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What Do Your Emails Say About You?

The language we use shapes the way that other people see us, so it is important to think carefully about the way that we present ourselves, both in speech and in writing, particularly when we are working on business correspondence. Writing Professional Emails Recognizing the importance of careful editing,...

Every-day Pronunciation.

In trying to determine the pronunciation of the Belgian town of Popering(h)e, I discovered the wonderful Every-day Pronunciation, by Robert Palfrey Utter (Harper & Brothers, 1918). It had exactly what I wanted, even giving the anglicized pronunciation presumably used by the Tommies in WWI (the equivalent of “POPP-ering”): image But wandering through its pages, I […]

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Fun and Engaging Language Learning with Children’s Picture Books

While my book tour continues, I’m happy to welcome another guest post about a concept in language learning we’ve all looked into at one time or another – using children’s books to learn foreign languages! Let’s see what Tim from has to say on this! ——— There are a several language learning methods that […]

Chuvash reeds and stems

Eastern Mari has the word om??ž ‘reed’, which Paasonen’s dictionary notes is a borrowing from Chuvash. In the Skvortsovs’ Chuvash-Russian dictionary I found the source: Cv. x?m?š ‘bulrush’. Fedotov’s etymological dictionary compares this to a wide variety of Turkic cognates such as Turkish kam?? and Yakut xomus. Show More Summary

Sanskrit resurgent

When I was studying Buddhism at the University of Washington (Seattle) in 1967-68, there were about ten students in my first-year Sanskrit course for Buddhologists and Indologists.  What intrigued me greatly was that there was another beginning Sanskrit course being offered at the same time.  It had many more students than the class I was […]

Come on, EA

I wish I could pop that apostrophe by lining other apostrophes around it in a row. (Thanks, theFIZZYnator!)

New rule – the fourth plural noun gets an apostrophe

I’m sure she had hundreds of these printed. (Thanks, BrianH!)

Your Lemonade’s what?

A friend bought some shoes… this would have been enough to prevent me from buying them. (Thanks, Monkey!)

Emendation via Degustation.

From G.W. Bowersock’s NYRB review of two books on the history of food (and I’m as pleased as Bowersock is that the subject is finally being taken seriously): Petronius’ depiction in the first century AD of a banquet at the house of the pretentious parvenu Trimalchio remains one of the great satires of gourmandise in […]

The Story of “Dob.”

Bruce Moore (a former director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre, currently editing the second edition of the Australian National Dictionary) discusses the meanings and history of the Australian slang verb dob in an extract from his book What’s their Story? A History of Australian Words (Oxford University Press Australia, 2010), quoted in this Ozwords […]

Are “loath” and “loathe” related?

Q: I assume the adjective “loath” (meaning reluctant) and the verb “loathe” (meaning to dislike) are relations of one sort or another. Which of these came first? And where did it come from? A: Yes, the two words are related. John Ayto’s Dictionary of Word Origins says the verb “loathe” is derived from the adjective... ? Read More: Are “loath” and “loathe” related?

Educational UM / UH

Apologies for temporarily turning this into Conversational Filler Log – but I realized that my assertion in this morning's post ("UM / UH geography") about the effects of years of education was based on some analyses that I'd done but never posted. So here they are: the basic effect is that people with a 4-year college degree […]

UM / UH geography

From Jack Grieve, a few minutes after we discussed this issue at the 10.30 coffee break here at Methods in Dialectology XV in Groningen: Attached is a locally autocorrelated map based on the percent of um vs uh (i.e. um/(um+uh)) in a few billion word of geocoded tweets of 2013 (about 40,000 tokens each). Red […]

Can't find on Google

Max Pinton sent in this menu and said he "thought it was a refreshing approach": Cheezburger, where this menu was posted, gave it the title "Google Failed, but This Restaurant Probably Won". Actually, Google didn't fail. For ch?o shu?lián ???, which is straightforward, Google Translate, Baidu Fanyi, Bing Translator, and even iciba correctly give "fried […]

Garnett and Tolstoy.

Translator Rosamund Bartlett (also author of a biography of Tolstoy) has a very interesting piece in the Financial Times on the history of Tolstoy translations; the centerpiece is an account of how the woman who practically defined Russian literature in English got her start: Within months of its completion in 1893, Tolstoy’s philosophical magnum opus […]

Uptalk in Devon

"The unstoppable march of the upward inflection?", BBC News Magazine 8/11/2014, quoted me referencing Daniel Hirst's idea about a possible Scandinavian origin for the long-standing pattern of default rising intonations in northern England,...Show More Summary

Ye Olde English katakana

Via HiLobrow (8/10/2014), Ben Zimmer came across this virtuoso display of Gothic katakana on feitclub's Tumblr: I must confess that I have a hard time reading off this beautiful, ornate font, which is so different from the spare, simple, Japanese katakana. From Wikipedia, here's a chart of the latter for comparison: Goj?on – Katakana characters with […]

Maltese and Arabic.

Remember last year I posted about Maltese, and in a comment bulbul talked about a grant to functionally study the mutual intelligibility of Maltese and Benghazi Arabic? Well, he’s now on his way to Groningen for the Methods in Dialectology XV conference where he’ll be speaking about it, and he sent me a link to […]

Newspaper alleges passive voice correctly!

Today I came upon something truly rare: a newspaper article about a passive-voice apology that (i) is correct about the apology containing a passive clause, but (ii) stresses that the oft-misdiagnosed passive should not be the thing we focus on and attempt to discourage, and (iii) cites actual linguists in support of the latter view! […]

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