Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:3084
Posts / Week:8
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

NYC rhoticity

"Can you spot wealthy New Yorkers by their ‘R” sounds?", Improbable Blog 6/19/2015: Is it possible to gauge how wealthy a New Yorker might be just by the way they pronounce their /r/ s? A new paper in the Journal of English Linguistics investigates whether variations of rhoticity [viz. the prevalence, or lack of, the […]

Punctuating Happiness

Today at the National Archives: "Punctuating Happiness": In advance of its traditional Fourth of July celebration, the National Archives, in partnership with the Institute for Advanced Study, will host a free conference on the Declaration...Show More Summary

Disastrous ambiguity

Talking of the possibly impending Grexit, what an unfortunate sentence The Economist chose to conclude its leader article on the ongoing Greek monetary crisis: This marriage is not worth saving at any price. A quirk of English syntax and semantics makes this radically ambiguous. First, it can be paraphrased by "Not at any price would […]

Multilingualism: personal and national

I just returned from an excellent conference on multilingualism in China that was held at Göttingen, Germany: Language Diversity in the Sinophone World: Policies, effects, and tradition International Symposium Göttingen University 11 – 13 June 2015 So the idea of there being more than one language in a country, or of a single person freely […]


Today is another stage in the Grexit crisis — the Greek banking system may collapse, creating a Graccident that pushes the situation over the Gredge without any party having actually made a decision. Then again, the relevant ministries and committees may find a way to kick the can down the road again, thereby keeping the crisis in Grimbo for a […]

Take off that broccoli!

From Stephen Dodson: It took me a minute to parse this headline correctly:  Bill Pennington, "‘Like Putting on Broccoli,’ or Cauliflower, and Results Are Bumpy", NYT 6/20/2015.  

Lift Trappings: a locally-emergent collocation?

One of the benefits of travel is exposure to new ways of expressing things. Sometimes it's different metaphors — the French connect parallel-parking slots and appointment times with battlements, for example — but often it's just apparently-arbitrary differences in word choices. On Thursday and Friday I was in London, and was therefore reminded of familiar […]

Sort of rubblish

Back in 2009, somebody (unfortunately I forget who it was) sent me this photograph of a sign in Beijing: Apparently these signs were posted all over Beijing during the Olympics as part of an effort to spruce up the city. The line at the top reads: c?nyù lèsè f?nlèi ?????? ("participate in the sorting of […]

Polysyllabic characters revisited

In "'Double Happiness': symbol of Confucianism as a religion"  (6/8/15), we had a vigorous discussion over how to pronounce this character:  ? ("double happiness").  Some participants and sources said that it should be pronounced the same as ? ("happy; joyful"), i.e., x?, while others held that it is pronounced with two syllables as shu?ngx?. There […]

Vigilance — Cleanliness

The trash receptacles on Paris streets consist of suspended transparent plastic bags, printed with two words in large black letters: VIGILANCE (= "vigilance") on top, and PROPRÉTÉ (= "cleanliness") underneath. The bags used to be green, but are now clear — and the container of curved metal spokes is new — but the VIGILANCE / CLEANLINESS message has […]

Nazi Goring

Menu from a restaurant on Wudaoying Hutong ????? near Yonghe Gong ??? (Lama Temple) that left James Bradbury completely baffled last summer: Although several of the items visible on the menu are quirky or quaint, none can match this one: Yìndùníx?yà ch?ofàn ??????? ("Indonesian fried rice") In Indonesian and Malay, nasi goreng simply means "fried […]


From today's For Better or For Worse, a seasonal eggcorn:

Reality v. Brooks

David Zweig, "The facts vs. David Brooks: Startling inaccuracies raise questions about his latest book", Salon 6/15/2015 ("Factual discrepancies in the NYT columnist's new book raise some alarming questions about his research & methods"): For at least the past four years David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, TV pundit, bestselling author and lecture-circuit thought […]

Ask Language Log: -ange < ?

From Bob Ladd: I just drove through the general area of Luxembourg/Lorraine – one of the places where French and Germanic have been in close contact since the Middle Ages – and could couldn't help noticing dozens of place names ending in -ange (Dudelange, Hettange, Differdange, Hayange, Hagondange, Aubange, Redange, Useldange, and many more) all […]

He's (very) good / well / fine in Mandarin and Cantonese

When I first started learning Mandarin in 1967, one of the things that troubled me most about Chinese grammar was the fact that when I wanted to say "He's fine / good / well", I couldn't just say t? h?o ?? ("he [is] good"), I had to say t? h?n h?o ??? ("he [is] very […]

Patriotes, faites plus quoi?

In the neighborhood where I'm staying in Paris, one of the most common graffiti is a blue croix de Lorraine, sometimes with associated text. The cross is of course a religious and nationalistic symbol, and the text is generally interpretable as anti-immigrant. (Click on the image to see a larger version, with more context.) And […]

Ornette Coleman R.I.P.

Ornette Coleman died this morning at the age of 85. Here's the start of his composition Peace, from the 1959 album The Shape of Jazz to Come: The other musicians are Don Cherry (cornet), Charlie Haden (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums). In 1959, one of the local delinquents that I hung out with was a […]

On American r-lessness

James Fallows has been superintending an interesting discussion at the Atlantic about how strange early twentieth century American announcers sound to us today (There are four articles in the series so far, listed with links here). The comments on his articles suggest that we need make certain distinctions. There seem to be two things that […]

James Fallows' Announcer-Speak series

At the Atlantic: "Language Mystery Redux: Who Was the Last American to Speak This Way?", 6/6/2015 "That Weirdo Announcer-Voice Accent: Where It Came From and Why It Went Away", 6/7/2015 "The Rise and Fall of Announcer-Speak, Class War Edition", 6/9/2015 "American Announcer-Speak: The Origin Story", 6/9/2015

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