Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:4012
Posts / Week:9
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

How low can they go?

And what would it sound like? Patricia Murphy, "Hillary Campaign Plans to Shush Berniacs During Vote", The Daily Beast 7/26/2016: In an email to Clinton's California Delegation, a Clinton staffer outlined a plan to drown out any sounds of descent from unruly Bernie fans. The error has now been fixed — I'm sympathetic, since I […]

Spamferences thrive; junk journals prosper

I was recently moved (screaming and struggling, as four strong men held me down by my arms and legs) to a new web-based university email system designed and run by Microsoft: Office 365. Naturally, it's ill-designed slow-loading crap, burdened by misfeatures and pointless pop-ups that I do not want popping up, and it fails to […]

Japan: crazy over portmanteaux

No matter where I go these days, I hear young people shouting to their friends, "I'm playing Pokémon Go", which they pronounce "pokey-mon go".  It would be an understatement to say that, for the past few weeks, Pokémon Go has been a veritable craze.  Yet most people who play the game probably do not realize […]

Philly accent

"An earful of that unmistakable Philly accent", CBS This Morning 7/26/2016: View More: U.S. News|Live News|More News Videos Featuring Meredith Tamminga!

Stylized characters

Dean Barrett sent in these two photographs of signs from, respectively, the Taiwan Literary Museum and a sex shop in Tainan that is well known for its wide selection of condoms: When the Chinese writing system originated more than three millennia ago, back at the stage of oracle bone inscriptions, the characters were much more […]

A common mistake

Michael Rank sent in this notice banning the picking of mushrooms at Chobham Common, Surrey, said to be the largest nature reserve in the southeast of England: The English notice is translated into Polish, Chinese, Italian, and French.  I suppose their choice of languages was directed at speakers of those languages whom they thought were […]


A rather disturbing (at least to me) article in the South China Morning Post (7/24/16), "How China’s quest to become a football powerhouse is revamping the beautiful game:  China has emerged as deep-pocketed investor in what amounts to a global power grab for influence in football", is preceded by this photograph: You can find photographs […]

To be ambiguous

Robert Ayers writes: Headline: "Bill's role: To be determined". With a photo of  Bill Clinton looking … determined. I wonder if I'm the only one who read the headline wrong the first time.

Tom Wolfe takes on linguistics

Or maybe I should say, Tom Wolfe's take on linguistics. I've been an avid reader of Tom Wolfe's works since the 60s:  The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, The Right Stuff, The Painted Word, Bonfire of the Vanities).  What I like most about his […]

Scotty: Sexist or just Scottish?

Wells Hansen writes: I recently heard some grumbling at the local pub over the new Star Trek's "Scotty" referring to Lt Uhuru as "lass" or "lassy". Have the writers of the most recent iteration of the ST franchise created a sexist or dismissive Scotty  …or just a Scottish one? I haven't seen the movie, and am […]

Sinitic languages in Singapore

From Coby Lubliner: I have lately been watching an Australian TV series, "Serangoon Road," taking place in Singapore in the 1960s. The dialogue is mostly in English, but when it isn't it's in Mandarin, both among the Chinese and between them and the main character, an Australian who speaks it. I have so far heard […]

The Egalitarian Appreciation of Strine in Microcosm

[This is a guest post by Matthew Robertson] The 'Today' Interview With Oporto Robbery Heroes In the United States, regional accents often carry with them negative stereotypes about class, status, intelligence, and more, making Southern versus Northern accents markers of division. In Australia, it's largely the opposite. Regional vernacular and a broad accent (known as […]

Indistinguishable misnegation

David Frum, "Donald Trump's Bad Bet on Anger", The Atlantic 7/21/2016 [emphasis added]: Donald Trump’s supporters yearn for the country as it was and fear the country as it is. Tonight’s powerfully dystopian Trump nomination acceptance address will touch them at their deepest emotional core. It will ignite a passionate spasm of assent from those […]

Writing Shanghainese, part 2

No one in this Douban thread (so far) can identify the script in the image below: At first, I was going to post this as "Unknown script", with these thoughts: I'm inclined to think that it's not a hoax.  Too many regular recurrences. Looks like a phonetic script.  And it's gotta be East Asian because of […]

On beyond Preserved Killick

Back in 2003, I wrote about "Linking 'which' in Patrick O'Brian"; now Colin Morris has an interesting blog post about recent extensions, "Conjunctive 'which' — a discourse marker on the rise?", 7/22/2016.  

Heavy traffic jam

An anonymous correspondent sent in this photograph of a fake vehicle license plate in the window of a truck parked in an industrial area in the New Territories, Hong Kong that he took a couple of years ago: MSM: s?i dào b? ji? / Cant. sak1 dou3 buk1 gaai1 ???? For the moment, I will […]

Spanish or Catalan?

An article in BBC News (7/21/16), "Former Barcelona star Carles Puyol in 'Spanish' row", begins thus: While promoting popular online platform Tencent Sports, Puyol said "Soy Carles Puyol y soy espanol" ("I am Carles Puyol and I am Spanish"), prompting an angry reaction from many Catalans, Spanish sports website reports. Although technically correct – […]

Cutesy hairdresser names

I've heard it said that among the retail establishments most addicted to cutesy punning business names are hairdressing salons. I mean, you don't find law practices called Law 'n' Order to Go, do you? Or a hardware store called Get Hard? Or a butcher's called Meat and Greet? But with hairdressers… Well, I don't know […]

Pictographic English?

Today's xkcd: Mouseover title: "'Or maybe, because we're suddenly having so many conversations through written text, we'll start relying MORE on altered spelling to indicate meaning!' 'Wat.'" It's unusual for Randall Munroe to get so many things wrong, starting with the implication that such things as pictographic (as opposed to logographic) writing systems actually exist. […]

The extent of Melania's plagiarism

The Trump campaign officially maintains that there was no plagiarism in Melania Trump's speech at the Republican convention. In an astonishingly disingenuous remark, campaign chairman Paul Manafort said that "These were common words and values" and "To think that she'd be cribbing Michelle Obama's words is crazy." But it is not words we are talking […]

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