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Haifa subway station names

In several recent posts, I have pointed out how Chinese and Japanese announcements and greetings for foreigners are often pronounced in a special way that deviates markedly from what Chinese and Japanese would say to each other: "Tones and the alphabet" (4/27/16) (last three paragraphs) "'Ni hao' for foreigners" (10/11/16) "Bus announcements in Okinawa" (12/6/16) […]

Teaching Chinese characters in Korea

Bruce Humes writes: I noticed this news item today (below) that foresees teaching young South Korean students how to read Chinese characters. I don’t know Korean, but I’ve always been interested in how Chinese characters are used (or not) in Korean and Japanese. I look forward to the occasional piece in your Language Log, touching […]

Women and Vodka!

This is an interesting piece about an illustrator named Lou Marchetti and a writer named David Markson, but I’d link it just for the magnificent reproductions of the front and back covers of the anthology of Russian stories whose title I have borrowed for this post. Thanks, Trevor!

Is red beautiful?

Q: I’m curious about the history of “red” in various languages. In Russia, Red Square was so named because “red” used to mean beautiful. In Spain, Alhambra means “the red one.” Is it also “the beautiful one”? And did “red” ever mean beautiful in English? A: When the square near the Kremlin in Moscow was... ? Read More: Is red beautiful?

Multiscriptal cosplay poster in Haifa

Guy Almog sent me this photograph of a detail from a poster that he and I spotted at several places in and around the Haifa subway: This is the full, unedited poster: Here we find katakana being used to write in Hebrew a Japanese word that came from two English words, an impressive round-tripper that […]

Metaphor of the month

Joshua David Stein, "The Loud, Empty Word That Defines President-Elect Trump", The Daily Beast 1/1/2017: Perhaps because there are so many casualties already accruing and so much damage already being done, it has gone less noted than it should that among the incoming Trump administration’s most endangered victims is the English language itself. Nouns shudder. […]

A New Year.

While the rest of you are celebrating the turning of the calendar page to the year 2017, I am celebrating my own advance to 1858. Yesterday I read Turgenev’s ??????? ? ??????? [A journey to Polesia], in which a hunter gets gloomy in the pine woods one day and meets a local robber the next […]

Po Chai Pills

Stephen Hart sent in this scan of a box containing medicine that he bought in Malaysia in 1972: You can read the English explanation yourself to see what effects these marvelous little pills are claimed to have. The corresponding Bahasa Malaysia panel on the box reads: These medicinal pills are good for [treating] diarrhea, vomiting, stomach […]

Friends, if you know my radio show, you know it is listener-supported. We’re raising $55K! Can you help?

Friends, if you know my radio show, you know it is listener-supported. We’re raising $55K! Can you help? Friends, if you know my radio show, you know it is listener-supported. We're raising $55K! Can you help? — Grant Barrett (@GrantBarrett) December 31, 2016

All the way with U in 2016/7

From Li Wei on Facebook: Here's Li Wei's explanation: The numeral 16 is read in Chinese as 'yi liu' which sounds like the phrase 'all the way'. U is homophonous with the Chinese word 'have'. The Chinese character after U means 'you', duplicating the syllable. 17 is read as 'yi qi', homophonous as 'together'. The […]

Disowning Your Native Language.

I don’t normally post about things hidden behind paywalls, but Yiyun Li’s “To Speak Is to Blunder” (New Yorker, January 2, 2017) is so good I’m making an exception. It’s one of the best things I’ve read about someone’s personal relationship to language; I’ll provide a few excerpts so you can get the feel of […]

EU English again

A.S. sent in a link to the 2016 edition of Misused English words and expressions in EU publications, from the European Court of Auditors: Over the years, the European institutions have developed a vocabulary that differs from that of any recognised form of English. It includes words that do not exist or are relatively unknown to […]

Manchu film

Xinhua claims "Y?ngg? l?ng chuánqí ?????" ("Legend of Yingge Ridge") to be the first film in the Manchu language. I could only find this trailer for it on Tudou (Manchu speaking appears to start around 2 minutes in). The Tudou link doesn't work well, has too many intrusive ads, and requires Flash.  Use this YouTube […]

Kicks for Kooks

One of the things I didn’t mention in my review of John McWhorter’s Words on the Move was his use of minimal pairs to explore the vowels of English. A minimal pair is a pair of words or phrases that are identical in every aspect but one, chosen so as to illustrate how this one […]

Sesenta y Ocho Voces.

Another great language-preservation initiative, from Mexico, as reported by Andrew S. Vargas for Remezcla: Sesenta y Ocho Voces, Sesenta y Ocho Corazones (also known as 68 voces), is a new initiative from Mexico’s government Fund for The Culture and Arts (FONCA) that seeks to elevate Mexico’s 68 indigenous languages by preserving their myths, legends, poems, […]

We’re raising $55k before midnight tomorrow for the radio show! Join together in making it happen!

We’re raising $55k before midnight tomorrow for the radio show! Join together in making it happen! We're raising $55k before midnight tomorrow for the radio show! Join together in making it happen! — Grant Barrett (@GrantBarrett) December 30, 2016

Keenan & I on witnesses

In the fall of 1984, just back from half a year at Cambridge University, I switched universities from Münster to Köln. I had decided study linguistics in addition to English and Philosophy. Professor Paul Otto Samuelsdorff offered aShow More Summary

Why Learn German? 10 Good Reasons to Learn German

Have you ever wondered “should I learn German?” or “why learn German?” There are plenty of good reasons to learn how to speak German. Deutsch was the fourth language I learned to speak fluently. I got to spend three months living in Berlin, Europe’s capital of cool. Show More Summary

Mystery script in a library book

We received the following intriguing note at Language Log Plaza: Hey there, my name's Dan and I work at the Calistoga library. I found this little note in a book that was returned and I'm curious what script it's in. At first I thought it was in Cherokee, but then looked closely and saw it […]

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