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More fun with Facebook pronouns

Class discussion of the Facebook pronoun data brought out some interesting points. We started by looking at the relationship between first-person singular pronouns ("I", "me", "my", "mine") and first-person plural pronouns ("we", "us", "our", "ours") as a function of the age of the poster. Show More Summary

Commas (and parsing) are important

[h/t to Omri Ceren] More of the same: "'My parents, Ayn Rand and God'", 3/16/2006 "Merle Haggard's ex-wives", 10/24/2010 "Visual aid for the final serial comma", 9/18/2011 "The Oxford Comma is your friend", 12/10/2013


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Gemination in Viryal Chuvash as evidence of a substrate

The conference collection Volgan alueen kielikontaktit (Turku, 2002) has a paper by A. V. Emel’janova titled “????????? — ????? ??????????? ??????? ?????-???????????????” that I’ve read a number of times over the years and have struggled with. Show More Summary

Translating Smartphone Technology.

A short but interesting Economist piece about efforts to create technological terms for speakers of smaller languages: Ousmane sweats under a tin roof as he thumbs through a Chinese smartphone that he is selling at the technology market in Bamako, Mali. Words in French, Mali’s official language, scroll down the screen. “A ka nyi?” (Is […]

Biomedical nerdview

My new hobby, as Randall Monroe sometimes says, is asking biomedical researchers what "sensitivity" and "specificity" mean. The modal response is "Um, yes, I always have to look those up". But recently, preparing a homework assignment about the evaluation of binary classifiers, I had a flash of insight. My new insight answers one of the questions […]

A medieval mystery

Q: I’m enjoying Mel Starr’s Hugh de Singleton series of medieval mysteries. I take notes when he mentions unfamiliar dishes and I look up the terms later. I’ve finally come across one I can’t track down. It’s cevy, which seems to be a broth or herb or flavoring for cooking fish or rabbit. Can you... ? Read More: A medieval mystery

Pawpaw French.

My wife called immediately after driving off to do some shopping to tell me to turn on the radio — NPR was doing a language story. It turned out to be this one, about a French dialect that’s quickly disappearing in southeastern Missouri: Pawpaw French — named after a local fruit-bearing tree — is a […]

Only 7% of people in China speak proper Putonghua: PRC MOE

[This is a guest post by Mark Swofford.  N.B.:  P?t?nghuà ??? = Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM); PRC = People's Republic of China; MOE = Ministry of Education] In the South China Morning Post this week: "One-third of Chinese do not speak Putonghua, says Education Ministry". I tracked down the Ministry of Education's release. It's here. […]

Snowclone blizzard

Elif Batuman, "The Awkward Age", The New Yorker 9/9/2014: As the Eskimos were said to have seven words for snow, today’s Americans have a near-infinite vocabulary for gradations of awkwardness—there are some six hundred entries in Urban Dictionary. Since the Eskimo snow word count has been dialed back to a mere seven here, its value seems […]

Dealing with life in language learning challenges: 60 day group update

You may remember the one month update coming from three different language learners about a month ago. All three are back and ready to let us know how things are progressing at the month two point. This discusses an issue that we all have to deal with – life getting in the way of our […]

Colbert on Krauthammer

"Charles Krauthammer on Obama's Mental State", The Colbert Report 9/22/2014: The Colbert Report Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,Indecision Political Humor,The Colbert Report on Facebook In case you didn't make it through the introductory...Show More Summary

"Judgement of error"

Sent in by M.C. — Fiona Simpson, "Breast-feeding mother asked to 'cover up' with dirty dishcloth at Bexleyheath pub", News Shopper 9/24/2014: An outraged mother has organised a 'boob and bottle' protest at a Bexleyheath pub after being 'ordered' to cover her breast-feeding baby with a dirty dishcloth.   Mother-of-four Olivia Pozniak was breast-feeding her […]


The estimable Bathrobe sent me his translation of this NHK News story, which, as he says, has a nice prescriptivist ending: More than half had a mistaken understanding of seken-zure September 24 A survey by the Agency for Cultural Affairs found that more than half of respondents misunderstood the term seken-zure to mean ‘deviating from […]

How do you say “long-lived”?

Q: Should “long-lived” and “short-lived” be pronounced with a long or a short “i”? I have always wondered about that and I would appreciate your consideration of this issue. A: The traditional pronunciation of “-lived” in a compound is with a long “i,” but current dictionaries say the vowel can now be either long (as... ? Read More: How do you say “long-lived”?

Veltman’s Wigs.

I’m about a third of the way through Alexander Veltman’s novel ???????????, ??????????? ?? ???? ?????????? (Adventures drawn from the sea of life, published in book form as ??????? [Salomea] — see this LH post), and I’m completely hooked. (One of the problems with recommending Veltman to people is that he’s the opposite of one […]

"Free, white, and twenty one"

Sometimes I think that Philip K. Dick is passing the time in purgatory by ghostwriting news stories like this one –  "Atlantic City's Revel Casino reimagined as elite school", Reuters 9/22/2014: A Florida developer who made a $90 million offer for Atlantic City's shuttered Revel Casino wants to use the site to help end world hunger, cancer, […]

Apprise me of the Appraisal

Recently, I’ve been pigging out on reruns of The Artful Detective, a detective series set in 19 th century Toronto. In one episode, Detective Murdoch is sternly admonished by the Superintendent to “keep me appraised of developments." Unfortunately, bad word choice. Show More Summary


Fans of American football (and, really, all Americans, because you can’t escape football in the news even if you don’t care about it) are familiar with the use of the word “bowl” in stadium names, the most famous being the Rose Bowl. It makes sense, because such stadiums are shaped more or less like bowls, […]

Differences between Meadow Mari and Hill Mari

Gábor Bereczki conveniently listed a few of the major differences between Meadow Mari and Hill Mari in his article “Die Entstehung der tscheremissischen ‘Sprachen’” in Europa et Sibiria: Beiträge zu Sprache und Kultur der kleineren finnougrischen, samojedischen und paläosibirischen Völker ed. Cornelius Hasselblatt (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1999). Show More Summary

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