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Long Johns

From Faith Jones: I recently had the need to buy my elderly mother some long johns as she is finding even our wimpy, West Coast winters hard to take. In a thank you email she refused to call the tops "long johns," as to her that is only for the pants, but didn't know another […]

Directions for Signing up for the LSJ Committee Listserv

Prepared by: Netta Avineri, Susan D Blum, Hilary Parsons Dick, and Robin Conley Riner About the Listserv The Language & Social Justice (LSJ) listserv is a valuable tool for networking and keeping up with activities, information, and issues related to the LSJ, as well as in the field of language and social justice more broadly. […]

Lasàgn Cald.

This Prospero column from the Economist is about the dialect of Milan, milanes, about which I knew very little. It starts with a passage about old folk songs in dialect and “la mala, the now defunct Milanese underworld,” then continues: If these songs are a fascinating historical record of a changing city, they are also […]

Language for the people!

Four sure-to-be-amazing talks on language are coming to central Texas on January 8 and all are invited! The four speakers include two of our Language-Logistocracy, linguists and popularizers extraordinaire Ben Zimmer and John McWhorter. Wanna know how English is changing? They'll tell you. Third, Stanford Linguist Eve Clark, who's somehow managed to publish two books […]

The Ghost of Christmas Future Imperfect

Fritz Ruehr sent a cartoon that he found this morning on reddit: The spirit is willing, though the grammar is weak … Fritz notes that this Stack Exchange post from last year treads a similar path, with a cartoon version here: And he also points us to December 2005 Savage Chickens cartoon that features the Ghost […]

Toothsome dishes

Q: The other day I heard “toothsome” used to describe an attractive woman. What is the origin of this usage? Is there some connection to calling someone “a real dish”? A: “Toothsome” has meant tasty—in the literal sense of good to eat—since the 16th century. But it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that the sexier... ? Read More: Toothsome dishes

2016 UK-to-US Word of the Year: gutted

The day after the US election, it became clear to me that the UK-to-US Word of the Year would have to be the adjective gutted The verb to gut is, of course, common to both varieties of English, but in this case I'm talking about an adjectival use of gutted to refer to a feeling of disappointment or sadness that makes one feel utterly emptied. Show More Summary

He comfortable! He quickly dry!

A neighbor of mine, a respectable woman retired from medical practice, set a number of friends of hers a one-question quiz this week. The puzzle was to identify an item she recently purchased, based solely on what was stated on the tag attached to it. The tag said this (I reproduce it carefully, preserving the […]


I’m in the middle of Norman Rush’s novel Mating, which jamessal gave me a couple years ago, and am enjoying the unreliable narrator and her unreliable higher education (to which she desperately clings, tossing in the occasional “id est” or French word just to show she’s nobody’s fool). I got a particular chuckle from her […]

The hippo bottom of us

One of the most successful weekly essays I wrote in an early sixties college class on modern English poetry was about T. S. Eliot's "The Hippopotamus", the first two (out of nine) stanzas of which read thus: THE BROAD-BACKED hippopotamus Rests on his belly in the mud; Although he seems so firm to us He […]

AN News: “Run, Hide, Fight” by Anna M. Babel (The Ohio State University)

Anthropology News Column On campus violence, language, and the climate of fear. Monday was my birthday. I was taking a walk along the river near my house when my phone buzzed. I figured it was a birthday message, but instead it was a security alert from the campus emergency system. “Take cover,” it said. “Shelter in […]

Eliot Weinberger on Chinese Poetry.

Perry Link has an excellent NYRB review of two books by Eliot Weinberger, 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei (with More Ways) and The Ghosts of Birds. The first presents a four-line poem by Wang Wei in Chinese characters, in a transliteration into modern Mandarin, in a character-by-character literal translation, and in thirty-four ways […]

Adjective foods

Today's xkcd: Mouseover title: "Contains 100% of your recommended daily allowance!" See "Modification as social anxiety", 5/16/2004.

Central European incomprehensibility

From Nikola Gotovac: Today I was introduced to the web page "The directed graph of stereotypical incomprehensibility".   There is one quite common misconception about Croatian language on that graph (and similar languages – Slovenian, Serbian, and Bosnian). To be more precise, the expression "it is all spanish village to me" is actually mis-translated to english, […]

Isn’t that a coinkydink?

Q: A delightful teenager in my life just texted the word “coinkydink.” I used this term for a coincidence at her age (circa 1975). Any idea when it was coined? I have a vague memory of hearing it in some old black and white movie. A: The earliest example we’ve found for “coinkydink” (often spelled... ? Read More: Isn’t that a coinkydink?

Straight man cancer

In "Last new term of the year in China" (12/16/16), we encountered a very recent neologism in Chinese: hánzhàoliàng ??? ("Zhaoness") (220,000 ghits).  The expression we examine in this post — zhínán ái ??? ("straight man cancer") — has been around a bit longer, for at least a couple of years, and circulates even more […]


I was browsing my Russian edition (??????? ???????, Moscow: Progress, 1995) of Unbegaun’s Russian Surnames, looking at the section of Russian names of German origin, when I hit a passage that listed particularly opaque ones: ????????...Show More Summary

It was taking photos

This sentence is from a report in The Guardian, a UK paper, but I suspect it was written in the USA, where the rule that a pronoun must agree in number with its antecedent noun is often taken very seriously: One person was killed and five others were injured when a large eucalyptus tree fell […]

Bus sign nerdview in Sydney

It's good to find a prominently displayed list of local bus routes that you can consult when you arrive at the train station in a big city that perhaps you do not know. And Sydney Central station in New South Wales, Australia, has exactly that. There is a big board headed "Find your way" at […]

"Dog" in Japanese: "inu" and "ken"

This post intends to take a deep look at the words for "dog" in Japanese, "inu" and "ken", both written with the same kanji (sinogram; Chinese character): ?. I will begin with some basic phonological and etymological information, then move to an elaboration of the immediate cause for the writing of this post, observations from […]

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