Blog Profile / Slate: Lexicon Valley

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:645
Posts / Week:1.7
Archived Since:June 9, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Sunshine, Baseball, and Etch A Sketch: How Politicians Use Analogies 

In the summer of 1940, with England in retreat from mainland Europe and Belgium and France falling under the Nazi shadow, Winston Churchill addressed the British people. "Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war," he said. Show More Summary

The QWERTY Keyboard Is Everywhere. What's Next? 

Apple has just released an update for iOS 8, the operating system that runs on iPhones and iPads, and they're supporting 3rd party keyboards for the first time in iOS history. Perhaps that's partly why I'm a little bit keyboard-obsessed...Show More Summary

THIS. What's So Exciting About a Pronoun?

Earlier this year, bloggers at Gawker left behind internet slang for a formal style more in line with the New York Times than gossip blogs. As Gawker attempts to redefine itself as a publishing authority, its new editorial guidelines...Show More Summary

Free "Tudoring" and a Moist Owlet: The 5 Different T Sounds in English

To the untrained ear, the letter t would seem pretty straightforward. Except for the embarrassment of pronouncing an occasional silent one—when, say, you chanced to read buffet or croquet before hearing them aloud—you probably haven't thought much about t since the days of Sesame Street. Show More Summary

What Can Linguistics Tell Us About Writing Better? An Interview with Steven Pinker.

I talked recently with Steven Pinker, author of The Language Instinct and other books about language and the mind, about his new book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. This seems like quite a different topic from your previous books. Show More Summary

The World's Dirtiest Wine Names  

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. Wine brands, especially in the upstart, insecure New World, used to strain to sound serious and Frenchy-fancy. You had your Domains, your Clos, your Chateaus (“Pure Sonoma”!). Show More Summary

What's Wrong With "America's Ugliest Accent"

Gawker is running a competition, tournament style, to see which accent will be crowned "America's Ugliest." In the running are 16 cities in the US, and readers get to vote. As a linguist, I'm not so thrilled about it. I'll get to the...Show More Summary

Can "Y'all" Mean Just One Person?

"Y'all" is the most identifiable feature of the dialect known as Southern American English. It simply and elegantly fills out the pronoun paradigm gap that occurs in dialects that have only "you" for both singular and plural. Even people...Show More Summary

Are "Definitely" and "Totally" the New "Literally"?

The oft-maligned hyperbolic extension of literally is nothing new—it's been around since the 1700s—but do other adverbs behave in the same way? Recent uses of definitely and totally suggest that the linguistic development of literally is not an isolated incident, but a trend. Show More Summary

Should You Talk to Your Child in a Different Language?

New parents face a lot of pressures. Until I became a parent myself, I didn’t realize the sea of conflicting advice that besieges parents on everything from feeding strategies to whether you need a baby Jacuzzi. One of the more important decisions is what language bilingual parents will speak to their child. Show More Summary

They Helped the Pilgrims—and Regretted It. How the Wampanoag Brought Their Language Back.

We Still Live Here - Âs Nutayuneân is an inspiring documentary about the revival of the Wampanoag language in Southeastern Massachusetts. To quote the film description: "Their ancestors ensured the survival of the Pilgrims—and lived to regret it. Show More Summary

Which English You Speak Has Nothing to Do With How Smart You Are

How can linguists and educators work together to help maintain the linguistic voices of the next Zora Neale Hurston or Albert Einstein while at the same time support students on the Common Core, SATs, GREs, and LSATs? In classrooms across the U.S., there are kids who speak a wide variety of types of English. Show More Summary

A Course on Understanding People in Ipswich: Is the Course in Ipswich, or the People?

ARTHUR: Actually, I think he might. MARTIN: No, Arthur, he won’t. ARTHUR: Hmm. The thing is, though, Skip, with all due respect, but what I’ve got that you haven’t is that Mum sent me on a course on understanding people in Ipswich. MARTIN (slowly): And if I ever want the people of Ipswich understood, you’ll be the first person I call. Show More Summary

“Y” So Creative? A Very Adjective-y Letter

This all went down in the past month: Facebook comment: "As I know from my rednecky upstate second hometown.... " Email from a friend: "This morning I was thinking that my hairdresser is getting so Jesus-y with me." Headline from the...Show More Summary

Back-to-the-Future Tense: How Does Time Travel Affect Grammar?

A recent episode of The Big Bang Theory shows Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard watching Back to the Future, Part II and discussing the appropriate tense to use when talking about something that happened in an alternate past timeline. Show More Summary

Single Quotes or Double Quotes? It’s Really Quite Simple.

If you are an American, using quotation marks could hardly be simpler: Use double quotation marks at all times unless quoting something within a quotation, when you use single. It's different in the greater Anglosphere, where they generally use singles in books and doubles in newspapers. Show More Summary

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

There are two famous riddles about chickens. One investigates the reasoning behind the chicken’s desire to cross the road (“to get to the other side”) while the other poses the ontological quandary: “Which came first, the chicken...Show More Summary

4 Features From Other Languages That We Wish English Had

If you were redesigning English, and you could make it do anything that any other language in the world does, what would you change? In the video below, YouTuber Tom Scott talks about four fantastic features in other languages that he...Show More Summary

What Exactly Is “Cerise”? The Complicated History of Color Definitions.

When you spend all your time in a book, you think you know it. All the editors at Merriam-Webster know Webster's Third Edition, but now that we're undertaking a revision of the beast, we're ears-deep in it, drowning in stuffy single-statement definitions. Show More Summary

What Do You Call the Night Before Halloween?

If you're like the majority of Americans, you don't have a special term for the night before Halloween, and it may not even have occurred to you that anyone does. But for a substantial minority of people, about 25 percent of respondents to the Cambridge Online Survey of World Englishes, the night before Halloween most certainly does have a name. Show More Summary

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