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How to Use a Memory Palace to Boost Your Vocabulary

The clever use of mnemonics is something I talk about a lot when I try to get beginner language learners into acquiring new words quickly. It’s vastly superior to the “rote learning” technique we tend to use in school. That’s why I’m...Show More Summary

Himunk City Love: Best of New York City Hotels with Awesome Eats

The city of New York is famous for its skyline, museums, Broadway shows, and so much more. There is never a shortage of things to do in New York City, and there is never a shortage of wonderful places to eat. New York is home to an innovative, diverse restaurant scene. Show More Summary

Chikungunya and Dengue.

Scott B. Halstead’s “Reappearance of Chikungunya, Formerly Called Dengue, in the Americas” (Emerg. Infect. Dis. 21, April 2015) is an interesting look at a confusing situation of diseases and disease names; the abstract says: After an absence of ?200 years, chikungunya returned to the American tropics in 2013. The virus is maintained in a complex […]


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How Reasonable Is the Ape Language in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes? Not Very.

When Rise of the Planet of the Apes came out in 2011, I pointed out (in "Caesar and the power of No") that Caesar produced exactly two utterances in spoken English: a hoarse cry of "No," and a single declarative clause at the end ofShow More Summary

The Best of San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter Hotels

San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter has it all: culture, cuisine, concerts, and much, much more. There are also many excellent hotels in San Diego that place you directly in the Gaslamp Quarter so you can enjoy it around the clock. After all, the nightlife is a big part of its appeal. Show More Summary

Iffen ya brung a gun

Q: A Vivian Maier image from Chicago in the 1950s shows a sign with this message: ‘IFEN YA’ BRUNG A GUN LEAVE IT OUTSIDE THE DOOR ’CAUSE SHOOTIN’ OUR FRIENDS JUST MAKES US SORE! Can you explain ’IFEN? It looks like a contraction but I can’t think what’s missing. A: The Dictionary of American Regional... ? Read More: Iffen ya brung a gun

Watch Robin Williams Converse With Koko the Gorilla and Be Charmed

In addition to many millions of humans, at least one other primate is likely mourning the loss of actor and comedian Robin Williams today. Koko, the gorilla who communicates in a modified version of American Sign Language and is said...Show More Summary

Boys Learn to Interrupt. Girls Learn to Shut Up.

A few weeks ago, I wrote in Slate about a study I conducted showing that men in tech interrupt more than women and women are interrupted constantly, but in corporate settings, women in executive levels are the biggest interrupters of all. Show More Summary

Fadoodling and the Paphian Jig: 29 Historic Slang Terms for Sex

A version of this post appeared on The Week. Lexicographer Jonathon Green's comprehensive historical dictionary of slang, Green's Dictionary of Slang, covers hundreds of years of jargon, cant, and naughty talk. He has created a series...Show More Summary

Why It's Not So Unreasonable to Spell "Espresso" With an X

I know, enough already about Weird Al Yankovic’s "Word Crimes," but bear with me for one more comment on the music video that’s given language prescriptivism its biggest shot in the arm since the glory days of Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Show More Summary


Priamel is a word I’ve run across now and again over the years, and every time I run across it I have to look it up afresh, since I retain no memory of it except that it’s from German and has the stress on the second syllable (Brit. /pr??aml/, U.S. /pr??æm(?)l/). I’m posting about it […]

How Many Vowels Are There in English? (Hint: It's More Than AEIOUY.)

How many vowels does English have? Five, right? A, E, I, O, U. Oh, and sometimes Y. So, six? Actually, English has at least 14 different vowel sounds and, depending on the speaker and dialect, maybe more than 20. What do I mean by this?...Show More Summary

Do All Languages Derive from a Single Common Ancestor?

The Tower of Babel story is a fanciful attempt to account for a very real question: What was the first language and why are there now so many of them? The video below from TED Ed shows a brief history of how languages evolve, as speakers...Show More Summary

Is "Emerging Adulthood" Really a Thing? The Secret History of Words for Young People.

In August 2010, the cover of the New York Times Magazine half-wondered, half-complained to the world, "Why are so many people in their 20s taking so long to grow up?" The article was a splashy survey of research being conducted by psychology...Show More Summary

Lojban just got harder

Matt Treyvaud forwarded this from the Lojban mailing list: "Lojban changes to hanzi writing system" (4/1/15) Some people complained that although the spelling in Lojban is very easy to grasp the grammar is not. So the committee for the development of Lojban (BPFK) decided to fix this issue and to make the spelling hard as […]

When "North" Isn't Actually North: Geocentric Direction Systems

If you were traveling around Bali with a compass, you would find yourself confronted with a linguistic puzzle. The word kaja in Balinese is sometimes translated as meaning "north." And in South Bali, where most of the population lives, you would find that kaja does seem to mean exactly that. Show More Summary

Why Isn’t “Arkansas” Pronounced Like “Kansas”?

A version of this piece appeared in The Week: Kansas and Arkansas aren't so far from each other on the map, but their names seem to want nothing to do with each other. Though they share all but two letters in common, Kansas comes out...Show More Summary

7 Ways to Fake-Pronounce Any Foreign Language

People who speak languages other than English are sometimes impressed by how well I and other linguists pronounce words or names in their language, even if we don't speak a word of it. But it’s not magic: Here are seven basic principles that linguists use to fake-pronounce foreign languages but that anyone can apply. Show More Summary

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