Mark Liberman


Posts by Mark Liberman:


    Kelly Dwyer, "Mark Cuban on his beloved Rockets, save James Harden: 'That’s not a very good team'", Yahoo Sports 4/17/2015:

    What better voice than Cuban’s, a man who inherited a perennial loser in 2000 before proceeding to act as the top-of-the-fish leader of a club that has made the playoffs in 14 out of 15 full seasons in the years since?

    Bradley Sherman sent the link with a request for top-of-the-fish enlightenment. I got nothing, except maybe olive oil, pepper, thyme, and lemon juice.


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    Wasn't haven't it, ain't haven't it

    Renditions of "wasn't having it" as "wasn't haven't it" are pretty common. Some examples from web search:

    yeah, he tried but seen that I wasn't haven't it.
    Rookie wasn't haven't it.
    Richard wasn't haven't it today.
    Ms. Claudia wasn't haven't it lol you started it & Claudia finished it.

    And from twitter:

    He was trynna touch up on the girls b4 practice someone told the coaches & they  wasn't haven't it AT ALL bruh.
    Had to relax my hair by force!  The comb wasn't haven't it lol
    I tried to tell you Mike Wallace wasn't haven't it!!
    Great game from Linden tonight… RC tried to play bully ball but Linden wasn't haven't it#uctfinals

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    Text by the bay

    I'll be spending next Friday and Saturday in San Francisco at Text By The Bay, billed as "A new NLP conference bringing together researchers and practitioners, using computational linguistics and text mining to build new companies through understanding and meaning."

    With 46 interesting-looking talks and a couple of panels, this seems like an excellent way to get a sense of the opportunities and activities in this area. There are talks from people at Microsoft, Wikimedia, AirBnB, Trulia,, Bloomberg, OpenTable, Twitter, LinkedIn, Verizon, etc., and from people at Berkeley, Stanford, Penn, and Purdue. And some of the presentations by people from smaller, newer, less-familiar outfits may be the most interesting of all.

    Registration is not cheap — "new companies", an expensive venue, and all — but the organizer, Alexy Khrabrov, tells me that the discount code TEXTMARK will get you 50% off, and students who email to from their university account may be able to negotiate further reductions.



    "A year ago, we don't win tonight".

    Ron Stack writes:

    Here is Manager Terry Collins on the Mets' victory over the Marlins last night: “A year ago, we don’t win tonight. It’s a different mentality in our clubhouse now."  

    I'm almost certain LL has covered this time-shifted present tense but since I don't even know what to call it I couldn't do much of a search.  

    So, what is it? And why does it sound right but look strange? And why does it seem (anecdotally, anyway) to be so popular among coaches and managers?

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    Style guide

    Today's xkcd:

    Mouseover title: "I honestly didn't think you could even USE emoji in variable names. Or that there were so many different crying ones."


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    Adventures in ellipsis

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    Breath Clay

    From a page at Chambers Wines about the VinItaly exhibition in Verona:

    Caption: "Some translations are more successful than others".

    But what, asks Francois Lang, is "Breath Clay" a (bad?) translation of?

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    Early Alzheimer's signs in Reagan's speech

    Lawrence Altman, "Parsing Ronald Reagan’s Words for Early Signs of Alzheimer’s", NYT 3/30/2015:

    Even before Ronald Reagan became the oldest elected president, his mental state was a political issue. His adversaries often suggested his penchant for contradictory statements, forgetting names and seeming absent-mindedness could be linked to dementia.  

    In 1980, Mr. Reagan told me that he would resign the presidency if White House doctors found him mentally unfit. Years later, those doctors and key aides told me they had not detected any changes in his mental abilities while in office.  

    Now a clever new analysis has found that during his two terms in office, subtle changes in Mr. Reagan’s speaking patterns linked to the onset of dementia were apparent years before doctors diagnosed his Alzheimer’s disease in 1994.

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    On their glass legs

    From Levana Taylor:

    The Ithaca Times [Josh Brokaw, "First Black Frat Gets Historical Status", 4/9/2015) quotes someone speaking about a dilapidated house that his organization wants to buy and restore: "It’s really on a glass leg right now, especially after this especially severe winter.” I wonder whether the guy really said “on a glass leg” or whether the reporter misheard “on its last leg(s)”

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    Could this really be the end?

    ..of the nonsense about narcissism and pronoun counts? Probably not, but it should be.

    I'm talking about Angela L. Carey,  Melanie S. Brucks, Albrecht CP Küfner, Nicholas S. Holtzman, Mitja D. Back, M. Brent Donnellan, James W. Pennebaker, and Matthias R. Mehl, "Narcissism and the use of personal pronouns revisited", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3/30/2015:

    Among both laypersons and researchers, extensive use of first-person singular pronouns (i.e., I-talk) is considered a face-valid linguistic marker of narcissism. However, the assumed relation between narcissism and I-talk has yet to be subjected to a strong empirical test. Accordingly, we conducted a large-scale (N = 4,811), multisite (5 labs), multimeasure (5 narcissism measures) and dual-language (English and German) investigation to quantify how strongly narcissism is related to using more first-person singular pronouns across different theoretically relevant communication contexts (identity-related, personal, impersonal, private, public, and stream-of-consciousness tasks). Overall (r = .02, 95% CI [−.02, .04]) and within the sampled contexts, narcissism was unrelated to use of first-person singular pronouns (total, subjective, objective, and possessive). This consistent near-zero effect has important implications for making inferences about narcissism from pronoun use and prompts questions about why I-talk tends to be strongly perceived as an indicator of narcissism in the absence of an underlying actual association between the 2 variables.

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    No, totally

    Kathryn Schulz, "What part of 'No, totally' don't you understand?", The New Yorker 4/7/1015:

    Not long ago, I walked into a friend’s kitchen and found her opening one of those evil, impossible-to-breach plastic blister packages with a can opener. This worked, and struck me as brilliant, but I mention it only to illustrate a characteristic that I admire in our species: given almost any entity, we will find a way to use it for something other than its intended purpose. We commandeer cafeteria trays to go sledding, “The Power Broker” to prop open the door, the Internet to look at kittens. We do this with words as well—time was, spam was just Spam—but, lately, we have gone in for a particularly dramatic appropriation. In certain situations, it seems, we have started using “no” to mean “yes.”

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    The Conditional Entente

    John McIntyre's "Grammarnoir 7: 'The Corpus Had a Familiar Face'" is available at The Baltimore Sun.

    At the start of the story, a thug with "fists the size of Westphalian hams and the cold, dead eyes of a community press content coach" strong-arms John's narrator into a big room "with a glass wall overlooking a formal garden. Around a large table sat half a dozen people: Jeans. T-shirts, mostly black. Bottles of imported water. Three-day stubble on every face. No women."

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    Old School

    PhD comics for 3/25/2015:

    Of course, email is "old school" in the sense of "15 years ago", since 20 or 25 years ago, most students didn't have an email account.

    But anyhow, this can be a real-world problem, especially for large classes, since schools generally don't yet offer a utility for txting all the students enrolled in a given course, or at least offering them that option, and instructors still assume that email notices of one kind or another will be effective.

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