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Thoughts on swearing from Laura Wilson’s The Innocent Spy (2008). cc @stronglang

Thoughts on swearing from Laura Wilson’s The Innocent Spy (2008). cc @stronglang

Swearing in Quebec II.

We’ve discussed the topic before, but Chi Luu (“a computational linguist and NLP researcher who tinkers with tiny models and machines to uncover curious mysteries in human language”) has a good piece at JSTOR Daily that takes a historical approach; after describing the sacres (and providing a couple of delightful video clips to illustrate them, […]

How Korandje made "with" agree it-with its subject

Korandje, the language of Tabelbala in southwestern Algeria, requires the comitative preposition "with" to agree in person and number, not with its object, but with its subject (strictly speaking, with its external argument): ?a-dd?r ?-indza xal?d, I-went I-with Khaled. n?-dd?r n-indza xal?d, you-went you-with Khaled. Show More Summary


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Civilized language

Sign at a bus station in Inner Mongolia: It says: yòng wénmíngy? ???? ("use civilized language") ji?ng p?t?nghuà ???? ("speak Putonghua [Modern Standard Mandarin — MSM]") I you look that up on the internet, you will find that most of the references fall under the categories of bi?oy? ?? ("slogans") and xu?nchuán ?? ("propaganda") — […]

Talking in the Real World.

Lane Greene of The Economist has another good “Johnson” column; this time he’s focusing on the importance of register: I began learning Portuguese from an old secondhand book that taught forms like comê-lo-ia, which I dutifully studied, grumbling “who on Earth says this?” If only someone had answered “nobody”. When I finally talked to Brazilians, […]

Browsing #LoveWins photos, listening to Barack Obama preach and sing Amazing Grace, and wondering what got in my eyes.

Browsing #LoveWins photos, listening to Barack Obama preach and sing Amazing Grace, and wondering what got in my eyes.

Your country: pronominal resistance

When Westerners begin to study Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, a small obstacle that confronts them is the fact that the words for "my / our country" in these languages usually have to be translated as "China", "Japan", and "Korea" respectively in English.  As a colleague who knows all three languages put it, "I'm always struck […]



Announcing the 2015 Sapir Prize Entries

The Edward Sapir Book Prize was established in 2001 and is awarded to a book that makes the most significant contribution to our understanding of language in society, or the ways in which language mediates historical or contemporary sociocultural processes. Beginning in 2012, the Sapir Prize has been awarded annually. The following 12 books have been [...]

I love you all today. #LoveWins

I love you all today. #LoveWins

Filtering information

Ben Zimmer "Donald Trump and Others With ‘No Filter’", WSJ 6/26/2015: When Donald Trump gave a speech announcing his candidacy for president last week, he seemed to utter whatever thoughts popped into his uniquely coifed head. […] The “filter” metaphor evokes the image of a straining mechanism functioning on a person’s thoughts and feelings, testing […]

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find Out What It Means to Scalia

Words may have lost all meaning to the Supreme Court, as Antonin Scalia suggested yesterday in his dissent from the King v. Burwell decision to uphold health care subsidies, but there’s one word that has a meaning quite particular to...Show More Summary

The CIA is Wrong: It Doesn’t Take 1,000 Hours to Learn a Language

Does it really take up to 4,400 hours to learn a language? According to the US Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute, that’s how long it should take. Study for 20 hours a week, and that’s over four years! Reduce that to five...Show More Summary

Why “disastrous” isn’t a disaster

Q: When did the “e” disappear from “disastrous”? In other words, why don’t we spell it “disasterous”? A: English borrowed both the noun and the adjective from French, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The source of the noun...Show More Summary

US Army apostrophe abuse. Don’t worry though; I fixed it.

The LONG wait through army medical processing isn’t made any easier with rampant abuse like this all over the place. (Thanks, Timm!)

One of the Safest City’s

Seen on a police display case (Thanks, Gary Ansok!)

Joan Jett once told me she liked my hair.

Joan Jett once told me she liked my hair.

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