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[This is a guest post by Nathan Hopson] Yes, the following image from the most recent Weekly Playboy (???????? Sh?kan Pureib?i; not a regional edition of Hugh Hefner's Playboy), is labeled "Poop": I'm not sure whether to be relieved or further dismayed by the fact that this appears to be a nickname ("nom de loo?") or other […]

Gambling Disturb Terrible

A friend of Anne Henochowicz spotted this T-shirt in an Akihabara, Tokyo shop: The writing on the T-shirt says: Hei ???("Hey!") Shinz? ??????("Shinzoo" — Japan's prime minister's first name) Oretachi dake de umaku yarou ze ????????????????"Let's handle the business by ourselves" — it's difficult for me to put this sentence into good English; it basically […]

More than cat videos

Girls With Slingshots for 9/18/2014: The best part is Danielle Corsetto's note about creating this strip: I wound up killing a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook asking people to share their grammatical pet peeves to use in today's strip. Jesus, that received more opinions and reactions than most of my cat videos do! […]

Triplex Confinium.

I’m in the middle of reading The Struggle for the Eurasian Borderlands: From the Rise of Early Modern Empires to the End of the First World War, by Alfred J. Rieber; it’s very dense and very informative, and I’m learning all sorts of things I didn’t know. Herewith a few of LH interest: 1) Triplex […]

10 Ways Language Learners Mess Up on Skype

Skype language exchanges are easy, affordable and incredibly effective. What’s more, you can do a language exchange without ever leaving your hometown, or even your house. So no more excuses about how travel is too expensive, keeping you from practising your language with native speakers. Here’s how a language exchange works. Show More Summary

Like a death’s head at a feast

Q: My mother used to use the expression “like a death’s head at a feast” to describe a particularly disagreeable person at a social function. I use it myself, from time to time, much to the amusement of my adult children. Can you shed any light on the origin of this expression? A: A death’s... ? Read More: Like a death’s head at a feast

"Evidence, data and reasoning"

Now that a black man is no longer president, George Will has stopped obsessing about presidential overuse of first-person singular pronouns, and has turned his attention to other pressing matters, such as the role of liberal higher education in promoting the political ascension of Donald Trump ("Trump and academia actually have a lot in common", 1/27/2017): Much […]


As soon as I saw the reports about the mobile PaPaPa vans roaming the streets of Chengdu (see "PaPaPa" [2/15/17]), I immediately thought of a similar expression with a similar meaning that I heard forty years ago.  On that occasion, someone described to me the actions of a man who was trying (unsuccessfully) to get […]

poo, poop

As I mentioned in the last post, I was at the BBC (on) Monday recording a Word of Mouth episode with Man Who Cries "American English is ruining Britain" Matthew Engel. One of his examples of Americanisms taking over was people in the UK saying poop instead of poo. Show More Summary

Norwottuck II.

A decade ago I posted about the local place name Norwottuck (“Or something like that”); now I’ve come across what seems to be a knowledgeable discussion in Alice Nash’s “Quanquan’s Mortgage of 1663” in Marla R. Miller (ed.), Cultivating a Past: Essays on the History of Hadley, Massachusetts. On p. 29 Nash says it’s properly […]


My, my! What does the signage on this van in Chengdu, Sichuan Province (China) say? From: "Chinese firm ordered to remove sexually suggestive Valentine’s Day advertisements" (SCMP, 2/15/17). Qíngrén jié yídòng ch? ?????PaPa? ("Valentine's Day Mobile PaPa Van") zh?osh?u jí tíng ???? ("stops when hailed") You're probably wondering what "PaPa" (or "PaPaPa", as at the […]


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Annoying voices and gender stereotypes

During the 2016 presidential campaign, there was a lot of negative commentary about Hillary Clinton's voice. Some examples from across the political spectrum are compiled and discussed here, and even-the-liberal-The-Atlantic published on "The Science Behind Hating Hillary's Voice". Show More Summary

Russian Neologisms.

Since I’m in the middle of reading Bengt Jangfeldt’s Mayakovsky bio (and, of course, Mayakovsky’s poetry to go with it), it seemed like a good time to haul out my copy of Assya Humesky’s 1964 Majakovskij and His Neologisms, and I thought this passage from the introduction was interesting enough to share: In the history […]

Morphosyntactic innovation in the White House?

From the "Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 2/14/2017, #12" (starting at 15:23 of the ABC News video): Your browser does not support the audio element. JONATHAN KARL:  Back in January, the President said that nobody in his campaign had been in touch with the Russians. Now, today, can you still say definitively that nobody […]

Elder vs. older: an eald story

Q: The NY Times recently referred to Ivanka Trump as Donald Trump’s eldest daughter. Why do we have two sets of words—“elder”/”eldest” and “older”/”oldest”? A: More than a thousand years ago, the Old English versions of “elder” and “eldest” were the original comparative and superlative forms of “old.” They meant the same thing as the... Show More Summary


CoCoON (COllections de COrpus Oraux Numériques) is a platform for oral resources; it’s got Atlas Linguistique des Côtes de l’Atlantique et de la Manche, Atlas linguistique d’Haïti, AuCo: corpus audio de langues du Vietnam et des pays voisins, lots of good stuff. I got the link through the good offices of the ever-alert bulbul, who […]

hit and/or miss

I have a little file of things I've looked up and should blog about some day, and in it is you can see, BrE has hit and miss, but AmE is more hit or miss.But while that was mo(u)ldering away in my desktop folder, Lauren Gawne aka Superlinguo actually did something about it. Show More Summary

On the overt verbal expression of romantic love as a modern habit

In a comment to this post, "A trilingual, biscriptal note (with emoji)" (2/5/17), liuyao remarked, Interesting that ? to mean (romantic) love might be a modern invention. A search in Dream of the Red Chamber (which is regarded as Beijing Mandarin in 18th century) reveals that all instances of it are in fact "to like" […]

Shitgibbon antedated

The latest from Ben Zimmer — "A New Breakthrough in the History of the “S—gibbon: The Insult’s Originator Steps Forward", Slate 4/13/2017. Following up on a comment by David Quantick on Ben's Strong Language Blog post, Ben found this passage in the 1/13/1990 issue of the New Musical Express, in which David Quantick and Steven […]

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