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Hot Dog!

Jim from Petoskey, Michigan, asked why the humble hot dog has more than one name. As often happens when naming food or drink, territoriality is involved. Those who maintain that the item was invented in Vienna call it a wiener. In German, that means of Vienna. Show More Summary

On Albanian–English and English-Albanian dictionaries

There are not a lot of choices when it comes to Albanian-English dictionaries, but for any English speaker learning Albanian, hands-down the best dictionary is the Oxford Albanian-English Dictionary edited by Leonard Newmark. (Pay aShow More Summary

Birthday Loot 2017.

My birthday isn’t over, and I expect to be adding at least one more item to the list later today, but I wanted to get the post up so those who wish to congratulate me can do so (and those who are going to envy the books can get their envy on). So far generous […]

Cantonese: still the main spoken language of Hong Kong

Twenty years ago today, on July 1, 1997, control of Hong Kong, formerly crown colony of the British Empire, was handed over to the People's Republic of China.  The last few days has seen much celebration of this anniversary on the part of the CCP, with visits by Xi Jinping and China's first aircraft carrier, […]

Who (or what) is allowing whom?

The big news today has been Donald Trump's morning tweetstorm about "low I.Q. crazy Mika" Brzezinski "bleeding badly from a face-lift" at Mar-A-Lago over New Years. Bill Hemmer, interviewing Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Fox News, asked her "What is the White House saying about why that went out?" Her response: Your browser does not support […]

Steam Instead of Soul.

I haven’t reported on my Russian reading in a while, which doesn’t mean it’s been uninteresting — I just haven’t had anything interesting to say about it. I read Ostrovsky’s ????? [The Thunderstorm], which is just as great as they say (the 1933 film is surprisingly good despite the fact that it was heavily cut) […]

Why You’re Stuck At Intermediate Spanish … And How To Break Through The Plateau

Is your progress in Spanish slowly grinding to a halt? Did you breeze through your beginner lessons, only to run into a brick wall as you approach intermediate Spanish? If so, grab a pen and paper, and clear your schedule for the next...Show More Summary

When past perfect is just perfect

Q: In one of her essays, a college professor has the following sentence: “I replied that I wouldn’t answer questions until I’d had time to consider the charges.” Why is the past perfect used after the word “until”? I believe the simple past would suffice. A: We think the professor’s choice of words was appropriate.... ? Read More: When past perfect is just perfect

16 Translations of One Novel.

Saeed Kamali Dehghan reports for The Guardian on Iran’s unfortunate copyright situation: Iranian authors who publish in their home country are offered some protection under national law, but the work of writers who publish outside Iran is completely unprotected. According to the Tehran Times, one Iranian translator has secured the copyright to produce a version […]

Avoid affenfion

Sign on a tree in Qingdao, Shandong, sent in by Dean Barrett: xi?ox?n pèngtóu ???? ("be careful [not to] hit your head") zhùyì bìràng ???? ("pay attention to avoid") We've seen xi?ox?n pèngtóu ???? ("be careful [not to] hit your head") translated in many different ways.  For a list of nearly two dozen Chinglish variants, […] — Grant Barrett (@GrantBarrett) June 29, 2017

The cult(ure) of slothful losers

Article by Zeng Yuli in Sixth Tone (6/27/17): "Turn Off, Drop Out: Why Young Chinese Are Abandoning Ambition As the economy slows and social expectations rise, youngsters are rejecting traditional notions of success and embracing a culture known as ‘sang.’" Before reading this article, I was only vaguely familiar with "sang" culture.  So that those […]


I just read Paul Pickering’s TLS review (from 2015 — yes, I’m way behind) of Juan Filloy’s 1937 novel Caterva, translated by Brendan Riley for the indispensable Dalkey Archive. The review makes both Filloy and his “grand modernist novel” sound fascinating, but what concerns me here is the title. Pickering says: “Caterva” means “crowd”, but […]

Crepax’s Reversed Lautverschiebung .

A fun post from goofy at bradshaw of the future: Guido Crepax’s Valentina comics feature a subterranean race with a language that was heavily influenced by Germanic languages – he calls it “Lautverschiebung in reverse” as I noted in my previous post. These stories have recently been published by Fantagraphics in beautiful English editions and […]

Literal minded

Q: I saw this headline on BuzzFeed: “These Brownies Have Literally Taken Over The Dessert Game.” Literally? How about apple pie, strawberry shortcake, and pistachio ice cream? A: The word “literally,” as you know, means “to the letter,” and that’s the way we use it. On the other hand, that is a helluva brownie on... ? Read More: Literal minded

A 5-Step Method to Improve Your Listening Skills

Let’s talk listening skills. Do you remember how you felt the first time you heard someone speak your target language? Bamboozled? Personally, I’ve always found listening to be the most difficult language learning skill. Maybe you feel...Show More Summary

"… misdemeanor of the 115th Congress.”

David Crisp, "Gianforte: Congress’ newest misdemeanor", Last Best News 6/25/2017: In case you were wondering whether Greg Gianforte will ever live down his body slam of a reporter for the Guardian, here’s a clue. The Associated Press reported last week that Gianforte drew boos from the Republican side of the aisle during his brief speech […]

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