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Uncommon Bulk.

From Chapter 104, “The Fossil Whale,” of Moby-Dick: Since I have undertaken to manhandle this Leviathan, it behooves me to approve myself omnisciently exhaustive in the enterprise; not overlooking the minutest seminal germs of his blood, and spinning him out to the uttermost coil of his bowels. Having already described him in most of his […]

Standards of evidence

Yesterday's SMBC starts this way: The punch line: The mouseover title: "I totally agree with you, Zach. And that's how I know the moon landing was fake." And the aftercomic:

He should’ve stood in bed

Q: The principal at the school where I teach disagrees with me about this sentence: “I was too sick to go to the party, so I just stood home.” I think it’s flat-out wrong. “Stood” is the past tense of “stand,” not “stay.” But she defends it as a regional usage. Does she stand corrected?... ? Read More: He should’ve stood in bed


John Oliver on TV Science — featuring the TODD talks ("Trends, Observations, and Dangerous Drivel"): Meanwhile, Michelle Schwalbe's report from last year's NAS workshop "Statistical Challenges in Assessing and Fostering the Reproducibility of Scientific Results" is available as a free pdf here. Show More Summary


Paul Jorgensen, “university professor, language enthusiast, avid traveler, and an obsessive creator,” has a home page, an Instagram site, a Twitter feed… well, let’s just say he’s plugged in. But his main focus is his YouTube channel (“On this channel I share my love for languages as well as my tips and ideas on how […]

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Hamilton Through the Lens of Language  

Sure, the musical Hamilton has racked up a record number of Tony nominations, gets props from the First Family, and helped keep the “ten-dollar founding father” on the ten-dollar bill. But among the endless accolades, there was one moment...Show More Summary

Twice, or a hundred times, whatever …

"Figures reveal ethnic variations in prevalence of alcohol-related diseases", The Scotsman 5/9/2016 [emphasis added]: Irish people living in Scotland are more than twice as likely to end up in hospital or die from alcohol-related diseases as white Scottish people, research has found. The risk for women from a mixed ethnic background is almost 100 times […]

Love heals all

Liwei Jiao sent me the following photograph of a framed picture that he bought: The Chinese is peculiar.  It reads: ài zhìyù d?u ???? Individually, the three words do mean "love heal / cure all", but it is neither grammatical nor idiomatic.  You need a noun as object after the verb, but d?u ? ("all") […]

Beuchelle, Beuschel.

In this thread, Syntinen Laulu asked about an obscure French culinary term, beuchelle à la tourangelle, “lamb’s kidneys and sweetbreads in a cream sauce flamed off with cognac”: I couldn’t help being struck by the similarity of the name to the traditional Viennese dish Beuschel. Beuschel isn’t the same of course – it’s made […]

Colloquial contractions in Mandarin

I've mentioned my old friend Liu Yongquan in various posts and comments — see, inter alia, here, here, and here, where I wrote: A colleague, Liu Yongquan ???, who spent most of his life working in Beijing as an applied linguist (especially concerned with machine translation and computer applications), spoke quite good MSM, referred to […]

Shakespeare’s Hipstery Millennial Dream Jobs

A self-employed craftsman who worked from home in a rustic, minimalist studio? Shakespeare’s dad, John, lived the hipster’s dream. He was a glover by trade, and perhaps the inspiration for Romeo’s swoon at the first radiant sight ofShow More Summary

When follows the subject

Q: While I was watching TV with my wife, a commercial came on for the movie When Calls the Heart. It reminded me of another corny title, Comes a Horseman. What makes an author choose this syntax? A: Authors use unusual wording because it’s often more effective and attention-getting than the routine syntax one would... ? Read More: When follows the subject

See something, say something

Following up on this story, Matt Blaze makes a key point (and see the whole conversation): (whispers to flight attendant): "I don't want to upset anyone, but I think the man in 15C is modeling credit default swaps". — matt blaze (@mattblaze) May 7, 2016 Also this: I feel like such a badass now. I […]

Just Call It A Couch!

Mike from Cadillac called in a question that has come up before: why is a certain piece of furniture called a davenport? My immediate thought was that it must have been manufactured in Davenport, Iowa, but I was mistaken. It has all sorts of cousins. Show More Summary


Time for another LH quiz! I’ve run into a couple of people who say /t?r?m?r?k/ (“tur-MARE-ik”), with penultimate stress, something not recorded in any of my dictionaries, which have only initial stress — cf. American Heritage, which gives /?t?rm?r?k, ?tu?m?r?k/. I’m curious whether this is idiosyncratic or a sign of an alternate pronunciation on the […]

Aristotle on trolling

Rachel Barney, "[Aristotle], On Trolling", Journal of the American Philosophical Association 5/3/2016: That trolling is a shameful thing, and that no one of sense would accept to be called ‘troll’, all are agreed; but what trolling is, and how many its species are, and whether there is an excellence of the troll, is unclear. And […]


Today's Tank McNamara: This certainly seems to be true for lemonade — "handcrafted lemonade" doesn't occur in the Google Ngrams index. In the case of beer, homemade still beats handcrafted by a ratio of about 15 to 1, but at least handcrafted is on the scoreboard.

The esthetics of handwriting

The following photograph of a page of Chinese characters comes from this BuzzFeed article: "21 Pieces Of Handwriting So Perfect They’re Borderline Erotic" (5/4/16) I took one look at the page and said to myself, "not 'perfect' or 'borderline erotic' at all; in fact, rather crude and clumsy".  Not fully trusting my own judgement, however, I […]

Scientific prescriptivism: Garner Pullumizes?

The publisher's blurb for the fourth edition of Garner's Modern English Usage introduces a new feature: With more than a thousand new entries and more than 2,300 word-frequency ratios, the magisterial fourth edition of this book — now renamed Garner's Modern English Usage (GMEU)-reflects usage lexicography at its finest. […] The judgments here are backed up […]

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