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"Closed minds": open to interpretation?

CNN International recently sent out this tweet, linking to an interview with Stella McCartney: Stella McCartney: 'My parents opened doors and closed minds' #CNNwomen — CNN International (@cnni) November 29, 2014 The headline, which also appears on CNN's website, left some people perplexed. Show More Summary

A Year in Reading 2014.

Once again it’s time for the Year in Reading feature at The Millions, in which people write about books they’ve read and enjoyed during the previous year; my contribution is up, featuring my recommendations of Dan Todes’s superb biography of Pavlov, the books by Peter Hodgson and Gary Saul Morson I’ve discussed here as I […]

Apple Watch Purchase Prevention

This is the Apple Watch edition of my new Purchase Prevention Program, trying to keep me from early adopting. Smart watches are going to be the new hotness, especially once the Apple Watch is out. I’m going to stick with my trusted basic Citizen watch for a while longer. Show More Summary

A guide for the perplexed author in semantics

Note: at the upcoming LSA annual meeting in Portland, I will be part of a session about the publication process. My role will be to talk about open access in linguistics. I just remembered that I had lying around a draft guide to publishing articles. Show More Summary

Craven images

Q: Standard dictionaries define “craven” as cowardly, but I can’t recall hearing or reading it used that way in the last 10 years. It’s usually used to mean brazen or shameless. Are the dictionaries just not keeping up on this one? A: We’ve checked eight standard dictionaries and all of them define the adjective “craven”... ? Read More: Craven images

U.S. media non-coverage of U.K. stories

At brunch on Saturday, a friend who gets his news from The New York Times noted that he'd read nothing about the Plebgate trial, which has been covered obsessively in the British press (see "Plebgate judgment", 11/28/2014, for some links). And he didn't miss an obscurely-placed item — as far as I can tell from […]

Sale: Cyber Monday Mega-Deals for Language Learners!

This Internet is ripe with wonderful offers this weekend during the “Black Friday” rush of deals that you’ll get before Christmas, and Team Fi3M has been searching for the best sales relevant to language learning just for you. EnjoyShow More Summary


Nathan Hopson sent in this photo (from Nagoya, Japan, but there are similar stores all over Japan): Nathan was unable to get an interior photo, but there is a company website, of course. Starvations is a kids' boutique of sorts, and appears to be owned by a company called Cozy. From their company history page […]

Pashto has an unusual 1 sg./pl. proclitic ra

Within the Indo-European languages, one becomes so used to seeing first-person singular pronouns starting with (V)m- that I was very struck to learn (from an aforementioned book on clitics) that Pashto has a first-person singular/plural proclitic ra. Show More Summary

It’s loanwords all the way down

When every word in every Uralic language starts to look like a loanword from Indo-European, just borrowed at an earlier or a later date, then it’s probably time to step away from one’s library and do something else for a while. Is this...Show More Summary


My wife and I are continuing to read Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End (see this post), and in the first chapter of the third novel, A Man Could Stand Up—, I ran across a word unfamiliar to me in this sense: But of course that had been ten minutes ago…Before the maroons or the sirens, […]

No-excuses split infinitive in The Economist

I have grumbled on several previous occasions about the Economist's stubborn adherence to a brainless policy that its editors maintain: no adjuncts are to be located between the to and the verb in an infinitival clause, lest readers should get annoyed. That is, the magazine's style guide insists that the "split infinitive" construction should be […]

Good prescriptivism?

People tend to enter their first linguistics classes with a vague but strongly felt idea, instilled by English teachers or by society at large, that some ways of speaking are bad, illogical, sloppy, rule-breaking, etc. One of our first...Show More Summary

He Conquers Who Endures

I saw this on the back of a T-shirt when I was at the grocery store: He conquers who endures. Too bad for those people who endure. Even after all their endurance, they get conquered in the end. He, whoever “he” is, is a patient conquerer. However, I suspect the wearer of the T-shirt probably […]

Ko P

Just in case you hadn't seen this in the news, the winner of the Taipei mayoral election held on November 28, 2014 is Ko Wen-je (K? Wénzhé ???), a trauma surgeon who ran as an independent. "Pro-independence party candidate Ko Wen-je claims victory in Taipei mayor race" The Straits Times (11/29/14) Ko has the orthographically […]

Teenager found bed

Stan Carey writes "Here's a headline for you!": "Mentally ill teenager held in police cell is found bed", BBC News Devon, 11/29/2014. I puzzled over this for several re-readings, until I looked at the lead paragraph: A teenage girl with mental health problems who was kept in police cells for two days because of a […]

Israeli Hebrew Imperatives.

Mark Liberman has a post at the Log quoting Tal Linzen reporting that Google Translate renders Hebrew “Please return to me” as “Please me like an alien creature”: The first word ??? ['ana] means ‘please’ (though only in the request sense) and the last word ??? [e'laj] means ‘to me’. The source of the mistranslation […]

The apostrophic War on the Holidays

I was fighting the urge to post about this piece on Slate, about how to pluralize your last name, and now officially give up. Anything that has this line is hard to resist reacting to: It’s Christmas! Celebrate by not doing violence to the laws of pluralization. Show More Summary

Punning banned in China

When the first headline arrived stating that China was going to ban punning, I thought that it must be something from The Onion.  But when more and more reports came pouring in, I said to myself, "No, this is China.  They're really going to do it." Indeed, the latest directive from the Ministry of Truth […]


I recently came across a reference to “Odradek,” which sounded vaguely West Slavic but otherwise meant nothing to me; Google told me it was from a very short story by Kafka called “Die Sorge des Hausvaters” (“The Cares of a Family Man”), which turns out to be one of the few works of literature I […]

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