Blog Profile / Language Hat

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:2546
Posts / Week:5.1
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive


I’m reading Veltman’s ???????????? ???? [The ward Sara], about which I will have much to say when I’ve read further, but I’ve hit a passage whose final word puzzles me, and I thought I’d canvass the assembled multitudes — those, at any rate, familiar with 19th-century Russian. He’s describing a scene outside a Moscow theater […]

Talking Gibberish.

Gaston Dorren asks a very good question in Aeon: Why is linguistics such a magnet for dilettantes and crackpots? He describes the various attempts to pin down mankind’s original language (“German was a popular candidate, but the 17th-century Swedish scholar Olof Rudbeck favoured his own mother tongue, for a reason that was nothing if not […]

Khalatov’s Hat.

Occasionally I feel guilty about neglecting what is, after all, part of this blog’s name, but now I have an occasion to remedy that failing. I’m reading Yuri Slezkine’s The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution (a very generous gift from an LH reader); it’s over a thousand pages long, because it […]


The AHD defines terroir as “1. The aggregate characteristics of the environment in which a food or wine is produced, including regional and local climate, soil, and topography. 2. The flavor imparted to a food or wine by such characteristics” (it’s from Vulgar Latin terrat?rium, alteration of Latin territ?rium, territory); it’s pretty much a foodie […]


My loving and tolerant wife abetted my addiction by taking me to Grey Matter/Troubadour Books (note that their Fall Sale will be Sept. 28-Oct. 1, and everything in the store will be 35% off — I encourage everyone in the area to take advantage of it); I was thrilled to learn from their website that […]


I don’t want to neglect to write about the recent death of John Ashbery (NY Times obit). I’ve posted his poems here a number of times (2009, 2005, 2004); here’s a recent (May 5, 2016) one from the LRB (which is temporarily making their entire archive of Ashbery poems available without a subscription): Understandably It’s […]

The Parlance of Pilots.

Mark Vanhoenacker is a pilot with British Airways, and writes engagingly about the language of the air: The day I first flew in the cockpit of an airliner, I fell in love with the sights, of course, but also the sounds. […] I fell in love with what I saw from the airplane that day. […]

Rout and Conversazione.

A passage of linguistic interest from Ford Madox Ford’s Ancient Lights and Certain New Reflections (he is describing the late Victorian period when he was growing up): Across the front of another confectioner’s near here is painted the inscription, “Routs catered for.” What was a rout? I suppose it was some sort of party, but […]

Nick Nicholas Is Back!

Back in the world of blogs, I mean (the only online world of personal expression that really means much to me). I first wrote about him and his wonderful blogs back in 2009, and at that time I said “this sucker’s going on the sidebar”; it’s been on the sidebar ever since, despite a lamentable […]

The Root Of Toot-toot.

Here‘s a fun three-decade-old piece by Jack Hurst about the name of a long-forgotten minor hit: Country music’s novelty hit of the year, “My Toot-Toot,” doubtless owes much of its popularity to the obvious question: What is a toot-toot? […] In French-influenced Cajun Louisiana, where the 47-year-old Simien lives, toot is a corruption of the […]

Oxford on Diacritics.

Jenny List had an amusing piece some years ago for the Oxford Dictionaries blog about diacritics, starting by saying you might think they’re not needed for English, and continuing: But as any halfway observant child would tell you, what about the café down the road? Or the jalapeño peppers you and your fiancée enjoyed on […]

Irritating Byssus.

Felicitas Maeder’s article “Irritating Byssus – Etymological Problems, Material facts, and the Impact of Mass Media” (pdf; from Textile Terminologies from the Orient to the Mediterranean and Europe, 1000 BC to 1000 AD 36 [2017]) begins by quoting the OED’s etymological entry for the term byssus: < Latin byssus, < Greek ?????? ‘a fine yellowish […]


My wife and I enjoy reading the police report in the local paper, which frequently amuses us with tales like these: An animal was removed from a chicken coop at a Pelham Road residence. The owner of the chickens was given advice on how to keep other animals from attacking the chickens. A black bear […]


Dictionaria, according to its beta page, is “an open-access journal that publishes high-quality dictionaries of languages from around the world, especially languages that do not have a large number of speakers. The dictionaries are published not in the traditional linear form, but as electronic databases that can be easily searched, linked and exported.” One of […]


I ran into the word gout and decided to look it up, because although I’ve doubtless seen the etymology before, I couldn’t remember it (ah, the joys of the sexagenarian brain!). It’s interesting but not especially noteworthy; to quote the AHD: [Middle English goute, from Old French, drop, gout, from Medieval Latin gutta, from Latin, […]

Grammatical Mistakes in Medieval Texts.

Bathrobe sent me this extremely interesting response from Will Scathlocke at Quora: What kind of grammatical mistakes are most prevalent in medieval and later texts written in Latin or Greek by non-native speakers? Do you by “mistake” mean a deviation from the sort of Latin which Caesar and Cicero wrote? If so, then the most […]

The Macedonian ‘Moby-Dick’ Translator.

Filip Stojanovski reports on a remarkable translator: The death of linguist Ognen ?emerski on August 25, cut down in his prime at age 42 by cancer, has shocked the Macedonian public. […] As a translator, ?emerski left a lasting cultural legacy by providing a new translation of the classic American novel “Moby-Dick” by Herman Melville, […]

Global Medieval Sourcebook.

More online goodness; Allison Meier reports for Hyperallergic: Images from medieval manuscripts have had something of a revival on social media, with viral accounts sharing their strange scenes of bizarre beasts or cavorting knights and monks. Yet the reading of those manuscripts by non-scholars remains low, partly due to a lack of access. The recently […]

Glossing Africa.

Namwali Serpell at NYRDaily writes about an interesting topic that I haven’t seen much discussion of: Whenever African writers are on a panel together, we are asked about the continent as a whole—its literature, its future, its political woes and economic potential. Whenever African writers get together on our own, we talk about glossaries. These […]

The Stoop.

The Stoop (to quote their website) “is a podcast about blackness, race, and identity in America, hosted by Leila Day and Hana Baba.” I’m not much of a podcast person, but I was listening to my local NPR station, WFCR, and heard a snippet of what sounded like a really interesting episode, “The problem with […]

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