For example, the oft used advice of “active voice”, rather do nothing to help precision and clarity of your exposition.

here's some random creative essays.

Haven't watched TV since 2000. Don't have one. Ditch it. Good for your understanding of the world.

tongue is amazing. it can find a tiny piece of bone and manipulate it out of your mouth. that's massive parallel computation.

chess, prodigy, art of learning

this guy Josh Waitzkin, chess national champion, then became international taichi champion. wrote a book The Art of Learning 2008 Buy The Art of Learning

It's interesting guy, but i don't necessary endorse the book. Lots of this sort of books are garbage, pretty much by definition.

So, books of this ilk, and ted talks and hacker news stuff, are the things idiotic programers chant abut all day, day and night.

There are only 2 good type of books. Fiction, and college text books.

Acclaimed movie Searching for Bobby Fischer. 1993. About young chess prodigy Joshua Waitzkin Buy Searching for Bobby Fischer Now it's 23 years.

Bobby Fisher didn't get a dime, nor asked for permission of his fame. Bobby died a bitter man in 2008.

Joshua Waitzkin didn't become word's best players of chess. But he went on to also become international champion of tai chi push hands competition.

most prodigies, did not become the greats in history.

here's list of greatest chess players and their rating. List of chess players by peak FIDE rating

note that, the best, is Magnus Carlsen, with rating of 2882.

but computer chess, has rating over 3200. Chess engine#Chess engine rating lists

today, any computer will beat any human, anytime, practically speaking.

note that chess player speaks of playing style. Actually, playing style is a phenomenon of sub-optimal move. Mathematically speaking, most of the time there is just 1 correct move.

english vs chinese, urge to improve

some languages, such as english, u have a urge to make it better, logical, reform. while Chinese, u never thought of replacing art with precision.

lost in euphemism

The United States Congress authorized the construction of Endeavour in 1987 to replace Challenger, which was lost in 1986.

“was lost in 1986” that's a euphemism, for blowing up, in this case.

the writings of amazon reviews

reading amazon reviews's fun, you see the wildest of writing styles, and you wonder, if everyone is so creative. Actually most are simply bad writing.

amazon reviews, are the writing of the grass roots. You witness the pen of teens, toilet toilers, house wives, and college youngsters.

Morlock and Weena Yvette Mimieux
Yvette Mimieux as Weena in Time Machine 1960 film. Time Machine, 1960 film

The Time Machine by H G Wells

The Time Machine, and the Dark Nature of Human Animals

“The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us”

Time Machine: Chapter I

This is a story, where human animals are bred and eaten, by other human animals.

Morlock by Tatsuya Morino-s
Time Machine's Morlock taking an Eloi child, from the book “Kaibutsu Gensō Gashū” illustrated by Tatsuya Morino.

most illustrations of H G Well's Time Machine show a machanical contraption. This illustration, shows the story.

but uncomfortable pic like this is not marketable. But pic of time contraption, tickles peope.

Time Machine, tells a dark human nature. Similar story is Lord of the Flies. Lord of the Flies

and, then, what's real nature of human animals? we have Biological Anthropologist tell us. Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence

why capitalize author names?

quite annoying that some publications (online) capitalize author names, all parts. like, By XAH LEE. What's the frigging point? ( nytimes.com and wsj.com )

time to dig those style guides. Answer must be there somewhere. But no, no time for those idiotic guides of guilds.

[see The Writing Style of Xah Lee]

Gulliver's Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World (added navigation panel)

the Barbarism of Specialization (philosophy) (by Jose Ortega Y Gasset) (updated.)

Xah Wordy English (home page redesign)

English Vocabulary for SAT, GRE

new navigation panel.

Words, page 1

new navigation panel.

Online Dictionaries

new navigation panel.

English: Etymology of Science

new navigation panel on the side.

Etymology of Flamingo and Flamboyant

Hendiatris as Rule of Three? and the Crumbling of Linguistica Logica

To Build a Fire, By Jack London, 1908

Tyke, Imp, Waif, and Les Misérables

English Accent: Irish Accent 📺

Madam, I am most apt to embrace your offer.


The Tempest

Diane Kruger's French Accent Gets Her Out of Trouble Everytime

Sorcerer, daughter, illusion, The Tempest…

The Tempest Sorcerer, daughter, illusion, tempest… Does charm my way. 😈

This song by Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson — Blue Lagoon

features part of The Tempest called “Ariel's Song” - the place where we got the phrase “sea change”:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

thanks to John Baez. https://plus.google.com/+XahLee/posts/TQXfP4N9HoQ

Shakespeare's Titus, now with navigation panel.

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

  • 1. What am I trying to say?
  • 2. What words will express it?
  • 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  • 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?”

— George Orwell

see also Politics and the English Language (George Orwell)