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This is one of those posts where I'm going to let someone else do most of the writing. I got this message from Justin a couple of weeks ago: I’m from Malaysia, where BrE dominates in schools but AmE is prominent in pop culture (so too CanE and AusE). Show More Summary

Poetry and reality

Today's SMBC: Mouseover title: "New rule: Anyone referring to X as the poetry of Y must have actually ever read a poem." Not strictly relevant to the Neil deGrasse Tyson discussion, since linguistics is a science and all. But still. Note the the licensing of negative-polarity "ever" by "must have actually": "Anyone referring to X as […]

Neil deGrasse Tyson on linguists and Arrival

This is a guest post submitted by Nathan Sanders and colleagues. It's the text of an open letter to Neil deGrasse Tyson, who made a comment about linguists on Twitter not long ago. Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, As fellow scientists, we linguists appreciate the work you do as a spokesperson for science. However, your recent […]

Revenge of the Copy Editors.

As a copy editor myself, of course I enjoyed this piece by Thomas Vinciguerra, which begins: Backed by the cheery fiddle and guitar of Tom Moss’s “Gypsy Night Dance,” the bespectacled white-haired gentleman in a blue blazer, striped bow tie, and pocket square is holding forth on the language issue of the day. “I’m sometimes […]

10+ Free Online English Language Lessons

So you want to improve your English and you’re looking for English language lessons online? Good call! By number of speakers (either native or as a second language), English is by far the most widely spoken language in the world. That’s why the English language is so popular with language learners. Show More Summary

Adjectives galore

Q: I was telling a friend about the “fresh flowers galore” at the produce outlet in Dover, Delaware, when I got to thinking about “galore.” Is there any other adjective (if it is an adjective) that always goes after the noun? A: Yes, “galore,” meaning “in abundance,” is an adjective. Technically, it’s a postpositive adjective—one... ? Read More: Adjectives galore


This is a guest post by Stephen Goranson. The source of “copasetic,” meaning “fine,” has been sought in Yiddish, Hebrew, Creole French, Italian, Chinook, and in a putative assurance from an accomplice of a thief in the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago that the house “cop’s on the settee.” But, probably, a novelist coined the word. […]


A lovely epigram by Thomas Erskine: The French have taste in all they do, Which we are quite without; For Nature, which to them gave goût, To us gave only gout.

The Seipel Line.

In a recent comment, Aidan Kehoe linked to Coby Lubliner’s 2004 essay “Europe East and West: the Seipel Line,” which I found so interesting I thought I’d make a post of it. There’s no point trying to summarize it; what makes it so interesting is the accumulation of details, so I’ll quote a couple of […]

Pronouns again

Fred Vultee, "Pronouns: The Reunion Tour", HeadsUp The Blog, 3/1/2017: The Fabulous Pronouns are back on the road! Take it away, The Washington Examiner: President Trump referred to himself during his first speech to a joint session of Congress at a much lower rate than former President Barack Obama did in his first address in […]

Annals of email porn filtering

I have a German friend who lives amid farmland out east of Edinburgh, and keeps chickens as a hobby. When I visited recently, there was much excitement because one of a clutch of fertile eggs in a small incubator in the living room was beginning to hatch. A tiny beak appeared, and eventually a bedraggled […]

‘Interested in’ vs. ‘interested to’

Q: I’m interested in hearing what you think about the use of the infinitive in “I’m interested to hear what you think.” A: Let’s begin by discussing the use of “interested” with “to hear” and “in hearing.” We’ll get to other complements later. Show More Summary

Headine abuse of the month

From this tweet: @thetimes : This headline could have been put rather better: — James Turner QC (@JamesTurner37) March 1, 2017 Stan Carey, who sent it in, commented It could be a typo, but my guess is that it's a distant compound, as Arnold Zwicky calls them, like "canoe wife" and "shark widow". For […]

Buddhism and languages

Whether you are familiar with Chinese characters or not, try to guess the meaning of the calligraphy on the front of this forthcoming book (the answer is at the very end of this post): If you are a serious Buddhologist, you end up having to study a lot of difficult languages.  When I enrolled in […]

The Story of Dakhani.

A Tongue Untied: The Story of Dakhani is a film being made about “a vernacular form of Urdu spoken across the Deccan region”; as the website says: Parodied and poorly regarded for centuries, Dakhani’s glorious history and rich legacy has been largely ignored. This film takes a close look at the continuing tradition of mazihiya […]


My wife and I have been attending the Saturday Live from the Met series at the State Theater in Traverse City, Michigan. One of the intermission features is an interview with the cast. During the course of his interview last weekend,...Show More Summary

Is Americanization speeding up?

Today I got to hear myself on BBC Radio 4's Word of Mouth talking with host Michael Rosen and anti-Americanism-ist Matthew Engel. This is just a picture. Click HERE for the program(me)! Biggest regret: that I completely blanked on the fact that sidewalk is originally a British word. Show More Summary

How to Create a Language Hacker’s Cheat Sheet

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. - Benjamin Franklin Can you feel confident during your first conversation in another language? I believe you can. Don’t get me wrong - feeling nervous is normal. But you can overcome this fear. How? A key factor is being prepared. Show More Summary

The Daily Mail deluding themselves

An amusing slip in the Daily Mail (online here), in an opinion piece by Dan Hodges on the decline of the Labour Party and its singularly unsuccessful leader Jeremy Corbyn. Hodges says that "anyone who thinks Labour's problems began on September 12, 2015, when Corbyn was elected, are deluding themselves." It's unquestionably a grammatical mistake, […]

Do the Koreas Speak the Same Language?

Deborah Smith, who translated a manuscript smuggled out of North Korea, discusses an interesting issue: One question I’ve often been asked since I started learning Korean is: do the two halves of the peninsula speak the same language? The answer is yes and not quite. Yes, because division happened only in the previous century, which […]

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