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In a daze

Photo taken on a lane leading from Beijing's Nanluoguxiang: The sign is difficult to interpret because, just judging from this photograph, there is not much context to figure out what's going on here. When we see slightly more of the scene, it makes more sense: kàn m?in? / f?d?i ??? / ?? ("watch the girls […]

Mountain Man Linguistics

Been a brutal year here in Wisconsin, as the state and the university are being steadily and intentionally destroyed.So, some good news is welcome: Paul Reed, one of the rising stars in the fields of American dialectology and sociolinguistics, is back at blogging, here. Check it out and keep an eye on his work... you'll be glad you did.

Haggen’s changed its “pop” signs! MT @Bender_TheHuman: thought you’d like to know!

Haggen’s changed its “pop” signs! MT @Bender_TheHuman: thought you’d like to know!

Headed to Dallas this week for a live on-stage event! See you Thursday in Texas.

Headed to Dallas this week for a live on-stage event! See you Thursday in Texas.

Planning a Trip to Rome – Don't Ignore the Cityscape

Rome has one of Italy’s most visually and historically fascinating cityscapes, and no trip to the city would be complete without taking in the amazing art and architecture of the city streets, both above and below ground. When you plan...Show More Summary

Comparison shopping

Q: A lot of style guides distinguish between “compare to” and “compare with,” but the Oxford Dictionaries website says this distinction is rarely seen in practice. They’ve always seemed interchangeable to me. What do you think? A: The...Show More Summary

Archaic and innovative Islamic prayer names around the Sahara, finally out

Just a quick alert: my article about Islamic prayer time names that I discussed here almost two years ago (post) is finally out! If your institution has a subscription, you can view it at the following link: Archaic and innovative Islamic prayer names around the Sahara Or you could email to ask me for a copy.

Suffer the consequences

Sign in Guilin, China: The Chinese and the English are pretty simple. yánjìn t?u huá, wéi zh? hòugu? zìfù ??????????? ("it is strictly forbidden to slide on the sly; violators will bear the consequences") Let's see what the Korean adds. ??                            ?????         ??       ?     […]

No striding

Another photo from Dean Barrett: This one is super simple, but charming enough to merit separate treatment. jìnzh? kuàyuè ???? ("it is prohibited to cross over") "No striding" is more or less standard Chinglish for jìnzh? kuàyuè ????, but we also find more exotic variants: "Prohibition surmounts". kuàyuè ?? has, among others, the following meanings: step […]

Please micturate in the urinal

We have just emerged from a discussion of how to refer to dog excrement on public notices: "Scoop the poop" (4/15/15). The same sort of uncertainty surrounds notices concerning public urination by humans.  From a men's room in the West Beijing Railway Station: Dean Barrett, who sent in the photo, apologizes for the fuzziness: I blew it […]

Black Mighty Sub-Package

From Mia in Shenzhen, China: The Chinese name of this product on the label is: h?imài tízi b?o ????? ("rye raisin loaf") The translator misparsed the string of characters as: h?i màití z ?b?o ????? ("black mighty subpackage") In this case, the mistranslation was carried out with the help of Google Translate, which renders the […]

Couque D'asse

Nathan Hopson sent in this photograph of a package of cookies: There's even a Korean version on Amazon. ??? ?? ku-ki-ui myeong-jak, RR; k'u-k'i-?i my?ng-jak, MR ("the masterpiece of cookies") ???? Kukeudaseu, RR; K'uk'?das?, MR) But what language is it originally?  Norman? "Langue de chat"? Note the addition of "s" at the end of "D'asse" in this […]

Japanese cocktail list

Tim Leonard sent in this most intriguing Japanese cocktail list, spotted by Regular Sandwiches: M?tsuarutomiruku ??????? ?? ("Mozart Milk") Inkurediburu haruku ??????????? ("Incredible Hulk") Ronguairandoaisut? ?????????????? ("LongShow More Summary

Stalin’s Jaffna Kolaveri.

The admirable fisheyed not only revived this old thread (and remember, every time an old thread is revived, an angel gets his wings) but linked to a video and an explication thereof by Fotheringay-Phipps at Ground Views that are so interesting I thought I’d give them their own post. From the latter: The day before […]

The old “put the cursor at the end of the progress bar so you can tell in a few minutes whether the progress bar has moved any” trick.

The old “put the cursor at the end of the progress bar so you can tell in a few minutes whether the progress bar has moved any” trick.

Dreams and tales in Siwa and Ouargla

Valentina Schiattarelli, who recently finished her PhD thesis on some aspects of Siwi grammar, has gathered the first serious collection of Siwi folk tales recorded in Siwi (forthcoming from Köppe some time soon). Like most languages, Siwi has opening and closing formulae to mark the beginning and end of a tale. Show More Summary


Florence asked about the word amenable. First of all, she wondered about the correct pronunciation of the word. Then she was curious about shades of meaning. As far as pronunciation goes, there are two versions. A quick search of a few dictionaries shows that the preferred pronunciation is ah-MEEN-able. Show More Summary


Rodney from Charlevoix shared a word that has a specialized meaning among software writers. It’s obfuscation, and it means the deliberate attempt to make coding unreadable. That sounds counterproductive, but Rodney said it’s useful if...Show More Summary


Kelly Dwyer, "Mark Cuban on his beloved Rockets, save James Harden: 'That’s not a very good team'", Yahoo Sports 4/17/2015: What better voice than Cuban’s, a man who inherited a perennial loser in 2000 before proceeding to act as the top-of-the-fish leader of a club that has made the playoffs in 14 out of 15 […]

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