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What's in a name — Pikachu, Beikaciu, Pikaqiu?

Since I began writing blogs for Language Log around ten years ago, I have never received so many tips on what to write about as I have in response to the furor that has arisen over Nintendo's plan to change the Chinese names for some of the characters in their immensely popular Pokémon (???? < […]

Ask Language Log: why is "whether or not" more frequent?

Ton van der Wouden asks: The Google Ngram viewer shows a tenfold increase in the frequency of the string "whether or not". Can the readers of language log think of any explanation for this growth? Can it perhaps be traced back to some prescriptive source? Is it perhaps accompanied by a comparable decrease of the […]

Singlish: alive and well

We've mentioned that special brand of Singaporean English on Language Log from time to time, most recently just a few days ago: "New Singaporean and Hong Kong terms in the OED" (5/12/16) So what is it, really? Singlish is the English-based creole or patois spoken colloquially in Singapore. Although English is the lexifier language, Singlish […]


Bruce Rusk thought Language Log readers might be interested in a bit of digraphia from Vancouver: an “escape room” company (on this phenomenon, see here), with several locations in Vancouver and its environs, uses the Sinograph ch? ? ("go out / forth; exit") in place of the letter E in its name, “?XIT” (where it […]

Microsoft Arrow Launcher Updated With More Wunderlist Integration

Microsoft today updated their Arrow Launcher in Google Play Store. In this update, they have added some more Wunderlist integration features, support for new languages, and more. Read the full change log below. What’s New: 1. Stronger Wunderlist integration features–all lists are displayed; set reminders. 2. Notification badge counts can now be displayed on the […]

Animal Sounds.

Via Victor Mair at the Log: Here is what claims to be “the world’s biggest multilingual list” of sounds that animals make. It has 58 animal sounds as made in 17 languages. Some of the animals are recorded as making separate sounds for different meanings (e.g., there are 10 different sounds listed for dogs) and […]

Cactus Wawa revisited

One of the most intriguing and enthralling Language Log posts is this one: "cactus wawa: the strange tale of a strange character" (11/1/14) I spent months doing the research for that post and, although it garnered 80 helpful comments, I still felt that there were some loose ends.  Consequently, I was delighted to receive last […]

Character amnesia redux

This is a topic that we have frequently broached on Language Log: "Character Amnesia" (7/22/10) "Character amnesia revisited" (12/13/12) "Spelling bees and character amnesia" (8/7/13) "Character amnesia and the emergence of digraphia"...Show More Summary

Old Sinitic Reconstructions and Tibeto-Burman.

A guest post by Tsu-Lin Mei at the Log describes work he has been doing on Tibeto-Burman cognates and Old Chinese: The work is quite interesting. It involves the internal history of the Tibetan language, internal history of Tibeto-Burman, etc. Some of these areas have been covered by James Matisoff, and others are terra incognita. […]

Ask Language Log: German restaurant-name zum?

From Aaron Powell: I woke last night with a minor bout of food poisoning and spent some time catching up on Language Log to distract myself,and it occurred to me that you might be able to explain a German linguistic phenomenon that I don’t understand.  I have recently moved from the USA to Vienna, Austria […]

Ask Language Log: Sticked/Stuck a landing?

From Charlie Clingen: To stick a landing gone viral since last Friday. But where does it come from and which is right:   "SpaceX finally stuck a sea landing Friday, when the company's first-stage booster glided" (from an online news item) or "SpaceX finally sticked a sea landing Friday…"? I believe that the expression "stick […]


Over at the Log, a guest post by Nathan Hopson describes a really clever use of the Japanese language’s traditions of borrowings and abbreviations: Reading and watching the news in Japanese, I quickly realized that the UN is something of an exception and that the media handle the alphabet soup of international organizations by giving […]

Ask Language Log: Why are some Chinese PDFs garbled on iPad?

Mark Metcalf writes: Since Language Log addresses lots of interesting language-related issues, I was wondering if you'd ever encountered a problem with Chinese PDFs being incorrectly displayed on an iPad. I searched the LL website and didn't find it previously addressed. I also unsuccessfully searched the Web for solutions. Here's the issue: Last week I […]

Ask Language Log: Is this a sentence?

D.M. writes: A discussion on copyediting-l turns on whether one or more of the following are grammatical English sentences. "That smile scares me," she said and swallowed hard. "That smile scares me," she said and backed away. "Anything for you, man," the captain said and extended his hand. I'm in a minority that says they […]

The Trumpian Conditional

This post originally appeared on Language Log. After Pope Francis suggested that Donald Trump's plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border makes him not-so-Christian, Trump fired back with a written statement that begins with aShow More Summary

Negation density record?

From Julian Hook: Browsing some old Language Log posts recently, I came across "Prophylactic over-negation", 1/26/2012, featuring the phrase "It's not that I don't doubt…" Something possessed me to hunt for other examples of the construction, which turned up a remarkable specimen in a piece about the personal life of Derek Jeter (Emily Shire, "Derek […]

More on Chinese telegraph codes

John McVey was rooting around in Language Log for recent posts about telegraphic codes, and stumbled upon this: "Chinese Telegraph Code (CTC)" (5/24/15) What we learned there is that the CTC consists of 10,000 numbers arbitrarily assigned to the same amount of characters, one number per character. John calls our attention to a different kind […]

If only Donald Trump had a British accent...

... he wouldn't just sound different, the meaning would change... to a freakish extent. (Via Language Log.)

CodeSOD: Log of String

The English language contains words with multiple and often contradictory meanings. A dress, for example, is only one of many items you could put on while dressing yourself. Meanwhile, if you want to wear pants instead, you should avoid...Show More Summary


Over a decade ago, Mark Liberman posted at the Log about a garbled account of a “magical sounding gibberish language”; I won’t confuse you with the details, which turned out to be irrelevant, but the upshot was that the actual term was grammelot, which seems to have been invented by Dario Fo. A followup post […]

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