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Another thing (or think?) coming

Q: Which is correct: “If you think that, you have another thing/think coming”? I see “thing” more often, but “think” makes more sense to me. A: The two expressions, which are used to express disagreement, showed up in print within a couple of months of each other in the late 19th century. The editors at... ? Read More: Another thing (or think?) coming

New Mission: One Month Without English!

Have you ever reached a plateau in your language learning that you just couldn’t break through? I did. It didn’t matter how many German lessons I took. How many Skype calls I made. Or, how many grammar books I read. I just couldn’t get...Show More Summary

Secret bilingual language

My wife and I used to have a private language that was full of bilingual, cryptic references such as the following: Yáo Shùn Y? ??? (the names of three ancient, wise, Chinese rulers) || s?nmíngzhì ??? ("three wise rulers"), the Chinese transcription of English "sandwich". Thus, if we wished to ask each other, "Do you […]

The Last Bridge.

Working my way through Tsvetaeva’s collected poems, I’ve gotten to 1924 and the astonishing sequence ????? ????? [Poem of the end] she wrote for Konstantin Rodzevich, an unremarkable young man “with strikingly pink cheeks” (according to a fellow émigré). They had three passion-filled months together, then she broke it off — according to her biographer, […]

Nope.

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Those TED audiences expect to be entertained

And tickets are expensive, so they can be brutal if you offend them — "Pope warns powerful to act humbly or risk ruin in TED talk", ABC News, 4/26/2017:

Explosive semantics

"New images of MOAB denotation damage", Fox News 4/25/2016: The denotation damage has been estimated at nearly 20 kiloreferences. And the connotation damage, though not yet measured, is believed to be larger than from any explosion in recent decades. [h/t Glenn Bingham]

"I have gone into my own way"

In a series of recent posts we've explored the fun side of recursive weighted sums and point nonlinearities as a translation algorithm: "What a tangled web they weave", "A long short-term memory of Gertrude Stein", "Electric sheep", "The sphere of the sphere is the sphere of the sphere". But the featured translations have all involved […]

Reinventing the Canon for Free.

The newly published book Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry: Reinventing the Canon, edited by Katharine Hodgson, Joanne Shelton and Alexandra Smith, is an interesting-looking collection of essays available in paperback for £25.95, in hardback for £36.95, and as a pdf download for free! Just go to the Open Book Publishers book page and click the appropriate link […]

Dialect readers redux?

In a recent article Patriann Smith, a professor of Language, Diversity and Literacy Studies at Texas Tech, makes a bold proposal: that “nonstandard Englishes” such as African American English (AAE) and Hawai’i Creole English be used as the primary language of instruction in educating children who speak them. Show More Summary

E.B. White and quotative inversion

For some documentation and discussion of the New Yorker magazine's curious aversion to quotative inversion, see "Quotative inversion again", 10/29/2009. And against that background, consider this sentence from E.B. White's 1957 piece "Letter from the East", quoted in my earlier post: "Omit needless words!" cries the author on page 21, and into that imperative Will […]

Hello, Minnie!

Q: We saw Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West and noticed that the libretto makes generous use of “hello,” notably with shouts of “Hello, Minnie!” at the saloon. I don’t see anything about “hello” on your blog. Would you like to correct this oversight? A: We’ve discussed “goodbye” in several posts (most recently, in 2011), but... ? Read More: Hello, Minnie!

Omitting needless words

Yesterday I was skimmed randomly-selected sentences from a collection of English-language novels, and happened on this one from George Orwell's 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four: "It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words." This brought to mind two things I had never put together before, Orwell on Newspeak and Strunk on style. Here's Orwell: 'How is the […]

Everybody Loses.

James Somers has an infuriating article in the Atlantic describing the collapse of a great dream: You were going to get one-click access to the full text of nearly every book that’s ever been published. Books still in print you’d have to pay for, but everything else—a collection slated to grow larger than the holdings […]

The Curse of the Diaeresis.

As I said here, Mary Norris of the New Yorker “has consistently irritated me with her stubborn insistence on every bit of peevery that has encrusted the magazine over the years,” but I admit I enjoyed her (now five years old) squib on the magazine’s famous diaeresis (“those two dots, often mistaken for an umlaut”). […]

Biscriptal juxtaposition in Chinese, part 3

Christopher Alderton saw this flyer on his way to work a few days ago: The big, bold characters at the top exhort: Qi?ng fáng la ???! ("Grab a house!") What's most arresting is this line: nín y?j?ng refinance ma? ???refinance??? "Have you already refinanced? Christopher rightly points out that the meaning of the construction "?refinance?" […]

Interview with Richard Bauman, part 2

March 7, 2017 Richard Bauman chatted with Ilana Gershon over coffee about his career upon receiving the Franz Boas Award for Exemplary Service to Anthropology.  Below is the second part of an edited transcript of the informal conversation. In recent years, you have been turning to the study of media, and in particular to how […]

12 Fun Grammar Games to Help You Learn a Language

Grammar. To many people, the word is almost synonymous with "boredom". Does that make "grammar games" a contradiction? I'm going to say not. More on that in a moment. True, the average grammar book is more useful as a cure for insomnia...Show More Summary

The poop about pooped

Q: After separating the recyclables into three bins and dragging them out to the street, my hubby turned to me and said he was pooped. Speaking of which, where does “pooped” come from? A: The adjective “pooped” (or “pooped out”), meaning exhausted or worn out, showed up in the early 20th century in American English.... ? Read More: The poop about pooped

PR push for "Voice Stress Analysis" products?

A Craigslist ad posted 20 days ago — "Seeking a Blog Writer for Voice Stress Analysis Technology": We are looking for someone to ghostwrite blog posts and articles for a large company that specializes in computer-aided voice stress analysis technology or CVSA. We want you to primarily discuss the scientific research backing it up and […]

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