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The book! The book!

I've been quieter than I'd like to be on this blog, but things have been a bit crazy-hectic-mad getting ready for the release of The Prodigal Tongue: The love-hate relationship between American/British and British/American English. Yes, there are different subtitles depending on which country you buy the book from. Show More Summary


Limericks have been on my mind f the last couple of months. It started when I discovered a Twitter account called @Limericking, which puts out a constant stream of limericks based on the news, usually better than the ones featured each week on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”. Show More Summary

Seven tips to improve your spoken English and gain the confidence to join in with conversations

In January we challenged you to make a New Year resolution to improve your English grammar. Hopefully our five top grammar tips are already having the desired effect. However, no matter how good your written English, it is often when speaking English that people make mistakes that cause them...

Good speaking is not good writing

There's an article by Nathan Robinson that's been going around recently titled "Jordan Peterson: The Intellectual We Deserve". After pages of apparently reasonable criticisms of his subject, the author delivers what he seems to think is his coup de grâce: Even now, however, I am being too generous to Jordan Peterson’s intellect. Show More Summary

Qaswarah revisited: a Qur'anic hapax in Modern South Arabian

A long time ago, I posted some rather speculative musings on the minor mystery of the allegedly Ethiopic word qaswarah ????? in the Qur'?n, usually considered to mean "lion". An anonymous commenter years later came up with a much better...Show More Summary

Philobats & Ocnophils

Both words are constructions using Greek word parts, and both are used almost exclusively by therapists. They are attributed to psychiatrist Michael Balint, and they appeared in the International Journal of Psycho-analysis in 1955. A philobat is a person who enjoys coping with dangerous and uncertain situations – a thrill seeker who goes it alone. Show More Summary

Don't splain me, bro!

A week ago I posted Don't skunk me, bro!, which riffed on Jonathon Owen's post Skunked Terms and Scorched Earth on Arrant Pedantry. Jonathon's post had discussed Bryan Garner's practice of declaring that certain expressions should be avoided because they are supposedly "skunked". Garner uses that term to refer to expressions that are in the […]

Il congiuntivo: Peeving and breeding, Italian style

As a counterpoint to "Peeving and breeding", 3/4/2018, here's Lorenzo Baglioni's "Il Congiuntivo": The problematic message: Se io starei con te sarei felice which is intended to mean If I were with you I would be happy In the comments, Paolo explains (and.mau. further corrects) that it should be se io stessi [imperfect subjunctive, stare] con […]

Ask LLOG: "friends" vs. "flense"

Query from reader RR: Just trying to get unpaid labor from a phonetician here… I've written a puzzle which involves swapping out one phoneme for another in various words. A couple of testsolvers have objected that "flense" doesn't become "friends" if you change the second phoneme; they insist they pronounce the D in "friends" (or […]

"On the fritz" at Sing Sing

[This is a guest post by Stephen Goranson.] Though it's generally agreed that "on the fritz" means, more or less, "in an unsatisfactory or defective state or condition" (Oxford English Dictionary), there is no agreement on its etymology. Some currently associate "fritz" with a sound from a malfunctioning electric machine, but the early uses of […]

Easy to Laugh

My friend James Cathey sent me an eyebrow-raiser this morning: “Here is a sentence that stopped me in my tracks: "Robinson, who has a warm voice and is easy to laugh, has a way of setting the record straight …"   (TIME: March 12, 2018, p. 50)" Jim says he could never say "is easy to […]

Epic eye-roll

Everybody's talking about the eye-roll of the century, the eye-roll that has gone wildly viral in China.  It's undoubtedly the most exciting thing that happened at the Two Sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) that began on March 5 and will most likely end soon.  It was a foregone conclusion that President Xi Jinping […]

Dung Times

There's a roundly execrated publication of the CCP called Global Times in English.  The Chinese name is Huánqiú shíbào ????.  Associated with the People's Daily, it is infamous for its extreme, provocative, anti-Indian, anti-Japanese, anti-Western (especially anti-American) editorials and articles. Show More Summary

Anti-MSM sentiment in Sichuan

Photograph of a slide shown during a lecture at a university in Sichuan: Here's what the writing on the slide says: Gu?nyú p?t?nghuà B?n jiàoshòu cóngjiào 20 nián cónglái bu shu? P?t?nghuà, bìngqi? péiy?ngle wúshù y?uxiù de xuésh?ng. W? shu? Sìchu?nhuà, y?bàn y?shàng xuésh?ng t?ng dé d?ng; w? shu? P?t?nghuà, méi rén t?ng dé d?ng. […]

Overheard just now…

…in Alta, Utah, where I'm conducting field research into how many words skiers have for snow, evidence of the polysemousness of Twitter: Do you want to know what her Twitter is? [Apparently meaning 'her Twitter handle'] I have a Twitter. [By the same guy, apparently meaning 'a Twitter account'] Extra added bonus: I'm writing this on […]

The end of the line for Mandarin Phonetic Symbols?

Just as all school children in the PRC learn to read and write through Hanyu Pinyin ("Sinitic spelling"), the official romanization on the mainland, so do all school children in Taiwan learn to read and write with the aid of what is commonly referred to as "Bopomofo ???? "), after the first four letters of […]

The latest on the Whorfian morphology of time

Take a look at Astghik Mavisakalyan, Clas Weber, and Yashar Tarverdi, "Future tense: how the language you speak influences your willingness to take climate action", The Conversation 3/7/2018, which is a re-presentation for a generalShow More Summary

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