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A confusion of languages and names

Xinjiang  ?? (lit., "New Frontiers / Borders / Boundaries") is the northwesternmost and largest (one sixth of the whole country) among all of China's 34 provincial-level administrative units.  It got its present official name in the 1880s under the Manchus during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), but it has also been called, among other names, "Western […]

Campaign for promoting falls awareness

The Health Promotion Board (B?ojiàn cùjìn jú ?????) of Singapore has launched a campaign to promote awareness of falling.  Here's the poster they circulated in conjunction with the launch: (Source) The poster quickly began to circulate on the internet, with people criticizing the Chinese translation as saying the opposite of what was intended.  (Note that […]

The Year American Speech Became Art.

Ted Gioia has an Atlantic essay about an interesting topic, the transition from an Anglocentric world to one which imitated American usage and art. Gioia writes: As late as 1919, when H.L. Mencken published his ambitious study The American Language, the very concept of a legitimate homegrown way of speaking was a radical notion, and […]

Shining a light on candles

Q: I have wondered how “chandler,” the word for a candle-maker, came to mean a supplier of ship’s provisions. A: Originally, a “chandler” was someone who made or sold candles. Later on, the word was used more generally for a retailer of groceries and other goods, and eventually it came to mean a supplier specializing... ? Read More: Shining a light on candles

10 Good Reasons to Learn French

When I was thirteen years old, I finally graduated from the “kids’” table at my family outings. This was a huge deal to me. I was so excited for the privilege of sitting next to my cool, older cousins at dinner. Things were going great, until one night when it came time to order dessert. Show More Summary

The Legend of Gnome Ann

Today's xkcd: Mouseover title: "President Andrew Johnson once said, 'If I am to be shot at, I want Gnome Ann to be in the way of the bullet.'" And there's plenty more Gnome Ann dicta where those came from; also here. Some of my favorites: Gnome Ann can serve two masters. Gnome Ann putteth a piece […]

Tolstoy’s Sevastopol Stories.

I haven’t posted about my Russian reading in a while. It’s not that I’ve slacked off on the reading, or that the material hasn’t been good — far from it: I’ve read Ostrovsky’s comedy Bednost ne porok [Poverty Is No Crime] (a rich merchant wants to marry his daughter to an old roué even though […]

Clamp down on English

In media reporting on current events in China, two of the most conspicuous terms one encounters are "clamp down" (q?dì ??, qi?b? ??, qiánzhì ??, etc.) and "crack down" (yánlì d?jí ???? / ???? [to show how different simplified and traditional forms of the characters can be]).  There are also numerous other similar terms with […]

Elie Wiesel’s Profound and Paradoxical Language of Silence

Elie Wiesel, the Nobel prize-winning Holocaust survivor who died last week at 87, was a prolific author. He was an outspoken activist. He was a distinguished professor and lifelong student of long-standing cultural and religious traditions...Show More Summary

LIVE on #Periscope: Live from the California! https://t.co/kw7W2BA4li

LIVE on #Periscope: Live from the California! https://t.co/kw7W2BA4li LIVE on #Periscope: Live from the California! https://t.co/kw7W2BA4li — Grant Barrett (@GrantBarrett) July 7, 2016 http://twitter.com/GrantBarrett/status/751089020059332609

Struck by a duck-rabbit effect

I was just reading along in the NYT today but had to pause at this sentence: Mr. Trump has used bankruptcy laws to shield him from personal losses while his investors suffer. I found myself puzzling over whether "him" was all right there or whether I wanted "himself", and even more puzzled that I was […]

My Little Free Library War.

Subtitle: “How our suburban front-yard lending box made me hate books and fear my neighbors.” Dan Greenstone’s Salon piece is both depressing and hilarious. A sample: At last year’s public library book sale, our family had, as a joke, played a game of “Find the Boringest Book.” And, not to brag, but we’d kicked some […]

Language games at The Economist

An ad that's been popping up for me on the web recently: I expect that others have used asterisks in this particular way before, but web search engines seem generally to treat "UK" as plain "UK" — perhaps someone else will have better luck finding precedents. (Of course, general taboo-avoidance via asterisks is common and has […]

Unconsciously? Subconsciously?

Q: I’ve just read Pearl Buck’s final novel, The Eternal Wonder, which was discovered dozens of years after her death and may have been a first draft. At one point, she describes a character who scarcely listens while “storing away unconsciously” the conversations around him. Show More Summary

"Enter the Dangal"

Earlier this year, Language Log readers contributed to the elucidation of "South Asian wrestling terms" (3/1/16). Rudraneil Sengupta's researches on this topic have now born fruit in the form of a book titled Enter the Dangal: Travels through India's Wrestling Landscape, which is due out 8/3/16. In it, Rudraneil explores the history and culture of […]

Sleeping jaguars run furiously

Roger Lustig sends in this trending-on-facebook headline: Police Find Jaguars Running Back Asleep Inside Car Sinking Into a Pond, Reports Say Roger traces the first few steps down the garden path: –Police find jaguars –Police find jaguars running –Police find jaguars running back (from where?) –Police find jaguars running back asleep (talk about "second nature"!) For […]

STD, STI, and more infections

Is a Manchester sexual health clinic trying to tell me something? I just feel that I should say this up front: there is nothing autobiographical about this post. There. Got that out of the way. The topic only came up because I was in a conversation that involved an allusion to leaflets in doctors' (AmE) offices/(BrE) surgeries. Show More Summary

Build Your Own Nacho

As I walked into the family-friendly, casual restaurant, this sign was on display: “Build your own nacho”? As I wondered in a tweet a little later, what if you want more than one nacho? Do you have to go through the line again? Or are these really big nachos? Looking at the sign closer, I […]

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