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Negative concord at the New Republic?

Jess Row, "What Are White Writers For?", The New Republic 9/30/2016: It was around this time that I first realized something nonwhite writers learn almost by default: for a fiction writer to deny that fiction is in some way political—in the sense of existing in an inherently politicized world—is not only an act of bad […]

The 1949 phone call video now correctly identifies Dragnet as the radio show: Two minutes to call long distance!

The 1949 phone call video now correctly identifies Dragnet as the radio show: Two minutes to call long distance! The 1949 phone call video now correctly identifies Dragnet as the radio show: Two minutes to call long distance! — Grant Barrett (@GrantBarrett) October 4, 2016

Pasternak’s Blind Wind.

Having read Pasternak’s pseudo-epics (or, as one might uncharitably call them, failed epics) of the mid-1920s, 1905 and Lieutenant Schmidt (both of which seem pretty unknown to English-speakers, to judge from Google results), I’ve taken a break to read Marina Tsvetaeva (along with the biography by Viktoria Schweitzer), and I thought I’d take a moment […]

AN News: “SLA at the 2016 AAA Meeting” by Aaron Ansell and Anna Babel

The Society for Linguistic Anthropology (SLA) panels and other events at the upcoming AAA Annual Meeting (November 16-20 in Minneapolis,MN) promise to be exciting ones. Below is a schedule of these events with links to the Full Program on the AAA website. Wednesday, November 16th 2:00 p.m.-3:45 p.m. Affect, Identity, and Language Ideologies (2-0145) Blank […]

comma, vocative: a birthday experiment

Last week, Allan Metcalf wrote about commas disappearing from around vocatives at Lingua Franca. A vocative is a direct address to a person, such as the reader in the following examples: Reader, let me tell you something about commas.Let...Show More Summary

Rudy off the island (constraint)?

Nick Rossoll, "Giuliani Says Trump Better For US ‘Than a Woman'", ABC News 10/2/2016: Speaking of reports that Donald Trump claimed a $916 million loss on his 1995 income taxes, Giuliani said: “Don’t you think a man who has this kind of economic genius is a lot better for the United States than a woman, […]

How placing a long-distance phone call sounded in 1949: You needed patience!

How placing a long-distance phone call sounded in 1949: You needed patience! How placing a long-distance phone call sounded in 1949: You needed patience! — Grant Barrett (@GrantBarrett) October 3, 2016

Make no bones about it

Q: What is the origin of the expression “to make no bones about it,” and what are these “bones” supposed to be? A: The expression evolved from a 15th-century saying, “to find no bones” (that is, difficulties) in one’s figurative soup. So in the 1400s, “to find no bones” in a situation meant to see... ? Read More: Make no bones about it

B flat Trump

The opening phrase of Donald Trump's speech in Mannheim PA, 10/1/2016, was sung on a single well-controlled pitch: Your browser does not support the audio element. The fundamental frequency of this monotone chant is about 238 Hz, to which the closest tempered pitch class, at concert A=440, would be the B flat below middle C […]

Transcription of "Barack Obama", "Hillary Clinton", and "Donald Trump" in the Sinosphere

How do you write Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump's names in Chinese? As it turns out, the answer may vary depending on whether the person you ask is from mainland China (ZH-CN), Hong Kong (ZH-HK), Macau (ZH-MO), Malaysia/Singapore (ZH-SG), or Taiwan (ZH-TW). According to Wikipedia, the following are the preferred (or most widely […]

How Linguists Would Talk to E.T.

Greg Uyeno has a CBS News story on the unusual (for mainstream media) topic of communication with aliens, which is of interest to someone like me who grew up immersed in sf and interested in language. The hook is the forthcoming sf movie Arrival (which I am eager to see), based on an excellent story […]


Alex Kantrowitz, "Racist Social Media users Have A New Code To Avoid Censorship", BuzzFeed 10/1/2016: Racist online communities have developed a new code for racial, homophobic and bigoted slurs in an attempt avoid censorship. The code, using terms like Google, Skittle, and Yahoo as substitutes for offensive words describing blacks, Muslims and Mexicans, appears to […]


Good morning. Your Republican nominee has been up all night rage-tweeting. — pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) September 30, 2016 I'll leave the psychology and politics of rage-tweeting to others — my concern is its morphology. Show More Summary

Announcing Untranslatable October VI

On Twitter, I usually post a 'Difference of the Day' between British and American English every weekday. But for the past five Octobers, I've done the Untranslatable of the Day. The moment I start tweeting about 'untranslatables' I expect to receive tweets and emails complaining about the concept, particularly that 'nothing is untranslatable'. Show More Summary

Scrabble yn Gymraeg.

Ingi Birchell Hughes lives in a Welsh village and is learning Welsh, and she didn’t like a piece in the Grauniad: Last week the Guardian published an odd mean little article about how 5 boxes of Scrabble yn Gymraeg had been lingering unsold on a dusty shelf in Waterstones in Carmarthen. It was a master […]

Please prevail in kind

Anne Henochowicz found this on the menu at Panda Gourmet, an incredible dìdào ?? ("typical; authentic") Shaanxi restaurant in a Days Inn on the outskirts of DC: The translations of the entries on the menu (S15-S18) are not terrible (you can roughly figure out from the English what you'd be getting).  What's striking about the […]

First Amendment in peril in Princeton?

Yesterday, Roger Lustig sent in a snapshot of the front page of the Princeton Packet, with the observation that Maybe free speech, even the political kind, is in greater danger than we thought! The online version of the headline is much longer, and not ambiguous in the same way: Philip Sean Curran, "PRINCETON: Police chief […]

Pick a word, any word

To access an article in the Financial Times yesterday I found myself confronted with a short market-research survey about laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Answer three our four layers of click-the-box questions, and I could get free access to the article I wanted to look at. A reasonable bargain: clearly some company was prepared to pay […]

A singular need for their

Tim Leonard points out that today's Questionable Content has a piece of dialogue in which their (in "their ship"), though referring to a male individual, could not felicitously be exchanged for his: The whole strip, reproduced here in case of long-term bit rot:

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