All Blogs / Academics / Linguistics / Popular

Get More Specific:

How Adults Learn: 6 Important Things to Know

“I’ll never learn to run with the stamina of Paula Radcliffe, so why bother training for a marathon?” “I’ll never win a Nobel Prize in maths, so what’s the point of studying it at all?” “I’ll never play cello like Yo-Yo Mah, so I shouldn’t...Show More Summary

One last (?) piece of nonsense

Callum Borchers, "Count Obama’s references to ‘I’ and ‘me’ while you can, conservative media", WaPo 1/18/2017: For eight years, tracking Obama's use of the personal pronouns "I" and "me" has been a cherished ritual in the conservative media — one small way to promote the idea that the president is self-centered and therefore out of […]

When “we” is “you”

Q: It bothers me to be addressed by a clerk or server as “we” instead of “you.” For example, “Are we enjoying our meal?” or “Are we ready to check out?” I find this a putdown. It reminds me of how some people speak to a child. I know the server means no offense, but,... ? Read More: When “we” is “you”


This is one of those “I’ve been annoyed by this all my life and it’s time to do something about it” posts. I hate the word loess ‘a windblown deposit of fine-grained, calcareous silt or clay,’ because I have no idea how to pronounce it. AHD gives (l?’?s, l?s, l?s), M-W \?les, ?l?s, ?l?-?s, ?l?rs\; […]

Japanese hi-tech toilet instructions

Big news! "Japanese toilet industry agrees to standardize complex bidet controls" (The Verge, 1/17/17) Here follows a complete transcription and translation of all the Japanese writing in the photograph. The banner behind: ??????????????????????...Show More Summary

Inspiration for your day from a howling mouse.

Inspiration for your day from a howling mouse. Inspiration for your day from a howling mouse. — Grant Barrett (@GrantBarrett) January 19, 2017

"Nothing could be further than the truth"

The linguistic highlight of Steven Mnuchin's confirmation hearing: Your browser does not support the audio element. The context: Your browser does not support the audio element. I'm eager to share with you why I believe I will serve well as America's next secretary of the treasury. But first I want to correct the record about […]

Did you write this or was it your computer?

Writing does not come easily to everybody. This is fine, we are not all good at singing, skiing or boiling eggs and there are great editing services available that can help. There have recently been some interesting writing developments in the world of online commerce, as computer-generated writing becomes popular....

"Denying that he was not anti-gay or anti-women"

Matt Apuzzo, "Under Trump, Approach to Civil Rights Law Is Likely to Change Definitively", NYT 1/19/2017: At this confirmation hearing, Mr. Sessions harkened to the era of segregation in arguing that there was no need for the federal government to become involved in prosecuting crimes against women or gay people that were already being prosecuted […]

"Do I not like that"

Graham Taylor has died at the age of 72, after a long and varied career as a manager and coach of English football teams. But this is Language Log, not English Football Log, and so we'll leave the obsequies to others and focus on Mr. Taylor's best known quotation, "Do I not like that": Your […]

New York high school Chinese test

Zhuang Pinghui, in the South China Morning Post (1/18/17) has an article that is truly baffling:  "US high school Chinese test stumps internet users in China". A high school in New York has produced an exam paper for its pupils learning Chinese which features questions that have daunted internet users in China and even a […]

Shakespeare’s World.

Roberta Kwok reports in the New Yorker about a website where anyone can contribute transcriptions of bits of manuscripts from Shakespeare’s time: The first-known records of many words are in Shakespeare’s plays, but it’s not always clear which he invented and which were already commonplace. The handwritten material of Shakespeare’s contemporaries is “more or less […]

Keeping up with the Joneses

Q: I read an article by John Updike in an old New Yorker that says the expression “keeping up with the Joneses” is believed to come from the lavish lifestyle of the family of Edith Wharton (née Jones). Is that true? A: No, Edith Wharton’s family is not responsible for the expression. In fact, that... ? Read More: Keeping up with the Joneses

Particle amnesia

[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson] I know you've written a lot about character amnesia in the greater Sinosphere. But I think I witnessed the related, but significantly different, phenomenon of (grammatical) particle amnesia (or perhaps, "drift") during a recent trip to Hawaii. As you know, Hawaii has a large nikkei population. This […]

Coffee Yao, Finger Chen, Doy Chiang, and colleagues

Thorin Engeseth noticed that, at the end of the Taiwanese video game "Detention", there are some interesting adopted Western names among the people involved in the game's creation — especially Coffee, Finger, and Smiler: Lord knows how or why they picked all of these particular names.  For the record, though, here are the original Chinese […]

On Being Translated Back to Myself.

Boris Fishman has a winning Author’s Note in the latest NY Times Book Review about his trip to Estonia, where he confronted a Russian translation of his novel A Replacement Life (which I will really have to read): The embassy had scheduled a reading in Russian, so it commissioned a translation from a local trinitarian. […]

The Catalan Language: How to Learn Catalan Quickly

The Catalan language may have a small global footprint with approximately 10 million speakers. But when you learn this language, a whole new world opens up to you. First, you’ll be introduced to some beautiful places. The majority of...Show More Summary

The perils of pronunciation

Distinguishing between "four" and "ten" in rapid, slurred MSM is not always easy:  sì ? vs. shí ?.  Try saying sìshísì ??? ("forty-four") quickly and it starts to feel like the beginning of a tongue twister.  Now, when speakers from the various topolects, even within the so-called Mandarin group, come together and tones, vowels, and […]

Mari constellations

I have occasionally wondered if ancient Mari names for the constellations have been preserved – after all, so much folkloric terminology has already been lost over the 20th century – but I never looked into the matter. In his 2005 publication on G. F. Show More Summary

Après Babel in Marseilles

At La Musée des Civilizations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée in Marseilles, there's an exposition called "Après Babel, Traduire", which includes a translated version of "The directed graph of stereotypical incomprehensibility", 1/15/2009: From LLLOG: From MuCEM:

Copyright © 2015 Regator, LLC