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"Offhand impressions and grumpy peeves"

Steven Pinker, "On my radar", The Guardian 8/23/2015: 4|Website: Language Log. Do you notice grammar gaffes, wonder about the speech styles of celebrities, find yourself curious about the origin of new words and constructions? Language Log is the place to go for commentary by people who actually know their stuff – linguists and other language […]

Blooming, embellishment, and bombs

In the comments to a recent post about the length differential between French and English, the concept of "blooming" was introduced. The ensuing discussion prompted one Language Log reader to spell out her thoughts at greater length.  I should provide a bit of background about this anonymous contributor, namely, she lived through the bombing of […]

General Chicken

Jim Millward sent in this photograph of a sign at "one of those Korean-run lunch buffet deli places (this in Bethesda MD)": We've had a lot of posts about chicken on Language Log, most notably and pertinently this one: "General Tso's chikin" (6/11/13). I don't know about the general nature of the signage in that Korean buffet […]

Brain imaging and spelling champions

Spelling bees have been a staple of discussion at Language Log: "Spelling bees and character amnesia" (8/7/13) "Spelling bee champs" (6/1/14) "Of toads, modernization, and simplified characters" (8/16/13) "Il ne parle pas français" (7/23/15) One of the major subthemes of our debates on this topic has been the dominance of individuals of South Asian (Indian) […]

Assessing Jeb Bush’s Bilingualism

A version of this post appeared on Language Log. Jeb Bush gave a Spanish-language interview on Sunday with Telemundo's José Díaz-Balart. This is the first time since the launch of his presidential campaign that his functional bilingualism...Show More Summary

Windows Insider app snags another update, brings support for more languages

The Windows Insider app for phones has received another update, just a few days after the last one, and again there is no change log in sight. This update appears to be showing for those already on a Windows 10 mobile preview, but not for users still on Windows 8.1. Show More Summary

Microsoft Updates Word And Excel iOS Apps With Support For Protected Documents And Complex Script Languages

Microsoft today released updates for Word and Excel iOS apps. This update includes support for protected documents, complex scripts and more. Find the full change log below. New in this update: • Bi-directional and complex script languages: now supports bi-directional text editing and complex script for Arabic, Hebrew, and Thai. • View protected documents: open […]

Ask Language Log: pronouncing apoptosis

From AB, MD (CPT, MC, USA): I have an odd inquiry that I'm hoping you'll oblige. My question is about the preferred pronunciation of apoptosis. I believe the scientist who originally described this phenomenon asked a linguist to invoke an image of an Autumn tree shedding a leaf. We are now in an intense debate […]

Language Log tracks down the old "Grin and Bear It" cartoon that Chief Justice Roberts quoted Justice Frankfurter misquoting.

I mentioned this in my earlier post on the Obamacare case:In a sly reference to Nancy Pelosi's "we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it," Chief Justice Roberts quotes an old Felix Frankfurter article — "Some Reflections on the Reading of Statutes, "47 Colum. Show More Summary

Ask Language Log: -ange < ?

From Bob Ladd: I just drove through the general area of Luxembourg/Lorraine – one of the places where French and Germanic have been in close contact since the Middle Ages – and could couldn't help noticing dozens of place names ending in -ange (Dudelange, Hettange, Differdange, Hayange, Hagondange, Aubange, Redange, Useldange, and many more) all […]

Ask Language Log: Iowa mystery image

David Donnell: A friend in Ames, Iowa, sent me this photo of a small framed picture she purchased at a garage sale in her town. She is curious what the language is, and what it says…in English. She added, “I got the impression from the other items at this woman's sale that she had done […]

Ask Language Log: bingeing, cringeing

Heath Mayhew writes: The other day, one of my friends asked how to spell bingeing. Quickly,  we all chimed in that it clearly couldn't be "binging". I didn't believe their conviction, so we looked it up in American Heritage 3rd and I lost. Below is a list of words we discovered to retain the "e" […]

Eighteenth-century European sources for some Chinese proverbs

Jan Söhlke was intrigued by the issue of fake Chinese proverbs that had come up in some recent Language Log posts. That reminded him of the time when he was preparing his MA Thesis he stumbled across an unusual selection of Chinese proverbs. His thesis is on Wilhelm Raabe's novel Das Odfeld.  As a motto […]

Mystery message

Email from Diego Viana: I am a Brazilian journalist and reader of the Language Log blog. I'm writing to you because the blog came immediately to my mind when a friend showed me a piece of paper she found in a recently bought jacket. It's written in an alphabet we don't know and, obviously, the […]

IDGI: Pre-Natal Wifi?

So far the Language Log folks at UPenn have not found an explanation for why the pregnant lady graphic on this Korean train priority seating plaque has wifi. Though I wouldn't be surprised if Korean signmakers expect every fetus to be taking in utero cram courses to prep for their preschool exams. Pre-Natal Wi-Fi [languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu]

Jackie Chan Campus Station

As Language Log readers are well aware, Jackie Chan recently became super famous for the amazing bounciness of his hair and the mystical syllable he proclaimed in self-admiration: "Duang " (3/1/15) and "More on 'duang'"  (3/19). Now we find that he has a bus stop named after him: Computerized translation fail at Sichuan Normal University campus bus stop […]

Ask Language Log: hippocampus

Via Jason Schrock on Twitter… Hey @LanguageLog check it out pic.twitter.com/Hxh1ngD55y — jason (@jason_schrock) April 2, 2015 h?im? ?? ("seahorse") So where does the "Hippocampus" on the pictured language learning card come from? That's the scientific genus name for what is commonly known as the "seahorse". It derives from Greek hippos ("horse") and kampos ("sea […]

Awesome foods

Felix Sadeli sent in this list of colossal mistranslations of food names. We've already seen several of these and explained a number of them on Language Log: "Puke " (10/8/10) "Gourmet Chinese cookshop " (1/27/14) — "Soup for Sluts" (in the comments) "Combating the monolithic tree mushroom stem squid " (5/3/10) ("The jew's ear Juice" — […]

John McWhorter responds

Some clarifications about my Wall Street Journal article, which seems to have led to some misunderstandings among Language Log’s readers (as well as over at Languagehat). Since the readers here are the most well-informed audience that piece will ever reach outside of professional linguists, I thought it’d be useful to clarify what I based the […]

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