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Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:4714
Posts / Week:13.2
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Curses! Introducing a new blog, "Strong Language"

There's a new linguablog that's definitely worth your time if you're not put off by vulgarities. And if you revel in vulgarities, well, you're in luck. It's called Strong Language, and it's the creation of James Harbeck and Stan Carey. James and Stan have enlisted a great lineup of contributors (I'm happy to be one […]

Unwearied effort however beefsteak

I spotted this colossal translation fail at the top of the Chinalawtranslate home page. Colossal though it may be, the same mistranslation also appears here, amidst an amazing collection of names of dishes seen on actual menus in China. The same mistranslation is also found here and is in the second item here as well. The […]

Fake word history of the month

Jason Torchinsky, "A very common word was invented by Dodge", Jalopnik 12/15/2014: Dodge is known for producing many things, most notably cars, minivans, and sometimes large, lingering clouds of tire smoke. Oh, and the K-Car. But one thing I didn't realize was that they're also in the word business, coining an extremely common word way back […]

The Price of Wisdom

Here's (some of) Google Street View for 7 Coulter Avenue in Ardmore PA: Why am I showing this to you? Read on… In Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice, which I've recently been re-reading for purely phonetic reasons, there's a passage where Larry ("Doc") Sportello takes Penny Kimball out to dinner. Penny is an Deputy D.A. who […]

The global language network

Michael Erard has a nice discussion in Science magazine of a paper recently published in PNAS: "Want to influence the world? Map reveals the best languages to speak", 12/15/2014. The original paper is Shahar Ronen et al., "Links that speak: the global language network and its association with global fame", PNAS 2014. And there's a […]

"X percent of Y are Z"

It's amazing how troublesome simple percentage-talk can be. Donald McNeil Jr., "Fewer Ebola Cases Go Unreported Than Thought, Study Finds", NYT 12/16/2014 By looking at virus samples gathered in Sierra Leone and contract-tracing data from Liberia, the scientists working on the new study estimated that about 70 percent of cases in West Africa go unreported. […]

Mother Tongue: lost and found

The idea of a "Mother Tongue" has long preoccupied me, and I once wrote a lengthy paper about the relationship between Taiwanese and Mandarin entitled "How to Forget Your Mother Tongue and Remember Your National Language". The topic has now come back to me from a different angle, one that I might title "How to […]

Editing error or recursive construction, Take 2

Lant Pritchett & Lawrence H. Summers, "Growth slowdowns: Middle-income trap vs. regression to the mean", Vox 12/11/2014: No question is more important for the living standards of billions of people or for the evolution of the global system than the question of how rapidly differently economies will grow over the next generation. Is this a […]

"No Turkish leader has had as much influence as Ataturk as Erdogan"

Ishaan Tharoor, "Why Turkey’s president wants to revive the language of the Ottoman Empire", WaPo 12/12/2014: In 1928, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of the modern Turkish republic, enacted one of the more dramatic and radical reforms of the 20th century. Show More Summary

UM / UH update

Nine years ago, I stumbled on an unexpected fact about the filled pauses UM and UH ("Young men talk like old women", 11/6/2005). I found, as I expected, that older people tend to use UH more often than younger people do, and that males tend to use UH more than females. The surprising thing was […]


Google Translate just keeps getting bigger and bigger and better and better.  As of today, it now includes Kazakh.  And here's the first word that I typed in Google Translate + Kazakh: ????? You enter text with the official Kazakh Cyrillic alphabet, which is accessible through a keypad at the bottom left of the entry […]

"Not a verb" is not an argument

This morning, when I checked out the website of The Atlantic, I saw an article by Megan Garber with the headline, "Gifting Is Not a Verb": Megan has written perceptively about language before, notably in her piece from last year, "English Has a New Preposition, Because Internet," which played a large role in bringing attention […]

Random suit

Nathan Hopson bought this "rain suit" the other day: Upon first glance, "random suit" sounded strange, but at the same time somehow familiar. First of all, here's your "Random Suit Generator". And here's a "Random Suit Man" by Katros on DeviantArt. There are lots of "Random suit ideas" on Pinterest. And there's a "Random suit […]

Thick toast: another new Cantonese pun

For the last few weeks, we have been pondering the ban on puns in the People's Republic of China: "When puns are outlawed …" (12/9/14) "It's not just puns that are being banned in China" (12/7/14) "Punning banned in China" (11/29/14) Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Cantonese speakers are coming up with new words, most of […]

Mazel Tov, Molotov, whatever

Jessie Opoien, "The political pitfalls of cultural crossover: Scott Walker edition", The Capitol Times 12/10/2014: In an undated letter unearthed by the liberal group One Wisconsin Now during the August release of documents from the first of two John Doe investigations related to the governor, Walker responded to a letter from Milwaukee attorney and chairman […]

Big Data vs. Amateur Linguistics

Neil Dolinger sent in the following banner ad that popped up on his computer screen one day: If you're wondering what this is about, I'll leave it to Neil to tell his own story, because he tells it best: When I visited a website I frequent, the attached banner ad appeared for Toyota. A banner […]

sitemeter = malware

Apologies to anyone (and it must be lots of you) who tried to reach a LLOG page yesterday and got redirected to This was the result of the latest malfunction in the tool for counting visits and referrals, which we've been using for the past decade. Increasingly often over the past year or […]

When puns are outlawed …

Scott Alexander ("Come ye to Bethlinkhem", 12/8/2014) does his best to generate sympathy for the Chinese authorities: China bans puns on the grounds that they may mislead children and defile cultural heritage. Language Log is on the story, and discusses the (extremely plausible) theory that this is part of a crackdown on people who use […]

Another noun pile headline

"Blindfold sex knife attack ex-wife jailed for murder attempt", BBC News 12/8/2014 — The facts are more or less what you'd guess by putting all the words on the table and making up a story about them: A woman who tried to murder her ex-husband after blindfolding him following sex and telling him she had a surprise in […]

Bavarian Rhapsody

"La Bavière veut imposer aux étrangers de parler allemand, même « en famille »" Le Monde (12/7/14) L'Union chrétienne-sociale (CSU) qui dirige la Bavière depuis des décennies veut empêcher les étrangers de parler une autre langue que l'allemand, même en famille….  C'est d'autant plus risible que les Bavarois eux-mêmes utilisent un allemand bien éloigné des […]

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