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A blindingly obvious oxymoron?

Q: I was reading an article about Edward Snowden in the New Yorker the other day and stopped at the phrase “blindingly obvious.” My first reaction was that the combination of “blindingly” and “obvious” was an oxymoron. But then I thought that maybe “blindingly” was there to emphasize the obviousness. So, what do you think?... ? Read More: A blindingly obvious oxymoron?

Advance or Advanced?

I’ve seen a number of notices recently that misuse the word advanced. Here’s an example from a physician’s office: “If you know that you are going to miss a medical appointment, please give at least a 24-hour advanced notice.” That should have been advance notice. Show More Summary

The Bell Miner.

Greg Pringle, known around these parts as Bathrobe, has put together a wonderful Spicks and Specks post, The Bell Miner: How orthography and ornithology catalysed a new folk etymology, that begins: The Bell Miner (Manorina melanophrys) is an Australian bird belonging to the honeyeaters (Meliphagidae). Show More Summary


Jane Setter recently asked me about noodles. Her take on them was that Americans can call spaghetti noodles and the British can't. My take, as ever, is: it's complicated.Let's start with the British. In my experience (and, I think, Jane's) noodle in the UK is associated with Asian food. Show More Summary


This is "Konglish", not "Kongish".  We just finished studying the latter, which is Hong Kong style English, in this post, and surveyed other varieties of Asian English in this post, including Konglish,which is the subject of the present post. Konglish is Korean-style English, and it seems to be thriving. Let's step back a moment to […]

Phenomenal to the women

Rebecca Kaplan, "Donald Trump: 'I will be phenomenal to the women'", CBS Face the Nation 8/9/2015: Presidential candidate Donald Trump sought to redirect incoming fire at rival Republican Jeb Bush, saying that Bush has a "huge" problem with women and he is by far the better candidate with that demographic. […] "I'm exactly the opposite. […]

Linguistic pseudoscience in the breakup of Serbo-Croatian

I’m all too familiar with Romania and its dacomania, and I’ve read a great deal about Albania’s insistence on a glorious Illyrian past in order to present itself as a proud and stately nation today. But reading Greenberg’s Language and...Show More Summary

Alphabet Is the Worst Name the New Google Could Have Called Itself

In a surprise Monday statement, Google announced it will subordinate itself to a newly created parent company named Alphabet, whose holdings will include former Google departments like its experimental research and fiber optics arms....Show More Summary

Is Watching Foreign Language Movies a Waste of Time?

In the world of language learning folklore I often hear that foreign language movies are a golden ticket to fluency. But are foreign language movies really a great way to learn a language? Or are they a big waste of time? Let’s takeShow More Summary

Language Capital Project

Some of the Wisconsin Englishes folks have talked off and on about doing maps of 'linguistic resources' in communities, figuring out where different languages are used in businesses and community organizations, for instance. Turns out that Tucson is ahead of Wisconsin... Show More Summary


In the online newspaper, Politico, Jules Johnston has an article about new German words coined by youth: "In the words of young Germans, just ‘merkeln’ " (8/3/15) The German dictionary manufacturer Langenscheidt came up with the idea seven years ago to create a list of new words and expressions invented by teens by selecting the “Jugendwort” (Youth Word […]

Syriac Resources Online.

Another great online find:, “An annotated bibliography of Syriac resources online.” From the About page: Welcome to! This site is a comprehensive annotated bibliography of open-access resources related to the study of Syriac. [...] It was not that long ago that people interested in Syriac studies who did not have the good fortune […]

40 brilliant idioms that simply can’t be translated literally

It’s a piece of cake. You can’t put lipstick on a pig. Why add fuel to the fire? Idioms are those phrases that mean more than the sum of their words. As our Open Translation Project volunteers translate TED Talks into 105 languages, they’re often challenged to translate English idioms into their language. Which made us [ … ]

Words have impact: language & Indigenous issues

What to Andrew Forrest, Adam Goodes, and South Park have in common? Alexandra Marley explains how all three can teach us about language choice surrounding Indigenous issues.


Julian Harrison, "Help Us Decipher This Inscription", British Library Medieval Manuscripts Blog, 8/3/2015: Visitors to Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy may have noticed that we have one or two objects on display, in addition to the many manuscripts and documents telling Magna Carta's 800-year-old story. One of those objects is a double-edged sword, found in […]

A pronouncing primer

Q: I pronounce “primer,” the textbook, to rhyme with “trimmer.” But people I otherwise admire pronounce it to rhyme with “timer.” May I harbor ill will against them? Or are they simply using an acceptable alternate pronunciation? A: The word for the elementary textbook was pronounced with a short “i” (rhyming with “trimmer”) when it... ? Read More: A pronouncing primer


Today's PhD Comics: Interesting that we haven't seen "datums", like "spectrums" and so on.

Russians in America: The Third Wave.

Professor Thomas Beyer of Middlebury has a very useful website, Russians in America: The Third Wave. His front page begins: In 1972 Joseph Brodsky (????? ????????) leaves the Soviet Union and comes to settle in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In the previous year Carl and Ellendea Proffer found Ardis and would begin publishing Russian Literature Triquarterly. […]

All other parents in the animal kingdom would have already murdered their offspring for blowing a tuneless flute throughout the store.

All other parents in the animal kingdom would have already murdered their offspring for blowing a tuneless flute throughout the store. All other parents in the animal kingdom would have already murdered their offspring for blowing a tuneless flute throughout the store. — Grant Barrett (@GrantBarrett) August 9, 2015

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