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The Garip Manifesto.

Daniel Evans Pritchard writes: The Critical Flame is thrilled to present the first English publication of Melih Cevdet Anday, Oktay Rifat, and Orhan Veli’s revolutionary poetry manifesto, Garip, which appeared in Turkish in 1941. The...Show More Summary

You Don’t Care if Someone Is Black, White, Green, or Purple? You Should!

Last week, Fox sports reporter Emily Austen received an official reprimand for her “insensitive and derogatory” remarks during a live Facebook video. “I didn’t even know Mexicans were that smart,” Austen had marveled, reflecting on the undocumented Texas student who earned a full ride to the University of Texas at Austin. Show More Summary

THIS. Why So Much This?

Recently in the New York Times, Alexander Stern posited an ontology of our rampant tendency to categorize even the most mundane minutia of our lives as “a thing.” For the paper’s Magazine, meanwhile, Jody Rosen examined our hyperbolic...Show More Summary

Don't be awkward

Mark Liberman's discussion of an absurd modifier placement rule in the Associated Press Style Book reminded me of an ancient and not particularly funny joke based on an offensive stereotype of gay men. I was going to explain on the Chronicle of Higher Education's language blog Lingua Franca a couple of months ago, but to […]

Economy of expression

Flying back from Vienna on Austrian Airlines yesterday, I saw the following notices printed on the back of the seat in front of me: Gurte während des sitzens geschlossen halten Fasten seat belt while seated — some airlines begin this sentence with a "bitte", which would make the German even longer Die schwimmweste befindet sich […]

the c-word and gendering mansplaining

In 2011, Douglas Bigham asked me if I'd write a piece about "the c-word" for the Popular Linguistics website, which he was trying to get started at the time. He observed:It seems to me that " c--- " is less gendered in the UK, but can only be directed at a woman in the US. Show More Summary


Catherine Soanes asks: Is ‘themself’ a real word? She says, “Judging by the debate on the Net, themself stirs up much passion, with several pundits confidently declaring that ‘themself is not a word’. Well, much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, themself is a word and it has a long history […]

AN News: “Outreach and Engagement in a Science Museum” by Leslie C. Moore (The Ohio State University) et al.

Anthropology News Column In recent years, several sociolinguists have published accounts of successful integration of Outreach and Engagement into their research and/or teaching, including outreach to middle and/or high school students, university service-learning courses, and meaningful involvement of students in research as participants. Show More Summary

A lexical epidemic

Q: Why has “epidemic” become so widespread? I understand its metaphorical use (“an epidemic of Elvis impersonators in Vegas”), but now all sorts of medical “conditions” are being termed epidemics—obesity, drug abuse, even chronic pain. A: The word “epidemic” is used so often to describe so many things that it’s lost much of its force.... ? Read More: A lexical epidemic

Book week: You could look it up

And so we come to the end of Book Week. There may well be other books that I'd been sent at some point or another, and if I find them, I may stick in a book post here or there. But I'm ending with a book that I cannot wait to read, but that I have to wait to read because of other work-related reading commitments. Show More Summary

A Brief, Inglorious History of “Not Politicizing Tragedy”

In the wake of a horrific shooting—the deadliest in American history—at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, early Sunday, our eyes turned to the prominent politicians of the day. How would they respond? Would they make meaningless noises...Show More Summary

So Happy He Gurns.

I’m reading Kevin Barry’s novel Beatlebone, which jamessal gave me for Christmas, and enjoying it greatly — it’s one of those books whose language is so lively and irrepressible you want to read whole chunks aloud (which I do, to my wife, the cats, or failing an audience myself). It’s about John Lennon (though he […]

Live striped bass

Nathan Hopson spotted these signs in Pittsburgh: The other translations, though minimal, are not wrong, but the third one from the left picked the incorrect meaning for "bass" in Chinese: d?y?n ?? ("low [register male singing] voice; bass") The fish would be: lú ? or lúyú ?? ("bass; common perch") More specifically: yínhu? lúyú ???? […]

Chinese, Japanese, and Russian signs at Klagenfurt Botanical Gardens

Blake Shedd sent along a series of forty pictures of plant identification signs from the botanical garden in the small southern Austrian city of Klagenfurt am Wörthersee. He was rather impressed that the botanical garden staff went to the trouble of including non-Latin / non-German names for the plants.  And I was impressed at the […]


From Mark Seidenberg (though I think that I may originally have sent it to him years ago): There are Xiangyun hotels in several Chinese cities.  I can recall them in Nanning (Guangxi) and Shanghai. Xiángyún dà ji?diàn ????? ("Xiangyun [Soaring Clouds] Hotel") x?f? yè ??? ("shampoo") línyù yè ??? ("shower gel") Chinese synonyms for the […]

Recursive epitomology

Today's SMBC: Mouseover title: "Life rule: Never do anything you've done more than 3 times already." On the contrary, it seems to me. Beyond the status of a mere generic cliché, we can all aspire to become the type specimen of something important: the archtype or personification of a significant class of complaints. Consider this passage […]

Book week: Collins dictionary & Punctuation

I missed a couple of my promised 'post a day for Book Week' posts because I was running a fantabulous event (if I do say so myself) called Doing Public Linguistics. The event was about linguists doing things like I do here with the blog--engaging non-academics in the work we do as academic linguists. Show More Summary

Mapping Meat.

Frank Jacobs has a Big Think post called The Many Ways to Map Your Meat; most of it is taken from a 2013 post by Daniel Brownstein called How Do You Map Your Meat?, and if you’re interested in the subject you should definitely visit that one as well, but I’m linking first to Jacobs […]

Shifty merchants with 251 secret words for trade

Lila Gleitman points out to me that in one of the slowly increasing number of articles passing round the pseudoscientific story about Yiddish originating in four villages in Turkey you can see that hallmark of non-serious language research,...Show More Summary

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