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Blooming, embellishment, and bombs

In the comments to a recent post about the length differential between French and English, the concept of "blooming" was introduced. The ensuing discussion prompted one Language Log reader to spell out her thoughts at greater length.  I should provide a bit of background about this anonymous contributor, namely, she lived through the bombing of […]

Letter of Recommendation: Uzbek.

A NY Times Magazine piece by Lydia Kiesling about her experiences with the Uzbek language begins: Four years ago, the federal government paid me a large sum — a year of graduate-school tuition, plus a stipend — to study Uzbek at the University of Chicago. Uzbek is among the least commonly taught of the so-called […]

The Flesh-Presser

“So you’re going to be at the Tomato Festival?” Doug asked me. That would be the Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival, our own addition to the list of small-town festivals celebrating odd things. In nearby towns we have the Circleville Pumpkin Show and the Millersburg Sweet Corn Festival, but here in Reynoldsburg we honor the tomato. In […]

This boot’s not made for walkin’

Q: Your recent post about “my foot” has left me wondering about another expression involving feet: “to boot.” Your thoughts? A: The “boot” in the phrase “to boot” has nothing to do with footwear or feet. It’s entirely unrelated to the more recent English word “boot,” the one that may give you blisters. The original... ? Read More: This boot’s not made for walkin’

Fun with commas

For your reading pleasure this morning: Kenneth Adams, "Bamboozled by a Comma: The Second Circuit’s Misdiagnosis of Ambiguity in American International Group, Inc. v. Bank of America Corp.", 16 Scribes J. Legal Writing 45 (2014–15): In its opinion in American International Group, Inc. v. Bank of America Corp., the United States Court of Appeals for […]

Svetlana Boym, RIP.

Having greatly enjoyed the writing of Svetlana Boym (LH posts 1, 2), I was sorry to learn of her death from this reminiscence by Cristina Vatulescu: August 6, the first morning we woke without Svetlana among us, found me in the old Jewish Quarter in Bucharest, in a hotel room, with an archive day ahead […]

G-string and the Alphabet

Morgan asked about the origin of G-string. Linguist Robert Hendrickson says that G (or gee) stands for groin, which was a taboo word in the late 1800s. Cecil Adams ( The Straight Dope ), suggests an origin from " girdle -string", which appears as early as 1846. Show More Summary

Algerian Arabic in schools? Actions speak louder than words

As we have seen, research and common sense both confirm that students learn better if you teach them non-language subjects in their first language, whereas it is still hotly debated whether it's better to teach languages in the students' first language or in the target language. Show More Summary

Of mynas and miners, bells and whistles

Over at Spicks & Specks, Greg Pringle has a virtuoso post on "The Bell Miner:  How orthography and ornithology catalysed a new folk etymology" (8/9/15).  It's about an Australian honeyeating bird — Manorina melanophrys — that used to be called the Bellbird, but was renamed Bell Miner through association with the South Asian bird called […]

Recommended For You

Alexander Spangher, "Building the Next New York Times Recommendation Engine", NYT 8/11/2015: The New York Times publishes over 300 articles, blog posts and interactive stories a day. Refining the path our readers take through this content — personalizing the placement of articles on our apps and website — can help readers find information relevant to […]

Corpus Linguistics in the Courts.

Gordon Smith has a Conglomerate post about a Utah Supreme Court case, State v. Rasabout, which involved the question of whether a man was properly convicted of 12 counts of “unlawful discharge”: was each shot a separate “discharge,” or should the 12 shots together be considered a single “discharge”? The court held that “each discrete […]

Sandra Bland: Talking While Black

Below is a guest post by Nicole Holliday, Rachel Burdin, and Joseph Tyler: Sandra Bland’s traffic stop and the tragic series of events that occurred afterwards have been the subject of many recent think pieces, but few authors have examined why the initial traffic stop went wrong in the first place. The most obvious explanation […]

From Alphabet to Google

Google has picked "Alphabet" as the name for its new parent company: "‘Alphabet,’ From Ancient Greece to Google", by Ben Zimmer, in Word on the Street, Wall Street Journal (8/13/15) I think it's a brilliant choice, and our colleague Ben has done a good job of explaining why. [h.t. June Teufel Dreyer]

Printing error on a Chinese lunch delivery bag

Eric Pelzl sent in this photograph of a bag from a lunch delivery that contains an interesting printing error: The Chinese characters on the bag read: zh?n'ài dìqiú b?ohù huánjìng ???? ???? ("treasure the earth, protect the environment") The Pinyin reads thus: zh?n'ài dìqiú b?ohù ji?yuán ???? ???? ("Treasure the earth, protect your home") So […]

Free souvenirs

From Randy Alexander in Xiamen / Amoy, Fujian / Hok-kiàn, China: Saw this on my trail run today and got a laugh. It's easy to see how this came about — verbs get translated with "to" mindlessly stuck in front of them. Here's what the Chinese on the sign says: xi?ox?n zhuìluò ???? ("be careful […]

"Linguists have a name for this kind of analysis"

Gordon Smith is enthusiastic about a recent opinion of the Utah Supreme Court, as he explains in "Corpus Linguistics in the Courts (Again)", The Conglomerate 8/14/2015: Yes, yes, yes! The point at issue is important and ubiquitous in legal argumentation, and his blog post explains the reasons for his (well justified) enthusiasm at least as well as […]

Dictionary of Comics Onomatopoeia.

Well, there isn’t one. But there should be! That’s the conclusion of this Izvestia story (no author given), which is so wonderful it’s worth stumbling through it via Google Translate if you don’t read Russian. It starts off talking about how translators usually just transliterate English onomatopoeia: “beng,” “kresh,” “bems,” “vaw,” and so forth. Then […]

Bonus life points to the woman waiting for a prescription at Rite Aid who busted out a new tub of Cool Whip and began dipping Moon Pies.

Bonus life points to the woman waiting for a prescription at Rite Aid who busted out a new tub of Cool Whip and began dipping Moon Pies. Bonus life points to the woman waiting for a prescription at Rite Aid who busted out a new tub of Cool Whip and began dipping Moon Pies. — […]

One for Diogenes

The philosopher Diogenes of Sinope was eccentric, to say the least — he begged for a living, slept in a large ceramic jar in the marketplace, and discarded the wooden bowl that was his only possession, deciding that it was excess baggage. He refuted the Platonic definition of human as "featherless biped" by exhibiting a plucked […]

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