Archive for Humor

Etymology in the rain forest

"Scientist discovers puppy-sized spider in rain forest", ABC 11 Eyewitness News 10/20/2014:

For all readers with arachnophobia, take a moment to collect yourself before proceeding further, because this spider will haunt your dreams.

Harvard Etymologist Piotr Naskrecki recently posted on his blog about an encounter in Guyana's rainforest with a South American Goliath birdeater, a spider so large it's the size of a small dog or puppy. According to Naskreski, "Their leg span approaches 30 cm (nearly a foot) and they weigh up to 170 g."

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Stronzo Bestiale, Galadriel Mirkwood, Crosley Shelvador, …

"The true story of Stronzo Bestiale", Parolacce 10/5/2014:

Would you read a paper written by Stronzo Bestiale (Total Asshole)? A dose of mistrust would be justified: the name says it all. Yet, in 1987, professor Bestiale, supposedly a physicist in Palermo, Sicily, authored major papers in prestigious scientific peer reviewed journals such as the  Journal of Statistical Physics, the Journal of Chemical Physics and the proceedings of a meeting of American Physical Society in Monterey.

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Half-fast

From David Donnell:

"Not for nothin'," as the native NY'ers say, but I saw this commercial on the idiot-box tonight and was tickled by the play on words. Surprised to google and discover "half-fast" has been around for some time. But the TV ad still makes me laugh!

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Commas (and parsing) are important

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Colbert on Krauthammer

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Form, function, fun

In "Pragmatics as comedy" (1/28/2010) I discussed a blog post and two comedy sketches that enact familiar rhetorical structures through a series of self-referential descriptions. Thus Chris Clarke's "This is the title of a typical incendiary blog post" (1/24/2010):

This sentence contains a provocative statement that attracts the readers’ attention, but really only has very little to do with the topic of the blog post. This sentence claims to follow logically from the first sentence, though the connection is actually rather tenuous. This sentence claims that very few people are willing to admit the obvious inference of the last two sentences, with an implication that the reader is not one of those very few people. This sentence expresses the unwillingness of the writer to be silenced despite going against the popular wisdom. This sentence is a sort of drum roll, preparing the reader for the shocking truth to be contained in the next sentence.

This sentence contains the thesis of the blog post, a trite and obvious statement cast as a dazzling and controversial insight.

Jon Wu's "A Generic College Paper", recently published at McSweeney's Internet Tendency, is a worthy addition to the genre.

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Texting while walking

A few days ago, CNN published an article entitled "Chinese city tests out sidewalk lanes for cellphone users".

See also this article on Mashable and this one on MTV news (with some funny videos).

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Baby blues

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Full fart

Advertisement at a train stop in Oslo:


Photograph courtesy of Alexy Khudyakov

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Postcard from Edinburgh

The Edinburgh Festival season is almost over. Giant tents are already being taken down at the BBC site on university land below my office window. Soon (Sunday, August 31) will come the final outdoor concert in the Princes Street Gardens, with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra sitting below a thousand-year-old castle playing dramatic music (Ride of the Valkyries, War March of the Priests from Athalie, Marche Écossaise, 1812 Overture) as hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of fireworks explode in perfect computer-synchronized time to the music.

The Festival Fringe, an enormous array of performances and events dwarfing the actual Edinburgh International Festival, turns the entire city into one huge crazy street party, with jugglers and escapologists and buskers performing in every nook and cranny of the ancient streets and pay-for-tickets performances in every rentable club or hall or church or room that can be turned into performance space. Literally millions of tickets have been sold for literally thousands of performances at literally hundreds of venues (there's a reason I haven't been writing much for Language Log this past month). The Fringe is far too big to provide grammatical advice to performers; one show I went to, a fabulous taiko drumming exhibition, advertised itself under the totally ungrammatical phrase "Japan Marvelous Drummers".

Every comedian in the country has been here this month to try out new material for the fall season in the clubs and theaters, and in consequence I can now bring to Language Log (in case you missed the British newspapers reporting it about a week ago) the Best Joke of 2014.

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Chinese characters formed from letters of the alphabet

Tim Cousins sent in this photograph of a sign in a local mall in Dalian, northeast China.


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Lorem China

Brian Krebs, "Lorem Ipsum: Of Good & Evil, Google & China", Krebs on Security 8/14/2014:

Imagine discovering a secret language spoken only online by a knowledgeable and learned few. Over a period of weeks, as you begin to tease out the meaning of this curious tongue and ponder its purpose, the language appears to shift in subtle but fantastic ways, remaking itself daily before your eyes. And just when you are poised to share your findings with the rest of the world, the entire thing vanishes.

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The Latinometer

From David Frauenfelder:

Here’s an item from the land of language: the "Latinometer".

Have you seen it? You enter text into the query box, it analyzes how Latinate your English vocabulary is, and then tells you whether you sound “concrete,” educated, pretentious, or mendacious. The more Latin-derived terms in your text, the more likely you are to be a liar.

Your most recent Language Log post scored 53% on the Latinometer, pretentious, and dangerously close to the “You are probably lying” zone.   I still don’t know if the author, a Latin professor, is trying to be ironic.

Somebody needs to do a LL post on this. I find it utterly ridiculous, and I’m a Latin teacher. Or maybe I find it ridiculous because I’m a Latin teacher. I wonder what a linguist would say?

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Another British-to-English phrase book

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Kiss kiss / BER: Chinese photoshop victim

David Moser sent this photo to me about five years ago and I'm only now getting around to unearthing it from the masses of files scattered over my desktop:


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