I remember one of my most exciting job interviews in a non-native language. It was with a company that I had followed for several years, and I really admired its growth and development. When I was informed that they had an interesting position available, I immediately realized that this was fate. Show More Summary
Today's SMBC: For a more complex but pointed analogy, see "The Pirahã and us", 10/6/2007.
Q: I was under the impression “nitpicking” was a seriously racist phrase, originating from when slaves picked cotton. Am I incorrect about this? A: “Nitpicking” isn’t racist, and it doesn’t come from picking cotton. The term originally referred to picking nits, the eggs of lice, from hair, and later to picking out the lice themselves,... ? Read More: Let’s pick a few nits
In investigating various matters connected with this post, I ran into John M. Tait’s site Scots Threip: Scots Threip consists of writings of my own on the Scots Language. It started as a place to put them so that I could refer to them in forum discussions. Many of the articles are in Scots as […]
President Xi Jinping is fond of calling on the Chinese people to "roll up our sleeves and work hard" (l? q? xiùz? ji?yóu gàn ??????? / ???????). No sooner had Xi uttered this stirring pronouncement in a nationwide address at the turn of the year (2016-17) than it became a viral meme (here and here) […]
Ben from Traverse City asked about the difference between disinformation and misinformation. Let’s start with the base word information. Information is knowledge communicated about some particular fact, subject, or event. According to...Show More Summary
I'm sympathetic to many of the arguments offered in a guest post by Robert Henderson, Peter Klecha, and Eric McCready (HK&M) in response to Geoff Pullum's post on "nigger in the woodpile," no doubt because they are sympathetic to some of the things I said in my reply to Geoff. But I have to object […]
I wondered about the phrase “up to snuff,” so I looked it up. Turns out it didn’t always mean “meeting the required standard,” as it does now; Gary Martin tells us: In 1811, the English playwright John Poole wrote Hamlet Travestie, a parody of Shakespeare, in the style of Doctor Johnson and George Steevens, which […]
I was rather flabberghasted to read an otherwise good post on Language Log seriously suggesting that racial slurs are so painful they should be coyly asterisked out even in careful lexicographical explanations of why they should not be used. Show More Summary
I just finished reading Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaya‘s 1861 novella ???????????, which (amazingly for a largely forgotten nineteenth-century writer) has been translated (by Karen Rosneck) into English, as The Boarding-School Girl. It was kind of a pain to read, since to have it on my Kindle I had to download the entire issue of Otechesvennye zapiski as […]
Did you hear about the Spanish-speaking magician? He said "for my next trick, I will disappear on the count of three. Uno, dos -" but then he vanished without a tres. Okay, that one isn't going to win me any comedy prizes. To redeem myself, I’ll share some funny jokes in Spanish. Show More Summary
Q: Why do we “spay” a female cat or dog, but “neuter” a male? Why don’t we have a single, unisex word for the procedure? A: You’re right that we usually say a female cat or dog is spayed, while a male is neutered. However, “neuter” (as well as “sterilize” and “desex”) can be used... ? Read More: Why ‘spay’ her, but ‘neuter’ him?
Michael Gavin of Colorado State University has a fascinating piece at The Conversation that asks: “Why is it that humans speak so many languages? And why are they so unevenly spread across the planet?” The questions also seem like they should be fundamental to many academic disciplines – linguistics, anthropology, human geography. But, starting in […]
For those of us who love playing them it is great news to hear that board games are undergoing an astonishing revival. Although still fun to play at home around a winter fire or on a rainy summer evening, board games are now available to play outside in parks...
This is a guest post by Robert Henderson, Peter Klecha, and Eric McCready in response to Geoff Pullum's post of July 10. My only role was offering in advance to post a reply if the authors would like me to. I'm a good friend of Geoff Pullum and a friend of the authors. What follows […]
Yesterday Sharon Klein wrote to ask about the 2010 debate on Language and Thought hosted by The Economist: Some colleagues in other departments (notably in philosophy) have been asking to talk about the hypothesis, linguistic relativism, and the actual research around the issues. While I can (and have begun to) collect relevant papers for a […]
Some kind LH reader sent me a copy of Sydney Goodsir Smith’s Collected Poems, which I had added to my wishlist only recently after waxing enthusiastic about Smith here — thank you, kind reader! Being the kind of person who reads the Foreword first, I did, and since it’s entirely about the problem of spelling […]
Q: I was taught that “persuade” is used with “to” and “convince” with “of” or “that.” This rule must have changed when I wasn’t looking, since I can’t for the life of me figure out how the two verbs are being used now. Your help would be appreciated. A: Yes, “convince” and “persuade” once had... ? Read More: The convinced and the persuaded
Another quote from Weinberger’s The Ghosts of Birds: The koukou, the Morepork owl, hoots koukou. It lives by night, it belongs to the Underworld, its frightening eyes a sign of evil. A thin film covers its unblinking eyes, a thin film made from the fingernails of corpses. I was, of course, intrigued by “Morepork,” so […]
The marvels of modern natural language processing: Michael Glazer, who sent in the example, wonders whether Google Translate has overdosed on old Boris and Natasha segments from Rocky and Bullwinkle: But it seems that the Google speech synthesis systems are not in on the fun, because if I accept Helpful Google's suggestion that I might […]