Archive for January, 2016

"It eats salty": middle voice on "Top Chef"

On a recent episode of Bravo's competitive cooking show "Top Chef" ("Spines and Vines," 12/10/15), the contestants had to make a dish with uni (sea urchin) and pair it with a wine. One contestant, Angelina Bastidas, received the following less-than-glowing appraisal of her dish from the show's host, Padma Lakshmi, and guest judge Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief of Food & Wine.

AB: Over here it's a play on an Italian cacio e pepe. I made uni butter. And the wine that I chose today is chardonnay.
DC: The uni obviously has a lot of salt.
PL: Yeah.
DC: It's one of the characteristics, and the dish…
PL: It eats salty.
AB: Sorry about that. I apologize.
PL: Thank you.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (27)

What does "Schmetterling" sound like to a German?

I'm prompted to ask this question in response to the very first comment on this post:

"'Butterfly' words as a source of etymological confusion" (1/28/16)

The comment supplies a link to this YouTube video, in which russianracehorse tells "The Butterfly Joke".  A Frenchman, an Italian, a Spaniard, and a German each pronounce the word for "butterfly" in their own language.  The words for "butterfly" in the first three languages all sound soft, delicate, and mellifluous.  Finally the German chimes in and shouts vehemently, "Und vat's wrong with [the joke teller could have said 'mit'] Schmetterling?"

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (72)

Decisive undecideds

From Arthur Stock, a picture of a headline in an actual paper newspaper:

Comments (10)

Solaar pleure carrément?

In my limited experience of French hiphop, I've gotten the impression that it's rhythmically rather "square", in the sense that the syncopations or polyrhythms that are common in the corresponding American genres are relatively rare. As a first tentative step in evaluating this (perhaps quite wrong) idea, I analyzed the word-to-beat alignments of MC Solaar's popular 2001 piece Solaar Pleure. Here's the official video on YouTube:

And there's a set of annotated lyrics at

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (3)

Totally Word Mapper

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (18)

Strong language

I have no context for this photo, but the character on the car and sign behind make the situation pretty obvious. Courtesy of Josh Ellis on Facebook, via Michael Cannings on Twitter:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (7)

N Cultures

Comments (4)

"Butterfly" words as a source of etymological confusion

Nick Kaldis writes:

I've started buying English etymology books for my 8-year-old daughter and I to explore; today we discovered that "butterfly" comes from "butter" + "shit", because their feces resemble butter.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (35)

Waste bin misnegation

I saw a sticker on the lid of a pedal-operated hospital waste bin that said this:


Everyone who uses the bin sees this notice; maybe some even read it and try to respect it; but perhaps only Language Log readers will notice that it contains a misnegation — another sign that the number of negations within a sentence that our poor monkey brains can successfully handle averages out at little more than 1.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

Aspects of the Theory of Disney Princesses

At the recent LSA annual meeting in Washington DC, Carmen Fought and Karen Eisenhauer presented a paper with the title "A quantitative analysis of gendered compliments in Disney Princess films". The abstract:

Recent studies find that children use animated films in constructing their gender identities (e.g. DoRozario, 2004; Baker-Sperry, 2007). However, little is known about how gendered language is presented in children’s media. Data on compliments in the Disney Princess films were analyzed for gender of speaker and recipient, and for type of compliment given/received (Holmes, 1986). The proportion of compliments received by female characters declined in the more recent films, although females overall received significantly more compliments on their appearance. These results illuminate how ideologies about language and gender are packaged and presented to children.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (29)


From Jack Grieve, a map of the distribution of the word the on Twitter:

There's lots more geolexicography of common function words on Jack's Twitter feed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6)

The neural basis of Chinese morphological processing

In "Chinese characters and the left-brain vs. right-brain hypothesis " (1/7/16), we read about experimental results debunking " a myth that Chinese languages were predominantly processed by the right hemisphere, compared with alphabetic languages processed by the left hemisphere…."

Now, a team of scientists from Zaozhuang University, Beijing Normal University, and the University of Illinois have published the results of an experiment that offers additional evidence in favor of these findings:

Lijuan Zou, Jerome L. Packard, Zhichao Xia, Youyi Liu, and Hua Shu, "Neural Correlates of Morphological Processing: Evidence from Chinese", Front. Hum. Neurosci., 19 January 2016.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (3)

Love transformed

With the title "Yeah… that totally translates to 'love'", imgur presents the following image:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (14)