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Happy 100th, John Berryman!

Sam Leith at the Guardian (this seems to be Guardian day at LH) has a wonderful appreciation of John Berryman, one of my favorite American poets, who would have turned 100 yesterday; as I told my brother, who sent me the link (thanks, Eric!), I have two copies of The Dream Songs (one of which […]

"Cantonese" song

This hauntingly beautiful song is the unofficial anthem of the Hong Kong democracy protest movement: The title of the song is "Boundless Oceans Vast Skies" (hoi2 fut3 tin1 hung1 ????) (" as boundless as the sea and sky; unrestrained and far-ranging"). It is performed by the Hong Kong rock band Beyond. This video brings tears […]

Kolmogorov.

I’m racing through Blindsight, by Peter Watts (grim and gripping, and recommended to sf fans… but the plural of plexus is plexuses, not “plexii,” for God’s sake — I just had to get that off my chest), and when “Kolmogorov complexity” was mentioned I thought “Surely that should be Kholmogorov?” Because ???? [kholm] is the […]

The D.C. Manual of Style and Usage.

As a copyeditor by profession, I love style manuals, especially when they’re not too hidebound and show their own sense of style. Submitted for your consideration, the D.C. Manual of Style and Usage of Washington City Paper; some of my favorite entries: D.C. Respect the periods! However, many organizations and campaigns don’t use the periods. […]

Farewell to Troubadour.

Seven years ago I sang the praises of Troubadour Books in North Hatfield (across the river from here); in 2010 I added an update saying that the store was moving to Hadley, where it would share a building with Grey Matter Books. (You can see the new bookstore in a 2011 video here: “Two Guys […]

Overtone singing

Anna-Maria Hefele: The fundamental frequency is about 273 Hz (which is a bit flatter than C#4), and as the spectrogram below shows, the "scale" that she sings picks out the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th harmonics (confusingly, these are the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th overtones, since the fundamental frequency […]

How do you get spoken practice in a less common language, when you can’t find native speakers?

On Monday (13th October 2014), I hop on a flight to Thailand – after which I’ll be hanging out in Asia for several months. Those of you subscribed to the email list will find out precisely where we go next, and what we’re doing, before anyone else But as you know, I’ve been very busy […]

Forget “learning a language.” Focus on forming the habit.

Meet Maneesh Sethi. Maneesh is a friend, an inventor, and a fellow language learner (he has been a DJ in Berlin, and spoken on stage in Italian, among other things) with a very particular passion… For years, he has been obsessed with solving the problem of maintaining motivation that we all face in trying to […]

Will learning new languages help you pick up girls?

Last summer, a huge publication asked if I would write an article for them about How learning languages will help you chat up girls. … As nice as it would have been to be in that big magazine, I said no thanks. Then, since it was just before the World Cup, they made me a […]

The Unglamorous Side of Being a World Traveler

“I wish I could travel all the time – it seems like a dream come true!” I read something along these lines on Quora the other day, and all I could think while reading it is that while travel is one of the most worthwhile things I’ve done in my life, travelling ALL THE TIME is […]

Baby blues

Post by SAFM. My impression is that this kid has grasped the pattern of how vocals typically fit into the 12-bar blues form — when I have a spare hour, I'll compare his distribution of vocal syllables to those of some masters of the genre.

Oh my melon!

Bryan Van Norden is a Visiting Professor at Wuhan University this semester, and he ran across an interesting bit of language play. Below is a still (taken with his cell phone) of a television commercial currently running in the PRC. It is for a watermelon juice drink. As you can see, the tag line is […]

Zombie hypotheses and the Zeitgeist

Everything I've been saying for the past 3 posts is basic textbook stuff, reflecting a stable consensus among Semitic historical linguists over, oh, the past two centuries or so. Why, then, is this zombie hypothesis that Levantine Arabic...Show More Summary

Applenese

I remember Apple's Mother's Day advertising campaign for the iPad Air and iPad mini last spring:  "A gift Mom will love opening. Again and again." I only found out yesterday, in this article, that the Mainland Chinese translation of this tagline is the following: Ràng m?m? k?ix?n de l?wù, k?ile yòu k?i. ????????,????. The grammar […]

What you missed: The best language news/links over the summer

How’s your summer been? I have been (and still am) travelling almost every single day to encourage language learners one-on-one, but I know a lot of you have had your own language projects to keep you busy! Since you may not have been browsing the Internet as often with so much sunshine to soak up, […]

Sanskrit resurgent

When I was studying Buddhism at the University of Washington (Seattle) in 1967-68, there were about ten students in my first-year Sanskrit course for Buddhologists and Indologists.  What intrigued me greatly was that there was another beginning Sanskrit course being offered at the same time.  It had many more students than the class I was […]

"Spastic" and a different kind of "word crime"

Weird Al Yankovic's new song "Word Crimes" has generated a lot of heated discussion among linguists and other descriptivist types who didn't take kindly to its litany of language peeves — satire or no satire. (See my original post and Lauren Squires' guest post for extended discussion.) But in detailing various "word crimes," Weird Al […]

Surf’s up in Rivendell

So you know that whole thing about how the elves in The Lord of the Rings are all, so, we’re getting in our fancy boats and sailing off into the sunset on our exclusive party cruise? Well, they said that’s what they were doing, but I think “west” must be code for “settling down in […]

How to Start Learning a New Language (Right Now. Today. Seriously).

Let me ask you a question: If you really wanted to learn a new language, what would you be doing right now to make that happen? The thing with language learning, and really with any goal or desire we have in life, is that we spend a lot of time thinking about what we want and talking about […]

Word Crimes

For his new album Mandatory Fun, Weird Al Yankovic has crafted the ultimate peever's anthem: "Word Crimes," to the tune of last summer's big hit, "Blurred Lines." It's a cleverly composed parody, despite the inevitable "cunning linguist" joke: I hate these word crimes You really need a Full-time proofreader You dumb mouthbreather Well, you should […]

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