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Retroactive confirmation

Claire Landsbaum, "Research Confirms Using Periods in Texts Makes You Seem Pissed Off", ComPlex 10/3/2015: Before texts, every sentence ended with a period. But with the advent of impersonal electronic communication, line breaks became a quicker and easier way to express the end of a thought. "The default is to end just by stopping, with […]

A usage to diary for?

Q: Is “diaried” the past tense of the verb “diary”? Example: “I diaried a notation this morning that Ms. Heard did not show up for her Aug. 12th appointment.” A: If “diary” is used as a verb, then “diaried” would be the expected past-tense form. But there’s not a trace of the usage in standard... ? Read More: A usage to diary for?

Gender bending

There's a guy with brown hair who has worked as a checkout person at a store I go to regularly.  He's been there for about five years.  Of the 20 or so checkout persons at the store, all of the others except one are female, mostly between 18 and 25. Over the course of the […]

Is it True that German is Hard to Learn?

I’m fed up with the myth that German is hard to learn for English speakers. Learning another language can be infuriating, particularly as you find yourself committing grammar rules, pronunciations, and a never-ending list of words to memory. Show More Summary

Fifteen Years of wood s lot.

Five years ago I wrote: I am in awe of Mark Woods, who’s been putting out wood s lot for ten years now. It’s all I can do to crank out a post a day; you could say Mark puts out a post a day too, but each of his is equivalent to a dozen […]

The G.K. Chesterton Prize for Ignoring Women

Yogi Berra may or may not have said that "You can observe a lot just by watching". He didn't add that you can learn a lot just by counting — but as a baseball person, he surely knew the power of simple statistics. You can learn a lot about G.K. Chesterton from the Wikipedia article about him, […]

Why the sudden need?

And what sort of factory? That's what Stephen B. wondered when he read the Guardian headline, "German factory orders slide unexpectedly".

Mauritian Creole

Brian Jongseong Park was recently in Berlin and got to see an art show featuring works from Berlin-based Mauritian artist Djuneid Dulloo, who is a friend of Brian's from school. One work that caught Brian's eye was "Ras Lavi", which is covered in examples of Mauritian Creole: Brian asked Djuneid about the work, and he […]

Unicode Suggestions Requested.

I just got the following e-mail: We’re drafting a proposal to add as many remaining unsupported phonetic and orthographic symbols to Unicode as we can justify. I thought you might have come across things you’d like to have encoded. You seem like the kind of person who might have stashed away notes on things like […]

Hey! Look at that! I’m working on another book. It’ll be something for learners.

Hey! Look at that! I’m working on another book. It’ll be something for learners. Hey! Look at that! I'm working on another book. It'll be something for learners. — Grant Barrett (@GrantBarrett) October 5, 2015

An unusual way to celebrate

In the running for attachment ambiguity of the week is a photo caption from Simon Johnson and Ben Hirschler, "Beating Parasites wins three scientists Nobel Prize for medicine", Reuters 10/5/2015: The caption: William C. Campbell, a parasitologist and RISE Associate with Drew University, poses near paintings he made of parasites shortly after learning that he was a […]

Looking over pronouns

Henry T wonders (by email) whether something is changing in English syntax: This from a 30ish native speaker of American English, with a PhD, definitely literate. "I had a quick glance at sections of the [xxx], and it does have some good tips, so I'd encourage you to look over it:" The issue is whether  a verb-associated intransitive preposition goes before […]

Is a chant enchanting, or cant?

Q: After seeing a Puerto Rican license plate with the motto Isla del Encanto, a thought struck me: encanto … cantar, and that of course led me to “enchantment” … “chant.” Are all these words related? A: Yes, they’re all ultimately derived from canere, a Latin verb meaning to sing, and its frequentative, cantare. A... ? Read More: Is a chant enchanting, or cant?

Lost and found

In the 10/4/15 issue of the Chicago Tribune, Eric Zorn has a sympathetic look at Chinglish:  "Cultural sensitivity lost — and found — in translation".  He offers the following sign at a museum near Datong as a prime specimen: The Chinese reads: q?ng wù f?nyuè, zhùyì ?nquán ???? ???? ("please do not cross over, pay […]

Russian Language Gets ‘Import Substitution’.

An acerbic and amusing Moscow Times column by Michele Berdy starts with her “daily dose of nuts”: a video of a Russian schoolteacher telling her students that Holy Rus was “inhabited by godlike men called ???????? (bogatyrs, mythic warriors and heroes). We know they are godlike, she explains, because of their name, ????????. And then […]

Drunk [on] US dollars

On June 9, 2012, Clement Larrive wrote: I stumbled upon this sign while on a trip from Wuhan, Hubei to Shanghai. Do you have any idea about what it really means ? I apologize for letting this interesting query get lost in my bloated inbox for such an unconscionably long time, but am very happy […]


I was looking up something else in my American Heritage Dictionary when my eye fell on this entry: wight2 (w?t) adj. Archaic Valorous; brave. [Middle English < Old Norse v?gt, neuter of v?gr, able to fight; see weik-3 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.] My first thought was “That’s odd, I’ve never heard of such […]

So WHAT rolls to the UK again?

Initially baffled by this BBC headline. Thought "ship" was a noun and "rolls" a verb. — Ralph Harrington (@ralphharrington) October 3, 2015 [h/t Ian Preston]

Where Is the Friend’s Home?

As I wrote here, for me, the gold standard of films about childhood has long been Abbas Kiarostami’s Where Is the Friend’s Home?, so I was pleased to find this Poemas del río Wang post (which I apparently missed back in 2009) which explains that the movie’s title is taken from a poem by Sohrab […]

Korandje from the 12th to the 21st century (popular article)

Korandje, the seriously endangered Songhay language of Tabelbala in southwestern Algeria, is a longstanding research interest of mine. As far as I can see, it has the most complicated contact history of any language in the Sahara, with multiple extensive layers of loanwords from each of at least five languages which successively dominated the region. Show More Summary

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