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Not Truly Lost.

Emily Chung has a CBC story reporting on an interesting discovery: You may not recall any memories from the first year of life, but if you were exposed to a different language at the time, your brain will still respond to it at some level, a new study suggests. Brain scans show that children adopted […]

Berber subclassification: Reading Nait-Zerrad

Kamal Nait-Zerrad's 2001 article "Esquisse d'une classification linguistique des parlers berbères" presents a good deal of useful data, but does so in a manner that I find makes it rather difficult to figure out what's going on without plenty of pencil work. Show More Summary

Something Akin to Kinship

Mike from Glen Arbor, Michigan, asked if the words kin and akin are connected. Indeed, they are. They come from a cluster of Germanic, Scandinavian, and Dutch words that meant to produce, to engender, to beget. In turn, those words are related to the Greek ????? (genos), which would show up in a word like generate, and the Latin genus. Show More Summary

Satirical travelogy

Poe's Law says that "it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism". But this difficulty extends far beyond expressions of (political or religious) extremism, and I got an email advertisement today that kept me guessing for quite a while. The ostensible topic was the new issue […]

Posts of Thanksgiving Past

"Same-sex Mrs. Santa: 'The semantics are confusing'", 11/27/2003 "Thanks giving", 11/25/2004 "Life in these, uh, this United States", 11/24/2005 "A linguist's Thanksgiving", 11/23/2006 "A Thanksgiving discussion", 11/22/2007 "Thanksgiving...Show More Summary

you're welcome

I did two potentially (probably orig. AmE as adjective) fun things recently: I was interviewed for a famous (in one country) radio (BrE) programme/(AmE) show and I (BrE) went to the pictures and saw The Imitation Game. Potentially fun, and mostly fun, but not without worry and embarrassment.Let's start with the (orig. Show More Summary

Hong Kong interlingual contrast

John Brewer noted the palpable irony between two quotations in this article from today's NYT:  "7 Hong Kong Police Officers Arrested in Beating of Protester"(11/26/14) A:  Hundreds of people shouted “I want true universal suffrage” in Cantonese, with their chants echoing off the tall buildings in the area, amplifying their voices. and B:   The protesters, […]

Phrasebook Alternative History: 1940.

Tamas Deak at Poemas del río Wang posts about a courageous man and his unique Polish-Hungarian phrasebook: Wladys?aw Szabli?ski vel Krawczyk was the Polish lector of the Tisza István University in Debrecen from the thirties. He was born in Warsaw on 7 December 1912. On 1 September 1935 he was already teaching at the university, […]

Silver / aging / senior / whatever industry

Goods and services for senior citizens are a big business in China.  In general, the manufacture and marketing of such products go by the designation l?olíng ch?nyè ????.  But, oh, how to render that in English? Here are some of the translations I've come across: silver industry senior industry ageing industry aged care Google Translate […]

What can you do in 4 hours? Benny’s first Indonesian class

Inspired by Moses McCormick’s unfiltered uploads, I’ve decided to share an unedited crucial moment in my language learning processes; both the first time I’ve ever spoken the language and my first ever class. What I did was study four...Show More Summary

Class war skirmishes in England

Several manifestations of verbal and visual class warfare have recently hit the mass media in Britain. The subtlest example, least transparent to outsiders, is the affair of the white van in Rochester — William James, "In class obsessed Britain, tweet of 'white van' man hits nerve", Reuters 11/21/2014: Posting a picture on Twitter of a […]

No word for fetch

By Drew Dernavich, originally published August 20, 2007, a cartoon addition to our No Word for X archive: Or, to put it another way: "They have no words for anything, but they have no concept for 'fetch'." [h/t Joan M.]  

The Unity of Australian Languages: 1841.

Matt of No-sword posts a quote from Dixon’s The Languages of Australia (which looks wonderful — insert ritual complaint about overpriced academic books here) involving George Grey‘s “second great breakthrough in Australian linguistic...Show More Summary

Mon dieu! Le typo!

Here’s a tasty little typo that turns chicken with wine (coq au vin) into chicken with vine. Whatever that would be. I’m a little afraid to ask. And, not for nothing, it’s written correctly directly above where it’s written incorrectly. Kinda makes you want a glass of vin, no? Le sigh.         […]

Batman.

Even after all these years of looking up words, there are still plenty whose origins and history I’m unfamiliar with. Sometimes when I look one up, I nod and think “about what I expected”; sometimes I’m surprised; and sometimes I’m so taken aback that “astonished” doesn’t really cover it. This just happened to me with […]

Queues and lines

Q: I am given to understand that what is referred to as a “line” of people in the US is called a “queue” in the UK, though both Americans and British use “queue” the same way in its computer sense. How did all this come about? A: Broadly speaking, you’re right—people ranked in an orderly... ? Read More: Queues and lines

Built site specific inducted

Macaulay Curtis writes: "This one isn't a headline, but it is mightily hard to parse. From a construction site in Brisbane, Australia. I walked past it in confusion every day for a week before realising that the company is called 'Built'…" Knowing the company name doesn't solve the problem for me. Instances of the pattern […]

How Interpreters Do It.

Geoff Watts reports on “the lives and minds of real-time translators”: …As the delegate spoke, Pinkney had to make sense of a message composed in one language while simultaneously constructing and articulating the same message in another tongue. The process required an extraordinary blend of sensory, motor and cognitive skills, all of which had to […]

Dead-end sentences

Tim Leonard sends in "one for your hard-to-parse-headlines file": Tim Worstall, "The EU's Very Bad Turn $26 Billion Into $390 Billion Investment Plan", Forbes 11/23/2014. He observes that it's "not really a garden path, since it hits a dead end less than half way in". Puzzled headline-parsers will get a clue from Mr. Worstall's opening: […]

Comprise & Compose

The following sentence appeared in an editorial in the Traverse City Record-Eagle on Sunday, November 23, 2014: “Safe Harbor, comprised of 23 area churches that open their doors to the homeless during the winter months, has said the group can’t continue indefinitely.” My quibble is with the wording comprised of. Show More Summary

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