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Happy 100th, John Berryman!

Sam Leith at the Guardian (this seems to be Guardian day at LH) has a wonderful appreciation of John Berryman, one of my favorite American poets, who would have turned 100 yesterday; as I told my brother, who sent me the link (thanks, Eric!), I have two copies of The Dream Songs (one of which […]

Tense Travel

My wife called me in to her office last night to make me watch this segment of The Big Bang Theory, in which Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard are watching Back to the Future, Part ii. Harrison Tran has helpfully bootlegged it onto YouTube, complete with a transcript: Howard: Wait, hold on. Pause. [music stops] […]

Meme

Mac asked what a meme is, commenting that the term is showing up everywhere. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “a cultural element or behavioural trait whose transmission and consequent persistence in a population, although occurring by non-genetic means (esp. Show More Summary

Writings from the Edge of Language.

From the Guardian, Philip Gross’s top 10 writings from the edge of language (2010) is a mixture of things I already know and love (“The Waste Land”), things I know about and have been meaning to investigate (Riddley Walker), and things I’d never heard of but suddenly want to read: 5. Keeping Mum / Llofrudd […]

Aquatory

From Nicholas Hill: He writes that this photograph … was taken at a marina in the harbour of Kardla on the island of Hiiumaa, Estonia. I've no idea where they got aquatory from. There might be a clue in this discussion in the WordReference Forums: My father said something in Bulgarian and wanted it translated […]

"Cantonese" song

This hauntingly beautiful song is the unofficial anthem of the Hong Kong democracy protest movement: The title of the song is "Boundless Oceans Vast Skies" (hoi2 fut3 tin1 hung1 ????) (" as boundless as the sea and sky; unrestrained and far-ranging"). It is performed by the Hong Kong rock band Beyond. This video brings tears […]

Arabic Harder to Read than Hebrew?

Or Kashti of Haaretz reports on a study that suggests that Hebrew speakers can read their native language more quickly than Arabic speakers can read theirs: The study, conducted over the last three years, examined the speed and efficacy with which Hebrew and Arabic speakers read texts in their native languages. The texts were taken […]

DSpace statistics

The MIT Libraries just made available a new website displaying various statistics about our Open Access DSpace repository. I have three papers in that archive. Here are the download counts for those papers: And here is a graph with the...Show More Summary

Oh no!

Well, damn. Forget Earth. All of time and space is screwed. #DoctorWho has the Ebola virus. And went bowling! pic.twitter.com/aY53pNpvX5 — Chris C. (@CubedLink) October 24, 2014

RIP Frank Mankiewicz, coiner of "retronym"

From the New York Times obituary for Frank Mankiewicz (son of Herman, nephew of Joseph): Frank Mankiewicz, a writer and Democratic political strategist who was Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s press secretary, directed Senator George S. McGovern’s losing 1972 presidential campaign and for six years was the president of National Public Radio, died Thursday at a […]

Couple without of

Scott K. Johnson, "The Scablands: A scarred landscape as strange as fiction", ars technica 10/12/2014: In 1922, Bretz tried to bring a group of students to the Cascades, but they were unable to make the last leg of the trip. Instead, they used their remaining time to poke around the Scablands near Spokane. The experience […]

Women modifiers

Maddie York, "Why there are too many women doctors, women MPs, and women bosses", The Guardian 10/17/2014: I am a subeditor at the Guardian. I am a woman. I am not a woman subeditor. But “woman” and its plural seem to be taking over the role of modifier, so that now, there is no such […]

Mandarin level up mission (Singapore edition)

After devoting the majority of this year to meeting aspiring new language learners to give them my best advice face-to-face, I can now get back to focusing on my own goals! I am a strong believer in intensive missions at the start of language projects – it skyrockets us forward at what is undoubtedly the […]

FI3M Just Got a Fresh Coat Of Paint

I’m sure you can’t help but notice that your favourite language learning website is looking a bit… FREAKIN’ AMAZING? SLEEK AND SEXY-FIED? LIKE THERE’S SOME SORT OF ORGANIZATION? Well, I’m glad you noticed Today is a huge day for me because it represents a culmination of months and months of hard work and tough decisions, […]

#Polyglotproblems: Things you only need to worry about when you speak more than one language

A “First world problem” is a minor inconvenience for people who don’t have to deal with any pressing concerns – an advantage of living in a richer country or having a rich lifestyle. As such, it’s hardly something to genuinely complain about. Along the same lines, a Polyglot Problem is an inconvenience you only have […]

The imperative’s new clothes?

Q: I’ve searched all over the Internet for an explanation of the third-person imperative, but everybody seems to have a different opinion. I’m thoroughly confused. If you can help, I’ll be forever thankful. A: Strictly speaking, there...Show More Summary

Henny Penny, Chicken Little, Chicken Licken

While writing the other day, I wondered whether it would be widely understood if I used Chicken Little as a metaphor for a certain kind of language peever. It felt right, but I also knew the name Henny Penny (of the main character in the story--see comments for variations), both from my American childhood and from my child's English childhood. Show More Summary

Zuckerberg's Mandarin

The world is abuzz: "Zuckerberg Wows Beijing Audience With Fluent Mandarin", PCMag (10/22/14). Also on Facebook (of course), and many other sites, including this AP article that called Zuckerberg's pronunciation "far from fluent." See and hear for yourself: Post by Mark Zuckerberg. The audience went nuts over almost every syllable. Zuckerberg's Mandarin is not bad. […]

No word for father

Last week I read this article about the Mosuo people of southwest China:   "The Ethnic Group in China That Doesn’t Have a Word for Father" (10/13/14). The Mosuo are indeed famous for having a matrilineal society, and I had long been aware of their unusual marriage customs, but I was innately suspicious of this sensationalist […]

BEEP vegetables

Chinglish makes an appearance in the "Translators" segment of HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (10/19): For those who may have missed my old Language Log post, this classic Chinglishism was explained at great length and with many details in "The Etiology and Elaboration of a Flagrant Mistranslation" (12/9/07), with an update and refresher […]

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