Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:3005
Posts / Week:8
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Old School

PhD comics for 3/25/2015: Of course, email is "old school" in the sense of "15 years ago", since 20 or 25 years ago, most students didn't have an email account. But anyhow, this can be a real-world problem, especially for large classes, since schools generally don't yet offer a utility for txting all the students […]


A month ago, we studied the enigma of "Anti-mouth-bowls" (3/1/15).  It was Jan Söhlke who had sent me a photograph of what were labeled "Anti-Mund-Schuessel" ("anti-mouth-bowl").  He mentioned that the same Viennese shop had other bowls with equally mystifying names and promised to go back and take pictures of them.  Jan has now delivered on his […]

Ask Language Log: hippocampus

Via Jason Schrock on Twitter… Hey @LanguageLog check it out — jason (@jason_schrock) April 2, 2015 h?im? ?? ("seahorse") So where does the "Hippocampus" on the pictured language learning card come from? That's the scientific genus name for what is commonly known as the "seahorse". It derives from Greek hippos ("horse") and kampos ("sea […]


Just a minor anatomical error in @USC's full-page NYT ad… via @mike_yassa — Mo Costandi (@mocost) April 1, 2015

"Farcical names"

Chinese have long been giving themselves some rather unusual English names. V. K. Wellington Koo (famous diplomat [1888-1985]), AKA Koo Vi Kyuin, Ku Wei-chün, Gu Weijun Cream (female author in Hong Kong) Aplomb (male currently in Buffalo, New York) IcyFire (female in Taiwan) Achilles Fang (a teacher of mine) Apollo Wu (a language learning software […]

Cavemen and postmen and explanation

For those who were interested in Mark's post on the curious question of when the -man suffix gets a reduced vowel (woman, fireman, madman, milkman, gunman, batman, Batman, caveman, postman, weatherman, etc.), and especially for those who commented on it, Ben Yagoda has now written insightfully on the topic over at Lingua Franca. I think […]

Word rage, discreet firearm edition

Oxford University Press has published the fourth edition of Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage. The name "Fowler" has been retained as a source of prestige, but this is really the work of editor Jeremy Butterfield (as the third edition was the work of Robert Burchfield). Butterfield has already been getting some press attention for […]

Another SOS for DARE

Two years ago I sent out an "SOS for DARE," that is, a plea for the indispensable Dictionary of American Regional English, which had run into funding troubles. Though DARE was granted a temporary reprieve, the latest news is more dire than ever. Marc Johnson laid out the situation in an article for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: The […]

Quantifier scope in the comics

Today's For Better or For Worse: It's not clear whether Annie means that she has only one maternity outfit, which she wears every day, or only one style/type of maternity outfit, of which what she's wearing is an instance. The second reading seems more plausible, and opens up a new range of answers to the […]

Creeping kanji

Ben Zimmer was recently in Pittsburgh, where he gave the keynote address at the American Copy Editors Society conference. He mentioned that one of the copy editors (Bill Walsh of the Washington Post) was confused by a sign for a newShow More Summary

Japlish t-shirt

Axel Schuessler's daughter is visiting Japan and saw in a store the shirt below: Axel wondered whether the wording on the shirt could be a mangled translation from Japanese. I think not. Japlish t-shirts are a thing unto themselves (images here). You're not really supposed to make sense of them. [Thanks to Cecilia Segawa Seigle, […]

Lecture tomorrow at the Simons Foundation

Tomorrow afternoon, I'll be giving a talk at the Simons Foundation (160 5th Avenue, New York NY) with the title "Reproducible Research and the Common Task Method". Despite the April 1 date, the topic is a serious one. For some background on why the concept of "Reproducible Research" is currently a hot topic, see Paul Voosen, […]

Miracles of Human Language

Below is a guest post by Marten van der Meulen, who is a teaching assistant for this course. On March 30th, the Massive Open Online Course (or MOOC) Miracles of Human Language: an Introduction to Linguistics will start on Coursera. The course is facilitated by Leiden University, and is given by Marc van Oostendorp, professor at […]


From Christie Versagli: It's with enthusiasm that we at the World Well-Being Project (University of Pennsylvania) would like to share with you the launch of, a hub for data, tools, papers, and almost any resource in the growing...Show More Summary

Wordy Bengal

Headline in "Bangladesh adds 700,000 words to Google Translate in a day" (3/28/15) An official announcement from Google Inc is yet to be made but State Minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak broke the news in his Facebook post on Friday. He congratulated all involved in the post. “We’ve done it! Our target was 400,000. […]

Zeugma of the week

SOLIDWORKS Education Edition: We strongly reccomend [sic] that you do not purchase this software if you are not seeking a degree or a full time faculty member at a school, college or university.  

Man: reduced or not?

Ben Yagoda wrote to ask about the reduced or unreduced pronunciation of man ([m?n] vs. [mæn]) in noun compounds: policeman, fireman, garbage man, mailman, gunman, lineman, etc. I don't know of any scholarly treatments of this precise subject. For an extensive discussion of the textual history and distribution of man- compounds, you can read Kirsti Peitsara "MAN-Compounds […]

Geographic idiom chains

From James Kirchner, in response to "The directed graph of stereotypical incomprehensibility", 1/15/2009 (as featured on 3/25/2015 in the Washington Post): I found years ago that in Stuttgart, Germany, people said, "Es ist mir ein böhmisches Dorf," meaning, "It's a Czech village to me," (literally a Bohemian village). Then I went to work in the […]

Copyright © 2015 Regator, LLC