Japanese English trifecta: At the ¥100 Shop

Nathan Hopson reports that he "had a delightfully giggly trip to the ¥100 Shop today."

Among the gems were these three:

1. Pair Bloom (broom), a mini-broom and dustpan set
2. Crash Cashew Nuts (crushed)
3. Q-ban, my favorite. This was actually a whole product line. The shared distinguishing feature of all is their suction cup (吸盤 or きゅうばん [ kyūban]). I guess the only surprise is that they're not called Cubans.

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The Latinometer

From David Frauenfelder:

Here’s an item from the land of language: the "Latinometer".

Have you seen it? You enter text into the query box, it analyzes how Latinate your English vocabulary is, and then tells you whether you sound “concrete,” educated, pretentious, or mendacious. The more Latin-derived terms in your text, the more likely you are to be a liar.

Your most recent Language Log post scored 53% on the Latinometer, pretentious, and dangerously close to the “You are probably lying” zone.   I still don’t know if the author, a Latin professor, is trying to be ironic.

Somebody needs to do a LL post on this. I find it utterly ridiculous, and I’m a Latin teacher. Or maybe I find it ridiculous because I’m a Latin teacher. I wonder what a linguist would say?

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UM / UH: Life-cycle effects vs. language change

In English-language conversations, older people tend to use UH more often and UM less often. And at every age, men tend to use UH more than women, and women tend to use UM more than men.  These effects are large and robust – they've been documented in at least five independent datasets, from both North American and Great Britain – for details, see the links at the end of this post.

The cited patterns are consistent with two quite different classes of explanation:

  • There might be a language change in progress, with older people reflecting the patterns of an earlier time and younger people showing the language of the future, while women are leading the change, as they often do.
  • There might be stable gender and life-cycle effects, so that the UM and UH sex and age associations looked the same a few decades in the past, and will look the same a few decades in the future.

And there's an independent question about the functions of the classes of vocalizations that we transcribe as UM and UH:

  • Perhaps UM and UH are simply alternative expressions of the same compositional or communicative function – say, two different (classes of) ways of stalling for time in the process of speaking — or alternatively
  • perhaps UM and UH have partly or entirely different functions, and it's differences in the frequency of these functions that are associated with age, sex, and so on.

In neither case are the alternatives mutually exclusive — the truth might be some mixture of the two.

Yesterday, Joe Fruehwald looked at UM and UH usage in a dataset with enough time depth that we can tell the difference between a change in progress and a stable life-cycle effect. And he found that the truth seems to be a bit of both.

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I was hoping that, after writing "Chineasy? Not", I wouldn't have to concern myself with this pedagogical bugaboo again.  Wishful thinking!  For reasons that escape me, the Chineasy juggernaut continues to rumble forward

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Email yesterday from Bill Benzon:

Here's a blog post about a little bit of linguistic detail in a VERY interesting book: Matthew Jockers, Macroanalysis: Digital Methods & Literary History.

Do you have any thoughts on that detail?

The post in question is "Reading Macroanalysis 4: On the matter of 'the'", New Savanna 8/13/2014, and the "detail" in question is a cited difference in the frequency of the word the  between a collection of of 19th century British novels and a comparable collection of 19th-century American novels:

Chapter 7, “Nationality” is pretty straightforward. I don’t have much to say about it except for a puzzle that Jockers presents at the beginning. He points out that, because British and American writers have different practices concerning the word the, that word is about 5 percent of the word tokens in his corpus of 19th Century British novels, while it is about 6 percent of the tokens in the American novels.

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Sanskrit resurgent

When I was studying Buddhism at the University of Washington (Seattle) in 1967-68, there were about ten students in my first-year Sanskrit course for Buddhologists and Indologists.  What intrigued me greatly was that there was another beginning Sanskrit course being offered at the same time.  It had many more students than the class I was in and was offered by the Linguistics Department.  The rationale for encouraging (I can't remember if it was actually required) linguistics students to take Sanskrit was that the foundations of the scientific study of language had been laid by Panini, Patanjali, and other ancient Sanskrit grammarians around two and a half millennia ago, so that it would be good to have at least a basic understanding of the roots of the tradition.

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Educational UM / UH

Apologies for temporarily turning this into Conversational Filler Log – but I realized that my assertion in this morning's post ("UM / UH geography") about the effects of years of education was based on some analyses that I'd done but never posted.

So here they are: the basic effect is that people with a 4-year college degree or better have a higher UM / (UM+UH) proportion, on average, than people with only a high school education. This interacts as expected with sex and age: at every educational level, women have a higher UM proportion than men do; and in general, younger people of whatever age and educational level have a higher UM proportion than older people (though the number are small for some of the intersected categories, so that the patterns are a bit messier).

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UM / UH geography

From Jack Grieve, a few minutes after we discussed this issue at the 10.30 coffee break here at Methods in Dialectology XV in Groningen:

Attached is a locally autocorrelated map based on the percent of um vs uh (i.e. um/(um+uh)) in a few billion word of geocoded tweets of 2013 (about 40,000 tokens each). Red are areas where "uh" is relatively more common and blue are areas where "um" is more common. quite a clear pattern, and probably the clearest Midland (only?) lexical pattern I've ever found.

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Can't find on Google

Max Pinton sent in this menu and said he "thought it was a refreshing approach":

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Uptalk in Devon

"The unstoppable march of the upward inflection?", BBC News Magazine 8/11/2014, quoted me referencing Daniel Hirst's idea about a possible Scandinavian origin for the long-standing pattern of default rising intonations in northern England, Scotland, and northern Ireland. In response, Dave Goodwin sent me this interesting note about rising intonations in Devon:

I am a born & bred Devonian in the westcountry of the UK, though neither side of my family are from these parts.  I do not have a traditional Devon accent by when I went off up country to University (over 20 years ago now) one friend there picked me as being from Devon, whilst everyone else was at a loss as to where I was from, other than somewhere in the south.

Having asked how she guessed she said her older brother had been studying at the University of Exeter (in Devon) & she had often visited him, then gave her reason as having noticed the locals round these parts had the inflection, albeit not as over emphasised as the Australians, for example, do.  I had never really noticed it before but started hearing all my friends back home using it as well as a great many of their parents/siblings etc.

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Ye Olde English katakana

Via HiLobrow (8/10/2014), Ben Zimmer came across this virtuoso display of Gothic katakana on feitclub's Tumblr:

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Newspaper alleges passive voice correctly!

Today I came upon something truly rare: a newspaper article about a passive-voice apology that (i) is correct about the apology containing a passive clause, but (ii) stresses that the oft-misdiagnosed passive should not be the thing we focus on and attempt to discourage, and (iii) cites actual linguists in support of the latter view! What's going on? Is Language Log beginning to break through? Are journalists waking up to the fact that there actually is a definition of the notion 'passive voice' (though hardly anybody seems to know what it is)? The article is by Tristin Hopper of the National Post in Canada (August 8, 2014); you can read it here. Kudos to Tristin.

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"Cladly dressed"

From reader BKS:

Someone used "cladly dressed" in a comment to The Guardian, and it appears to be an up and coming 21st Century phrase.

A search of www.guardian.com didn't turn up any instances of "cladly".[Update -- but thanks to Mark Meckes in the comments below, here it is:]

And as BKS noted, there are a few examples in recent books:

With nakedness we find quite often the opposite of what the revealer expects to accomplish: the girl cladly dressed receives attention she is seeking but at cost to how she is perceived
Some of the elders heard rumors that Nathaniel was watching television by himself and paying specific attention to programs that featured females who were cladly dressed.
Meanwhile it is thirty eight degrees outside and Pastor Angie is cladly dressed walking down Gordon Parks Avenue.
My son was making out with this cladly dressed girl — I didn't even know who she was!

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Patchwriting by Rick Perlstein (and Craig Shirley)

Alexandra Alter, "Reagan Book Sets Off Debate", NYT 8/4/2014:

Mr. Perlstein’s new 856-page book, “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan,” which comes out Tuesday, is proving to be almost as divisive as Reagan himself. It has drawn both strong reviews from prominent book critics, and sharp criticism from some scholars and commentators who accuse Mr. Perlstein of sloppy scholarship, improper attribution and plagiarism.

The most serious accusations come from a fellow Reagan historian, Craig Shirley, who said that Mr. Perlstein plagiarized several passages from Mr. Shirley’s 2004 book, “Reagan’s Revolution,” and used Mr. Shirley’s research numerous times without proper attribution.

In two letters to Mr. Perlstein’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, Mr. Shirley’s lawyer, Chris Ashby, cited 19 instances of duplicated language and inadequate attribution, and demanded $25 million in damages, a public apology, revised digital editions and the destruction of all physical copies of the book. Mr. Shirley said he has since tallied close to 50 instances where his work was used without credit.

The controversy has three different parts: Perlstein's use of online notes instead of notes within the published book; the ethical status of Perlstein's use of material from Shirley's book, with or without attribution; and the legal status of that usage.  The most problematic of the accusations seem to be instances of what has been called "patchwriting", and that's the aspect of the controversy that I want to focus on.

My conclusion will be that Perlstein did indeed take idea-combinations and associated word-choices and word-sequences from Shirley; and he sometimes did this without specific attribution; but what he did seems to be within the normal boundaries of research methods for narrative histories, as indicated by the fact that Shirley did quite similar things with his own sources.

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Pulled noodles: Uyghur läghmän and Mandarin lāmiàn

Some notes on the origins of the words and characters for wheat, flour, and noodles in Turkic and Sinitic languages

On the Xinjiang Studies list, a number of questions about noodles and the words for them in Sinitic and other languages have come up.

First of all, Sue Naquin called to my attention this article which seems to show a connection between Uyghurs and the invention of pulled noodles (lāmiàn), which the Uyghurs call laghman:

Amy Qin, "Q. and A.: Jen Lin-Liu on Noodles and Their Origins".

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