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What You Can Do With The Most Common 300 Words In A Foreign Language?

I met Frank, who runs Lingo Interactive, at the very start of this year’s US book tour after being in touch for a while via the blog. When he sent me this great guest post, the Spartan in me couldn’t resist running with it! It’s about picking essential words to learn at the beginning of […]

At the Peevers' Jamboree

Alison Flood at Guardian Books extracts a famous author's top linguistic peeves from an interview about how to teach writing ("Stephen King has named his most hated expressions. What are yours?", 9/15/2014), The Atlantic’s fantastic interview on teaching, writing and reading with Stephen King is well worth reading in full. [...] But perhaps the most interesting part is […]

Who Can Save Ayapaneco?

Daniel Suslak, an associate professor of Anthropology at Indiana University, has an impassioned piece at SchwaFire on a dying Mexican language, the dedicated linguists and people of Ayapa (“Linguists started calling the language of the people here ‘Ayapaneco’ because it’s spoken in Ayapa and nowhere else”) who are trying to save it, and the telecom […]

Oh my melon!

Bryan Van Norden is a Visiting Professor at Wuhan University this semester, and he ran across an interesting bit of language play. Below is a still (taken with his cell phone) of a television commercial currently running in the PRC. It is for a watermelon juice drink. As you can see, the tag line is […]

The paucity of curse words in Japanese, chapter 2

[Guest post by Bob Ramsey] I’ve been thinking about this subject for more than thirty years. It started for me back in the late 70s. Back then, Herb Passin, who was at the time a professor of sociology at Columbia (remember him?), published a series of articles on language subjects in a popular Japanese magazine, […]

Mr. Black, Ms. White, Mr. Purple?

Q: Many people are called “Mr. Black,” “Ms. White,” “Mr. Gray,” or “Ms. Brown,” but almost no one is “Mr. Red” or “Mr. Yellow,” “Ms. Pink,” “Ms. Purple,” or “Ms. Blue.” Why are so many beautiful colors unpopular as family names? A: To keep things simple, we’ll discuss only names of British origin, though much... ? Read More: Mr. Black, Ms. White, Mr. Purple?

Returning to from A to B

From D.D.: I'm a 30-yr NYC resident, and I've been speaking American English all my life, more than 50 years now. Even so, I had a hell of a time parsing the prepositions in this headline: Someone at Newsday apparently had the same experience, because the online version of the headline now reads "R train […]

So Your A Pedant?

OK, Bridie Jabour’s Guardian rant isn’t really anything I haven’t said and quoted many times before, but a good anti-peever rant is always worth seeing, and I like the in-your-face nature of this one and the emphasis in the conclusion on an important point that is sometimes not attended to: That aside, there is a […]

Spit(ting| and) images

Bob Moore was taken aback by "spit and image" in Frank Bruni's 9/9/2014 NYT Op-Ed, and wondered whether it was an eggcorn for "spitting image": I worry about the combustible tension between our abysmal regard for the Congress that we’ve got and a near certainty that the Congress we’re about to get will be its […]

On finding the sources of shared items, OR: The irrelevance of anteriority

Similarities between different languages are data. It's easy to come up with any of several wildly different measures of such similarities, typically by applying edit distances to wordlists (as in the ASJP) or texts, but the result should not be mistaken for an analysis - it's just a measurement, a compression of the data. Show More Summary

Metambesen.

Metambesen is one of those fine old Native American place names; as we read in the American Historical Register for 1896: About 1680 Colonel Peter Schuyler purchased from the Indians a tract of land lying over against Magdalen island, and in 1688 obtained therefor, from Governor Thomas Dongan, a patent, in which the boundaries are […]

Zombie hypotheses and the Zeitgeist

Everything I've been saying for the past 3 posts is basic textbook stuff, reflecting a stable consensus among Semitic historical linguists over, oh, the past two centuries or so. Why, then, is this zombie hypothesis that Levantine Arabic...Show More Summary

Applenese2

In "Applenese", we examined the Chinese translations from the Mainland, Taiwan, and Hong Kong of this Apple advertising slogan for Mother's Day last spring:  "A gift Mom will love opening. Again and again." Now let's see what is done with the new Apple campaign for the iPhone 6, "Bigger than bigger",  in Chinese and other […]

"Quasiregularity and its discontents"

Suggestion for your weekend reading: Mark Seidenberg and David Plaut, "Quasiregularity and Its Discontents: The Legacy of the Past Tense Debate", Cognitive Science 2014. The abstract: Rumelhart and McClelland’s chapter about learning the past tense created a degree of controversy extraordinary even in the adversarial culture of modern science. Show More Summary

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Sarkoboros.

Some of you will remember Alexander Kim’s now defunct site Ahnenkult (see this LH post); I am glad to report he is planning to move the archives to his new site, Sarkoboros, about which he says (on the About page): I’m a researcher in David Reich’s lab at Harvard’s Department of Genetics who seeks to […]

Whoa be tide

Ruth Blatt, "The Lean And Mean Led Zeppelin Organization", Forbes 9/6/2014: The Zeppelin organization was small by today’s standards, with a crew of only about 15 people traveling with the band. The band itself would arrive 30 minutes before a show. “They would turn up and they would go in the dressing room. There was no […]

Did clams give us “clammy”?

Q: A recent article in the Charlotte Observer about regional food describes New England clam chowder as “clammy (in the good way).” Does “clammy” (in the bad way) also come from the noun “clam”? A: No, the adjective “clammy,” meaning moist, sticky, and cold, is not derived from “clam,” the noun for a bivalve mollusk... ? Read More: Did clams give us “clammy”?

Fan-fold ticket stock nerdview

We have not discussed any examples of nerdview on Language Log for a while. But Bob Ladd told me of one the other day. He was at the Edinburgh Airport dropping someone off, and pulled up next to the ticket dispensing machine for the short-stay car park. He pushed the button, but no ticket appeared. […]

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