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Everybody loves quotations, but most people are content to attribute them to the first famous quote-provider that comes to hand (Twain, Wilde, Churchill, the usual suspects). A few intrepid souls undertake the hard work of tracking down who actually said it first; the most prominent in my mind is Fred R. Show More Summary


James Davidson, a classicist of wide-ranging interests, frequently writes for the LRB, and last October he had a long review of a book that would normally get covered in a brisk paragraph or two in the TLS ("...worthy continuation of a valuable series... Show More Summary


I never thought there would be an African music theme on LH, but for the second day in a row I've run across something in that line that I felt I had to share. John Beadle of Milwaukee used to host the "African Beat" program on WYMS;...Show More Summary

Check it out

John McWhorter on Talk of the Nation, "DEA Call For Ebonics Experts Smart Move", 9/6/2010. (Download mp3 here.)

Klingon cave tours and Almean guidebooks

Conlanging circles are excited recently by making the news. The soon-to-be-initiated Klingon (tlhing'an Hol) cave tours at Jenolan Caves have been circulated in international news. It went far enough for one of the co-ordinators, a self-declared Trekkie to be interviewed on TripleJ's Breakfast show.


Sam asked about the word varsity, a word invariably connected with schools. There are varsity sweaters, varsity cheerleading squads, varsity teams, varsity bookstores, and varsity grills and drive-ins, the most famous of which is located in Atlanta. Show More Summary

Gillard’s intellect and Blanchett’s voice?

Political accentologist Aidan Wilson dissects some reactions to our new Prime Minister's noticeable accent.

Car Talk translated

The "show open topic" for this week's Car Talk, according to the show's web page, is "Tom and Ray translate the grunts of mechanics". It starts like this: In fact, Alexandra Sellers' Spoken Cat was published a dozen years ago, and similarly, the Newsweek article about it (Lucy Howard and Carla Koehl, "Talk The Talk"), ran on [...]

Last (and first) things

A couple of days ago, I compared the rate of first-person-singular pronoun use in Sarah Palin's July 3 resignation speech to the rates in some other historical speeches, including Richard Nixon's 1962 speech conceding the California governor's race to Jerry Brown ("I again", 7/13/2009). That 1962 news conference is  widely known as the "You won't [...]

Arika Okrent on the radio

One of yesterday's guests on Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane was Arika Okrent, author of In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language. You can listen (or download the mp3) here. I don't know very much about the history of [...]

I again

Last month, it was Barack Obama whose (allegedly) imperial ego was said to be signaled by (fictitious) overuse of first-person singular pronouns. (Follow the link for discussion of columns on the topic by Terence Jeffrey, George F. Will, Stanley Fish, and Mary Kate Cary.) A few days ago, Peggy Noonan's devastating attack on Sarah Palin [...]

Ma ma se, ma ma sa, ma ma coo sa

Ever since Michael Jackson's unexpected death yesterday, his music has been omnipresent. The iTunes sales charts are overwhelmed by Michael Jackson songs: as of this afternoon, New York Magazine's Vulture blog reports, Jackson appears on 41 songs in the iTunes Top 100 singles chart. One of the top songs is "Wanna Be Startin' [...]

Really bad song about the recent apostrophe banning in Birmingham

Here's a news story (and accompanying mp3) about a Tennessee songwriter who penned a tune about the recent banning of the apostrophe by a city in the UK. I chuckled at the idea, but could barely make it through the song. ...

Bebop language

Dick Cavett recently called Sarah Palin "The Wild Wordsmith of Wasilla" and "the serial syntax-killer from Wasilla High". He worries that "ambitious politicos" will learn "that frayed syntax, bungled grammar and run-on sentences that ramble on long after thought has given out completely are a candidate’s valuable traits". Peter Suderman, more specific if less witty, [...]


Mendele (Forum for Yiddish Literature and Yiddish Language) publishes a magazine, The Mendele Review, which recently devoted an issue to Waiting for Godot in Yiddish. "There are two known Yiddish translations of the play ? Gizela Shkilnik's posthumously published version from German issued by the Y.-L. Show More Summary


Frequent commenter Jim Salant sent me a link a while back to a reading by Mary Gaitskill of Vladimir Nabokov?s ?Symbols and Signs? (as they call it) and a discussion with The New Yorker?s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman (pronounced TREECE-man). Show More Summary

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