No, totally

Kathryn Schulz, "What part of 'No, totally' don't you understand?", The New Yorker 4/7/1015:

Not long ago, I walked into a friend’s kitchen and found her opening one of those evil, impossible-to-breach plastic blister packages with a can opener. This worked, and struck me as brilliant, but I mention it only to illustrate a characteristic that I admire in our species: given almost any entity, we will find a way to use it for something other than its intended purpose. We commandeer cafeteria trays to go sledding, “The Power Broker” to prop open the door, the Internet to look at kittens. We do this with words as well—time was, spam was just Spam—but, lately, we have gone in for a particularly dramatic appropriation. In certain situations, it seems, we have started using “no” to mean “yes.”

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The Conditional Entente

John McIntyre's "Grammarnoir 7: 'The Corpus Had a Familiar Face'" is available at The Baltimore Sun.

At the start of the story, a thug with "fists the size of Westphalian hams and the cold, dead eyes of a community press content coach" strong-arms John's narrator into a big room "with a glass wall overlooking a formal garden. Around a large table sat half a dozen people: Jeans. T-shirts, mostly black. Bottles of imported water. Three-day stubble on every face. No women."

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Lojban just got harder

Matt Treyvaud forwarded this from the Lojban mailing list:

"Lojban changes to hanzi writing system" (4/1/15)

Some people complained that although the spelling in Lojban is very easy to grasp the grammar is not. So the committee for the development of Lojban (BPFK) decided to fix this issue and to make the spelling hard as well.  Especially for those people who are not familiar with hanzi (Chinese characters).

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Old School

PhD comics for 3/25/2015:

Of course, email is "old school" in the sense of "15 years ago", since 20 or 25 years ago, most students didn't have an email account.

But anyhow, this can be a real-world problem, especially for large classes, since schools generally don't yet offer a utility for txting all the students enrolled in a given course, or at least offering them that option, and instructors still assume that email notices of one kind or another will be effective.

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Apparently this is not an April Fool's joke

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Anti-Bowl

A month ago, we studied the enigma of "Anti-mouth-bowls" (3/1/15).  It was Jan Söhlke who had sent me a photograph of what were labeled "Anti-Mund-Schuessel" ("anti-mouth-bowl").  He mentioned that the same Viennese shop had other bowls with equally mystifying names and promised to go back and take pictures of them.  Jan has now delivered on his promise by sending the following photographs:

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Ask Language Log: hippocampus

Via Jason Schrock on Twitter

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Oops

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"Farcical names"

Chinese have long been giving themselves some rather unusual English names.

V. K. Wellington Koo (famous diplomat [1888-1985]), AKA Koo Vi Kyuin, Ku Wei-chün, Gu Weijun

Cream (female author in Hong Kong)

Aplomb (male currently in Buffalo, New York)

IcyFire (female in Taiwan)

Achilles Fang (a teacher of mine)

Apollo Wu (a language learning software developer)

Every year when I go through the hundred plus files of applicants for our graduate program from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, I am tickled by the amazing names that Chinese choose for themselves.

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Cavemen and postmen and explanation

For those who were interested in Mark's post on the curious question of when the -man suffix gets a reduced vowel (woman, fireman, madman, milkman, gunman, batman, Batman, caveman, postman, weatherman, etc.), and especially for those who commented on it, Ben Yagoda has now written insightfully on the topic over at Lingua Franca.

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Word rage, discreet firearm edition

Oxford University Press has published the fourth edition of Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage. The name "Fowler" has been retained as a source of prestige, but this is really the work of editor Jeremy Butterfield (as the third edition was the work of Robert Burchfield). Butterfield has already been getting some press attention for some of his more curmudgeonly reactions to points of modern usage. From The Times (UK), "Modern language makes dictionary compiler see, like, red" (3/31/15):

Readers fretful about crumbling standards will be relieved, and possibly amused, that the compiler of the latest edition of Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage has admitted to being overcome by grumpiness at some of the 250 new entries.

Jeremy Butterfield said that he was unable to hide his disdain while writing entries such as "awesome", "challenging" and "issue" – all of which are classified as clichés. So annoyed was he by the use of "like" as verbal punctuation that he suggested violence may be an appropriate response.

Ooh, violence! Looks like it's the latest episode of word rage.

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Another SOS for DARE

Two years ago I sent out an "SOS for DARE," that is, a plea for the indispensable Dictionary of American Regional English, which had run into funding troubles. Though DARE was granted a temporary reprieve, the latest news is more dire than ever.

Marc Johnson laid out the situation in an article for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

The end may be near for one of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's most celebrated humanities projects, the half-century-old Dictionary of American Regional English. In a few months, the budget pool will drain to a puddle. Layoff notices have been sent, eulogies composed…

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Quantifier scope in the comics

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