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Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:4426
Posts / Week:13.2
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Grammar wars

This doesn't happen very often — Terri Pederson, "Them's fightin' words: Grammar dispute becomes brawl", Beaver Dam Daily Citizen 7/8/2014: A 27-year-old Fox Lake man was charged with battery stemming from a fight that occurred at Tower Lanes in April. [...] According to the criminal complaint, an employee of Tower Lanes had pointed out Gubin […]

Orient(al[ism]) in East Asian languages

Cortney Chaffin writes: Today I've been corresponding over email with a colleague of mine at XYUniversity who organized an exhibition of Korean art to open tomorrow. Yesterday he sent out a description of the exhibit in which he used the phrases "oriental landscape painting" (in contrast to Western painting) and "oriental sensitivity" to describe the […]


Peter Mucha, "Lottery legend Joan Ginther bet flabbering sums on scratch-offs", 7/6/2014: For years, people who dream of beating the lottery have puzzled over the amazing case of Joan Ginther, who made headlines around the world by scratching off “10MILL” on a $50 instant ticket in June 2010 to win her fourth multimillion-dollar prize.  […]

Helpful label

This is spreading widely on the internets: The lack of circumstantial details makes me suspect it's a fake, but it's still an amusing one.

Ur-etyma: how many are there?

This is another one of those posts that I started writing long ago (in this case back in January of 2012), but then set aside for one reason or another.  However, such drafts and research notes usually reemerge on my radar screen sooner or later, especially if they are of compelling interest and potential significance.  […]

"The temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here"

Jonathan Meador, "Kentucky Lawmakers Attack Climate Change Science In Discussion on Carbon Regulations", WFPL 89.3 FM: State lawmakers' discussion Thursday of the effect of new EPA carbon emission regulations on Kentucky focused more on political attacks than hard science.  [...] “I won’t get into the debate about climate change," said Sen. Brandon Smith, a Hazard […]

Self-refuting sentence of the week

An anonymous Op-Ed in The Guardian asserts that English has no word for politeness ("What's the worst thing about cycling? Other cyclists", 7/5/2014): Interestingly, while we're on the subject of Japan, it has a large cycling population and many cycling laws – all of which are completely ignored. Cyclists regularly ride on paths and, indeed, […]

Headbanging and hairfloating

Ariyan Islamian et al., "Chronic subdural haematoma secondary to headbanging", The Lancet 5-11 July 2014: A 50-year-old man presented to our neurosurgical department in January, 2013, with a 2 week history of constant worsening headache affecting the whole head. He had no history of head trauma, but reported headbanging at a Motörhead concert 4 weeks […]

Emotional contagion

As usual, xkcd nails it: Mouseover title: "I mean, it's not like we could just demand to see the code that's governing our lives. What right do we have to poke around in Facebook's private affairs like that?" Here's the paper that caused all the fuss: Adam Kramer et al., "Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional […]

Writ in water

In a Beijing park last week: According to this story, Chinese water calligraphy is often seen as the quintessential old man's hobby. Every morning, elderly men gather in Beijing's parks to practice this ancient art on the ground with giant brushes dipped in water, writing fluid lines of ancient characters that disappear one by one […]

Happy. Fourth.

In anticipation of the 4th of July weekend, I was compelled to read this very interesting (July 1 draft) manuscript: "Punctuating Happiness", by UPS Foundation Professor Danielle S. Allen of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. A political theorist friend's Facebook post led me both to the article and to this front-page NYT piece […]

Canada Day: Sorry!

Apparently it's a stereotype that Canadians are always apologizing — and in honor of Canada Day July 1, several serial comics took note. Questionable Content: And Something Positive: I haven't noticed this feature in the Canadians that I know — but I tend have this problem with stereotypes turning out to be not actually, like, true. […]

Ben Zimmer on Jeopardy

"Jersey Cite man to compete on Jeopardy", Hudson Reporter 6/29/30: Ben Zimmer, a linguist and language columnist from Jersey City, will compete on Jeopardy! on June 30 at 7 p.m. on WABC-TV.    

Is the Urdu script on the verge of dying?

Hindi-Urdu, also referred to as Hindustani, is the classic case of a digraphia, so much so that there has been a long-standing controversy over whether they are one language or two.  Their colloquial spoken forms are nearly identical, but when written down, the one in the Devan?gar? script, the other in the Nasta?l?q script, they have […]

? (duì)

Listening to people around Beijing over the past few days, I've noticed a couple of things about a common Chinese word. The Wiktionary gloss for ? (dui4) suggests the pattern: Yes! Correct! I agree!; The word is used often in spoken language. It is common to repeat the word three times when you want to make clear […]

What I look like

… to an enterprising Beijing street artist, who sketched most of this while walking unnoticed alongside me, and then offered to sell it to me while adding the last few strokes and the caption. Shengli Feng cheerfully bargained him down to a third of the asking price. The air was good — blue sky and […]

Supreme Court steps away from fetishization of dictionaries, strikes a blow for usage and practice

Below is a guest post by Jason Merchant: The US Supreme Court today announced its decision in the case NLRB v. Noel Canning, a case that turns on the interpretation of the Recess Appointments clause, Art. II sec. 2, cl. 3 of the US Constitution: "The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies […]


Keith Ablow, the Fox News Channel's resident expert on psychiatry, on Outnumbered, 6/26/2014, explaining why the World Cup is a plot to distract the masses from Benghazi or whatever: I'm suspect. Uh I am suspect. Because here's the thing, Um why at a time when there're so many national issues that- and international issues that are […]

Greater and lesser conveniences

From Facebook, via Victor Steinbok, comes this notice from Shun Tak Holdings Property Management Limited: The Chinese says: Gù j? jí rén, q?ng wù suídì dàxi?o èr biàn ????????????? "In consideration of oneself and others, please do not urinate and defecate wherever you please." This is but the latest installment of Language Log posts on […]

The concept of "mother" in linguistics

I began drafting this post around Mother's Day, which we recently observed, but got distracted by other things.  This is an old topic that I've been thinking about for years.  Namely, I've long been intrigued by the use of m? ? ("mother") in linguistic terms, such as zìm? ?? ("letter", lit., "character mother") (e.g., s?nshíliù […]

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