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Five and ten years ago in LLOG

Brett Reynolds wrote:

It occurred to me that now that LL is (well) over 10 years old, it would be a nice feature to recycle old but still relevant posts, like BoingBoing does. So, each week you could pick out a couple of great posts from a decade earlier.

As an initial experiment, today I'll link to the posts from five and ten years ago — and then update one post from 3/11/2004.

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Cantonese as Ebonics

Such a proposition is preposterous on the very face of it.  Yet a commenter to this blog has repeatedly made this claim in all earnestness, and even attempted to back up his claim with various types of evidence.  I asked some friends and colleagues what they thought of such an assertion, and many of the more temperate responses I received have been included in the comments to "No character for the most frequent morpheme in Taiwanese", where the comparison was made; see also the earlier "Spoken Hong Kong Cantonese and written Cantonese", where the same commenter made the identical claim.

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Bad Science

There's an article in the current issue of The Economist that you should read carefully: "Trouble at the lab", 10/19/2013.  If you're a regular reader of Language Log, you'll be familiar with the issues that it raises — lack of replication, inappropriate use of "statistical significance" testing, data dredging, the "file drawer effect", inadequate documentation of experimental methods and data-analysis procedures, failure to publish raw data, the role of ambition and ideology, and so on.

But all the same, I'm going to push back. The problems in science, though serious, are nothing new. And the alternative approaches to understanding and changing the world, including journalism, are much worse. In fact, some of the worst problems in science are the direct result, in my opinion, of the poor quality of science journalism. One of the key reasons that leading scientific journals publish bad papers is that both the authors and the editors are looking for media buzz, and can usually count on the media to oblige.

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Something in the water?

During last night's vote on reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling, the official House Stenographer apparently decided to make a speech about Freemasons and had to be escorted out:

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(Apologies for being slow in taking account of this important neologism.) Connor Adams Sheets, "What Is Capuling? 'Everyday I'm Çapuling' Turkish Protest Video Goes Viral", International Business Times 6/4/2013:

"Everyday I'm Çapuling!" is quickly becoming a rallying cry of sorts for the so-called "Turkish Spring" protests that have swept across Turkey since police violently broke up a protest camp in Istanbul's Taksim Square on Friday [May 31] with water cannons, tear gas and brutal violence.

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One more from Bert

From Bert Vaux, following up on "U.K. vs. U.S. usage in Lee Child", 6/13/2013:

I just finished "The Affair" (quite good) and only noticed one more feature that I think may be a clear Britishism, "in the event" in the particular sense and construction here:

…I figured if the reduced payload let the Humvee hit sixty-five miles an hour I would be in Carter Crossing again at three minutes past ten.
[new chapter]
In the event the big GM diesel gave me a little better than sixty-five miles an hour, and two minutes short of ten o'clock I pulled up and hid the truck in the last of the trees…

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Sloppiness and its enemies

Paul Krugman ("The Sloppiness Syndrome", NYT 5/22/2013):

So what is it with New Republic alumni? First Michael Kinsley, then Charles Lane, weigh in with defenses of austerity that aren’t just wrong, but painfully ill-informed. Kinsley not only makes a really bad analogy between current events and the 1970s, he seems not to know anything about what happened in the 1970s either. Lane attacks stimulus advocates for failing to address an argument that I actually discussed, at length, in my last column but one.

Whence cometh this epidemic of sheer sloppiness?

I’m not really sure, but in these cases I suspect it has a lot to do with the famed TNR/Slate premium on being “counterintuitive”, which in practice meant skewering supposed liberal pieties. (Kinsley himself joked that TNR should be renamed “Even the liberal New Republic”).

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We're all Lake Woebegonians now.

From this morning's New York Times:

"Nationally, about 17 percent of children under 20 are obese, or about 12.5 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which defines childhood obesity as a body mass index at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex."

There must be some explanation for this.  Comments definitely open.

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Newly invented fake prescriptive poppycock

Allan Metcalf has done a remarkable thing over on Lingua Franca, in the post you can see here: he has announced a contest in which readers have to think up new fake prescriptive rules ("The rule has to be a brand new one, not announced in any previous usage manual, but—and this is the hard part—it has to look venerable… a rule that appears to have been followed by careful writers all along, while being misused or ignored by careless writers"), and he's actually got his commenters doing it, and some of them are brilliant. They are actually thinking up fake prescriptive poppycock that you might almost actually believe if you didn't know better. Check it out.

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Why "Hopefully"?

I have a piece airing on "Fresh Air" today on hopefully. I recorded it about a month ago and it has been sitting in the can since then, so I didn't have the opportunity to profit from the observations made by Mark in his recent posts here, here and here; if I had, I would have mentioned his points about the changing frequency of the word, among other things, and some of the points made by Arnold in a one-stop-shopping post at his blog. I simply described the usage as "floating hopefully," so as not to tax the radio audience's limited patience for grammatical pilpul. Mostly, I wanted to stress a couple of things that seem to me to make hopefully sui generis in the canon of linguistic infractions.

Start with its elevation to a shibboleth and the overwrought tenor of the denunciations, so disproportionate to the imagined offense:

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Serialism and anti-serialism

On my personal blog, an inventory of postings (most from Language Log) on the use vs. avoidance of the Oxford, or serial, comma, here.

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Autism in the AAAS

No, this is not me complaining again about the frustrating unwillingness of the AAAS to communicate with the public by making virtual versions of its marvelous symposia available on line. Instead, I'm going to tell you about the next symposium I'm about to sit in on: "Autism: Genetic, Epigenetic, and Environmental Factors Influencing Neural Networks", organized by Isaac Pessah and Cindy Lawler. The abstract:

Autism is a heterogeneous set of developmental disorders with complex etiologies. The goal of the symposium is to present a multidisciplinary perspective of how genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors can interact to promote autism risk. The speakers will critically evaluate the evidence from human and animal studies that gene x environment interactions influence autism susceptibility, severity, and treatment outcomes. Genetic risk factors for autism will be reviewed. New evidence that autism may be associated with an increased copy number burden especially in regions of genomic instability, will be presented and discussed in relationship to environmental causes. How epigenetic mechanisms alter expression of genes relevant to autism will be reviewed in light of environmental chemicals that alter global and gene-specific DNA methylation patterns. Recent progress in understanding how impairments in neural connectivity contribute to autism will be reviewed. The role of methionine (MET) polymorphisms in autism risk and how polyaromatic hydrocarbons found in air pollution differentially influence individuals with the cMET autism risk allele will be presented. Evidence that low-level chemical exposures influence molecular and cellular processes that alter the balance of excitation and inhibition and neuronal connectivity relevant to the development of autism will be evaluated.

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Whatever else may be true about biologists, they generate the best spam. I've somehow managed to get on a mailing list for biological lab equipment — some conference I attended, or some journal I subscribed too — and as a result, I get lots of email like this one, which arrived this morning under the Subject heading "Upgrade your Tissue Culture Lab today":

Whether you want another CO2 incubator, biosafety cabinet, or just a water bath or new stir plate, we have it in stock and ready to ship.  Pipettes?  We have them. Media shaker? Got that too. We have some amazing discounts to our already low prices, but the offers on this email are only applicable until Feb, 29. 2012.

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Language logging at Discover Magazine

You, dear readers, understand that the scientific study of language is, well, scientific. But the rest of the world doesn't always see it that way. So I thought I'd let you know that I've signed on to contribute to Discover Magazine's recently-launched science blog, The Crux, where you'll be able to read the occasional piece on language alongside some fine articles on particle physics or avian flu. My first post is on bilingualism's impact on cognition, and can be found here.

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Ask Language Log: "Anything" and "everything"

LS, in Charleston, West Virginia, writes:

I have a question I've thought about for years, and today, when I decided to poke around google, I stumbled upon a blog that had your name.  Can you tell me why, in southern dialects where the velar nasal changes to a coronal nasal, there are two exceptions?  I know of no dialect that would "drop the g," as it were, in the words

everything and anything?

The being in human being is iffy.

If you can answer this, I'll be able to sleep at night again!

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