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I want to / two fish

In the comments to "slip(per)" (7/22/14), we have had a very lively discussion on whether or not people would pronounce these two sentences differently in Mandarin: w? yào tu?xié ???? "I want slippers." w? yào tu? xié ???? "I want to take off my shoes." Of the more than two dozen individuals having native fluency […]

Men in Slips.

A couple of years ago I read and loved To the Lighthouse (LH post); now I’m reading the other of Woolf’s books that I think is generally acknowledged as a masterpiece, Mrs. Dalloway, and I’m just as enthralled as I remember being the last time I read it, decades ago. This time around, not only […]

Mistake or grammatical variation?

From reader B.D.: I ran across this sentence today on a news website and thought that you might find it interesting: "The accident caused for two lanes and one inbound express lane to be blocked." I was able to find a few other examples of "caused for" from news sites using Google News: "Philadelphia has […]

Seldom Is Heard a Discouraging Word

The wife has spent numerous hours planning the itinerary for a trip we’re going to take out west later this summer. She has tricks up her sleeve that I never would have thought of for finding the best prices for airfare, car rentals, and hotels, so I bow to her travel-savvy. But all our discussions […]

’lentil’ as a Romance loan into Common Slavonic

While reading Ronald O. Richards’ The Pannonian Slavic Dialect of the Common Slavic Proto-Language, where the author reconstructs Pannonian Slavic on the basis of loans in Hungarian, I was struck by the comparison Common Slavonic l?tja ‘lentil’ > Hu. lencse, as we must be dealing with a Romance loan in Common Slavonic. Show More Summary

Talking Like That.

Arthur Chu has a very interesting essay at NPR’s Code Switch site that begins by describing how he speaks English in a “Chinese accent” for a video and goes on to unpick the complexities of such an accent: Nearly every Chinese immigrant I’ve met does, in fact, “talk like that,” because it’s almost impossible not […]

Classical Chinese Dictionary

===== A Student's Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese All of the people associated with this dictionary are excellent scholars, so I'm sure that it will be reliable and of the highest quality.  Naturally, I am pleased that it is arranged alphabetically by Pinyin and has a radical plus stroke order index. This is like […]

off-piste, off the beaten track/path, off base

Thought I'd dip into the 'to-be-blogged' e-mailbox and click randomly for the next topic, and wouldn't you know it: the thing I clicked on, a five-month-old note from Jan Freeman, is about off-piste, which I used in the last post, leading to some off-piste (and off-piste) discussion in the comments there. Show More Summary

Fluent in 3 months road trip hits the east coast / midwest / south: Come talk language learning (free!)

The Fluent in 3 Months road trip is in full swing now! We’ve already done official events in the UK, Ireland, Amsterdam, California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, and in the last couple of days I’ve zoomed through Vermont and New Hampshire! The west coast and Canada trip has been a huge success […]

These ones and those ones

Q: “These ones” is never OK. Not here in the US, nor in my native UK. There is no “sometimes.” It’s simply wrong. The “ones” element is redundant. It’s “these” or “those” (for plurals), and “this” or “that” for singular items. A: We assume your remarks were inspired by our post in 2010 about whether... ? Read More: These ones and those ones

Generational punctuation differences again

Forwarded from a young person, who got it from an acquaintance: just got an email that said "Address is correct…" like are you sad? are you upset? why the fuck are those extra periods there? dear people over 25, stop using ellipses for no reason like please what are you doing It occurs to me […]

Should we stop people from not doing this?

Jack Healy, "Defying Death in Utah Arches: A Thrill Too Far?", NYT 7/30/ 2014: Even though his son died trying to swing, Mr. Stocking said he opposed any closing.   “You can’t legislate people from not having fun,” he said. “They’re going to go find it one way or another.” Ben Zimmer covered a similar […]

Attack of the homophones!

Delightful story in the always delightful Wonkette about a guy who got fired for writing a blog post about homophones, because it sounded too... icky. It kind of sounded like another word, you might say. Of course they had to use the...Show More Summary

Twelve Years of Languagehat.

I almost forgot that today marks twelve years since the first LH post — Mark Woods (speaking of “marks”) often reminds me of the anniversary with a great black-and-white photo of a crowd of men wearing hats, but he’s taking a (well-deserved) break until early August, so I’m on my own. I don’t have much […]

Incomprehensibility.

Barry Mazur’s Berfrois essay “The Authority of the Incomprehensible” has a long middle section on the reprehensible use of mathematics as a rhetorical device to give unearned authority to a text, with a detailed discussion of Malthus; all this can be skipped unless you have a particular interest in it. What attracted me to the […]

Homophonia

Paul Rolly, "Blogger fired from language school over 'homophonia'", The Salt Lake Tribune, 7:29/2014: Homophones, as any English grammarian can tell you, are words that sound the same but have different meanings and often different spellings — such as be and bee, through and threw, which and witch, their and there.   This concept is […]

The state of the machine translation art

I don't know any Hebrew. So when I recently saw a tweet in Hebrew on a Google Plus page of discussion about Gaza tunnel-building, I clicked (with some forebodings) on the "Translate" link to see what it meant. What I got was this: Some grazing has hurt they Stands citizens Susan Hammer year This does […]

Sut.

Olga Khazan has an amusing account in The Atlantic of going to Russia and trying to use her very rusty native language. I enjoyed it, of course, but one section requires amendment, since she doesn’t seem to have quite understood what was going on: We’re sitting in a cafe with my cousin, who has lived […]

Transliteration follies

From Arun Tharuvai, via his Twitter account, we find that Intersecting Bubbles has this brief but fascinating post on a multilingual notice:  "Shell Petroleum thinks that Hindi is English written in the Devanagari Script ". It describes a routine notification from Shell petroleum warning people not to dig where they might accidentally rupture a gas […]

Garage sailing, in knots or miles?

Q: A columnist for my local paper in Minnesota wrote that he and his wife went garage sailing. Now I’m wondering how large were his sails, in order to get his garage to move. A: We’ve also noticed that some people use the term “garage sailing” to mean going to garage sales. We’ve seen “yard... ? Read More: Garage sailing, in knots or miles?

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