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Should we call the Gallipoli campaign an ‘invasion’?

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them. Lest we forget. The Ode of Remembrance awakens a sense of nationalistic pride within the hearts of many Australians [...]

Political pitch ranges

I don't have time for much this morning, but here's a plot of the f0 quantiles of the first minute or so of each of six speeches from the 2015 NRA-ILA Leadership Forum: Here's the same thing on a semitone (i.e. log) scale:   Do these large differences reflect differences in intrinsic vocal range, or […]

Stalin’s Jaffna Kolaveri.

The admirable fisheyed not only revived this old thread (and remember, every time an old thread is revived, an angel gets his wings) but linked to a video and an explication thereof by Fotheringay-Phipps at Ground Views that are so interesting I thought I’d give them their own post. From the latter: The day before […]

I've forgotten more Czech than Barbara Partee has learned

One of the most memorable trips of my life took place in 1994 and involved traveling as a graduate student to Prague in the company of some of the most formidable linguists of North America and Europe. It was my first return to the country of my birth since I’d left Czechoslovakia as a small […]

Breath Clay

From a page at Chambers Wines about the VinItaly exhibition in Verona: Caption: "Some translations are more successful than others". But what, asks Francois Lang, is "Breath Clay" a (bad?) translation of? We can find a clue in this YouTube video entitled "Breath Clay", The description starts like this: Il respiro dell'argilla genera un territorio unico dove l'uomo con […]

Why Chinese is Easy: The Smart Way to Learn Chinese Tones

Tones. A huge issue people have when learning Chinese is the fact that it’s a tonal language. Let’s start with the bad news. If you don’t get tones down well, it will be really hard for native Mandarin speakers to understand you. Now for the good news. Show More Summary

Punk Rock Name Quiz

Punk rock names are an established tradition. Why should an aspiring musician have to put up with an ordinary, workaday name when he or she could be Johnny Rotten, Jello Biafra, Siouxsie Sioux, or Captain Sensible? No reason at all,...

This I Believe #34

...that in David Bowie's song "Dance Magic Dance" from the film Labyrinth, the part of the chorus that goes: Dance magic, dance... Jump magic, jump...should instead go: Pants, magic pants... Junk, magic junk Note the commas. If...


Lane Greene of The Economist has a “Johnson” column in which he discusses the “three rather strange names … ‘Maundy’ Thursday, ‘Good’ Friday and ‘Easter’”; the last two are pretty straightforward (good used to mean ‘holy, godly’ and Easter is after a dawn goddess Eostre), but the first is more confusing. Greene doesn’t care for […]

Circumcellion II.

Back in 2007 I posted a tendentious and hilarious description of a North African group called the Circumcellions, which began: The Circumcellions were a Christian suicide cult of the fourth and fifth centuries. Their religious practice consisted of delivering random beatings to strangers along the road, with the purpose of goading the strangers into killing […]

Lecture tomorrow at the Simons Foundation

Tomorrow afternoon, I'll be giving a talk at the Simons Foundation (160 5th Avenue, New York NY) with the title "Reproducible Research and the Common Task Method". Despite the April 1 date, the topic is a serious one. For some background on why the concept of "Reproducible Research" is currently a hot topic, see Paul Voosen, […]

More on "duang"

A couple of weeks ago, we had an extensive discussion of Jackie Chan's famous expostulation about the wondrous effect of his shampoo that went viral on the Chinese internet. Isora?atheð Zorethan has some interesting things to add: Recently I have read your blog post on the word "du?ng", and it prompted me to do a […]

Smoothies, schmoudees, smuuhsies, whatever

On Facebook, Bert Vaux posted about a fascinating bit of Danish loanword phonology. While watching the Danish show Borgen last night I noticed that Kasper, when talking about ordering a smoothie, first said [smu:di] and then later said [smu:ði]. The first form in particular but also the variation pleased me, so I asked Anna Jespersen […]

Why French Is Easy: How to Understand Spoken French

Learning French can be easy, fun, and fast. Though it took me a while to discover that. French was the third language I tried to learn, after Spanish and Italian. You would think that by the time I got to French, things would have been easy and I’d breeze through the language in no time. Show More Summary

Smartisan T1

Video for a new Chinese electronic watch, submitted by Stephen Hart: From "Apple Watch takes top design industry honors ahead of launch" (3/3/15). I had to watch the video several times before I could figure out whether the English was translated from the Chinese or the Chinese from the English, because what is said in […]

Essential Lessons from 2 Weeks of Fast, Intense Russian Learning

Two weeks into Lauren’s Russian in 3 Months mission, it’s time for her first update. She is on a mission to reach a conversational level of Russian by teaching herself, without any formal classes. In this article she’ll share the exact...Show More Summary

Translation as language preservation: Why a Kazakh journalist is translating TED Talks

By Krystian Aparta When Kazakh journalist Asqat Yerkimbay learned about TED’s Open Translation Project, he realized it could be instrumental in reviving his native tongue. Under Soviet rule, communicating in Kazakh became viewed as a sign of ignorance, and although it regained its standing as the national language after Kazakhstan declared independence in 1991, Russian [ … ]

Is math the language of the universe? A bilingual TED-Ed Club explores

In New York City, it’s common to hear ten different languages just on your walk to work in the morning. For the students at Lycée Français de New York, that kind of multicultural exposure doesn’t stop at the schoolhouse doors. With a combination French-English curriculum, this PreK-12 school educates students who represent more than 50 nationalities. And when [ … ]

Uncle spinny dervish

A fairly recent example of an intentionally nonsensical coinage from a cartoon gaining real currency is cromulent, supposedly meaning ‘acceptable phrasing or usage of a word’, from a 1996 episode of The Simpsons. This word is now readily bandied about by the expert community at places like LanguageLog. Show More Summary

A Year Without Speaking English

I’m extremely proud to share this guest post by my friend Scott Young, who challenged himself to spend a year learning four new languages through total immersion along with his friend Vat. Their rule for the year: no English. Scott and...Show More Summary

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