Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:3414
Posts / Week:8.4
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Technical Sauna at Buddy Hair

Another intriguing sign from Nagoya, Japan sent in by Nathan Hopson: Since this is all in English (except for the straightforward heading of the price list), there's no need to explain any translation gaffes. I simply want to call attention to several unusual usages in the English: 1. Technical Sauna.  At first I thought that […]

Mind your manners at the urinal, won't you?

Nathan Hopson sent in this photo of a sign that is posted above the urinals at the Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya, the #2 shrine in Japan's Shinto hierarchy: The sign reads: sh?uhù l?yí ba bùyào b? k?uxi?ngtáng r?ng dào xi?obiànqì nèi ????? ?????? ?????? guard / protect / defend etiquette / decorum / ceremony / […]

Clogged drains and "Uncle Hanzi"

I spotted this photograph in an article that I'll describe below: Before I introduce the article, during the course of which I'll identify the gentleman in the photograph, it is incumbent upon me to explain what all that red and black writing on the wall is about.  Here's what it says: t?ng xiàshu? d?y?n ????? […]

The shawm and its eastern cousins

I have long been intrigued by the Chinese instrument called su?nà ?? (double-reeded horn).  Because of the sound and shape of the name, and the fact that the characters used to write it both have mouth radicals, indicating that they are being used to convey pronunciation rather than meaning, I have always suspected that su?nà […]

WOTY 2015

According to a press release sent out earlier today, Today Oxford Dictionaries announces the emoji, commonly known as “Face with Tears of Joy,” as its “Word” of the Year for 2015. They explain that This year Oxford University Press partnered with leading mobile technology business SwiftKey to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of […]

Cloud Conversations

David Donnell writes: My initial thought was that there was a climate-related "cloud conversation" that the French were oppposing — Michele Kelemen, "Paris Attacks Cloud Conversation At Summit Of World Powers", NPR 11/15/2015.  

Pronouncing "Daesh"

In the comments on yesterday's post, the question arose about how the  Arabic-based acronym "Daesh" (from al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham, "the islamic state of Iraq and the Levant", maybe better rendered as "Da’ish") would be pronounced in English. We now know what Barack Obama's choice is — [dæ?], as in "dash": Turkey's been a […]


The city of Seoul, South Korea, has a new slogan.  This is what it looks like: In some versions (e.g., see the illustration in the Quartz article cited below), the "U" of "SEOUL" has a horizontal bar running across the center of the letter, but not extending beyond its edges.  This barred "U" is usually […]


According to Merriam-Webster, a weasel is : a small animal that has a thin body and brown fur and that eats small birds and other animals : a dishonest person who cannot be trusted It's the second sense — and the alliteration with winner — that leads a local sports talk radio show to offer "winner of […]

C'est la vie ?

Chris Pechstedt sent in the following emojis from WeChat: Chris comments: I've recently de-expatriated back to the US after a decade and change in China/Taiwan/HK. During that time I've really enjoyed and learned a lot from reading your posts on Language Log. I notice you respond to a lot of reader questions, so I thought […]

Bakugai ("explosive buying"): Japanese word of the year nominee

The tension is building.  On Tuesday, December 1, the Japanese Word of the Year for 2015 ( will be chosen from among a list of 50 nominees.  It's a good group, with each of the nominees having intrinsic character and worthy credentials.  In this post, however, the focus is on just one of the more […]

"Phonetically defined"

From Wrong Hands (here and here): And again: And on another topic: [h/t Elise B.]

On the attacks in Paris

All of my friends in Paris are safe. I don't know of any linguistic angle to these events. But here's a relevant (if ambiguous) comment, in form of Victor Hugo's 1828 poem L'Enfant: Les turcs ont passé là. Tout est ruine et deuil. Chio, l’île des vins, n’est plus qu’un sombre écueil, Chio, qu’ombrageaient les charmilles, Chio, qui […]

Sex, drugs, and cognitive psychology

Recently, two strands of idle thought and reading came unexpectedly together: a paper about the psychology of free recall, published in 1944, and a 2007 book on the history of experimental psychology. I learned a couple of things, which I'll share with any of you who are interested. A few days ago, an inquiry from a […]

George Will discovers the idea of "facts"

The news recently has been full of the debate between George F. Will and Bill O'Reilly. This started because of O'Reilly's book Killing Reagan, whose central premise is an unsuccessful 1981 assassination attempt was in a deeper sense...Show More Summary

Tibetan –> Chinese –> Chinglish

One of my graduate students sent me the following picture (click to embiggen): The English translation of the title is a mess.  Before trying to figure out what the original Tibetan references were, we need first to translate the Chinese more accurately: Règòng Zàng xi?ng ???? ("Regong Tibetan Township") Liùyuè huì ??? ("June [or Sixth […]

Linguistics Club

Today's xkcd: Mouseover title: "If that's too easy, you could try joining Tautology Club, which meets on the date of the Tautology Club meeting."


Dan Nosowitz — "How capicola became gabagool: The Italian New Jersey accent, explained", Atlas Obscura 11/5/2015 — explains the backstory of this video clip: Of course, as Nosowitz explains, it's not specifically "New Jersey" — you can hear the same thing in New York City or in South Philly, where pizza might sometimes be [?'bits]. […]

Devin, a newly discovered language

Jenny Chu sent me this photo of a simultaneous interpretation device she came across at an event in Shanghai today: Look closely at language #7.  In Chinese it is Déwén ?? (i.e., "Deutsch language", where they lop off the latter part of the native name and replace it with wén ? ("language") — Déwén ?? […]

Ma-Xi –> MaXi

What is the message conveyed by this strange photograph and the unusual writing on it? Source This is actually a very clever, satirical commentary on the recently concluded meeting between Ma Ying-jeou, President of the Republic of China (ROC, on Taiwan), and Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China (PRC, on the Mainland), […]

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