Archive for Uncategorized

When is Ex- ?

This title on a Reuters story on Yahoo gave me a double-take:

Ex-Heisman winner Troy Smith arrested on DUI and drug charge

There is no suggestion that the Heisman trophy award was ever rescinded. I think in my dialect, once a Heisman trophy winner, always a Heisman trophy winner. I've never heard anyone called an ex-Nobel Prize winner. Am I missing something, or is this really unusual usage? I think even O.J. Simpson is still a Heisman trophy winner.

But I can imagine that the line between where I clearly use ex- and where I don't might not be sharp. Ex-president, ex-spouse are clear. (Hmm, there's also 'former' in competition — that's what I would use for 'department head', not ex-.) I find myself sometimes starting to say "Some of our former Ph.D's (never ex-!!)", but then I usually stop and remove 'former'. Aha, they're our former students, but not our former graduates – they're our graduates forever.

But back to the Heisman trophy. Even if you only hold possession of the trophy for a year, actually or symbolically, you're still a trophy winner forever, aren't you?


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Sanford stumble ringtone

In a comment on "Mark Sanford can't even" (2/15/2016), Thomas Lee wrote

If only I knew how to turn those marvelous eight seconds of mumbo jumbo into a ringtone for my iPhone…

Just download SanfordRingtone.m4r, add it to your iTunes library, and sync your iPhone. For Android users, download SanfordRingtone.mp3 and follow these instructions.

What you get in either case is this — the start of representative Mark Sanford's response to a question about whether he would support Donald Trump:

So you might want to reconsider.

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Freedom and flexibility

Muriel Spark's memoir Curriculum Vitae antedates discourse-particle like to the early 1920s. And J.L. Austin, in his posthumous work Sense and Sensibilia, defends like as "the great adjuster-word, or, alternatively put, the main flexibility-device by whose aid, in spite of the limited scope of our vocabulary, we can always avoid being left completely speechless."

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On the attacks in Paris

All of my friends in Paris are safe.

I don't know of any linguistic angle to these events. [Update — I do now, thanks to Sally in the comments.]

But here's a relevant (if ambiguous) comment, in form of Victor Hugo's 1828 poem L'Enfant:

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My usual blogging hour has been overwhelmed recently by a minor operation, course prep, research obligations, Ware College House events, and even a little sleep from time to time. So here are a few items from my to-blog list that I don't have time today to do justice to.

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Chinese internet slang, acronyms, and common expressions

Of the many websites dealing with contemporary Chinese language and culture, chinaSMACK is one of the best.  So eye-popping is chinaSMACK's content that I could very easily spend nearly all of my time immersed in it.

One chinaSMACK feature that undoubtedly will be of considerable interest to Language Log readers is this glossary of terms frequently encountered on the Chinese internet.

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Smoot-Hawley on the web

[Warning: little direct linguistic content.] Apple's decision to allow ad-blocking in iOS-9 (Eric Griffith, "Apple iOS 9 Ad-Blocking Explained (And Why It's a Bad Move", PC Magazine 6/11/2015) has caused a recent flurry of stories as iOS-9 has been rolled out. A few examples: Casey Johnston, "Welcome to the Block Party", The Awl 9/14/2015; Katie Benner & Sydney Ember, "Enabling of Ad Blocking in Apple’s iOS 9 Prompts Backlash", NYT 9/18/2015; Andrea Peterson & Brian Fung, "Why the maker of a chart-topping ad blocker just pulled it off the App Store", WaPo 9/18/2015; Philip Elmer-DeWitt, "Let the iOS 9 ad block wars begin!", Fortune 9/20/2015; Jasper Jackson, "Can publishers stop the ad blocking wave?", The Guardian 9/20/2015; "Will Ad-Blocking Millennials Destroy Online Publishing Or Save It?", Forbes 9/20/2015.

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Finger drumming

I don't have much time this morning, so I'll just point you toward a fun post by Joe Pater on finger drumming.

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Are we Americans, Donald and I?

Under current law, Donald Trump and I are both American citizens by right of birth. Donald was born in New York City in 1946, and I was born in Middletown, Connecticut in 1947. But if birthright citizenship were retroactively revoked, it would take some archival research to determine our status, and (as I understand Mr. Trump's proposals about immigration reform) we might both turn out to be undocumented aliens.

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Cheesy's good

An AP story a few days ago publicized work by Kirk Hazen to document and de-stigmatize Appalachian varieties of English. From the version published on the Fox News web site:

In a county beyond the reach of any four-lane highway, a young couple chuckles and swivels in their chairs as they start telling for posterity the story of how they met.

"You want me to tell the story, or you tell the story?" asks Pete Culicerto, 20, who's seated next to his girlfriend before a pair of black microphones.

"I'll tell it, because you'd make it all cheesy," says 17-year-old Ginger Smyth, each of her syllables snaking through a black cable into a high-end audio recorder ticking the time off on a green digital screen.

"Cheesy's good," says West Virginia University linguist Kirk Hazen, encouraging a relaxed conversation that allows the accents and speech patterns of their mountain community to flow unhindered by the self-consciousness that sometimes keeps them in check.

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Mr. Finch

No, not Atticus — this is Zebra Finch #2702, courtesy of Ofer Tchernichovski.

He sounds like this:

Or, slowed down by a factor of four:

This came up because I'm working on a project with Ofer and Didier Demolin, and in the course of figuring out how to parse zebra finch recordings, I thought it might help to listen to slowed-down versions. It wasn't all that helpful in the end — it's actually easier to hear the structure in the original version, I think.

But the slowed-down version has some unexpectedly half-humanoid bits mixed in with the barks and squeaks, like maybe an alien singing to itself in a Charles Stross story.

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Brian Hutchinson, "UBC student writes 52,438 word architecture dissertation with no punctuation — not everyone loved it", National Post 5/8/2015:

There was Patrick Stewart, PhD candidate, defending his final dissertation before a handful of hard-nosed examiners at the University of British Columbia late last month. The public was invited to watch; two dozen curious onlookers saw Stewart attempt to persuade five panelists that his 149-page thesis has merit, that it is neither outlandishly “deficient,” as some had insisted it was, nor an intellectual affront.

Unusual? It is definitely that. Stewart’s dissertation, titled Indigenous Architecture through Indigenous Knowledge, eschews almost all punctuation. There are no periods, no commas, no semi-colons in the 52,438-word piece. Stewart concedes the odd question mark, and resorts to common English spelling, but he ignores most other conventions, including the dreaded upper case. His paper has no standard paragraphs. Its formatting seems all over the map.

The National Post story suggests that the document is a translation from Nisga'a:

He wrote his first draft in the Nisga’a language. That failed to impress at least one senior UBC professor, a powerful figure who would eventually have to sign off on the work, or all would be lost. Stewart was called on the professor’s carpet and told his work was not acceptable. He was asked to translate “every word” of his dissertation into English. “So I did that,” he recalls. “There was still no guarantee it would be approved.”

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