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Multiple-Level Coordination with And and But

I’ve continually been hearing this one ad on a podcast I listen to, promoting some kind of investing service. The speaker introduces the subject like this: Want to save more, invest for the future, but don’t have time to be a full-on investor? The fact that this sentence is an interrogative gets in the way […]

Location Man

Continuing Andy Bodle's exegesis of headlinese, we should take a look at the Florida Man meme: Florida Man is a Twitter feed that curates news headline descriptions of bizarre domestic incidents involving a male subject residing in the state of Florida. The tweets are meant to be humorously read as if they were perpetrated by a single individual […]

Ruminations on chewing the cud

Q: Some sources list “cud” as an uncountable noun while others say it’s countable. What’s your opinion? A: A countable or count noun, as you know, is one that can be modified by an indefinite article (“a” or “an”) or a number: “a book,” “three dogs,” “seven dollars,” etc. A mass or uncountable noun represents... ? Read More: Ruminations on chewing the cud

Written Language Quiz.

From Can You Identify 11 Languages By Their Writing? They call it “Our hardest trivia yet!” but I found it ridiculously easy; I got 11 of 11, and there were only a couple about which I felt even a momentary doubt, enough to make me take a closer look before hitting the button. It […]

Tic-Tac-Toe, Anyone?

David asked about the hashtag, a symbol used in various social media. He expressed confusion because he had learned it as the pound sign. The function of the hashtag is to turn the un-spaced words that follow a hash sign (#) into a searchable link. Show More Summary

Mistress of orthodoxy

Nicole Perlroth, "New Study May Add to Skepticism Among Security Experts That North Korea Was Behind Sony Hack", NYT 12/24/2014: It is also worth noting that other private security researchers say their own research backs up the government’s claims. CrowdStrike, a California security firm that has been tracking the same group that attacked Sony since […]

How to Make a New Year’s Resolution and Actually Keep It

Every year around January 1st, my inbox gets filled up with language learners excitedly declaring to me their New Year’s resolutions. They tell me, this is the year I will learn French! Learn Spanish! Learn Chinese! To all you resolved...Show More Summary


Andy Bodle, "Sub ire as hacks slash word length: getting the skinny on thinnernyms", The Guardian 12/4/2014 ("Headlinese is a useful little language – but it shouldn’t creep into the rest of the story. If front pages baffle you, read on for my jargon-busting thinnernymicon"): A stranger arriving in this land, English diploma clutched tightly, […]

2014 UK-to-US Co-Word of the Year: gap year

Finally, the last of my Words of the Year. I declared two US-to-UK words this year because both (awesome and bake-off) seemed very much 'of 2014'. In the case of the UK-to-US words, I also gave up on deciding between two excellent nominations, though the case for '2014ness' is not quite as strong. Show More Summary

Hacks Slash Word Length.

An amusing Guardian piece by Andy Bodle lauds the concision of headlinese but pans its extension into the body of newspaper stories: And with all of this, by and large, I am quite at ease. Most of the time, the meaning of headlines is quite clear (to native English speakers, anyway). They generally achieve their […]

The original tiger mother?

Q: I’m curious to know if Amy Chua originated the phrase “tiger mother” or if it’s something that was around before her book. I (a possible Tiger Mom) can’t remember if I ever used it before Ms. Chua’s book and the subsequent media blitz. A: No, Amy Chua didn’t coin the phrase in Battle Hymn... ? Read More: The original tiger mother?

Some Finno-Ugrian victims of Stalinism

Timo Salminen contributed a paper to the collection The Quasquicentennial of the Finno-Ugrian Society ed. Jussi Ylikoski (Helsinki, 2009) on the Society’s relationship with Russia from the 1880s to 1940. I had assumed on the basis of...Show More Summary

All work and no play

Richard W sent in this photograph of the packaging for a keyboard / case that he recently bought to go with his iPad: The first two lines are Japanese. They read: Id? shite, shigoto suru, soshite mata id? suru ?????????? ????????? move, work, then move again The first line would end with a period / […]


Dan Levin has a nice article, "Adidos and Hotwind? In China, Brands Adopt Names to Project Foreign Flair" (NYT, 12/27/14). Be sure to watch the slide show.  Here's one of my favorites: The caption accompanying the photograph states: "Biemlfdlkk is a clothing brand that sponsors China’s national golf team. One employee said it was a […]


This is one of those words that always eludes me no matter how many times I look it up, and I’m hoping that writing about it will implant it more firmly in my brain. I’m reading Samuil A. Lurie’s ?????????? ????? ['Broken cubit-ruler,' an insulting nineteenth-century term for a merchant] (see this post) and enjoying […]

Since the beginning of history

I have mentioned chinaSMACK before on Language Log, but have never featured it so directly as in this post.  The reason is that this time there's an interesting language aspect to one of their articles that is hard to pass up. chinaSMACK specializes in translating trenchant, amazing stories from the vast amount of traffic that […]

Where the language diversity is

In the articles-noted-but-not-yet-studied pile: an article on language diversity in a journal that (as reader Ted McClure points out to me) linguists might easily miss: in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 282 (1800) 20133029, earlier this year, Jacob Bock Axelsen and Susanna Manrubia published a paper entitled "River density and landscape roughness […]

A Secret Message.

Studiolum at Poemas del río Wang posts about a very interesting phenomenon: The album amicorum, friends’ album, or memoriae causa, collection for the purpose of good memory, was an inevitable item in the meagre luggage of the students wandering from university to university in Europe between the 15th and 19th centuries. Upon setting out, their […]

2014 US-to-UK Co-Word of the Year: 'bake-off'

As we've already established, this was an indecisive year for me, and I've already announced two Words of the Year, both adjectives: US-to-UK awesome and UK-to-US dodgy. Of course, many words go back and forth between the two countries...Show More Summary

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