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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, […]

Wenzhounese in Italy.

This Victor Mair post at the Log is fascinating for two completely different reasons. First is the “Devil’s language” aspect: Wenzhounese is the most divergent variety of Wu and is considered a separate language by some. It is not mutually intelligible with other varities of Wu. It preserves words from Classical Chinese that are no […]

Iron Crotch

Here on Language Log, we have devoted a considerable amount of attention to the terminology related to kungfu: "Kung-fu (Gongfu) Tea" (7/20/11) See also Ben Zimmer's masterful article on Visual Thesaurus: "How 'Kung Fu' Entered the Popular Lexicon" (1/17/14) Now we have documentation for another type of kungfu that has hitherto eluded us: This #KungFu […]

Ask Language Log: -ism exceptionalism

Jonah Goldberg, "The Trouble with Nationalism", National Review 2/7/20 But I firmly believe that when we call the sacrifices of American patriots no different from the sacrifices of Spartans — ancient or modern — we are giving short shrift to the glory, majesty, and uniqueness of American patriotism and the American experiment. I’m reminded of […]

Ask Language Log: Turnbull, Trumble, ?

Graeme Orr asks: This relates to US-Australian relations, thrown into mirth if not disarray by a now infamous phone call. Afterwards, Mr Spicer mistook our PM's surname twice in a press conference. Australian social media heard Spicer as calling our PM Turnbull 'Trumble'. But I distinctly hear it as 'Trunbull', a simple transposition error of […]

Why learn Cantonese and one way to do it

Anne Henochowicz, who for years was a mainstay at China Digital Times, and whom I have often cited on Language Log, has decided to branch out from Mandarin and tackle another important Sinitic language, Cantonese. Check out her new blog:  "I'm Learning Cantonese:  Teaching Myself a Second Chinese Language". If you've ever had an inclination […]

The SISSILY countries

Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen. We're going to need an acronym, in case we forget which are the seven countries on the blacklist. And Language Log is here for you: we have prepared one. Somalia-Iran-Sudan-Syria-Iraq-Libya-Yemen: SISSILY. We can refer to them as the SISSILY countries. And to convince you of the threat they […]

"Do I not like that"

Graham Taylor has died at the age of 72, after a long and varied career as a manager and coach of English football teams. But this is Language Log, not English Football Log, and so we'll leave the obsequies to others and focus on Mr. Taylor's best known quotation, "Do I not like that": Your […]

Two "crash blossom" headlines

3 months agoHumor / odd : TYWKIWDBI

These examples via the Funny subreddit and The Express.Previous examples here and here.And a compilation here.The term was originally created at Language Log.

An Interview with Sarah Thomason.

Sally Thomason (who occasionally posts at Language Log) is a wonderful linguist I’ve written about here more than once; last March Ryan Bradley interviewed her for the Paris Review, and it’s very much worth reading. An excerpt: Are there languages that are better at adapting? When languages meet, does one “win”? Sure. But that comparison […]

Mystery script in a library book

We received the following intriguing note at Language Log Plaza: Hey there, my name's Dan and I work at the Calistoga library. I found this little note in a book that was returned and I'm curious what script it's in. At first I thought it was in Cherokee, but then looked closely and saw it […]

Ask Language Log: Obsolete expressions

From a reader: I just noticed this headline in our local news (which I read on line…): "Seahawks QB Russell Wilson pens letter on behalf of Sonics arena project." Does anyone pen a letter these days, or dial a phone number?  I am sure this raises issues that have come up in your blog. Maybe […]

My first post on Language Log

As hinted yesterday, I have joined the Language Log juggernaut (thanks to Mark Liberman and Geoff Pullum for recruiting me). Here’s my first post: Justice Breyer, Professor Austin, and the Meaning of ‘Any’.

Language vs. script

Many of the debates over Chinese language issues that keep coming up on Language Log and elsewhere may be attributed to a small number of basic misunderstandings and disagreements concerning the relationship between speech and writing. All too often, people think that the Chinese characters (hànzì ??) are the Chinese language.  Right away that brings […]

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