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Why Do People Keep Talking and Joking About Humans?

If you have a favorite human, the latest in GIF technology now allows you to let him or her know it in no uncertain terms. The “YOU ARE MY FAVORITE HUMAN” GIF delivers an all-caps message that shimmers over a disembodied alien head in stars. Show More Summary

Get Ready to Travel and Master the Basics of a Language in Just 7 Days

True story: on a trip to France I walked into a coifferie believing that it would be a coffee shop A coifferie is not a coffee shop. It’s a hair salon. Boy did I feel silly. And a little guilty about my lack of French skills. Have you...Show More Summary

"Ni hao" for foreigners

A video titled "The Chinese tourists accused of bad behaviour in Thailand | Channel 4 News" was posted to YouTube on 2/22/15, but it has been recirculated in this article by Didi Kirsten Tatlow about Chinese travel abroad during the recent National Day holiday:  "With Its Tourists Behaving Badly, China Embarks on Some Soul-Searching" (NYT, […]

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 […]

"No telling is neither complete nor accurate"

Emily Yahr, "Read George W. Bush’s speech at the African American Museum, 13 years after signing the bill to build it", Washington Post 9/24/2016: Your browser does not support the audio element. Our country is better and more vibrant because of their contributions and the contributions of millions of African Americans. No telling of American […]

When Uptalk Went Viral

This is a guest post by Cynthia McLemore, following up on Ben Zimmer's post on "'Uptalk' in the OED", 9/12/2016. Twenty three years after James Gorman coined a word for “those rises” in the New York Times and unleashed a viral phenomenon associated with my name, and on the occasion of the OED's latest entries, […]

Hokkien in Singapore

[This is the second in a series of four planned posts on Hokkien and related Southern Min / Minnan language issues.  The first was this:  "Eurasian eureka" (9/12/16).] Ryan of Singapore writes: Just a few days ago, Singapore's Ministry of communications and information released a set of TV programs, aimed at seniors. It is halfway […]

Alien encounters

The blurb for the movie Arrival, due to open in November: When mysterious spacecrafts touch down across the globe, an elite team, lead by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams), is brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers – and […]

Is “bumblebee” a buzz word?

Q: I am working on a discussion of bumblebees, and looking for the origin of the “bumble” portion of the word. What I haven’t been able to figure out is if “bumble” refers to the buzzing/humming noise or the clumsy flying. Any thoughts? A: The “bumble” that means to buzz or hum (the one we... ? Read More: Is “bumblebee” a buzz word?

Horribles and deplorables

Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables" is destined to become one of the lasting catchphrases of the campaign season. Clinton's use of the phrase (which she says she now regrets) appeared in a speech delivered at a fundraiser on Friday night: You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what […]

How tolerant is tolerance?

Q: The word “tolerance” seems to suggest something at least one step short of acceptance. To me, it carries the connotation of a superior agreeing not to actively work against someone clearly not regarded as an equal. Has the meaning changed or am I simply a curmudgeonly stickler or could both be true? A: Most... ? Read More: How tolerant is tolerance?

Die Relinge.

My (excellent) local NPR radio station, during their afternoon classical program, announced Telemann’s Violin Concerto in A major, nicknamed “The Frogs”… or “Die Relinge” in the original. Huh? thought I: isn’t the German for ‘frog’ Frosch? So it is, but the Grimm dictionary has an entry describing it as a kind of toad: reling, m. […]

Total Sausage Party: How 20th-Century Meat-Lovers' Dinners Became Bro-Fests

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. As far as strong language goes, sausage party is hardly spicy. It’s a mild slang term for a social gathering in which men greatly outnumber women, usually expressed with a sense of bro-ish disappointment by its male members, er sausages. Show More Summary

And now the cyber is so big

From Donald Trump's 9/6/2016 Town Hall in Virginia Beach VA: Your browser does not support the audio element. Michael Flynn: and- and to stay- to stay on ISIS a little bit because this is a really- I think this is an important topic and it's certainly at the- it's- it's one of the national security […]

Meaning good

Corey Williams, "Donald Trump to visit Detroit Saturday", AP: For Trump, courting black voters is a challenge. Most polls show his support among black voters is in the low single digits. Many blacks view some of his campaign rhetoric as insulting, and racist. "Donald Trump does not mean any black people any good," said Crystal […]

AN News: “The Gap That Won’t Be Filled: An anthropolitical critique of the ‘Language Gap'” by Avineri et. al.

Anthropology News Article Netta Avineri (Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey), Susan D. Blum (U of Notre Dame), Eric Johnson (Washington State U Tri-Cities), Kathleen C. Riley (Rutgers U), and Ana Celia Zentella (UC San Diego) Is language responsible for poverty? If poor and minority parents spoke like rich white parents, would they too […]

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", 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, […]


I can’t believe NativLang has been around since 1998 and this is the first I’ve heard of it, but so it goes. Thanks to Bruce for alerting me, and I will lazily quote his MetaFilter post on it for the links and descriptions: NativLang, brainchild of linguist Joshua Rudder, has a series of videos dealing […]

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 […]

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