Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:3212
Posts / Week:8.2
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Back to the Bushisms industry?

That's what David Donnell wondered about this article: Jack Shafer, "Donald Trump Talks Like a Third-Grader", Politico 8/13/2015: Donald Trump isn’t a simpleton, he just talks like one. If you were to market Donald Trump’s vocabulary as a toy, it would resemble a small box of Lincoln Logs. Trump resists multisyllabic words and complex, writerly […]

Blooming, embellishment, and bombs

In the comments to a recent post about the length differential between French and English, the concept of "blooming" was introduced. The ensuing discussion prompted one Language Log reader to spell out her thoughts at greater length.  I should provide a bit of background about this anonymous contributor, namely, she lived through the bombing of […]

Fun with commas

For your reading pleasure this morning: Kenneth Adams, "Bamboozled by a Comma: The Second Circuit’s Misdiagnosis of Ambiguity in American International Group, Inc. v. Bank of America Corp.", 16 Scribes J. Legal Writing 45 (2014–15): In its opinion in American International Group, Inc. v. Bank of America Corp., the United States Court of Appeals for […]

Of mynas and miners, bells and whistles

Over at Spicks & Specks, Greg Pringle has a virtuoso post on "The Bell Miner:  How orthography and ornithology catalysed a new folk etymology" (8/9/15).  It's about an Australian honeyeating bird — Manorina melanophrys — that used to be called the Bellbird, but was renamed Bell Miner through association with the South Asian bird called […]

Recommended For You

Alexander Spangher, "Building the Next New York Times Recommendation Engine", NYT 8/11/2015: The New York Times publishes over 300 articles, blog posts and interactive stories a day. Refining the path our readers take through this content — personalizing the placement of articles on our apps and website — can help readers find information relevant to […]

Sandra Bland: Talking While Black

Below is a guest post by Nicole Holliday, Rachel Burdin, and Joseph Tyler: Sandra Bland’s traffic stop and the tragic series of events that occurred afterwards have been the subject of many recent think pieces, but few authors have examined why the initial traffic stop went wrong in the first place. The most obvious explanation […]

From Alphabet to Google

Google has picked "Alphabet" as the name for its new parent company: "‘Alphabet,’ From Ancient Greece to Google", by Ben Zimmer, in Word on the Street, Wall Street Journal (8/13/15) I think it's a brilliant choice, and our colleague Ben has done a good job of explaining why. [h.t. June Teufel Dreyer]

Printing error on a Chinese lunch delivery bag

Eric Pelzl sent in this photograph of a bag from a lunch delivery that contains an interesting printing error: The Chinese characters on the bag read: zh?n'ài dìqiú b?ohù huánjìng ???? ???? ("treasure the earth, protect the environment") The Pinyin reads thus: zh?n'ài dìqiú b?ohù ji?yuán ???? ???? ("Treasure the earth, protect your home") So […]

Free souvenirs

From Randy Alexander in Xiamen / Amoy, Fujian / Hok-kiàn, China: Saw this on my trail run today and got a laugh. It's easy to see how this came about — verbs get translated with "to" mindlessly stuck in front of them. Here's what the Chinese on the sign says: xi?ox?n zhuìluò ???? ("be careful […]

"Linguists have a name for this kind of analysis"

Gordon Smith is enthusiastic about a recent opinion of the Utah Supreme Court, as he explains in "Corpus Linguistics in the Courts (Again)", The Conglomerate 8/14/2015: Yes, yes, yes! The point at issue is important and ubiquitous in legal argumentation, and his blog post explains the reasons for his (well justified) enthusiasm at least as well as […]

One for Diogenes

The philosopher Diogenes of Sinope was eccentric, to say the least — he begged for a living, slept in a large ceramic jar in the marketplace, and discarded the wooden bowl that was his only possession, deciding that it was excess baggage. He refuted the Platonic definition of human as "featherless biped" by exhibiting a plucked […]

Vowel movement

JH Rand sent in this intriguing photograph taken in the Philippines: Along with the photograph, JH sent these comments: I thought you might appreciate this picture showing the Filipino way of handling the issue — can I buy a vowel?  Filipinos evidently conflating b and v like Spanish speakers do. Only paying customers are free? He […]


Alan Rappeport, "From the Right, a New Slur for G.O.P. Candidates", NYT 8/13/2015: As Republican presidential candidates offered careful answers to questions about education, immigration and foreign policy at last week’s debate, streams of tweets panned their responses as too soft or disingenuous. Show More Summary

Still more on "mother"

A week or so ago, I wrote a post about the notion of "mother" in Indian phonology (with a link to an earlier post written over a year ago about the concept of "mother" in linguistics more generally): "More on mother' (focus on India) " (8/5/15) Ben Buckner has called additional information to my attention.  […]

Pun of the week

The pun goes back at least to 1986 and probably beyond. [See below for antedating to 1940…] I'm not sure who first applied it to Mr. Trump's campaign, or who created the logo. From the Wellsboro Agitator, 10/9/1940:

Inuit dialect names

Helen DeWitt's wonderful novel The Last Samurai has unfortunately gone out of print, so I was happy to learn from her yesterday that a new edition is planned. What follows is an epistolary post, consisting of her note to me, her letter to Kenn Harper, and his response to her. From Helen to me: I have […]


Today's Questionable Content: What auto-replace — in a messaging app or your mind — do you need to turn off or turn on?

The big squat

The following photograph has been in my draft folder for about five years: I forget who sent the photograph to me, but it came with this note: The attached, from a bar in the Houhai area in Beijing, is an interesting Engrish sign where I think the English, though a mess, is better than the […]


This is "Konglish", not "Kongish".  We just finished studying the latter, which is Hong Kong style English, in this post, and surveyed other varieties of Asian English in this post, including Konglish,which is the subject of the present post. Konglish is Korean-style English, and it seems to be thriving. Let's step back a moment to […]

Phenomenal to the women

Rebecca Kaplan, "Donald Trump: 'I will be phenomenal to the women'", CBS Face the Nation 8/9/2015: Presidential candidate Donald Trump sought to redirect incoming fire at rival Republican Jeb Bush, saying that Bush has a "huge" problem with women and he is by far the better candidate with that demographic. […] "I'm exactly the opposite. […]

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