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Great Moments in Swearing: The “GD Big Car” Edition

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. I recently viewed for the first time Martin Scorsese’s 2013 The Wolf of Wall Street, a rather Shakespearean tale of Jordan Belfort’s excess in money, sex, drugs, and swears, inter alia. Show More Summary

“What Do Cows Drink?” Trick Questions That Show How Your Brain Organizes Language.

What do cows drink? Your first intuition was probably to answer "milk." And then, depending on how familiar you are with bovine diets, you realized that, wait, it's the calves that drink milk—adult cows drink water. What’s goingShow More Summary

A Bunch of Stupid Buffalo Reveal the Versatility of Swearwords

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. Buffalo fuckers buffalo fuckers buffalo fuckers buffalo. The above expression is a coherent, grammatical sentence. If you like having fun with English, you...Show More Summary

The Thing About Ping

One paradox of the smart-tech age is that our devices are, when you think about them, kind of scary, and yet they make cute noises. They beep and chime and gurgle and hiccup, as if guided by some focus group’s conclusion that nothing makes us smile quite like a toy piano whose tummy is rumbling. Show More Summary

Geographic idiom chains

From James Kirchner, in response to "The directed graph of stereotypical incomprehensibility", 1/15/2009 (as featured on 3/25/2015 in the Washington Post): I found years ago that in Stuttgart, Germany, people said, "Es ist mir ein böhmisches Dorf," meaning, "It's a Czech village to me," (literally a Bohemian village). Then I went to work in the […]

A Gray Wrinkled Vastness.

I’ve finally started Wolf Hall, as various readers have been urging me to do for some years now, and I’m as gripped by it as I expected to be. I’ve come down with a bad cold, so I won’t try to say anything clever about it, I’ll just quote the last paragraph of the first […]

The Baest Bae to Ever Bae: Bae Isn’t Just a Noun Anymore

Over the past couple of years, the term bae has achieved widespread usage. While the noun form has been around for more than 10 years, adjectival and verbal uses, along with other related forms, have more recently started popping up to describe the people and things we love, or at least like-like. Show More Summary

The Art of Literary Expletive Avoidance

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. Show, don’t tell goes the writer’s refrain. It can apply to cursing, too, but doesn’t tend to in contemporary prose. Swearwords pepper modern novels, not least in genres like detective fiction where they lend color and authenticity to hard-boiled dialogue. Show More Summary

Not Feeling It

In the wake of Jonathan Chait’s attack on political correctness for New York, there were those who felt passionately that Chait’s approach was blinkered, and those who felt, equally passionately, that he had diagnosed a rot in the grain of left-wing discourse. Show More Summary

Cities Less Traveled: Discover a Different Naples

Naples, Italy is famous for many things: from pizza to Pompeii and more. If you are taking a flight to Naples, you might want to check out some of the not-so-famous foods and attractions for an exciting and unique take on the city. A stay in a one-of-a-kind Naples hotel will make your trip even more special. Show More Summary

LOL International: Txt Spk Around the World

LOL was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2011. Even so, some of us struggle to understand text speak in our own language. The British Prime Minister David Cameron somehow believed LOL meant “lots of love”. Being fluent in a language is all about fitting in. Show More Summary

Bring the calvary

David Donnell's friend from Urbana drew his attention to the trailer for Furious 7, where Dwayne Johnson pronounces cavalry as ['kæl.v?.?i]: Your browser does not support the audio element. Michelle Rodriguez: Hey, did ya bring the cavalry? Dwayne Johnson: Woman, I AM the calvary. David comments: Now, before I actually viewed the trailer, I argued that […]

If only …

Q: I’m confused about the tense of verbs in “if only” sentences. For example: “The world would be better if only people would understand each other.” Does this sound OK to you? A: The phrase “if only” is used in this hypothetical way “to express a strong wish that things could be different,” according to... ? Read More: If only …

Is a Hashtag a Word? The Case of #BlackLivesMatter.

Well, I didn't manage to get an emoticon of the year vote added to the American Dialect Society's annual Word of the Year award (there’s always next year!), but we did end up with a new category that's almost as interesting: Most Notable...Show More Summary

Is It Kosher to “Drink the Kool-Aid”?

A fuller linguistic arsenal leads to richer, chewier, more diverse expression—but when is the usefulness of a piece of language outweighed by the pain it causes? In “Is That Kosher?” we reflect on certain words or phrases that lie in the margins of acceptability. One thing about starting a column on idioms that haunt the P.C. Show More Summary

Ossetian verbs: a table and flashcard set

The following table of 203 Ossetian verbs with their principal parts and transitivity is derived from F. M. Takazov’s textbook ??????????? ??????????? ????? (???????????, «???????», 2012). All verbs in Takazov’s list, with the exception...Show More Summary

The Long and Fascinating History of Quotation Marks

Andrew Heisel’s Lexicon Valley article last year on single versus double quotation marks piqued the interest of Keith Houston, author of Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks. What...Show More Summary

How to Write Dirty Tongue Twisters

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. First off, let’s all agree that a big part of the fun of dirty tongue twisters is that you’re trying not to say a dirty word. The dirty word is justShow More Summary

Don’t Try So Hard.

Anne Trafton of the MIT News Office had a report last July on an interesting study: In a new study, a team of neuroscientists and psychologists led by Amy Finn, a postdoc at MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, has found evidence for another factor that contributes to adults’ language difficulties: When learning certain elements […]

We're back

Yesterday afternoon, a popular link from the Washington Post (Ana Swanson, "The equivalent of “It’s all Greek to me” in 30 other languages", Wonkblog 3/25/2015) caused a spike in LLOG page views; this happened to cause a disk drive to fill up, because the back-end database server was keeping binary logs of all transactions; this […]

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