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Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:4600
Posts / Week:13.2
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive


In "Applenese", we examined the Chinese translations from the Mainland, Taiwan, and Hong Kong of this Apple advertising slogan for Mother's Day last spring:  "A gift Mom will love opening. Again and again." Now let's see what is done with the new Apple campaign for the iPhone 6, "Bigger than bigger",  in Chinese and other […]

"Quasiregularity and its discontents"

Suggestion for your weekend reading: Mark Seidenberg and David Plaut, "Quasiregularity and Its Discontents: The Legacy of the Past Tense Debate", Cognitive Science 2014. The abstract: Rumelhart and McClelland’s chapter about learning the past tense created a degree of controversy extraordinary even in the adversarial culture of modern science. Show More Summary

Whoa be tide

Ruth Blatt, "The Lean And Mean Led Zeppelin Organization", Forbes 9/6/2014: The Zeppelin organization was small by today’s standards, with a crew of only about 15 people traveling with the band. The band itself would arrive 30 minutes before a show. “They would turn up and they would go in the dressing room. There was no […]

Fan-fold ticket stock nerdview

We have not discussed any examples of nerdview on Language Log for a while. But Bob Ladd told me of one the other day. He was at the Edinburgh Airport dropping someone off, and pulled up next to the ticket dispensing machine for the short-stay car park. He pushed the button, but no ticket appeared. […]


I remember Apple's Mother's Day advertising campaign for the iPad Air and iPad mini last spring:  "A gift Mom will love opening. Again and again." I only found out yesterday, in this article, that the Mainland Chinese translation of this tagline is the following: Ràng m?m? k?ix?n de l?wù, k?ile yòu k?i. ????????,????. The grammar […]

Envisioning Real (-ity TV) Utopias

I suspect that this (Alessandra Stanley, "A World, From Scratch: In 'Utopia,' on Fox, Real People Build an Unreal World", NYT 9/8/2014) is not what Eric Olin Wright had in mind. Wright's "Guidelines for Envisioning Real Utopias" (Soundings, 2007) laid out "five guidelines for these kinds of discussions of emancipatory alternatives to the existing social […]

The second life of a Language Log comment

More than four years ago, on Aug. 23, 2010, Doctor Science left the following comment on a post by Mark Liberman, "Cell phone cupertinos": I'm pretty sure I saw something several years ago about a whole dialect (argot? jargon? slang?) that had developed among young people in Japan (or possibly some other Asian country), based […]

The grammar of "Better Together"

The official name of the organization campaigning for a No vote in the upcoming Scottish independence referendum is "Better Together." That phrase was originally the campaign's main slogan. Much has been written in recent days about the campaign's evident signs of panic, but no one has commented on the stupidity of "Better Together" as a […]

Interview technique

From "President Obama's Full Interview With NBC's Chuck Todd", NBC News (Meet The Press) 9/7/2014 Speaker Time Transcript Obama: 0:40-0:50 uh ISIL poses a broader threat uh because of its territorial ambitions in uh Iraq a- and Syria, but the good news is … Obama: 3:45-4:00 And we've seen the savagery uh not just in terms […]

Is English a "writer-responsible language" and Chinese, Korean, and Japanese "reader-responsible languages"?

These are totally new concepts for me.  Until David Cragin told me about them, I had never heard of reader-responsible language and writer-responsible language. Dave works for Merck in the Safety & Environment group, knows Mandarin, has been to China 12 times since 2005, and teaches a short course on risk assessment and critical thinking […]

Transitive marvel wonders reader

From J.M.: Am I misreading this cryptic headline (I do confess my severe deficiency of "urban cool"), or has "marvel" become a transitive verb, a synonym for "amaze"? "Rihanna front row as Wang urban cool marvels New York", AFP 9/7/2014. In fact, this is Old (well, at least Middle or Early Modern English) News. From the […]

Experience the power of a bookbook™

From Ikea and ad agency BBH: And feel the force of Contrastive Focus Reduplication™. [h/t to Nancy Friedman & Bob Ladd ]  

Gwynne again

John McIntyre, "What to say to peevers", Ba9/3/2014: A recent article in the Boston Globe by Britt Peterson, "Why we love the language police," along with comments it has prompted on Facebook and other venues, shows that some people have become dangerously overstimulated by the publication of N.M. Gwynne's Gwynne's Grammar. I think I can speak for […]

The paucity of curse words in Japanese

In "Ichiro Suzuki Uncensored, en Español:  Between the Lines, Japanese Star Is Known as a First-Class Spanish Trash Talker", via Andy Cheung, the Yankees outfielder is quoted thus:  "…we don't really have curse words in Japanese, so I like the fact that the Western languages allow me to say things that I otherwise can't." What?  […]

The paucity of two-letter words

The number of possible two-letter lower-case strings over the English alphabet (not including the apostrophe) is 2626 = 676. This morning I ran a script to test which two-letter sequences show up as words included in the standard 25,143-word list of words supplied with many Unix-derived systems (usually at /usr/share/dict/words). I found it was almost […]

Technicality Club

The first panel of the most recent SMBC: Turns out that Technicality Club is really Natural Language Semantics. Or maybe Statutory Interpretation, I'm not sure: The AfterComic: [Note for those without a classical education...]

Metaphors and the brain: check it out

"Your Brain on Metaphors", at the The Chronicle of Higher Education's site, is interesting non-technical reading for anyone interested in the idea of experimentation on metaphors, idioms, and the way the brain processes them. I recommend reading the whole thing.

Text analytics applied to applications of things like text analytics

South by Southwest (SXSW) uses a web-based voting method to choose panels, and so Jason Baldridge took a look at the titles submitted for Phil Resnik's "Putting a Real-Time Face on Polling" session,  to … see whether some straight-forward Unix commands, text analytics and natural language processing can reveal anything interesting about them. He describes the results […]

Can you spell "bus"?

I have commented before on the psycholinguistics of signs painted on roads: in the USA it is apparently assumed that drivers will read the words in the order in which their front wheels reach them, so that what appears to be a display with "ONLY" above "LANE" above "BIKE" is supposed to be read as […]


Yesterday I was skimming the digital New York Times and clicked on the second-from-the-right item in the panel below, without noticing the "paid post" superscript: This took me to an article about a new smartphone app called Somebody: Here’s how Somebody works: when you send your friend or loved one a message through the app, […]

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