Archive for Awesomeness

Virtual party

One of our grad students has sent around a creative party invitation — details after the jump:

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OED cites Language Log again

Back in September 2010, I reported that the Oxford English Dictionary had added an entry for eggcorn, a term that was coined right here on Language Log for an alteration of a word or phrase that makes sense in a new way (like acorn being changed to eggcorn). The earliest citation given for that meaning of eggcorn was, naturally enough, the 2003 post by Mark Liberman in which he relayed Geoff Pullum's suggested coinage.

2003   M. LIBERMAN Egg Corns: Folk Etymol., Malapropism, Mondegreen, ???: update in 30 Sept. (blog, Internet Archive Wayback Machine 8 Oct. 2003)  Geoff Pullum suggests that if no suitable term already exists for cases like this, we should call them ‘egg corns’, in the metonymic tradition of ‘mondegreen’.

Now, in the latest batch of updates to the OED's online edition comes another Language Log citation.  Among the updates, the OED editors overhauled the entries for they, their, themthemselves, and themself to account for using these pronouns in the singular to avoid gender reference or for non-binary gender identities. And in the entry for their is a citation from a 2008 post I wrote about Facebook's use of singular they for non-gender-specific news feed items.

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Morse code in straight vs. curly quotes

Chris Smith, "Genius hid a Morse code message in song lyrics to prove Google was copying them", BGR 6/17/2019:

Did you ever notice how you tend to Google the lyrics of a song and then you don’t bother clicking through to Genius’s website because Google displays them right on the search results page? Well, Genius alleges that Google has been copying its lyrics for years and posting them directly on Google Search, thus preventing visitors from going to its own site. And here’s the best part: Genius says it hid a Morse code message within some lyrics on its site to prove Google has been stealing them and reposting them word for word. […]

To catch Google, Genius watermarked lyrics with the help of apostrophes, alternating between straight and curly single-quote marks in exactly the same sequence for every song. When turned into dots and dashes, the apostrophes spell the words Red Handed, which is a smart trick.

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Negative nostalgia

For more than three decades, I have edited and published a journal called Sino-Platonic Papers.  The first issue (Feb., 1986) was "The Need for an Alphabetically Arranged General Usage Dictionary of Mandarin Chinese: A Review Article of Some Recent Dictionaries and Current Lexicographical Projects" (free pdf; 31 pages) — that led to the creation of the ABC Chinese Dictionary Series at the University of Hawaii Press.  (One important title is missing at the highlighted link:  An Alphabetical Index to the Hanyu Da Cidian [2003].)

Up to #170 (Feb. 2006), SPP was issued only in paper copies.  It was a one-man operation, with me being responsible for all of the editing, typesetting, printing, filling orders, billing, packaging, mailing, etc. all over the world.  With hundreds of subscribers in scores of countries, and all of this on top of my teaching, research, writing, and fieldwork, not to mention family life, after ten years it was really dragging me down, and after twenty years, I felt that SPP was killing me.

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"Frequency illusion" in the OED

The latest batch of updates to the online edition of the Oxford English Dictionary includes a term that originated right here on Language Log, in a 2005 post by Arnold Zwicky. The term is frequency illusion, first attested in Arnold's classic post, "Just Between Dr. Language and I." Here is the OED treatment, an addition to the main entry for frequency:

frequency illusion n. a quirk of perception whereby a phenomenon to which one is newly alert suddenly seems ubiquitous.
Also called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon (see Baader-Meinhof phenomenon at BAADER-MEINHOF n. 2).
2005   A. ZWICKY Lang. Log 7 Aug. in (blog, Internet Archive Wayback Machine 10 Sept. 2005)    Another selective attention the Frequency Illusion: once you've noticed a phenomenon, you think it happens a whole lot, even ‘all the time’.
2018   R. J. HILTON in J. Marques & S. Dhiman Engaged Leadership (e-book, accessed 25 June 2018) xiv. 244   The frequency illusion occurs when you buy a new car, and suddenly you see the same car everywhere. Or when a pregnant woman suddenly notices other pregnant women all over the place.

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Political text-to-speech

News from the laboratories of democracy — Anna Staver, "Computers zip through 2,000-page bill after Senate Republican forces its reading", Denver Post 3/11/2019:

All work in the Colorado Senate came to halt Monday morning thanks to a procedural maneuver invoked by a ranking Republican.

Committee hearings, floor debates and votes were all delayed as House Bill 1172 — a 2,000-page bill revising Title 12 of the Colorado Revised Statutes — was read in its entirety.

“I’m just following the rules,” Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, said with a smile when asked about his request to read the whole bill. “We keep saying we want things slowed down, and this is the only thing we have in our arsenal.”

What Cooke wanted to slow down was the hearings and votes on the death penalty and oil and gas bills. He said he talked with Democratic leadership last week about delaying the oil and gas hearing but that he was dismissed.

Some estimated it would take 60 hours for a human to read the bill, but Monday afternoon Democrats used a maneuver of their own to cut that time drastically: After a Senate staffer read for three hours, they brought in five computers to read the bill simultaneously at a speed far faster than humans can understand.

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The first prime minister with a Linguistics PhD

Wikipedia on Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš:

Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš (born December 13, 1964) is a Latvian politician[1], current Prime Minister of Latvia and former Member of the European Parliament.

Kariņš was born in Wilmington, Delaware, United States to a Latvian American family. In 1996, he finished a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania. […]

He was Unity's candidate for the Latvian premiership at the 2018 election. On 7 January 2019, he was tasked by the Latvian president with forming the next government. He took office as prime minister on 23 January 2019, leading a centre-right coalition of five conservative and liberal parties (KPV LV, JKP, AP, NA and Unity).

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David Bowie in 1999: The internet is an alien life form

All I have time for this afternoon:

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Complex nominal of the year

I recently got a note from the Philadelphia chapter of the Acoustical Society of America, informing me that the November meeting will held at a location identified as the "Naval Surface Warfare Center Philadelphia Division Machinery Silencing Complex".

I'm pretty sure that this is the longest English complex nominal  that I've encountered so far this year, but unfortunately I'll be out of town on the date in question, so I won't be able to see the actual referent.


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An xkcd for Geoff Nunberg

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Bishnu Atal

Here at Interspeech 2018, the first presentation will be by Bishnu Atal, winner of the ISCA medal for scientific achievement. Though you probably don't know it, Bishnu has had an enormous impact on your life — at least if you ever talk on a cell phone, or listen to music on iTunes or Spotify or Amazon or wherever.

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Polyphonic overtone singing

[h/t Three Quarks Daily via Bob Shackleton]

Lessons here.

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Vowels are the souls of consonants

And a consonant without a vowel is a body without a soul.

So says Spinoza in his Hebrew Grammar (Compendium grammatices linguæ hebrææ), as published postumously in 1677.

At least, that's sort of what he says.

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