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That "moisture dripping wet feeling"

I'm pretty sure this will push some wet buttons among Language Log readers and authors.  Kira Simon-Kennedy found this stellar specimen of Chinglish in a press release from the China-sponsored section of the LA Art Show. The whole thing is pretty lackluster (what else to expect from State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and […]


Yugambeh is an Australian Aboriginal language spoken on the southeast coast of Queensland; according to Wikipedia, “Yugambeh is one of some dozen or two dozen dialects of the Bandjalang language. Among the differences in Yugambeh is that yugambeh (or yugam) is the word for no.” The Yugambeh Museum, Language and Heritage Research Centre “aims to […]

Chinese words and characters for "gizzard"

Having immersed myself in Korean gizzard terminology for the past week, I now turn to Chinese gizzard terms, which are every bit as curious and varied, if not so intermittently scatalogical.  Whereas the problems with Korean terms for gizzard centered primarily on their imprecision and vulgarity, the difficulties with Chinese terms for gizzard have more […]

A hit and a lick

Q: I’m trying to find the origin of “a hit and a lick,” a saying I learned while living in East Texas. I found an article about “a lick and a promise” on your site. I suspect the meaning is similar, but I’d like to have your input. A: We haven’t been able to find... ? Read More: A hit and a lick

The Power of Parataxis.

I was a little hard on Erich Auerbach recently, so I thought I’d right the balance by showcasing him at his best. Here he’s discussing a passage from Saint Augustine about a friend of his youth who was dragged to the gladiator shows and became addicted to them, conveniently available online in Latin (scroll down […]


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Starting to Learn Russian and Speaking From Day 1

Today’s post is by Lauren, my partner on the blog and in life! After successfully learning Esperanto last year to get her started in language learning, she has decided to make Russian one of her goals for 2015. She had a false start at first, that I’m sure many of you can relate to. Show More Summary

Learning Estonian as slightly altered Finnish

Ante Aikio’s paper on etymological nativization of Finnish loanwords in Saami (part of the 2007 collection Saami Linguistics ed. Toivonen & Nelson) mentions that a language-learning technique that some might chalk down to laziness or...Show More Summary

Computers to become 10 time more powerful in 2015

With respect to to a headline in the Washington Post yesterday (Jason Samenow, "Weather Service forecasting computers to become 10 times more powerful in 2015", Washington Post 1/5/2015), Eugene Volokh writes: My first thought:  Come now – how would computers generally become 10 times more powerful just in the span of a year?  (In the span […]

Wanton soup

In "Wantan soup for überman hubby" (3/15/14), we discussed the miswriting of húntún t?ng ??? ("wonton soup") as k?nzh?n t?ng ??? (which I playfully rendered as "wantan soup"), using the "flesh" radical instead of the "food" radical for both characters. Several of the commenters to that earlier post suggested that "wanton" would have been an […]


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Sociolinguistic Events Calendar

Ever start something that becomes so successful you can't manage it at some point? Welcome to the lives of the people who started the Sociolinguistic Events Calendar. Dave Sayers just posted this to the Variationist List (go here to subscribe). Show More Summary

Getting on the Bae Train

Last March, while prowling through my son’s and his friends’ social media timelines (this is called “creeping,” by the way), I noticed the word bae starting to appear. “How long have people been saying that?” I wondered, and whenever I wonder that, it means I might have a good topic to write about for Visual […]

Double crash blossom

Jonathan Falk writes: I rarely get an email where my first two interpretations of the subject line [in this case, "AYA Burns Supper at Mory's"] are wrong.  The first, obvious interpretation is that the Association of Yale Alumni for some reason was cooking the meal at Mory’s and they weren’t very good at it.  My second […]

How Old Is Mike?

No, no, not the guy you’re thinking of — the nickname Mike. Michael Peverett writes me: I’m reading the opening chapters of Sir Walter Scott’s Kenilworth (1821). This is a historical novel that takes place some time in the second half of the sixteenth-century in England. One of the characters who turns up at Giles […]

The truth about British tag questions

why do we use tag questions? I bet you`ve heard about tag questions (TQs) before, haven`t you? But, apart from knowing what kind of question they are, have you actually thought about what these TQs actually do? You might think that the...Show More Summary

When “George” was “Geo.”

Q: Why are certain men’s names abbreviated in old books and records? Examples: “Geo.” for George, “Thos” for Thomas, “Jos.” for Joseph, “Wm” for William, and “Chas” for Charles? A: Men’s names aren’t the only ones. Women’s names areShow More Summary

Dropping the H bomb

Sue Dunum, "Canadians Using 'Harper' as a Swear Word — 'Go Harper Yourself'", The Lapine 7/1/2014: MONTREAL — The CBC is reporting today on a growing social media trend for Canadians to use Prime Minister Harper’s name as a cuss word.   “Harper is being used as the new F Bomb,” CBC analyst Claude Perrault […]

Erich Auerbach Doesn’t Get It.

I keep a copy of Erich Auerbach‘s Mimesis (see this post) beside my bed; it makes perfect nighttime reading, since it consists largely of bite-sized excerpts of various works in the original and in translation with shortish discussions of each. I am in awe of Auerbach, but one doesn’t like to be too intimidated, so […]

Legal lexicography

Eugene Volokh ("What does 'exposes' in '[a]ny person who abuses, exposes, tortures, torments, or cruelly punishes a minor' mean to you?", Washington Post 1/2/2015) considers the case of Douglas James Myers, who was clocked driving at 112 mph, "weaving all over the road and going into the ditch or median with all four tires", with a […]

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