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Can slur avoidance be taken too far?

I was rather flabberghasted to read an otherwise good post on Language Log seriously suggesting that racial slurs are so painful they should be coyly asterisked out even in careful lexicographical explanations of why they should not be used. Show More Summary

Incrimination by presupposition? The Goldstone e-mail

Paul Kay offered the following item for discussion around the water cooler at Language Log central: Here's an excerpt from the initial email from Rob Goldstone to Donald Trump, Jr.: ?"This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its  government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and […]

Purging Western Words from Turkish.

Over at the Log, Victor Mair posted about the latest silly governmental attempt to control language, in this case Erdo?an’s campaign against foreign influences in Turkish; he quotes an article in The Economist: Mr Erdogan started by ordering the word “arena”, which reminded him of ancient Roman depravity, removed from sports venues across the country. […]

Ask Language Log: “assuage”

Query from a reader: Is it correct to use the word assuage to indicate a lessening of something? That is, it is often used in the realm of feelings, i.e. assuage hunger, assuage grief, etc. But would it be acceptable to use to indicate the lessening of something more tangible, such as assuage criminality, assuage […]

Ask Language Log: cow evolution in Hong Kong

From Hwa Shi-Hsia: I have a question for Language Log. My sister in Malaysia recently bought an MP3 player with a feature listed as “The fire cow charging”. My father figured out that it meant a transformer or power adapter, but he couldn’t come up with a plausible explanation. An acquaintance from Hong Kong responded […]

There were serious problems in 2016 for some California voters who don't speak English, new report says

California voters with limited English language skills were too often left on their own when it came to getting help casting ballots last November, concludes a sweeping new survey based on eyewitness accounts logged by hundreds of election volunteers. The data raise significant questions about...

Pronominal reference to the arbitrary dog

Following Bean's guest post about being scorned by an 8-year-old child for not using singular they when it was appropriate, Language Log now presents the first evidence (to my knowledge) of a newspaper abandoning the usual use of it to refer to animals, and instead using singular they for an unknown arbitrary animal. This is […]

Not not

This is NOT a post about misnegation, a frequent topic at Language Log.  This is a reflection on the sublimity of nonnegation, which is not quite the same as transcendental affirmation.  It is a linguistic and philosophical inquiry on the absence of nothingness. First comes the linguistics; at the end comes the philosophy. In Mandarin, […]

The Language Log Experience

Recently this video, or links to it, have been showing up on just about every web page I visit: Apparently I'm being targeted because I bought a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud through the University of Pennsylvania, and therefore Adobe thinks that that Penn and I are likely candidates for Adobe Experience Cloud, which gives you […]

LifeWorks - Log In

This interactive task titled - Quel jour sommes-nous? - is part of a sequence of French activities from Languages Online. These activities focus on Days and Months. A

She would evaporate slippery chickens were north

Just because I haven't written a post about Chinglish for many moons doesn't mean that it has disappeared.  In fact, the following is such a paramount specimen that I would be remiss not to bring it to the attention of Language Log readers. From C. Grieve (who comments "I'm assuming the restaurant was a greasy […]

'Tis the Season: blooming in translation and in art

Jocelyn Ireson-Paine came across the Language Log posts which mention blooming: the increase in size of translated texts. She draws, and this made her think that if line drawing is regarded as translation from an original scene to lines, blooming can occur there too. She has written a brief note on this in "Drawing as […]

You April fools!

Many Language Log readers have been complaining about the absence of any recognition of April Fool's Day at this site. I can only lament your lack of perceptiveness. There have been pranks all over the place and you simply didn't see them because you are too gullible. The primary linguistic one was Victor Mair's amusing […]


There's a wonderful new podcast on linguistic matters that I highly recommend to all Language Log readers. It's called Lingthusiasm, and it's appropriately billed as "a podcast that's enthusiastic about linguistics." The podcast is co-hosted by Gretchen McCulloch and Lauren Gawne. You may know Gretchen from her All Things Linguistic blog or her posts on The […]

Irish "would"

Below is an email from Eoin Ryan (with added audio): Last week on Language Log you posted about a "tentative would" as used by Mike Pence, which reminded me of a use of "would" which I find interesting and may be similar, but I think it is different. Also, last week I had no clear examples […]

Court fight over Oxford commas and asyndetic lists

Language Log often weighs in when courts try to nail down the meaning of a statute. Laws are written in natural language—though one might long, by formalization, to end the thousand natural ambiguities that text is heir to—and thus judges are forced to play linguist. Any disambiguation puzzle requires a reader to weigh competing factors. Happily, this week's "case in […]

What a woman can't do with their body

Mark Meckes noticed a tweet about an interview with Emma Watson, who was being discussed in this Language Log post, and mentioned it in a comment thereto. It was completely off topic (and thus violated the Language Log comments policy, but I felt it was too interesting to be left languishing down there in a […]

Slack for Windows 10 updated with improved memory management and more

Slack for Windows 10 was updated to v2.5.1.0 in Windows Store. This latest update comes with reduced memory footprint, spell check support for Korean, Portugese (Brazilian), Albanian languages, and more. Find the full change log below. The way we load teams you don’t view often has been changed to reduce the app’s carbon footprint. (memory. […]

The passives of PricewaterhouseCoopers

While we at Language Log bemoan how often the passive voice is misidentified, and how often passive constructions are wrongly scapegoated, last night's Oscars debacle has provided us with a clearcut case of how agentless passives can serve to obfuscate. The official apology from Pricewaterhouse Coopers for the envelope mixup, which led Warren Beatty and […]

Ask Language Log: "I very like"

From Jonathan Lundell: The first comment on this performance of the Brandenburg 6 (nice one, btw): "I very like this authentic manner. And I very like first violist. Who is it?" It's from one Artem Klementyev (so Russian?). So, a question: why can't we say "I very like X"? …when we can do it with, […]

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