Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:3118
Posts / Week:8.1
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Annals of LID

Nice fucking try, Twitter: — Jim Henley (@UOJim) July 18, 2015 Brad DeLong's quote is of course from the start of Cicero's In Catalinam, which is surprisingly easy to adapt to modern uses: quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra? quam diu etiam furor iste tuus nos eludet? quem ad finem sese effrenata iactabit […]

Fluency in six months

When it comes to linguistics, convincing, worthwhile presentations (such as those by John McWhorter and Steven Pinker) are rare on TED (e.g., here, here, here, here, here, and here). If that is true for TED, then I wouldn't expect better from TEDx.  Indeed, the one TEDx program on linguistics that I have seen, which was […]

Vocal gymnastics

Another Salut Salon video — Ievan Polkka: This version has closed captions giving the Finnish words with English translation: And of course there's the anime and  Hatsune Miku vocaloid versions. The first couple of verses: Nuapurista kuulu se polokan tahti The sound of a polka drifted from my neighbor's jalakani pohjii kutkutti. and set my feet […]

Expletive deficits

Josh Marshall, "Obama on the Hoofbeats of History", TPM 7/17/2015 (emphasis added): As the budget deficit has receded from public view, Obama's fucks deficit has come to the forefront. After six and a half years in office, he may have a small stockpile of fucks left. But he has none left to give. He is […]

Musical discourse

Debating Vivaldi (and others), by Salut Salon:


The OED has not yet held a Word Induction Ceremony for derp, nor has that word risen above the noise floor in the Google Books ngram viewer. But the current Google News index estimates 36,200 results for derp, and only a few of them are references to the California Independent System Operators' Distributed Energy Resource Provider (DERP) […]

Cheesy's good

An AP story a few days ago publicized work by Kirk Hazen to document and de-stigmatize Appalachian varieties of English. From the version published on the Fox News web site: In a county beyond the reach of any four-lane highway, a young couple chuckles and swivels in their chairs as they start telling for posterity the story […]

China reigns

Headline from the China Daily: "China reigns in brutal police tactics" (9/9/03) This hilarious misspelling causes China's widest circulating English-language newspaper accidentally to have a true headline. I'm not sure what category of error this should be classified under.  It's not a malapropism, which results in nonsense.  Nor do I think it is an eggcorn, […]

Martin Joos on the LSA 1924-1950

Some time ago I obtained a used copy of Martin Joos, Notes on the Development of the Linguistic Society of America, 1924 to 1950. I've now scanned it and made it available for anyone to read (warning: 6.5 MB.pdf). For me, the most interesting parts are chapter V "Improvising" and chapter VI "Reconverting", which discuss […]

Hyperbolic scalar indifference

From Larry Horn — Eliza Kennedy, I Take You, 2015 (p. 69): [narrator has just been asked by wedding planner to choose one of six identical-looking swatches] I look at her, then at Rose. “Ladies? To say that I do not give two shits about this vastly overestimates the value I place on shits.” They […]

New frontiers in negation

Dave Itzkoff, "Berkeley Breathed Publishes First New ‘Bloom County’ Strip Since 1989", 7/13/2015: [I]t was a surprise for comics fans to wake up on Monday and discover that Berkeley Breathed, the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator and artist of “Bloom County,” had revived that vintage 1980s strip on his Facebook page after a hiatus of more than […]

Shibboleth and perejil

A recent NYT editorial described the immigration/citizenship/deportation crisis on the divided island of Hispaniola ("Stateless in the Dominican Republic", 7/11/2015): In 2013, the Dominican Republic’s highest court issued an unconscionable ruling that rendered tens of thousands of Dominican-born people of Haitian descent effectively stateless. Show More Summary

Macdonald's Minionese: WTF?

As a tie-in with Minions the movie, Macdonalds is giving out a dozen different Minions toys with Happy Meals. Like the Minions in the movie, the toys speak the invented language "Minionese" — though you have to bump or hit the toys to get them to respond. The response to this marketing initiative has been dominated […]

Bad newspaper prose (yes, with passives)

Those who want a clear example of truly dreadful prose, dreadful in large part because of the use of the much-loathed agentless passive, should look at examples like this, from the UK Daily Mail website on Sunday, July 12: The medical director of NHS England has disclosed that up to one in seven hospital procedures […]

Mr. Finch

No, not Atticus — this is Zebra Finch #2702, courtesy of Ofer Tchernichovski. He sounds like this: Your browser does not support the audio element. Or, slowed down by a factor of four: Your browser does not support the audio element. This came up because I'm working on a project with Ofer and Didier Demolin, […]

Bathroom ambiguity

Any self-respecting copywriter has a decent mastery of ambiguity. It’s a staple of advertising, but it takes some skill. It’s not that ambiguous language is difficult to find or construct—on the contrary, it would be no easy task to avoid using language that contains potential ambiguity. The trick is to use ambiguous language in such […]

Open Letter to Terry Gross

Sameer ud Dowla Khan, a phonetician at Reed College, has written an open letter to Terry Gross, which starts like this: While I am a loyal fan of your program, I’m very disappointed in your interview of David Thorpe and Susan Sankin from 7 July 2015. As both a phonetician who specializes in intonation, stress patterns, and […]

A movie about a dictionary

I love dictionaries as much as anyone, but I'm not sure that I'd ever advocate making a film about any of my favorite dictionaries.  Yet this has now been suggested for the X?nhuá zìdi?n ???? (trad. ????) (New China character dictionary): "Will You Watch a Movie Based on Dictionary?" (Anhui News 7/8/15) At first, one […]

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