National Museum of Language in its final days


A collection of English words that orginated from Native American languages; on view at the National Museum of Language. (Gary McCone)
August 16

Time is running out to see one of the smallest and unusual museums in a region jammed with them. The National Museum of Language, in an otherwise nondescript office building along Route 1 in College Park, is set to close Sept. 30, trustees say. Already reduced in size from three rooms to two, the museum will convert its considerable knowledge base on the beauty and mystery of language digitally to the Internet. At The Gate, however, numbers are our currency:

6

Number of years the museum has been open to the public since May 2008.

10

Number of years in planning done before the museum was opened.

8

Examples given in current exhibit of words textbook pioneer Noah Webster successfully changed from their English spelling: analyze, center, jail, honor, humor, mask, mold and public.

9

Examples given of new spelling of words Webster wanted to change from their English spellings but didn’t catch on: ake, sley, soop, spunge, tung, tuf, cloke, determin, wimmen.

33

Number of countries where French is the official language, according to another current exhibit at the museum.

2 million

Estimated number in U.S. of francophones, defined as those who speak French at home or otherwise strongly identify with the language and culture, according to the exhibit “Glimpses of French in the Americas.”

2

Distinct ways in which written languages have been formed: alphabetic, based on sounds; and logographic, based on pictures or symbols.

3

Categories of languages depicted on the museum’s International Flag of Language, representing dead languages, living languages and emerging ones.

2

Examples given by docents of emerging languages: Klingon, Vulcan.

0

Cost to visit the National Museum of Language.

61

Items available from National Museum of Language online catalogue, from T-shirts and hoodies to dog dishes, mugs and magnets.

10

Days a month the museum has typically been open: Tuesdays and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. and the first and third Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.

10

Minutes to walk to the museum from the College Park Metro Station.

The National Museum of Language, 7100 Baltimore Ave., Suite 202, College Park, Md. Call 301-864-7071 or visit languagemuseum.org.

style@washpost.com

Catlin is a freelance writer.

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