Archive for Awesomeness

Upping our insult game

Carmen Fought observes that "Fellow citizens, we have to up our insult game. The Scots are making us look like wankers. ‪#‎mangledapricothellbeast‬".

Certainly the Scots have taught us a wide variety of new words and insult phrases in response to Donald Trump's tweet about Brexit.

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DSP in the Kentucky Derby

This headline in yesterday's NYT caught my attention: "Despite His Credentials, Nyquist Has Many Doubters". Of course the story is about Nyquist the Horse, who is named after Nyquist the Hockey Player. But for a moment, I thought it might be about Nyquist the Engineer.

Now, you may not have heard of Nyquist the Engineer, but if you're reading this, then you rely on his work many times a day — every time you use a computer or a phone or a (digital) camera or a monitor, or pretty much any other digital device that interacts with continuous signals in the real world.

At least, you rely on some work that bears his name, the Nyquist-Shannon Sampling Theorem. But like Nyquist the Horse, Nyquist the Engineer has some doubters.

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Dictionaries can be dangerous

From the Hydraulic Press Channel on YouTube:

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UC linguistics faculty pledge support for Glossa, call for cancellation of Lingua

Katie Fortney at the University of California (UC) Office of Scholarly Communication writes:

In November 2015, the editorial board of Lingua, a linguistics journal published by Elsevier, resigned en masse to begin a new open access journal, Glossa. […] Several UC linguistics faculty have now issued a statement declaring their support for the new journal and urging their colleagues and the UC libraries to no longer support Lingua. In response, the UC libraries have informed Elsevier that they wish to cancel their subscription to Lingua.
[…]
In making this statement of support for Glossa, the UC Linguistics faculty have joined their colleagues at institutions like the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and MIT; in addition MIT recently announced its support for Open Library of Humanities, which is supporting Glossa's move to its new home at Ubiquity Press.


This post follows up on "Lingua is dead, long live Glossa!" (11/8/2015), "Lingua Disinformation" (11/27/2015), and "Zombie Lingua Recruitment" (12/15/2015).

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Tell the truth!

It was a linguistic maneuver that had possibly never been tried before in the history of real estate: tell the straight truth about the property, no varnishing, no slathering with adjectives like "stunning". Just tell it like it is. One brave firm of real estate agents, Scott & Stapleton in England, tried it as a way of getting rid of a run-down apartment in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex. The manager, Rob Kahl, wrote the copy:

Not for the faint hearted this first floor flat is being sold as seen, rubbish and all!

Having recently just had to evict some charming (not) tenants the vendors of this property have had enough and can't even face setting foot in what used to be their sweet and charming home.

I can't flower this one up or use my normal estate agent jargon to make this sound any better.

The property is full of rubbish, there is mould on the walls and I think there may even be some fleas there to keep me company when I carry out the viewings.

To conclude, the advertisement advised those viewing the property to "wipe your feet on the way out".

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Totally Word Mapper

Jack Grieve Twitter-based Word Mapper (see "Geolexicography", 1/27/2016) is now available as a web app — like totally:

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Lingua is dead. Long live Glossa!

[This is a joint post by Eric Baković and Kai von Fintel. Much of the content of this post is also found in Kai's posts on his own blog, semantics etc.: "Lingua → Glossa" (11/2/2015) and "Lingua Roundup" (11/5/2015).]

As many readers of Language Log know by now, the editors and the entire editorial board of a major linguistics journal, Lingua, have resigned en masse, effective when their contractual obligations to their soon-to-be-erstwhile publisher, Elsevier, are concluded at the end of this calendar year. This same editorial team will re-emerge in 2016 as the editors and editorial board of Glossa, a fair Open Access journal to be published by Ubiquity Press. You can read all about it, if you haven't already, from a variety of sources linked at the end of this post.

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R.I.P. Tex Logan

His Wikipedia entry tells us that "Benjamin Franklin 'Tex' Logan, Jr. (1927) was an American electrical engineer and bluegrass music fiddler. He died April 24, 2015 in the arms of his daughter, Jody."

Here he is playing with Bill Monroe in 1969:

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R.I.P. Jack Ely

Evidence that coherence is overrated — Sam Roberts, "Jack Ely, Who Sang the Kingsmen’s ‘Louie Louie’, Dies at 71", NYT 4/29/2015:

Jack Ely would later insist that as a 19-year-old singing “Louie Louie” in one take in a Portland, Ore., studio in 1963, he had followed the original lyrics faithfully. But, he admitted, the braces on his teeth had just been tightened, and he was howling to be heard over the band, with his head tilted awkwardly at a 45-degree angle at a single microphone dangling from the ceiling to simulate a live concert.

Which may explain why what originated innocently as a lovesick sailor’s calypso lament to a bartender named Louie morphed into the incoherent, three-chord garage-band cult classic by the Kingsmen that sold millions of copies, spawned countless cover versions and variations, was banned in Indiana, prompted the F.B.I. to investigate whether the song was secretly obscene, provoked a legal battle and became what Frank Zappa called “an archetypal American musical icon.”


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Autocomplete strikes again

I think I know how an unsuitable but immensely rich desert peninsula got chosen by FIFA (the international governing body for major soccer tournaments) to host the soccer World Cup in 2022.

First, a personal anecdote that triggered my hypothesis about the decision. I recently sent a text message from my smartphone and then carelessly slipped it into my pocket without making sure it had gone to sleep.

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"Reject the pernicious cult of celebrity"

"Noam Chomsky to become new X-Factor judge", NewsBiscuit 8/23/2014:

Professor of linguistics and political campaigner Noam Chomsky has been confirmed as the new judge on TV talent show The X Factor. ‘Cheryl Cole was still recovering from malaria and we needed someone who could fill the intellectual void,’ said programme creator Simon Cowell, ‘Professor Chomsky is perfect and the audience just loves him.’

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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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CogNeuroCountry

Mariska Mantione, Martijn Figee, and Damiaan Denys, "A case of musical preference for Johnny Cash following deep brain stimulation of the nucleus accumbens", Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 5/6/2014.

Mr. B., a 59-year old married man, was referred to the department of Anxiety disorders, suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) for 46 years. He reported obsessions about fear for uncertainty and illogical things, and compulsions about seeking reassurance and hoarding. At the moment of referral, Mr. B. scored a total of 33 points on the Yale-Brown obsessive-compulsive scale (Y-BOCS; Goodman et al., 1989a,b), corresponding with extremely severe OCD. He scored 18 points on the Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAM-A; Hamilton, 1959), corresponding with moderate anxiety and 14 points on the Hamilton Depression Scale (HAM-D; Hamilton, 1960), corresponding with mild depression. In spite of extensive treatment with pharmacotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, symptoms were still overpowering and Mr. B. remained extremely hindered in daily living.  

Suffering from treatment-refractory OCD, Mr. B., was included for treatment with deep brain stimulation (DBS) targeted at the nucleus accumbens (NAcc). After signing informed consent, Mr. B., was implanted in December 2006 with two four-contact electrodes (Model 3389, Medtronics, Minneapolis). The electrodes were connected via subcutaneous extensions to Soletra stimulators (Medtronic, Minneapolis) placed bilaterally in an infraclavicular pocket under general anesthesia. The center of the deepest contacts was positioned 3 mm in front of the anterior border of the anterior commissure (AC), 7 mm lateral and 4 mm below the line connecting the anterior and posterior commissure (PC). This was verified by post-operative CT, fused with preoperative MR.

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