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Fry the red hand

Maidhc Mac Roibin spotted this oddly named item on the menu (bottom right) of the Nutrition Restaurant in Cupertino, CA: hóngyóu ch?osh?u ???? (lit., "fried hand with / in red oil") The English ("Fry the red hand"), of course, is ridiculous, but the Chinese itself is wrong.  It should be h óngyóu ch?osh?u ???? ("wonton […]

Warm tip

Jan Söhlke received a fresh batch of Tieguanyin from China. The tea helps him get through the dark and cold season, this time the more so as it came with a »warm tip«: Jan remarks: Don't know if either that or the »calculation« of goods is interesting for you. I found both a bit odd, […]


The entertainment potential of regional varieties of American English has apparently hit the late-night TV zeitgest. Here's a brilliant trailer, for the imaginary movie Boston Accent: And a new kind of competition, the Accent-Off: The formation accent-off is on the pattern of run-off (in elections or tournaments, not rainstorms), cook-off, bake-off, grill-off, … I can't […]

Kongish, ch. 2

In "Kongish" (8/6/15), we looked at the phenomenon of extensive mixing of English and Cantonese by young people in Hong Kong.  We also became acquainted with the Kongish Daily, a Facebook page written in and about Kongish.  Many Language Log readers thought it was a satire or parody and that it was an ephemeral fad […]

Feminine endings in the orthography of the Qur'an

Phoenix has started posting a rather interesting series on the orthography of the Qur'an and the linguistic features it reflects. Such features, it must be noted, need not always reflect the dialect of the Qur'anic text itself; theyShow More Summary

Bruxing and Boggling.

At first, I didn’t think this delightful NY Times story by Andy Newman, about a rescue rat who made it to Broadway, was LH material, but then I got to this passage: And then Rose did something special. She bruxed, and she boggled. Bruxing is when a rat grinds its incisors together. Boggling, a muscular […]

How to Speak Korean – It’s Easier than You Think

Korean is hot property. Interest in the language has soared over the past five years. [caption id="attachment_17635" align="aligncenter" width="506"] Google searches for "Korean", 2009 - 2015[/caption] “Gangnam Style” by Korean pop icon...Show More Summary

Hats off to the boggins

Q: I’m from upstate NY, but I’ve lived in NC for almost 20 years. When native North Carolinians use of the word “toboggan,” they’re talking about a hat. When I use it, I’m talking about a sled. Who’s right? A: You’re right, but so are your North Carolina neighbors. In American usage, a “toboggan” can... ? Read More: Hats off to the boggins

Which is worse?

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post with with the title "English or Mandarin as the World Language?" (5/2/14).  The purpose of that post was basically to call attention to Geoff Pullum's fine Lingua Franca article titled "There Was No Committee" (4/30/14).  It was all about English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) […]

Canversers and draws

A LL reader sent in this picture of a "no hawkers or canversers" sign on a gate in a retirement community in Sawbridgeworth, England: They observed that there are many other examples of orthographic or morphological revision due to r-lessness, such as this example from Roland Oliphant, "Crimea faces months without power rather than be defined […]

Oh, pants

If a dog wore pants, would word meaning help us decide what they should look like? Using prototype theory and native speaker judgements, we find no clear, shared definition of the word 'pants'. The results point to gradient understanding of meaning.

Ancient Indo-European Folktales?

Trond Engen sent me links to “Ancient Roots of Indo-European Folktales,” by Sara Graça da Silva and Jamshid J. Tehrani (“In this study, we introduce new methods for tackling these problems by applying comparative phylogenetic methods...Show More Summary

Palin’s Rhetoric Is an Enchanted, Perplexing Fever Dream and We Love It

Like a radiant molten meteor that narrowly missed us in 2008 but fell into Earth’s orbit and is, perhaps, scheduled to skim the outer layers of our atmosphere every four years, Sarah Palin has returned. By now you have read or listened to her delirious, rambling, balls-to-the-wall endorsement of Donald J. Show More Summary

Writing, Writing, Writing

Sorry I have not written any posts lately. I have taken a new job as a marketing specialist which allows me to write on a very regular basis. I write marketing materials (from print ads to radio ads and more), and I manage, curate and...Show More Summary

She’ll Tell Them All!

It’s 2016, and summer will be here in a few short months. Time to start planning your vacations! At least, it was time to start for one Reynoldsburg resident, who went to the school district website to find out when school started for the 2017 school year. She was taken by surprise when she found […]

Floating world

Nicola Esposito sent in the following observations and questions: What is the etymology of ukiyo ??, the "floating world" known in the West mostly thanks to its depictions by artists such as Hiroshige, Hokusai and others? While perusing the website of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, I discovered that the origins of ukiyo lie […]

Principled Protestors or Y'all Qaeda: A Guide to Naming the Oregon Ranchers

A group of men are still camped out in an Oregon wildlife refuge, eating snacks, waving guns, sweeping sex toys off tables, and trying to spark the overthrow of the federal government. One of the band’s leaders has announced that they will meet with the community soon to unveil their exit strategy. Show More Summary


Patrick Taylor, LH’s house etymologist, has a question; the following is quoted from his Facebook feed, and I’m hoping we can help solve the mystery: Yesterday, Stephen Dodson at his blog Language Hat crowdsourced an interpretion of the word sheog occuring in the novel Cloud Atlas. I was thinking about asking LH readers about a […]

¿Why isn’t English like Spanish?

Q: Why does the question mark and exclamation point appear at the end of a sentence in English? To my mind, it would make more sense if they were at the beginning. Or at the beginning and end, as in Spanish, though I’ve read that this convention is falling out of favour, no doubt under... ? Read More: ¿Why isn’t English like Spanish?

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