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How '80's Is the Slang in Stranger Things?

In Netflix’s hit sci-fi drama Stranger Things, a group of kids adventure to rescue their friend from the Upside Down, a parallel dimension inhabited by a gnarly monster. But fans are just as thrilled by its other parallel dimension: 1983. Show More Summary

The Female Brain movie

Silas Lesnick, "An ensemble cast has come together for Whitney Cummings’ The Female Brain movie", comingsoon.net 8/17/2016: Black Bicycle Entertainment has today announced the ensemble cast for their upcoming The Female Brain movie, which marks the directorial debut of Whitney Cummings. Cummings herself will also star in the film, which she co-wrote alongside Neal Brennan, […]

The narrow end of the funnel

The big political story of the past 24 hours: Stephen K. Bannon, formerly the Executive Chairman of Breitbart News, has taken over as "chief executive" of Donald Trump's presidential campaign. The big linguistic story of the past 24 hours, at least here at Language Log: an exchange between Mark Liberman and Geoff Pullum about the rhetorical […]

The rhetorical style of spontaneous speech

I want to follow up on my post about Daniel Libit's presentation of reporters' and transcriptionists' complaints about Donald Trump's speaking style ("The em-dash candidate", 8/15/2016). Libit uses words like "unintelligible", "jumble", "inarticulate", and he is far from the first person to offer a characterization along these lines. A year ago, Geoff Pullum used words […]

"Language is messy," says our new linguistic hero

In the new trailer for the science-fiction movie "Arrival," Amy Adams stars as Dr. Louise Banks, some sort of mastermind in xenolinguistics. "You're at the top of everyone's list when it comes to translations," says Colonel Weber (Forrest Whitaker), before whisking her off to meet the newly arrived aliens she's tasked with interpreting. She seems […]

The em-dash candidate

Daniel Libit, "Transcribers' agony: Frustrated not by what Trump says but how he says it", CNBC 8/15/2016: Few conventions in political campaign coverage are as straightforward and unassailable as quoting a public figure verbatim. After all, how can there be any doubt when you are putting down the exact words someone says? And yet, as […]

Vaina == jawn?

Philly has jawn — see Ben Zimmer on "The Etymology of Jawn", or listen to this story from WHYY: According to Philly native Mary Seaborough, who works at Cook-Wissahickon elementary, where my kids attend school, "It really can mean anything you want it to mean."  Seaborough grew up in South Philly. She uses "jawn," and […]

Hebrew for Beginners: 10 Reasons Hebrew is Easy

“Oh my god! Come here, look at this! Hurry, you have to take a picture of it!” My mom yelled at me to catch up. She pointed up at the Tel Aviv street sign. Lucky for her, street signs in Israel have three languages on them: English, Hebrew and Arabic. Show More Summary

Trump's prosody

Yesterday I showed a pitch contour from one of Hillary Clinton's speeches ("Political /t/ lenition", 8/7/2016), and promised to take a broader look at her characteristic prosodic styles. But today I'm going to feature one of Donald's prosodic stylings. From the Trump/Pence rally in Des Moines, Iowa, 8/5/2016: We're gonna use great business leaders ___to work […]

Speech errors

There are rumors that Donald Trump's campaign staff is feeling stressed — longtime ally of Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign manager: "Manafort not challenging Trump anymore. Mailing it in. Staff suicidal." — John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) August 3, 2016 Maybe it's just lack of sleep, but Mr. Manafort's Meet The Press interview last Sunday does seem remarkably […]

Can Mel Gibson Pull Off a Portrayal of OED Editor James Murray?

The news came as something of a shock to the dictionary world: As announced in the Hollywood Reporter, Mel Gibson is set to star as James Augustus Henry Murray, the first principal editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, in an adaptation...Show More Summary

Animal training

Rachel Premack, "Watch: This orangutan is uprooting what we previously knew about language", Washington Post 7/28/2016: At first glance, this video of an orangutan imitating a trainer’s grunts may not seem incredibly significant. But...Show More Summary

Praeteritio

One of Donald Trump's characteristic rhetorical devices is praeteritio ("passing over"), where the speaker says something by saying they're not going to say it. An especially nice specimen came up in a rally in Iowa on Thursday: Your browser does not support the audio element. So should I hit these people? No I won't. But […]

Clinton's New Trash-talk Line Is the Perfect Weapon Against Trump

All summer long, commentators have been describing Donald Trump’s campaign as a dumpster fire, but there’s a new garbage-related metaphor igniting on the trail: trash-talk. In his debut speech at a Miami rally over the weekend, Clinton’s...Show More Summary

What Should We Call Bill Clinton If Hillary Is Elected?

What should we call Bill Clinton if Hillary is elected? First gentleman First gent First husband First dude First mate First consort First laddie Adam First Bubba First lord (FLOTUS) First man to be married to a president of the USA Adjacent...Show More Summary

Why “Change-Maker” Is Such an Effective Slogan for Hillary Clinton

In an ambling love letter of a convention speech on Tuesday, Bill Clinton summoned all of his ramshackle charm and warmth to build a case for his wife Hillary, who is running for president. The Southern raconteur poured on the folksiness. Show More Summary

The Egalitarian Appreciation of Strine in Microcosm

[This is a guest post by Matthew Robertson] The 'Today' Interview With Oporto Robbery Heroes In the United States, regional accents often carry with them negative stereotypes about class, status, intelligence, and more, making Southern versus Northern accents markers of division. In Australia, it's largely the opposite. Regional vernacular and a broad accent (known as […]

G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time)

Q: I can’t find to whom the appellation “G.O.A.T.” (Greatest Of All Time) was first applied: Michael Jordon, Muhammad Ali, etc. I’d like to learn it was Vin Scully, whose retirement this year after his last broadcast, in late September, will be a BIG deal. Can you figure it out? A: The word “goat” has... ? Read More: G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time)

10 Simple Games and Exercises to Practise Your Vietnamese Skills

In the summer of 2015, a Vietnamese production company asked me if I would be the main character on a new TV show. My own TV show? This was a dream come true! The show’s name is “Funny English Class”, or “L?p Ti?ng Anh Vui V?". It’s show aimed at children ages 4-8. Show More Summary

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