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The Story of “Dob.”

Bruce Moore (a former director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, currently editing the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary) discusses the meanings and history of the Australian slang verb dob in an extract from his book What’s their Story? A History of Australian Words (Oxford University Press Australia, 2010), quoted in this Ozwords […]

Are “loath” and “loathe” related?

Q: I assume the adjective “loath” (meaning reluctant) and the verb “loathe” (meaning to dislike) are relations of one sort or another. Which of these came first? And where did it come from? A: Yes, the two words are related. John Ayto’s Dictionary of Word Origins says the verb “loathe” is derived from the adjective... ? Read More: Are “loath” and “loathe” related?

Educational UM / UH

Apologies for temporarily turning this into Conversational Filler Log – but I realized that my assertion in this morning's post ("UM / UH geography") about the effects of years of education was based on some analyses that I'd done but never posted. So here they are: the basic effect is that people with a 4-year college degree […]

UM / UH geography

From Jack Grieve, a few minutes after we discussed this issue at the 10.30 coffee break here at Methods in Dialectology XV in Groningen: Attached is a locally autocorrelated map based on the percent of um vs uh (i.e. um/(um+uh)) in a few billion word of geocoded tweets of 2013 (about 40,000 tokens each). Red […]

Can't find on Google

Max Pinton sent in this menu and said he "thought it was a refreshing approach": Cheezburger, where this menu was posted, gave it the title "Google Failed, but This Restaurant Probably Won". Actually, Google didn't fail. For ch?o shu?lián ???, which is straightforward, Google Translate, Baidu Fanyi, Bing Translator, and even iciba correctly give "fried […]

Garnett and Tolstoy.

Translator Rosamund Bartlett (also author of a biography of Tolstoy) has a very interesting piece in the Financial Times on the history of Tolstoy translations; the centerpiece is an account of how the woman who practically defined Russian literature in English got her start: Within months of its completion in 1893, Tolstoy’s philosophical magnum opus […]

Uptalk in Devon

"The unstoppable march of the upward inflection?", BBC News Magazine 8/11/2014, quoted me referencing Daniel Hirst's idea about a possible Scandinavian origin for the long-standing pattern of default rising intonations in northern England,...Show More Summary

Ye Olde English katakana

Via HiLobrow (8/10/2014), Ben Zimmer came across this virtuoso display of Gothic katakana on feitclub's Tumblr: I must confess that I have a hard time reading off this beautiful, ornate font, which is so different from the spare, simple, Japanese katakana. From Wikipedia, here's a chart of the latter for comparison: Goj?on – Katakana characters with […]

Maltese and Arabic.

Remember last year I posted about Maltese, and in a comment bulbul talked about a grant to functionally study the mutual intelligibility of Maltese and Benghazi Arabic? Well, he’s now on his way to Groningen for the Methods in Dialectology XV conference where he’ll be speaking about it, and he sent me a link to […]

Newspaper alleges passive voice correctly!

Today I came upon something truly rare: a newspaper article about a passive-voice apology that (i) is correct about the apology containing a passive clause, but (ii) stresses that the oft-misdiagnosed passive should not be the thing we focus on and attempt to discourage, and (iii) cites actual linguists in support of the latter view! […]

When the future is present

Q: I’ve noticed that people who write Dear Abby often say something like “I am being married in the fall” where I would say “I am getting married in the fall.” Is “being married” correct here? A: The short answer is yes, but expressing the future in English can get (or be) as complicated as... ? Read More: When the future is present

New Dialects.

1) Of Welsh. “Carmarthen” of The Economist writes about efforts to revive the Welsh language: But the Welsh that can be heard in schools and that is spoken by the sports commentators on the Blue Boar’s small television set is different from the kind that many native speakers grew up with. A standardisation centre at […]

"Cladly dressed"

From reader BKS: Someone used "cladly dressed" in a comment to The Guardian, and it appears to be an up and coming 21st Century phrase. A search of www.guardian.com didn't turn up any instances of "cladly", but as BKS noted, there are a few examples in recent books: With nakedness we find quite often the opposite […]

Uyghur läghmän and Mandarin l?miàn.

Victor Mair has a post at the Log involving exactly the kind of detailed historical-linguistic analysis I like, about the apparent but hard-to-parse relationship between the Uyghur and Mandarin terms for pulled noodles, läghmän and l?miàn respectively; as several commenters point out, läghmän can’t be of Turkic origin because Turkic words don’t start with l, […]

HUGE Database.

Robin Straaijer writes at Slate about the Hyper Usage Guide of English or HUGE database, based out of Leiden University, that includes “more than 75 usage guides and 123 usage problems in the English language, spanning a period of nearly 250 years.” He goes into some detail about the history of “hopefully” peevery (“It seems […]

Some minority languages of the Mosul Plain

For most of the past decade, while first the rest of Iraq and then Syria (150,000 dead, 2.5 million refugees) have burned, Northern Iraq has seemed like a relative oasis of calm. That has changed rather suddenly: with ISIS' religious persecution, and now American airstrikes, Northern Iraq and its minorities are suddenly prominent in the headlines. Show More Summary

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Rick Perlstein's alleged plagiarism

Alexandra Alter, "Reagan Book Sets Off Debate", NYT 8/4/2014: Mr. Perlstein’s new 856-page book, “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan,” which comes out Tuesday, is proving to be almost as divisive as Reagan himself. It has drawn both strong reviews from prominent book critics, and sharp criticism from some […]

Positioning the Lake

Jim Sofonia from Traverse City, Michigan, asked, “Can you explain why some lakes are Name Lake, and others are Lake Name ? Examples include Lime Lake and Lake Ann.” Generally, larger lakes tend to have the word lake first: Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Ontario, etc. Show More Summary

Pulled noodles: Uyghur läghmän and Mandarin l?miàn

Some notes on the origins of the words and characters for wheat, flour, and noodles in Turkic and Sinitic languages On the Xinjiang Studies list, a number of questions about noodles and the words for them in Sinitic and other languages have come up. First of all, Sue Naquin called to my attention this article […]

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