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A ‘post-’ post

Q: I’ve been struck by how often the prefix “post-” has been used lately: “post-religion,” “post-truth,” “post-contemporary,” and of course “postmodern” as well as “post-postmodern.” What do you think? A: Yes, the prefix “post-” gets a workout these days, but it’s been a workhorse for centuries. A lot of the early uses are now obsolete,... ? Read More: A ‘post-’ post

Our slant on ‘bias’

Q: I came across a T-shirt on Amazon that shows a sewing machine and the words “never trust a seamstress, she’s likely biased.” As a sewer who sometimes cuts fabric on the bias, I’m curious about where all the biases come from. A: English adopted “bias” in the early 1500s from Middle French (spoken from... ? Read More: Our slant on ‘bias’

Bird language

From an anonymous correspondent: I had wanted to ask you about ni?oy? ?? (“bird language”) after listening to an interview with Garry Kasparov. During the interview, he and the interviewer, the economist Tyler Cowen, get into a fairly abtruse discussion of chess. I’ll paste the most relevant part of the transcript: KASPAROV: Now you move back […]

There’s a huge number of dudes who don’t know how played the “not all men” argument is and how much like a schmuck they look for using it.

There’s a huge number of dudes who don’t know how played the “not all men” argument is and how much like a schmuck they look for using it. There's a huge number of dudes who don't know how played the "not all men" argument is and how much like a schmuck they look for using […]

Alexander and the Mosquito.

I’ve just started Turgenev’s novel ???????? (On the Eve) — I’ve reached the 1860s! — and in the first few pages, in the course of a conversation between the young friends Bersenev and Shubin, the latter, lying on his stomach and observing the goings-on in the grass, says: ???? ?????? ????? ???????? ? ????????, ????? […]

Review: Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper

I'm just back from a FABULOUS time at the Dictionary Society of North America conference. Fabulous not just because it was hosted by the University of the West Indies in Barbados (wheeeeee!), but because dictionary people are just the best people. Show More Summary

Chinghiz Aitmatov and Kyrgyzstan.

I still haven’t read any Chinghiz Aitmatov, though I’ve been wanting to for ages (and I got a collection of his back in 2011), so I was intrigued to see Ted Trautman’s Paris Review piece on him from a few years ago (thanks, Trevor!). I hadn’t realized quite how central he was to the cultural […]

Sticks and stones and value inversion

In the Western world over the past few years, freedom of speech seems to be becoming a matter not just of human rights but of cultural identity. While many threats to this principle are routinely ignored, some are singled out for a great deal of attention. Show More Summary

Xdisciplinary

Nick Kaldis reaches out (cf. “May I ask you a question?” [6/12/17]): So, from one jargonista to another: here’s a frustrating set of related neologisms, again from my increasingly confused and pathetic campus administration: We’ve gone...Show More Summary

Simplified characters for Hong Kong? No thanks!

On July 1, the government is sponsoring a spectacular fireworks display that will light up the sky over Victoria Harbor to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong from British colonial control to the People’s Republic of China.  Trouble is, the show will begin with the words “China” and “Hong Kong”, but […]

David Bonderman no longer talking for Uber

J.P. Mangalindan, “LEAKED AUDIO: Uber’s all-hands meeting had some uncomfortable moments“, 6/13/2017: Uber held an all-hands meeting on Tuesday, during which the board announced that CEO Travis Kalanick would take a leave of absence....Show More Summary

Trepid, trepidant, trepidatious

Q: My dictionary has the word “trepidant,” but no definition or example. I believe it means timid, but I’d like to see how it’s used in a sentence before I use it myself. A: We’ve found the adjective “trepidant” in several standard dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster Unabridged, which defines it as “timid, trembling.” But it’s rarely... Show More Summary

How swift we misoverestimate

How swift we forget echoes in my head as a familiar cliché, a precomposed adaptable drop-in phrase rather like a snowclone. I thought it might even be a quotation from some famous source. When I happened to Google-search it today, I was expecting to see millions of hits. Instead there was exactly one, in an […]

?????????????????????????????????? ???.com?

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Last English Phrase No Human Has Peeved About Expected to Fetch $50 Trillion at Auction; Found in Handbasket at Bottom of Infernal Abyss

Last English Phrase No Human Has Peeved About Expected to Fetch $50 Trillion at Auction; Found in Handbasket at Bottom of Infernal Abyss Last English Phrase No Human Has Peeved About Expected to Fetch $50 Trillion at Auction; Found in Handbasket at Bottom of Infernal Abyss — Grant Barrett (@GrantBarrett) June 14, 2017 http://twitter.com/GrantBarrett/status/874863718596825089

Latin-speaking Muslims in Medieval Africa.

Lameen Souag has a fascinating post at Jabal al-Lughat about an unexpected survival of spoken African Latin: In his recent book La langue berbère au Maghreb médiéval (p. 313), Mohamed Meouak uncovers a short recorded example of spoken African Latin from between these two periods, which otherwise seems to have escaped notice so far. The […]

From “reach out” to “outreach”

In response to “May I ask you a question?” (6/12/17), we’ve been having an energetic discussion about the origins and meaning of the expression “reach out”, culminating (as of this moment) in Nick Kaldis’ good question: This topic causes an interesting related neologism to come to mind: when did “outreach” come into currency? Our campus […]

(Not) not too crazy

Tom Recht sent in a link to a story in N.Y. Magazine with the headline “Trump is not too crazy to fire the special prosecutor”. His accompanying note suggested that …the intended but not quite computable meaning is “it isn’t the case that Trump isn’t crazy enough to fire the special prosecutor”. Or, as the […]

The hot potato of interpretive responsibility

Below is a guest post by Elisabeth Camp. Mark posted part of a particularly linguistically juicy exchange from James Comey’s recent Senate testimony, in which Senator Risch “drilled down” on the “exact words” attributed by Comey to Trump, noting that Trump merely expressed his “hope” that Comey could “can see [his] way clear to letting […]

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