Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:3018
Posts / Week:8
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

The politics of multilingualism in Hong Kong

The following article by Danny Mok appeared in today's South China Morning Post: "Police? Jing Cha? Altered helmet may spell 'trouble' for city policeman" (5/19/15) The article commenced with this photograph: Since the SCMP may be behind a paywall for most Language Log readers, here is the entirety of the relatively short article: Police? Jing […]

Hating Mondays more than Garfield

Today's "Dilbert" (5/18/15): Alice's statement, "I hate Mondays more than Garfield," relies on the shared social knowledge that Garfield, the feline title character of Jim Davis's long-running comic strip, hates Mondays. (See here for...Show More Summary

Shooting all members of biker gangs

A headline writer is apparently economizing on punctuation: Nomaan Merchant, "Police: 9 dead in Texas shooting all members of biker gangs", MyFoxDetroit (AP). Obligatory screenshot: Thor Lawrence observes that "One might have expected more fatalities from three gangs being involved".

Sleight of 'quite'

John Gertner, "‘Elon Musk,’ by Ashlee Vance", NYT /17/2015: He is now, quite arguably, the most successful and important entrepreneur in the world. Matt Hutson writes: “Arguably” is often used to temper an argument, so “quite arguably” should temper it even more. But here “quite” has the effect of strengthening the argument  rather than strengthening […]

Token Cantonese

Guy Freeman sent in this photograph of a beer advertisement in Hong Kong: I took one look at the ad and thought to myself, "Hmmmm. This is phony Cantonese. It's basically just Mandarin with a couple of token Cantonese markers." This is how I read it in my head: k?néng HAI6 shìjiè shàng zuì h?o […]

Kein Durchgang

Multilingual sign near the entrance to a toilet at the Cologne Main train station, posted by Simon on douban, via Joel Martinsen: I trust that the Germans who posted this sign knew very well what they wanted to communicate. It seems to me that the other three languages all fail to convey the intended meaning. […]

A little bit disingenous

[TRIGGER WARNING: Harsh Quantitative Evaluation of a Facile Generalization] Todd Gitlin, "You Are Here to Be Disturbed", Chronicle of Higher Education 5/11/2015: Now we enter the realm of higher, perhaps airier speculation. Has American...Show More Summary

The secretary of state and its agents

Posted in front of a government building in Sheffield, UK:   Possibility #1: By "Secretary of State", the author of the sign means "the Office of the Secretary of State". Possibility #2: The sign was actually translated from Chinese. Possibility #3: The author of the sign believes the Secretary of State to be a robot masquerading […]

Modeling repetitive behavior

A recent conversation with Didier Demolin about animal vocalizations motivated me to return to a an issue discussed in "Finch linguistics", 7/15/2011. (See also "Markov's heart of darkness", 7/18/2011, "Non-Markovian yawp", 9/18/2011,...Show More Summary

7,530,000 mainlanders petition Taiwan actress to change her name

From David Moser: 7.5 mil. #China netizens don't recognize character in Taiwanese actress' name, signed petition to make her change it — Chris Derps (@ChrisDerps) May 11, 2015 As can easily be seen from the prohibition sign (no symbol) in the photograph on this Tweet, the offending character is supposedly ?. If it were […]

QQ chicken frame / skeleton / bones / whatever

David Rowe took this photo of a sign on a market stall in Sydney Chinatown: These "Sweet & Chilli Chicken Frames" were being sold in a cumin lamb stall, but David reports that they didn't seem popular — he only saw lamb being cooked.  With a name like "Sweet & Chilli Chicken Frames", I don't […]

Passive problem

We've been highly skeptical, in general, of usage mavens' often-mistaken disdain for what they call "passive voice". The objects of their animus are often not grammatically passive at all, but merely vague about agency — or sometimes just weakly phrased in some not-very-clear way. But Jerry Friedman points out a case where vagueness about agency […]

Slut shames students

Jen Chung, "CT High School Slut Shames Students Over "Inappropriate" Prom Dresses", Gothamist 5/12/2015: Female students at a Connecticut High School are furious that dresses bought for this weekend's prom are being banned because they have exposed shoulders, backs, sides and legs. Show More Summary

An opportunity to immortalize yourself

Below is a guest post by Andrew Caines: There's been growing interest in recent years in crowdsourcing as a means of data collection: for example, asking workers on Amazon Mechanical Turk to rate sentences for grammaticality, implicatures, sentiment, etc. As part of a special session for this year's INTERSPEECH Conference on innovative uses of crowdsourcing, […]

Wrack and ruin

The Northeast Regional, on its way from Philadelphia to New York City, derailed a couple of hours ago in North Philly. At least five people are dead, and many injured. This is a train that I've taken a hundred times. One of the first things that I saw in the live online coverage was this […]


Brian Hutchinson, "UBC student writes 52,438 word architecture dissertation with no punctuation — not everyone loved it", National Post 5/8/2015: There was Patrick Stewart, PhD candidate, defending his final dissertation before a handful of hard-nosed examiners at the University of British Columbia late last month. Show More Summary


Nathan Hopson found this in a public bathroom at the Nagoya prefectural children's center last Monday: The label reads: gy?muy? sh?sh?zai ?????? ("commercial deodorizer") sh?sh?riki ??? ("deodorizing power") Notes: 1. I was surprised...Show More Summary

Forbidden Lawn

This afternoon at the Jardin du Luxembourg, which is around the corner from where I'm living for the next couple of months: The sign in the center right of the picture reads: It's interesting that the English and Spanish versions spell out precisely what you are authorized to do — though it's clear that lying […]


Back in March, Lauren Spradlin gave a wonderful talk at PLC 39, under the title  "OMG the Word-Final Alveopalatals are Cray-Cray Prev: A Morphophonological Account of Totes Constructions in English". It's been on my to-blog list ever since. Totes, of course, is a clipped form of totally, which can be found is exchanges like this […]

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