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Inspirational PLA Video

[The following is a guest post by Mark Metcalf, a retired Naval officer and adjunct Lecturer in Chinese Literature at the University of Virginia.] One of the joys of being semi-retired is having the luxury of being able to chase the occasional squirrel that appears in my field of view. This morning one of those […]


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Do what to the switch?

Quick! What does it say? This comes from an anonymous reader, who found it while searching here for a Chinese character font for their iPad and asked: "Is this another do/dry error?" References: "The Etiology and Elaboration of a Flagrant Mistranslation" (12/9/07), with references to earlier posts "The further elaboration of a flagrant mistranslation" (8/31/13) […]

Too cool!

I suppose it's been around for at least 5-10 years, but I just encountered the expression "tài shu?ng le ???" in the English informal sense of "cool!".  With 409,000 ghits, it seems to be fairly widespread, though not all of those ghits are to the informal sense of the English word (see the numbered items […]

On Multilingual Libraries.

David Crystal says he wanted to call his post “On multilingual libraries,” but he only knew of one, “the one I visited last Thursday in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. There ought to be one in every city where there are multilingual communities — which means all of them.” It astonished me that as far as he knew there […]

Why Do We Delete the Initial Pronoun From Our Sentences? Glad You Asked.

Something has been mysteriously absent from many of my recent emails: Me. Hope all is well with you, I write, conveniently erasing myself as the subject of the sentence. Agree with Bob’s critiques. Would love to read a post on this. Can do in an hour. Show More Summary

Scales get in your eyes

Q: When “the scales fall from one’s eyes” to suddenly reveal the truth, are they the scales of justice? A: No, the “scales” here are etymologically related to the ones on fish, reptiles, and insects. The Oxford English Dictionary has three major meanings for the noun “scale,” with many related senses: (1) a device for... ? Read More: Scales get in your eyes

Political epistemics

Several people have asked me about how the various U.S. presidential candidates use various indicators of epistemic status. It's easy to calculate word frequencies as a proxy, so here are some numbers from this season's debates. I've tallied feel words (feel, feels, felt, feeling, feelings), think words (think, thinks, thought, thoughts, thinking), and believe words […]

grammar is not the enemy

I'm saddened these days by a lot of things going on in the UK, particularly regarding the current government's treatment of education and healthcare. But, you know, I'm not a Conservative or even a conservative, so it's not surprising I'm not too happy with them. Show More Summary

Some thoughts on racism in Algeria

(Regular readers be warned: this post has nothing to do with linguistics; it's justified only by a tenuous link to my fieldwork.) New York Times readers today had the dubious privilege of an editorial by Kamel Daoud on racism in Algeria. Show More Summary

Indiana poll bears

Reader K.N. comments on a WSJ headline "Indiana Poll Bears Good News for Trump": To my surprise, the article does concerns neither actual ursines nor pundits who feel Indiana polls will be worth less than they are now. It also fails to explain why people in Fort Wayne were cheering a glowing effigy of Mr. Trump (see […]

"Feel that" has been disappearing

The recent flurry of posts on feel as a propositional attitude verb has, I now feel, buried the lede. Kids today may have started using "feel like S" with increasingly frequency in recent years. But their elders have apparently been abandoning "feel that S" ever since the middle of the 20th century. The first clue was […]

Feeling in the Supreme Court

In a NYT Op-Ed a few days ago, Molly Worthen identified as "a broad cultural contagion" the "reflex to hedge every statement as a feeling or a hunch", and urged us instead to "think, believe or reckon". I countered that emotion has largely been bleached out of feel used with sentential complements — "feel that SENTENCE" has become a standard way to […]

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Celebrating the Bard’s Crudest Moments

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. Four hundred years ago, Shakespeare shuffled off this mortal coil. Across the globe, bardolators are observing the date—if not the whole month, nay, year—with various celebrations of his momentous legacy. Show More Summary

Epistemological metaphors and meanings

Following up on the issues raised yesterday in "Feelings, beliefs, and thoughts",  it might be helpful to explore the etymology of the various  verbs that people commonly use to express the epistemic status of their assertions. FromShow More Summary

CREWS Project.

Contexts of and Relations between Early Writing Systems (CREWS) is a project hosted at the Faculty of Classics, Cambridge: The aim of the CREWS project is to take an innovative and interdisciplinary approach to the history of writing, developing new methodologies for studying writing systems and their social context. The project researchers will be working […]

Is “based off” off base?

Q: As I read the papers of college freshmen, I am often stopped by usages that seem wrong to me. The latest example is the use of “based off” for “based on,” as in “based off the research of Albert Einstein.” Your thoughts? A: You’re not the first to notice the use of “based off”... ? Read More: Is “based off” off base?

Death to Chinese language teachers

In "Character amnesia in 1793-1794" (4/24/14), I described the so-called Flint Affair, which refers to James Flint (?1720-?), one of the first English persons to learn Chinese.  For his audacity, Flint was imprisoned for three years by the imperial government, and two Chinese merchants who helped him write a petition to the emperor were executed. […]

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