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Decopunk and other quasicompositional compounds

The Wikipedia article on cyberpunk derivatives lists, among others, biopunk, nanopunk, steampunk, dieselpunk, decopunk, and atompunk. These are all subgenres of speculative fiction, unlike glam-punk, electropunk, cowpunk, etc., which are subgenres of punk rock (music).

And these words are also prime examples of the quasiregularity of  morphological (and sometimes phrasal) composition.

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X-ternity leave

Matthew Haag, "Company Is Offering ‘Fur-ternity Leave’ for New Pet Owners", NYT 8/20/2018:

A Minneapolis marketing company recently made tweaks to its employee benefits this summer, ranging from conventional to unusual. It gave workers a larger commuter stipend, as well as a reason to avoid the office altogether: “fur-ternity leave,” or the ability to work from home for a week to welcome new dogs or cats.

“This is kind of a no-brainer,” said Allison McMenimen, a vice president at the company, Nina Hale, who helped devise the new policy. “The idea of offering benefits that just help keep employees at the office, that’s over.”

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mmhmm etc.

Kumari Devarajan, "Ready For A Linguistic Controversy? Say 'Mmhmm'", NPR 8/17/20018:

Once upon a time, English speakers didn't say "mmhmm." But Africans did, according to Robert Thompson, an art history professor at Yale University who studies Africa's influence on the Americas.

In a 2008 documentary, Thompson said the word spread from enslaved Africans into Southern black vernacular and from there into Southern white vernacular. He says white Americans used to say "yay" and "yes." […]

Ugo Nwojeki, a professor of African-American studies at the University of California, Berkeley, says he "always assumed" that the word was African. Lev Michael, a linguist at the same school, says that "doesn't seem very plausible." Roslyn Burns, a linguist at UCLA, says "it's hard to say."

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ICYMI: "Fog computing"

You've almost certainly heard about "cloud computing" — the phrase is frequently in the news, and has even made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, with the gloss "the use of networked facilities for the storage and processing of data rather than a user's local computer, access to data or services typically being via the Internet", and citations from 1996. But do you know about "fog computing"? Wikipedia defines it as

an architecture that uses edge devices to carry out a substantial amount of computation, storage, communication locally and routed over the internet backbone, and most definitively has input and output from the physical world, known as transduction. […]

On November 19, 2015, Cisco Systems, ARM Holdings, Dell, Intel, Microsoft, and Princeton University, founded the OpenFog Consortium, to promote interests and development in fog computing.

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Ask Language Log: Word(s) for leaking?

From Bob Ladd:

Thanks to an old pair of swimming goggles, I’ve just become aware that Italian doesn’t have a word for ‘leak’ – or alternatively, that the English word ‘leak’ covers a very wide range of situations in which a substance (often water) passes through a human artefact designed to prevent it from passing through.  Semantically, there are two distinct cases: in one the artefact is a container of some sort (a bucket, a gas tank) intended to keep the substance enclosed, while in the other the artefact is designed to keep the substance out (boats, roofs, dikes, goggles). Grammatically, there are additional differences: the subject of the verb describing the leaking can either be the artefact (the boat leaks) or the substance (the water leaked in), and if it’s the artefact the verb can either be intransitive (the roof leaks) or transitive (the roof lets water in).  In Italian, the artefact can sometimes be the subject in the case where a container loses some of its contents, but it normally wants to be transitive (il serbatoio perde (acqua), lit. ‘the tank loses (water)’).  It’s hard to literally translate ‘the roof leaks’ or ‘the boat leaks’ and get an acceptable sentence; it’s more natural to say something like la barca prende acqua, lit. ‘the boat takes water’, or entra l’acqua, lit. ‘enters the water’ (verb-subject) or c’è una falla ‘there is a leak/breach’. English happily uses the verb ’leak’ in all these cases, with the artefact normally the grammatical subject of an intransitive verb.

How does it work in other languages?


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When I saw a large sign reading "ABSOLUTORIA 2018" on a vaguely ecclesiastical-looking building in Poznań last week, my first ignorant thought was that maybe there was a sort of special on indulgences. But that was wrong, and so was my second thought that it might be a vodka festival.

A quick inspection of the building's smaller signage identified it as part of Adam Mickiewicz University, and suggested that "absolutoria" in this context means graduation ceremonies. A Polish-English dictionary confirmed this inference, and the site offers pictures.

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Corpora and the Second Amendment: Heller

[An introduction and guide to my series of posts "Corpora and the Second Amendment" is available here.]

Before I get into the corpus data (next post, I promise), I want to set the stage by talking a bit about the Heller decision. Since the purpose of this series of posts is to show the ways in which the corpus data casts doubt on the Supreme Court's interpretation of keep and bear arms, I'm going to review the parts of the decision that are most relevant to that purpose. I'm also going to point out several ways in which I think the Court's linguistic analysis is flawed even without considering the corpus data. Although that wasn't part of my plans when I began these posts, this project has led me to read Heller more closely than I had done before and therefore to see flaws that had previously escaped my notice. And I think that being aware of those flaws will be important when the time comes to decide whether  and to what extent the data undermines Heller's analysis.

The Second Amendment's structure

As is well known (and as has been discussed previously on Language Log here, here, and here), the Second Amendment is unusual in that it is divided into two distinct parts, which the Court in Heller called the "prefatory clause" and the "operative clause":

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Corpora and the Second Amendment: Responding to Weisberg on the meaning of "bear arms" [Updated, and updated again]

[An introduction and guide to my series of posts "Corpora and the Second Amendment" is available here.]

The Originalism Blog has a guest post, by David Weisberg, taking issue with the conclusion in Dennis Baron's Washington Post op-ed that newly available evidence of historical usage shows that in District of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Scalia misinterpreted the phrase keep and bear arms. That's an issue that I wrote about yesterday ("The coming corpus-based reexamination of the Second Amendment") and that I'm going to be dealing with in a series of posts over the next several weeks.

One of Weisberg's arguments concerns a linguistic issue that I'm planning to address, and I think that Weisberg is mistaken. At the risk of getting out ahead of myself, I want to respond to Weisberg briefly now, with a more detailed explanation to come.

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This towel kinds to your skin

From my hotel bathroom in Miyazaki:

This towel makes a lot of bubbles and kinds to your skin.
So, you have a pleasant bath time.

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The Bureau of Linguistical Reality

No, The Bureau of Linguistical Reality is not something dreamed up by Borges, or the Firesign Theatre. It actually exists, or at least it exists in the same state of electronic virtual actuality as Language Log, YouTube, and the Wayback Machine.

The Bureau of Linguistical Reality was established on October 28, 2014 for the purpose of collecting, translating and creating a new vocabulary for the Anthropocene.

Our species (Homo Sapien) is experiencing a collective “loss of words” as our lexicon fails to represent the emotions and experiences we are undergoing as our habitat (earth) rapidly changes due to climate change and other unprecedented events. To this end the The Bureau of Linguistical Reality is solemnly tasked generating linguistic tools to express these changes at the personal and collective level.

Cartographers are redrawing maps to accommodate rising seas, psychologists are beginning to council people on climate change related stress, scientists are defining this as a new age or epoch. The Bureau was thus established, as an interactive conceptual artwork to help to fill the linguistical void in our rapidly changing world.

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Wellness rising

I've been noticing a lot of wellness around recently. The word, that is — like Manlu Liu, "Penn announces new position of Chief Wellness Officer to centralize and improve resources", The Daily Pennsylvanian 4/24/2018:

Penn will institute the position of a chief wellness officer, Penn President Amy Gutmann announced in an email to all Penn undergraduate students on April 24.

According to the email, the chief wellness officer will oversee a new department at Penn called "Student Wellness Services" that will include Counseling and Psychological Services, the Student Health Service, and the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives.

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Reconstructing deconstruction

One of the most effective intellectual memes of the past century has been deconstructiondéconstruction in the original French. It recently occurred to me to wonder whether the word, as well as its interpretation, was created by Jacques Derrida, who introduced the contemporary usage in three works published in 1967: twice in La voix et le phénomène (along with two examples of the infinitive déconstruire), three times in L'écriture et la différance, and 14 times in De la grammatologie (along with six instances of déconstruire).

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OED on the language of sexual and gender identity

On Twitter, Katherine Connor Martin (Head of U.S. dictionaries at Oxford University Press) writes:

In the latest @oed update, dozens of entries relating to sexual and gender identity were revised, the first phase of a project to revisit this rapidly changing segment of the English lexicon.

She links to the lengthy Release Notes, of which the following is just the introduction:

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