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Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:4646
Posts / Week:13.2
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive


Ryan Broderick,"People Are Actually Writing The Word 'Firstable' Online Instead Of 'First Of All': What has the internet done to our brains?".  In response, Ben Zimmer entered firstable in the Eggcorn Database, noting uses back to 1996:...Show More Summary

Jazz Dispute

Just in case you haven't seen this: [h/t Taylor Jones]

Not widely under-negated

Steve Benen, "The challenge of governing in a party of ‘knuckleheads’", MSNBC 11/12/2014: Two months later, the good news for the Speaker is that his majority has reached new heights. The bad news, the influx of knuckleheads will make Boehner’s job more difficult in ways that are not widely under-appreciated. The context makes it clear […]

Chinese characters and eyesight

There was an interesting article in the Economist a couple of day ago:  "Why So Many Chinese Children Wear Glasses" (11/9/2014) Myopia is epidemic in China, and the percentage of those with this affliction is increasing each year. Here are a few passages from the article that provide food for thought: The fastest increase is […]

Ignoble-ass citation practices

"The intensifier 'ass', in snippets", Improbable Research 11/3/2014: snippets journal publishes notes that contribute to the study of syntax and semantics in generative grammar. The notes are brief, self-contained and explicit. For an...Show More Summary

On thee-yuh fillers uh and um

Below is a guest post by Herbert H. Clark and Jean E. Fox Tree. In 2002 the two of us published a paper in Cognition called “Using uh and um in spontaneous speaking.” We argued that uh and um are conventional English words, but of a special type. Our hypothesis was this (p. 79): Filler-as-word […]

Pre-filled-pause lengthening

It's well known that syllables and words are longer before silent pauses, other things equal.  It makes sense that syllables and words would also be longer before filled pauses (UH and UM), but I haven't seen this explicitly noted or quantified. For a course assignment, I recently prepared an R-accessible version of  Joe Picone's manually-corrected word alignments […]

A child's substitution of Pinyin (Romanization) for characters

The following diary entry by an elementary school student is making the rounds in the Chinese media and in the blogosphere: Jacob Rutherford, who called this "trending post" to my attention, remarked: [It's] about a young girl from Fuzhou whose school received a visit from Xi Jinping. Besides the adorable message, it is more interesting […]

Is Korean diverging into two languages?

Fearful that the languages of their countries are becoming mutually unintelligible, linguists from North Korea and South Korea are joining forces to create a common dictionary, as described in this article from the South China Morning Post:  "Academics try to get North and South Korea to speak same language" (11/3/14) In a comment on a […]

"… go all __ on you …"

Geoff Pullum wrote ("Adverbing, verbing, and adjectiving", 11/5/2014): … for the most part what you get in the go all ____ on you [frame] is adjective-headed phrases … While I hardly ever disagree with Geoff, my intuition said otherwise in this case, so I checked. Searching Google for "go all on you", the first 50  results I […]

Moving house with military precision

I just moved house this week. (Had to. Lease unexpectedly terminated.) And colleagues and friends keep asking me how it went. I've decided on the right thing to say: "It was all executed like a military operation." The familiar simile (almost an idiom) always seems to be used with favorable connotations of tight organization and […]

Adverbing, verbing, and adjectiving

"I don't want to go all language nerd on you," says the female character in today's xkcd cartoon, "but I just legit adverbed 'legit', verbed 'adverb', and adjectived 'language nerd'." Is she correct? Almost entirely, yes. The structure of I just legit adverbed 'legit' has legit (a clipping from legitimate) functioning as premodifier of a […]

Screwball reasons and gloriously simple distinctions

In recent years, the New Yorker's coverage of the "descriptivist vs. prescriptivist" divide in English usage has been, shall we say, problematic. In 2012, we had Joan Acocella's "The English Wars," critiqued by Mark Liberman here and here. That was followed up by Ryan Bloom's Page-Turner piece, "Inescapably, You're Judged By Language," which I tackled […]

Tireless or unchanging?

Or something else: As you can see in the embiggened version, this is the display on an Italian vending machine, providing an English version of "La macchina non da’ resto" = "Machine does not give change". [h/t Andrea Mazzucchi]

cactus wawa: the strange tale of a strange character

On December 15, 2012, Jakob Leimgruber sent in the following photograph of an unusual sign in Montreal: I took one look at the sign and said to myself, "We've got problems." 1. The biggest problem is the character after ?.  It is not in Unicode, much less in any commercial font.  It appears to be […]

Tim Cook, Bent Man

Last week, China was gaga over Facebook chairman Mark Zuckerberg for gamely, if somewhat lamely, speaking Mandarin before an audience of Tsinghua University students: "Zuckerberg's Mandarin" (10/23/14) In the days following his sensational...Show More Summary


Those LLog readers who aren't already Radiolab listeners should give their latest episode on translation a listen. There are 8 stories packed into this one episode, a few about language and a few not-so-much, but all of them well-worth the price of admission. But I'm not just here to promote Radiolab. I'm also here to […]

They haven't proven they're not afraid of anyone not named Bumgarner. Or have they?

Bob Nightengale, "Forget 1985, these Royals on verge of their own history", USA Today 10/29/2014: It's been a wild ride for these two teams. They had to win an elimination game as a wild-card entrant just to get into this dance. Now, one will be hoisting the World Series championship trophy. The Royals certainly haven't […]

Ben Zimmer: Linguistics Journalism Award

My first thought upon reading the following announcement is that my colleagues and I here at Language Log headquarters hasten to claim Ben as one of ours (he doesn't just belong to the WSJ!): "WSJ's Ben Zimmer receives first LSA Linguistics Journalism Award" Here's the text of the LSA announcement: The Linguistic Society of America […]

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