- Website: http://benzimmer.com/
- I am the language columnist for The Wall Street Journal and formerly wrote language columns for The Boston Globe and The New York Times Magazine. I've worked as the executive editor of Vocabulary.com and the Visual Thesaurus, as editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press, and as a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary. I currently serve as chair of the American Dialect Society's New Words Committee. You can follow me on Twitter or Facebook.
Posts by Ben Zimmer:
Ever since the first trailer for the upcoming science-fiction movie "Arrival" came out back in August, we here at Language Log Plaza have been anxiously awaiting more glimpses of Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks, a linguistics professor who is called upon to communicate with aliens after they arrive on Earth. The final trailer of the film has been released, in advance of the theatrical release on Nov. 11. And while many people may marvel at the CGI rendering of the alien ships, I'd imagine that the first reaction of most linguists is, "Hey, check out her office! And what books are on those shelves?"
When the first trailer was released, Gretchen McCulloch let the word slip on her All Things Linguistic blog that some linguists at McGill University (near the film's shooting location in Montreal) were consulted, and that "the books in Adams's office were borrowed from the offices of a couple linguists at McGill." I followed up with the McGill faculty who served as consultants to learn more about how the filmmakers recreated the office of a linguist. It's fair to say that it's the most meticulous rendering of a linguist's scholarly abode since the phonetician Peter Ladefoged helped design the lab of Henry Higgins in "My Fair Lady."
Today, Green's Dictionary of Slang (GDoS for short) launches its online version. This is excellent news, coming more than five years after Jonathon Green published the print edition of his exhaustive three-volume reference work. As I wrote in the New York Times Book Review at the time,
It's a never-ending challenge to keep up with the latest developments in the world of slang, but that is the lexicographer’s lot. Green plans to put his dictionary online for continuous revision, which is indeed the direction that many major reference works (including the O.E.D.) are now taking. In the meantime, his monument to the inventiveness of speakers from Auckland to Oakland takes its place as the pièce de résistance of English slang studies. To put it plain, it’s copacetic.
Despite some tough sledding along the way, GDoS now sees the light of day online. Below is Jonathon Green's announcement. (For more, read the coverage in Quartz, and also see the dictionary's blog.) The good news is that headwords, etymologies, and definitions are freely available through online searches, while the full entries, with voluminous citations for each sense of each word, are available for an annual subscription fee.
Hillary's been failing for 30 years in not getting the job done – it will never change.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2016
As Geoff Pullum noted, in last night's presidential debate, many of Trump's interruptions of Clinton (or shall we say his "manterruptions") involved on-the-fly denials of what Clinton was saying. Geoff describes one such denial: "'Not!' he snapped at one point, like a 9-year-old, during one of her utterances."
Let's go to the transcript:
CLINTON: Well, Donald, I know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts. The facts are — I did say I hoped it would be a good deal, but when it was negotiated…
The latest quarterly update to the online Oxford English Dictionary includes a metalinguistic term all too familiar to Language Log readers: uptalk, defined as "a manner of speaking in which declarative sentences are uttered with rising intonation at the end, a type of intonation more typically associated with questions." It's high time that the OED created an entry for the word, given that it has had a significant media presence (for better or for worse) ever since it burst on the scene in 1993.
Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables" is destined to become one of the lasting catchphrases of the campaign season.
Clinton's use of the phrase (which she says she now regrets*) appeared in a speech delivered at a fundraiser on Friday night:
You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.
A diplomatic rift between the United States and the Philippines was precipitated by comments that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made about President Obama at a Sept. 5 news conference.
Duterte's offensive comment was made in Tagalog (though most of his news conference was in English). In English-language press accounts, the Tagalog phrase putang ina has been translated as "son of a whore" or "son of a bitch." (NPR was less forthcoming today, variously referring to it as "an obscenity about Obama's mother" or "son of a fill-in-the-blank.") So what did Duterte really mean by putang ina? Chris Sundita, who has helped us with Tagalog translational issues in the past, comes to the rescue.
A few days ago I posted the trailer for the forthcoming science-fiction movie "Arrival," based on Ted Chiang's linguistically rich tale of alien contact, "Story of Your Life." While most commenters have wondered how well Chiang's xenolinguistics will translate to the big screen, a couple of eagle-eyed observers noted something worrying in the trailer: incredibly sloppy use of Arabic script.
In the new trailer for the science-fiction movie "Arrival," Amy Adams stars as Dr. Louise Banks, some sort of mastermind in xenolinguistics. "You're at the top of everyone's list when it comes to translations," says Colonel Weber (Forrest Whitaker), before whisking her off to meet the newly arrived aliens she's tasked with interpreting. She seems to get on with them just fine, while acknowledging that "language is messy."
In the Aug. 8 & 15 issue of The New Yorker, staff writer Lauren Collins has a "personal history" piece entitled "Love in Translation" (subtitled, "Learning about culture, communication, and intimacy in my husband's native French"). It's very nicely written and will surely be of interest to Language Log readers. But Collins relies on some linguistic research without giving proper credit, an oversight I've tried to rectify below.
Donald Trump supporter Sean O'Loughlin sent out a pro-Trump press release ("Dear America") with this bizarre passage:
When people on the news call Donald Trump a racist, I find that statement difficult to believe. Like myself, Donald Trump is a life-long New Yorker. Donald Trump lives, works, eats and employs people of all races and religions. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
In his Democratic National Convention speech, vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine broke out a Donald Trump impression that focused on a signature phrase: "believe me."
Eric Garland of The Hill shares a video of Hillary Clinton at a June 22 campaign appearance in North Carolina, and it provides ammunition those who would like to portray her as a soulless automaton vainly trying to seem like an authentic human being.