Blog Profile / Language Log

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:4880
Posts / Week:13.2
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

The number of fucks you need to not give

Several people have directed my attention to Stuart Cantrill, "A quantitative analysis of how often Nature gives a fuck", 2/8/2015. That's Nature the magazine, not Nature-the-material-world-and-its-phenomena. In graphical form: This reminded me of an interpretive problem in a novel that I read recently. Show More Summary

Speke Englysch, dammit

From John Trevisa's 1385 translation of Ranulph Higben's Polychronicon (from version here): …by comyxtioun and mellynge firste wiþ Danes and afterward wiþ Normans, in meny thynges þe contray longage is apayred, and som vseþ straunge wlafferynge, chiterynge, harrynge, and garrynge grisbayting.. Show More Summary

Claire Bowern on male lactation

Claire Bowern, whom I know best for her work on historical linguistics and Australian languages, turned up recently as the author of an Op-Ed at Talking Points Memo, "The Supreme Court Says Men Lactate, Too. So When Can They Start Breastfeeding?", 2/9/2015: The Supreme Court has now established that it isn't sex discrimination to fire a […]

Sandwiched in an escalator

From Toni Tan: Having just written about hundreds dying in a sandwich press, I was afraid that the poor woman in the above picture was going to get sucked into the evil escalator and die.  But it's her clothing that she has to pay attention to: xi?ox?n y?wù ji?rù ?????? ("careful [not to let your] clothing […]

More Chinese characters in nature

Chips Mackinolty sent in this intriguing photograph from Peter Cooke Darwin's tumblr, Life Is A Carnivore: Peter suspects that the fungi pictured above are: …Calostoma fuhreri which shares the black body with red coloured orifice which to my eye resembles Chinese characters. The name Calostoma means beautiful mouth. If these little beauties ever get an […]

Can 50,000 Wikipedia edits be wrong?

Or alternatively, were 50,000 Wikipedia word choices actually errors to start with? Andrew McMillen, "Meet the Ultimate WikiGnome: One Man’s Quest to Rid Wikipedia of Exactly One Grammatical Mistake", Medium 2/3/2015: On a Friday inShow More Summary

This never occurred to me…

Email from CGY.: I recently read a BBC article detailing some of your work into the uses of 'uh' and 'um' in germanic languages: Ari Daniel Shapiro, "Why we are saying "uh" less and 'um' more", PRI's The World, BBC News 2/7/2014. I am not a linguist of any sort however I thought you may […]


Most people seem to call it "homophonia" (25,000 ghits), but I'm not even sure what that means:   "Homophonia" (7/31/14). Following this cartoon in Magic Coffee Hair (8/16/12) and Gretchen McCulloch's article, "What's the DifferenceShow More Summary

Vocal creak and fry, exemplified

There are several different sorts of things involved on the perceptual side of the phenomena that people call "vocal fry" and (less often but more appropriately) "vocal creak". One perceptual issue is the auditory equivalent of the visual "flicker fusion threshold". If regular impulse-like oscillations in air pressure are fast enough, we hear them as a tone; as they […]

Language diversity

Yesterday, Walt Wolfram gave a talk here under the title "On the Sociolinguistic Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: Implications for Linguistic Equality". I was especially interested to learn what they're doing to educate students, faculty, and staff about Language Diversity at NC State: This reminded me in turn of one of Suzette Haden […]

Hundreds die in a sandwich press

Just as some folks have a special knack for being able to unravel "The latest word soup from the Bloomberg headline crew", I'm usually able to make sense out of Chinglish that is inscrutable to most readers.  Here's a humdinger sent in by Matt Trevyaud: Using method: Ready to slice sandwiches and stuffed, in the […]

Sarah Koenig

Following up on our recent Vocal Fry discussion ("Freedom Fries"; "You want fries with that?"), Brett Reynolds wrote to suggest that "Sarah Koenig's vocal fry seems to be something new". As evidence, he suggested a contrast between a piece she did in 2000 ("Deal Of A Lifetime", This American Life #162, 6/23/2000) and one from 2014 […]

Suzette Haden Elgin (1936-2015)

Suzette Haden Elgin, a linguist and feminist science fiction writer, died on January 27 at the age of 78. From io9: Suzette Haden Elgin, who died last week, was a pioneer of using linguistics in science fiction, creating a whole constructed language in her novel Native Tongue. She was a giant of feminist SF. And […]

The latest word soup from the Bloomberg headline crew

Bloomberg News headlines, as we've observed in the past, often sound like they've been written by someone with a bizarre journalistic strain of aphasia. Consider, as representative samples, "Ebola Fear Stalks Home Hunt for Quarantined...Show More Summary


Nathan Hopson spotted this gem in Bangkok while recruiting students this past weekend: When I first looked at the sign, I had no idea what it was for.  I thought perhaps it may have been for a deodorant or liquor.  The Japanese didn't help, since — on my initial reading — it seemed to say […]

Dogfood semiotics

A couple of days ago, the package room in the Quad sent me a notice of a FedEx delivery. I figured it was the antique toilet flush valve that I'd ordered, but when I went to pick it up, I discovered that someone had sent me a large, heavy carton of canned dogfood, maybe 70 […]

Reflections on "Inherent Vice"

Last night I went out to see Inherent Vice, the only film so far made of a Thomas Pynchon novel. Two and a half hours of bafflement later, the credits rolled. I was with two distinguished computational linguists, Mark Steedman and Bonnie Webber. "It was more coherent than the book," said Mark, who liked the […]

You want fries with that?

Following up on "Freedom Fries", it's worth pointing out that some of the most spectacular examples of creaky voice and vocal fry on This American Life don't come from the young women on the program, but from the host, Ira Glass. Here's the first half-sentence of his opening from the segment on vocal fry: Your browser does not […]

Freedom Fries

On 1/23/2015, as part of a This American Life show on "What happens when the Internet turns on you?", Ira Glass took up an issue we've devoted a few posts to ("545: If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS — Act Two, Freedom Fries"). Recently, This American Life has been […]

Recent Posting Activity


Posts per Week
Posts on Regator

Related Blogs

Copyright © 2015 Regator, LLC