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Oachkazlschwoaf.

OK, this is just a silly little squib, but it amuses me and I’m sharing it: “Oachkatzl” (Eichhörnchen=squirrel) and “Schwoaf” (Schweif=tail) are words that are used to test whether you qualify as a native speaker of Bavarian/Austrian dialect. They were a hugely popular way of testing and teasing the US occupation forces after the Second […]

I don’t have the time for it but somebody needs to take the Wikipedia entry for “homie” in hand and correct that ish. https://t.co/r6zlULhytN It’s very wrong. Bad sourcing and bad conclusions. It completely misses previous — accurate — work done on the te

I don’t have the time for it but somebody needs to take the Wikipedia entry for “homie” in hand and correct that ish. https://t.co/r6zlULhytN It’s very wrong. Bad sourcing and bad conclusions. It completely misses previous — accurate — work done on the term. I don't have the time for it but somebody needs to […]

Christmas Food Traditions Around the World

When it comes to the winter holidays, food traditions are an important part the celebrations in countries around the world, even if the foods are different from country to country. (Likewise, Santa is different too, depending on where you live). You might indulge in mince pies, or perhaps ham is more your style. Show More Summary

Language registers in spoken Chinese

Dave Cragin writes: Throughout my years of learning Chinese, I’ve been surprised at the number of times I’ve been told by various Chinese that a specific Chinese phrase is: only something foreigners say And/or Chinese NEVER say that phrase or only old Chinese women or only old Chinese say that phrase The phrases include: ?????Chi […]

Translating Nabati Poetry.

Arabic Literature (in English) recently featured Marcel Kurpershoek on Translating 18th-century Nabati Poetry That Still ‘Smells Like Fresh Bread’ — M. Lynx Qualey interviews the editor-translator of Hmedan al-Shwe?ir’s Arabian Satire: Poetry from 18th Century Najd. I was holding off on posting it because at the end it says “Part two of this interview will […]

Hawaiian-style predicate inversion, Yoda uses

David Adger of Queen Mary University of London is using the new "Star Wars" movie as an excuse to delve into the linguistics of Yoda-speak. He surmises that Yoda's native language involves predicate inversion a la Hawaiian, and that this Yodish syntactic pattern is then transferred into his second language, English. (More from QMUL's press release […]

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Too much of the email we get at the radio show could be summed up as, “You weren’t mean enough to that caller who bared their language insecurities on national radio. Shouldn’t you have made them feel bad?”

Too much of the email we get at the radio show could be summed up as, “You weren’t mean enough to that caller who bared their language insecurities on national radio. Shouldn’t you have made them feel bad?” Too much of the email we get at the radio show could be summed up as, "You […]

2017 UK-to-US Word of the Year: shitgibbon

This is the second of my 2017 Word of the Year posts. For the US>UK winner, see yesterday's post. A Pinterest page credits this photo to Josef Gelernter As I said then, there's always a choice--do I go for the (BrE) slow burner that's...Show More Summary

A fowl of the rules

Jordain Carney, "House will have to vote for tax-cut bill again", TheHill 12/19/2017, originally included this sentence: Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also seized on the ruling immediately, saying Republicans in a "mad dash to provide tax breaks for their billionaire campaign contributors" had ran a fowl of the chamber's rules. Show More Summary

The Untranslated.

The Untranslated has been around since 2013; how am I just learning about it now? The About page says “The purpose of this blog is to bring to a wider attention significant literary works not yet translated into English,” and that’s so far up my alley it might as well be living in my house. […]

The corporate ‘we’

Q: This sentence is on a literary agency website: “We offer our clients unusually meaningful editorial guidance and inspiration, and serve as their advocate throughout the publishing process.” Shouldn’t “we” take the plural “advocates”?...Show More Summary

2017 US-to-UK Word of the Year: (television) season

It's that time of year again. The time when everyone's too busy doing fun things in real life to read blogs. Yet I persevere in announcing my Words of the Year here at the butt-end of the year because I don't want to be unfair to December. Show More Summary

Barn Burner.

I’ve always liked the phrase barn burner, which I probably first heard from sports announcers as a kid: “Boy, that was a real barn burner!” Merriam-Webster has a good explanation of the history behind it: Today barn burner is often used to describe a sporting event or some other contest, such as a political race, […]

2017 Sapir Book Prize Winners Announced

This year’s recipient for the Edward Sapir Book Prize, awarded at the American Anthropological Association Meeting in Washington D.C., was Kathryn Woolard. She received the award for her book: Singular and Plural: Ideologies of Linguistic Authority in 21st Century Catalonia  (Oxford 2016). Show More Summary

More on grammar, punctuation, and prosody

From "In the Groove, Jazz and Beyond", 12/17/2017: We also pay tribute to another tragedy; the murder of John Lennon with jazz covers of several of his tunes. Prepositional phrases like "with jazz covers of several of his tunes" are multiply ambiguous. Thus with can be comitative ("They rode with Kim") or instrumental ("open the can […]

Prosodic punctuation

Today's SMBC: The mouseover title: "Of course, in real life if you formed a grammar club, the only attendees would be linguists looking to talk shit." The aftercomic: There are several related aspects of this comic that puzzle me: Who is the "I" in the caption that's not allowed within 100 meters of the "Grammar […]

Decoding the Khipus.

An exciting piece by Katherine Davis-Young for Atlas Obscura: There are many ways a college student might spend spring break. Making an archaeological breakthrough is not usually one of them. In his first year at Harvard, Manny Medrano did just that. […] With the help of his professor, Gary Urton, a scholar of Pre-Columbian studies, […]

The Secret Sign Language of the Ottoman Court.

Amelia Soth describes an interesting phenomenon of Ottoman court life: In the 1600s, the court of the Ottoman Empire employed some 40 deaf servants. They were chosen not in spite of their deafness, but because of it. The deaf servants were favored companions of the sultan, and their facility in nonverbal communication made them indispensable […]

A rapist or a raper?

Q: Why is a person who rapes called a “rapist” and not a “raper”? A: Someone who rapes can be called a “raper” as well as a “rapist,” though “rapist” is much more common and slightly older. You can find both terms in several standard dictionaries. Merriam-Webster Unabridged, for example, defines a “raper” as “one... ? Read More: A rapist or a raper?

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