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Dead-end sentences

Tim Leonard sends in "one for your hard-to-parse-headlines file": Tim Worstall, "The EU's Very Bad Turn $26 Billion Into $390 Billion Investment Plan", Forbes 11/23/2014. He observes that it's "not really a garden path, since it hits a dead end less than half way in". Puzzled headline-parsers will get a clue from Mr. Worstall's opening: […]

Comprise & Compose

The following sentence appeared in an editorial in the Traverse City Record-Eagle on Sunday, November 23, 2014: “Safe Harbor, comprised of 23 area churches that open their doors to the homeless during the winter months, has said the group can’t continue indefinitely.” My quibble is with the wording comprised of. Show More Summary

Stumbling over and through Drink Wisconsinbly

Earlier this year, I started noticing t-shirts and hoodies bearing the phrase 'Drink Wisconsinbly', like in the image here. (And, yeah, it comes in green and gold as well as red and white.) Clever, right? But I don't read t-shirts all that closely and I saw it a few times before I realized that it doesn't work at all for me phonologically... Show More Summary

Topolect writing

This is an interesting question raised by the Writing Chinese project at Leeds.  Helen Wang mentioned it to me in the hope that I might be willing to share my thoughts.  I'll do Helen one better and share this with many others, in hopes that they too may be willing to share their thoughts. I'd […]

Official Chinglish, with a note on North Korean Juche

What would you think if you encountered terms like this? Two-oriented Society Three-zation / Threezation You might wonder if the people who dreamed them up were high on something when they produced these opaque, unidiomatic renderings.  Yet such terms are official translations of Chinese expressions.  As such, they have entered the stream of global English. […]

Poljarnyj vestnik.

Erik’s latest post at XIX ??? alerted me to a journal I hadn’t been aware of: Here’s another open access and (as of 2014) peer-reviewed journal: ???????? ??????? (The Polar Herald), out of Norway. The 2014 volume has an article about Baratynskii by Elena Pedigo Clark, one about Gertsen by Kathleen Parthé (whose book on […]


Frazz continues to explore vocabulary and its measurement:

Member’s Get An Extra Apostrophe

This was their recent flyer near the register. (Thanks, NorthWind!)


Nacho’s what? (Thanks, NorthWind!)

It’s two for one at Burger King!

I found this at a Burger King in Minnesota in 2013. First I thought I’d captured ONE mistake. I could hardly believe it when I found the SECOND. Merry Christma’s! (Thanks, Heidi Armstrong!)


????PRIDE????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????? ?????????????????? ???????????? […] ????????????Google???????????????? is a post from: ???????????????????????

Austronesian and Taiwan.

John Cowan sent me a link to Roger Blench’s paper (draft circulated for comment) “Suppose we are wrong about the Austronesian settlement of Taiwan?,” a fascinating attempt to upend the usual narrative. Here’s the abstract: The current model of the prehistory of Taiwan assumes that it was first settled some 25,000 years ago by a […]

Stop Allowing Excuses to Run Your Life!

In my inbox I see hundreds of people sharing their language learning woes every day, and in person I meet many people everywhere I go who struggle to start a language. There are many reasons they give, some of which are valid, but many times they are just excuses. Show More Summary

Out now: The development of dative agreement in Berber

After about two years in the pipeline, an article summarising the results of my British Academy research on agreement in Berber has just come out in Transactions of the Philological Society. If you have access to Wiley Online Library, you can read it online: The development of dative agreement in Berber: beyond nominal hierarchies. Show More Summary

Sensationalism unmasked: how to design newsworthy headlines

Have digital media made news headlines more sensational? Once upon a time, when the press was the queen of the media, professional standards demanded news reports to be an accurate, objective and precise accounts of events. Since then, TV and digital media have stepped in, and the objectives of the media have been transformed. Show More Summary

How healthy is “healthcare”?

Q: Here’s a headline from an editorial in the journal Health Care Management Review: “It’s health care, not healthcare.” What are your thoughts? A: With Ebola still in the news, we’re seeing a lot of this term, and it’s written every which way—sometimes one word and sometimes two, sometimes with a hyphen and sometimes without.... ? Read More: How healthy is “healthcare”?

Miracles of Human Language

Below is a guest post by Marc van Oostendorp, who will be teaching "Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics" on Coursera, 3/30/2015-5/10/2015. Everywhere, every day, everybody uses language. There is no human society, no matter how small or how isolated, which does not employ a language that is rich and diverse. This course […]


A listener who wished to remain anonymous asked if I knew the name of the syndrome in which a person sneezes when suddenly exposed to light. I didn’t, but I found it online. It’s called photic sneeze reflex. There’s some confusion about its cause, but here are links to a couple of articles that take a stab at an explanation. Show More Summary

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

Evelyn wrote to say that she had come across a strange and unfamiliar word last week while browsing through the offerings in her local library’s semi-annual book sale. The word was quassation. The word is strange and unfamiliar to most of us because it is obsolete. Show More Summary

Ingressive Speech.

A correspondent writes: “I use an ingressive sound when I say ja in Norwegian. I don’t have a sense of how common this is across the spectrum of languages, but it is absent in the other ones I speak.” He included a link to this The Local piece about the phenomenon in Swedish: Northern Swedes […]

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