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More on Boca Raton vs. Boko Haram

Following up on yesterday's post about Representative Paul Gosar's substitution of "Boca Raton" for "Boko Haram" ("Boko Haram, Boca Raton, whatever", 25/16/2015), I wanted to check the recording, since I know that journalist's direct quotes are often unreliable. Show More Summary

Top 5 Hotels in Naples, Italy

The Italian Province of Naples has so much to offer; its breathtaking location on the Mediterranean Sea is just the tip of the iceberg (or should I say Mountain). Mt. Vesuvius provides an awe-inspiring backdrop for Naples, and its eruptions throughout the centuries helped create the unique landscape. Show More Summary

New Mission: Russian in 3 Months

As you might already know, my partner Lauren is learning Russian. But she’s been making slow progress. Why? I suspect it’s because something really important has been missing from her project… A deadline. That changes today. We’ve decided...Show More Summary

Boko Haram, Boca Raton, whatever

We were recently treated to lovely example of a "Fay-Cutler malapropism", that is, a speech-production error in which the speaker intends to say word X but actually comes out with word Y, where Y is typically similar to X in number of syllables, shares some sounds and even whole syllables, is the same part of speech, and so […]

Languagehat Returns.

Well, that was unexpected. You feel an unusual sense of compression in your abdomen, and before you know it an ER surgeon is telling you your appendix has to come out and having you wheeled off to the operating room. The team at Cooley Dickinson was wonderful and I had a relatively quick and easy […]

Year of the ovicaprid

According to the Chinese zodiac, the coming New Year is referred to as yángnián ??, but there's a problem:  what animal are they referring to?  Is it the "year of the ram", the "year of the sheep", the "year of the goat", or something else? The Chinese media are having a field day mischievously gloating […]

Official standard

I received the following message from a young Chinese scholar who is studying in America: Improving my English and understanding Western culture, as well as dealing with racial and gender issues as an Asian female and also a first-generation immigrant in this country, is much easier than being part of the ??? culture in China, […]

New, blue, not tea

A few days ago, next to a Salon de Thé in Bercy Village in Paris, I saw out of the corner of my eye a large poster showing a seriously blue young man labelled as "THE AVENER". My first thought was, hmm,  interesting that French yuppies are so seriously into the personification of tea. But then […]

Erection in progress

Toni Tan sent in the following photograph: As soon as I looked at the sign I burst out laughing.  Once I recovered my breath, I had two thoughts: the typography and design are too neat and professional to have been done by a workaday jobber in Chinese-speaking East Asia it reminded me of another sign […]


Joshua Harwood sent in the following photograph taken at a Samsung display in the major shopping center of Xinyi District, Taipei: The main slogan says: xiànshí m?i E sòng E ???E?E ("for a limited time buy E / one get E / one") The usual way to write the offer of "buy one get one" […]

Tintin in [China's] Tibet

A couple of weeks ago, in "China's" (2/1/15) and the comments thereto, we were discussing the political aspects and implications of prefacing names in publications pertaining to places in the People's Republic of China (PRC) with the possessive "China's". Wentao provided the example of D?ngd?ng zài Zh?ngguó X?zàng ??????? ("Tintin in China's Tibet"), which is […]

PP attachment ambiguity of the week

Is the prepositional phrase attached high, modifying the verb "kill"? Or is it attached low, to the object NP "man"? In this case, there is also a difference in the sense of the preposition — instrumental vs. comitative — but often the ambiguity is purely structural, as in these earlier examples: "Annals of PP attachment", […]


From Coby Lubliner: A few years ago, when I heard someone introduced on the radio as a "domestic-violence advocate," I assumed that it was a slip-up associated with the informality of radio, and what was meant was something like an advocate for victims of domestic violence, which was what they turned out to be. But […]

Getting your book depublished

Two comments on the strange business of how we academics work for almost nothing doing our academic writing, and even do our own typesetting, and get our colleagues to do unpaid editing and quality reviewing of what we have written, so that publishers who have contributed almost no value added can then charge you readers […]

Colorado cuisine inspiration

I'm in Paris for a few days, and walking a few hundred meters to dinner with friends last night I happened to pass a couple of indications of the influence of American culture on vernacular food in France. One was a small sandwich shop offering "hod dogs", and another was this illuminated sign on the side of […]

The number of fucks you need to not give

Several people have directed my attention to Stuart Cantrill, "A quantitative analysis of how often Nature gives a fuck", 2/8/2015. That's Nature the magazine, not Nature-the-material-world-and-its-phenomena. In graphical form: This reminded me of an interpretive problem in a novel that I read recently. Show More Summary

Speke Englysch, dammit

From John Trevisa's 1385 translation of Ranulph Higben's Polychronicon (from version here): …by comyxtioun and mellynge firste wiþ Danes and afterward wiþ Normans, in meny thynges þe contray longage is apayred, and som vseþ straunge wlafferynge, chiterynge, harrynge, and garrynge grisbayting.. Show More Summary

Claire Bowern on male lactation

Claire Bowern, whom I know best for her work on historical linguistics and Australian languages, turned up recently as the author of an Op-Ed at Talking Points Memo, "The Supreme Court Says Men Lactate, Too. So When Can They Start Breastfeeding?", 2/9/2015: The Supreme Court has now established that it isn't sex discrimination to fire a […]

Sandwiched in an escalator

From Toni Tan: Having just written about hundreds dying in a sandwich press, I was afraid that the poor woman in the above picture was going to get sucked into the evil escalator and die.  But it's her clothing that she has to pay attention to: xi?ox?n y?wù ji?rù ?????? ("careful [not to let your] clothing […]

More Chinese characters in nature

Chips Mackinolty sent in this intriguing photograph from Peter Cooke Darwin's tumblr, Life Is A Carnivore: Peter suspects that the fungi pictured above are: …Calostoma fuhreri which shares the black body with red coloured orifice which to my eye resembles Chinese characters. The name Calostoma means beautiful mouth. If these little beauties ever get an […]

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