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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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Absolutoria

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 absolutoria.poznan.pl 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.]

[Update: Broken link fixed.]

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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Don't splain me, bro!

A week ago I posted Don't skunk me, bro!, which riffed on Jonathon Owen's post Skunked Terms and Scorched Earth on Arrant Pedantry. Jonathon's post had discussed Bryan Garner's practice of declaring that certain expressions should be avoided because they are supposedly "skunked". Garner uses that term to refer to expressions that are in the process of undergoing a hotly disputed change of meaning, with the result that, in Garner's words, "any use of it is likely to distract some readers".

Shortly after posting "Don't skunk me, bro!", I got a message on Twitter from Tcherina (@grammarguidecom): "Glad to see you taking up the 'skunked' issue. I got bullied and splained when I tweeted Jonathon's piece [i.e., the post that had prompted mine], which I thought was very good."

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No word for dead umbrellas?

Yesterday in Philadelphia we had very strong winds and what the weather people call a "wintry mix", so (along with some big downed trees) there were lots of people holding on to umbrellas turned inside out and partly stripped of their fabric, and lots of wrecked umbrellas discarded along the sidewalks and stuffed into trash cans.

This naturally raises the question: Is there a word for an umbrella in this condition?

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"Voiceprint" springs eternal

John R. Quain, "Alexa, What Happened to My Car?", NYT 1/25/2018 [emphasis added]:

And even though voice bots like Alexa and Google’s Assistant can be taught to recognize different voices — well enough to cater to each family member’s favored Pandora stations, for example — they do not offer any sort of biometric security, such as voice print analysis. As a result, Alexa’s voice-recognition capabilities are not discerning enough for security purposes, according to Amazon.

There are two things about this passage that caught my attention.

First, a minor point: the NYT here chooses to write "voice print" as two separate words. This is a change from their previous practice — already in May of 1962 (and many times since),  the grey lady was writing "voiceprint" solid in stories like this one:

A researcher from Bell Telephone Laboratories described yesterday tests that he said, showed that "voiceprints" may prove to be almost as effective, for identification, as fingerprints.

And second, a more important point:  here's a journalist who still thinks that "voice print analysis", however spelled, offers "biometric security".

[Warning: what follows is a long post about lexicographic, technological,  journalistic, and literary history, guaranteeing that at least three quarters of the content will bore or mystify most readers.)

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Language vigilantism

In "The Eagle-Eyed Vigilantes Defending the Chinese Language:  As new lingo springs up and grammatical errors persist, one magazine is battling to maintain linguistic standards", Yin Yijun (Sixth Tone [1/19/18]) describes an unusual PRC journal:

Shanghai-based Yaowen Jiaozi — whose name literally translates as “biting phrases and chewing characters” — was established in 1995 and operates under the slogan: “Bite every mistake that deserves to be bitten, and chew every article worth chewing.” The monthly magazine’s mission is to attack every grammatical error it encounters — and the staff take the job seriously. Over the past 20 years, the magazine has amassed a long list of mistakes, from a nearly unnoticeable Chinese character error on a chopstick wrapper, to a series of mistakes author and Nobel laureate Mo Yan made in his award-winning works.

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