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Polysyllabic characters revisited

In "'Double Happiness': symbol of Confucianism as a religion"  (6/8/15), we had a vigorous discussion over how to pronounce this character:  ? ("double happiness").  Some participants and sources said that it should be pronounced the same as ? ("happy; joyful"), i.e., x?, while others held that it is pronounced with two syllables as shu?ngx?. There […]

Pronunciation Errors that Changed Modern English.

An Alternet piece by David Shariatmadari begins with this charming anecdote: Someone I know tells a story about a very senior academic giving a speech. Students shouldn’t worry too much, she says, if their plans “go oar-y” after graduation. Confused glances are exchanged across the hall. Slowly the penny drops: the professor has been pronouncing […]


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Vigilance — Cleanliness

The trash receptacles on Paris streets consist of suspended transparent plastic bags, printed with two words in large black letters: VIGILANCE (= "vigilance") on top, and PROPRÉTÉ (= "cleanliness") underneath. The bags used to be green, but are now clear — and the container of curved metal spokes is new — but the VIGILANCE / CLEANLINESS message has […]

Armed With An Apostrophe

Outside the DeWitt County, Illinois Courthouse and Jail in Clinton, IL. (Thanks, Max!)

Doubletree Hotel art

Stayed at the Doubletree Hotel at Lex and 51st recently and was surprised the artwork hadn’t been better vetted… (Thanks, Amy!)

Ah, Tradition

An historical plaque on the grounds of the University of Tampa. Cast in quite permanent bronze! Forever! (Thanks, John Panning!)

Graffiti and Virgil.

Emily Gowers, in her TLS review of Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii by Kristina Milnor, makes some very interesting points about the inseparability of low and high, just the kind of thing I love: Milnor reads the graffiti as carefully as any literary text, picking out clever manipulations of lines from Ovid […]

When “stay” means stop

Q: Why does “stay an execution” mean stop it, rather than “stay with it” or “stay the course” or “stay put”? A: Phrases like “stay an execution” or “stay one’s hand” make sense once you know that the original meaning of “stay” was to halt or stop. “Stay” can be traced by way of Old... ? Read More: When “stay” means stop

Mayan Spoken Here.

An Indian Country Today piece by Dominique Godrèche makes me want to visit the Biennale in Venice: The 56th edition of the International Art Biennale of Venice, All the world’s futures, curated by Okwui Enwezor, presented, for the first time, “Voces Indigenas,” an exhibition entirely dedicated to the Native languages of Latin America. All the […]

Nazi Goring

Menu from a restaurant on Wudaoying Hutong ????? near Yonghe Gong ??? (Lama Temple) that left James Bradbury completely baffled last summer: Although several of the items visible on the menu are quirky or quaint, none can match this one: Yìndùníx?yà ch?ofàn ??????? ("Indonesian fried rice") In Indonesian and Malay, nasi goreng simply means "fried […]


From today's For Better or For Worse, a seasonal eggcorn:

Open attack on academic freedom and free speech

Look at this clip of an interview with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. The host, Mike Gousha, asks specifically about tenure, "why do changes need to be made?" Starting around 2:00, Fitzgerald responds with this:The idea that...Show More Summary

Busted: 6 Common Myths About Polyglots and Language Learners

There are plenty of language learning myths, especially about people who speak multiple languages (also known as polyglots). You’re probably familiar with the romanticised image of the polyglot. It goes something like this: A polyglot...Show More Summary

Reality v. Brooks

David Zweig, "The facts vs. David Brooks: Startling inaccuracies raise questions about his latest book", Salon 6/15/2015 ("Factual discrepancies in the NYT columnist's new book raise some alarming questions about his research & methods"): For at least the past four years David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, TV pundit, bestselling author and lecture-circuit thought […]

Ask Language Log: -ange < ?

From Bob Ladd: I just drove through the general area of Luxembourg/Lorraine – one of the places where French and Germanic have been in close contact since the Middle Ages – and could couldn't help noticing dozens of place names ending in -ange (Dudelange, Hettange, Differdange, Hayange, Hagondange, Aubange, Redange, Useldange, and many more) all […]


Patrick Taylor, etymologist for the American Heritage Dictionary, is an occasional commenter at LH and always has interesting things to say, so I’m pleased to pass along his excellent revision to the etymology of garbanzo, to appear in the AHD update this fall (I found it in Steve Kleinedler’s Facebook feed): [Spanish, perhaps alteration (influenced […]

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