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An adverb, forsooth!

Q: Your post about “needs must” is very interesting, but try as I might I find it hard to construe “nights” and “days” as adverbs in “She works nights and sleeps days.” They just feel too like nouns, being the object of “works.” Can you give any other examples of “-s” and “-es” adverbs in... ? Read More: An adverb, forsooth!

The craven feminine pronoun

The Times Literary Supplement diarist who hides behind the initials "J.C." makes this catty remark (issue of January 6, 2017, page 36) about Sidney E. Berger's The Dictionary of the Book: A Glossary of Book Collectors: "Predictions were that the Internet would do away with dealers' catalogs and it is true that many a dealer […]

These “keep your kids safe by knowing their slang” stories are such malarkey. What a steaming pile.

These “keep your kids safe by knowing their slang” stories are such malarkey. What a steaming pile. These "keep your kids safe by knowing their slang" stories are such malarkey. What a steaming pile. — Grant Barrett (@GrantBarrett) February 7, 2017


The word mantle and its many meanings came up on the program recently. It originated with the Latin word mantellum, a cloak. One way or another, the divergent meanings of mantle all include the idea of something that encloses or protects. Show More Summary

Donlad's mispellings

Dana Milbank, "Shoker! Rediculous chocker Trump attaks and dishoners English with ever-dummer spellings", Washington Post 2/7/2017: The English language was unprepared for the attak. It was destined to loose. And, inevitably, it chocked. Show More Summary

Bastard, douchebag, whatever

Here and here are links (South China Morning Post [SCMP] and the Chinese website of a German radio channel) re yesterday’s surprising statement by Judge HE Fan of China’s supreme court calling President Trump a "public enemy of the rule of law". The story is being well covered by the international media (NYT, The Independent, […]


I was reading Victoria Lomasko’s “In Tbilisi,” an excerpt from her new book Other Russias (out March 7 from n+1), which I’m very much looking forward to, and was struck by this passage: In the Caucasus, there is a term for correct behavior on the part of the individual in society: namus, in Azerbaijani and […]

Quantifying Donald Trump's rhetoric

David Beaver & Jason Stanley, "Unlike all previous U.S. presidents, Trump almost never mentions democratic ideals", Washington Post 2/7/2017: The central norms of liberal democratic societies are liberty, justice, truth, public goods and tolerance. To our knowledge, no one has proposed a metric by which to judge a politician’s commitment to these democratic ideals. A […]

Portuguese in 3 Months Mission: 1 Month Update

This an update to Holly’s Portuguese in 3 Months mission. How did I get on after one month of learning to speak Portuguese? If you read my previous mission updates, you’ll remember that my mission is to reach a B1 level in Portuguese in three months. Show More Summary

Gavagai and TZQQA

Over at Existential Comics, WV Quine discovers the indeterminacy of cross-generational translation: After characteristic (but in this context uninsightful) interventions by JL Austin and Sigmund Freud, the text's meaning is eventually delimited by direct action, consistent with Quine's behaviorism. Show More Summary

Language and Identity II.

Adam Taylor reports for the Washington Post on an interesting study: On Wednesday afternoon, Pew Research Center released a study that looked at how national identity is defined across 14 different countries using survey data taken at the start of last year. In light of the ongoing debate about immigration in pretty much every part […]


The current SMBC: Mouseover title: "Finally, someone brave enough to tell the truth about our hypocrisy as to the topic of formality in language." The aftercomic:

Here’s to hoppiness

Q: I’ve noticed that “hop” and “hops” seem to be used interchangeably. Thus the “Hop Growers of America” have a report entitled “USA Hops.” And “hopped” and “hopping” appear on beer menus regularly, as well as expressions like “a high-hops pale ale.” I would be interested in your take on the “hop” family. A: As... ? Read More: Here’s to hoppiness


Philocothonista, or, The drunkard, opened, dissected, and anatomized, by Thomas Heywood, includes a chapter with the following splendid list of approved synonyms: I come now to the penall Statutes enacted for diverse forfeitures, upon most grave and mature deliberation, No man must call a Good-fellow Drunkard, for that’s a name of reproach and indignity, as […]

A trilingual, biscriptal note (with emoji)

Message in a store window @ 826 Valencia, San Francisco: The note begins straightforwardly with Mandarin: w? ài n? y?nwèi ????? ("I love you because") But then it shifts into a kind of Cantonese-Mandarin hybrid, or so I thought. nei5 hai6 ngo5 ge3 ???? is Cantonese for "you are my". They write the second syllable […]

Babbling with L

I loved this punning tweet from @ScottishScouse that ties together the Oscar-nominated movie La La Land, the Teletubbies, and Eastern Europe. It has inspired me to post another installment of Babbler’s Lexicon, featuring the /l/ series: /lala, lele, lili, lolo, lulu/. /lala/ So first off, the La La of La La Land (both the movie […]

AN News: Trump’s Formulaic Twitter Insults

From Anthropology News Trump’s Formulaic Twitter Insults Trumped Up Words Adam Hodges Every presidential transition also involves a change in the regime of language. This year the juxtaposition between the outgoing and incoming regimes...Show More Summary

Ask Language Log: Turnbull, Trumble, ?

Graeme Orr asks: This relates to US-Australian relations, thrown into mirth if not disarray by a now infamous phone call. Afterwards, Mr Spicer mistook our PM's surname twice in a press conference. Australian social media heard Spicer as calling our PM Turnbull 'Trumble'. But I distinctly hear it as 'Trunbull', a simple transposition error of […]

Inaugural addresses: SAD.

A few days ago, I posted some f0-difference dipole plots to visualize the contrast between Barack Obama's syllable-level pitch dynamics and Donald Trump's ("Tunes, political and geographical", 2/2/2017): Obama 2009 Inaugural AddressShow More Summary

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