Archive for March, 2010


Pictures here.

Including some nice examples of Muphry's Law in action:

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Advances in animal self-consciousness

Debate rages among philosophers, linguists, and psychologists: does Quigley know that he knows that he will die?

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Sinitic and Tibetic

In a discussion we were having about the Tibetan evidential particle yin, Nathan Hill sent me an article by Nicholas Tournadre entitled "Arguments against the Concept of 'Conjunct' / 'Disjunct' in Tibetan" from Chomolangma, Demawend und Kasbek, Festschrift für Roland Bielmeier (2008), 281-308.  As I started reading through the article with the hope of finding how yin functions as a sort of equational verb or copula, I was caught up short by some preliminary remarks about the classification of Tibetan that Tournadre makes at the beginning of his paper.

Based on his 20 years of field work throughout the Tibetan language area and on the existing literature, Tournadre estimates that there are 220 "Tibetan dialects" derived from Old Tibetan and currently distributed across five countries:  China, India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Pakistan.  In a forthcoming work, Tournadre states that these "dialects" may be classed within 25 "dialect groups," i.e., groups that do not permit mutual intelligibility.  According to Tournadre, the notion of "dialect group" is equivalent to the notion of "language," but does not entail standardization.  Consequently, says Tournadre, if the concept of standardization is set aside, it would be more appropriate to speak of 25 languages derived from Old Tibetan rather than 25 "dialect groups."

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Quote query

In reference to the witticism "Anything you can do, I can do meta", cited in "Doing Meta: from meta-language to meta-clippy", 1/32/3007, Michael Smith asked:

I was wondering whether you were ever given, or able to find, a citation for "Anything you can do, I can do meta" earlier than the reported use by Samuel Hahn in 1991.

Let me explain my interest.  Each year the Department of Philosophy at Princeton makes a t-shirt for the graduating class with a quotation of their choice on it.  This year they've chosen "Anything you can do, I can do meta", but of course they have no idea who said it.  I'd quite like to be able to tell them when it first appeared in print, if that's known.

Prof. Smith followed up with this post scriptum:

After a little further searching on Google I came up with the attached article from 1979 (see p.1230, footnote 2).  However, if you know of an earlier citation, or of a credit to someone other than Lipson, I'd be grateful if you would let me know.

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Spelling rage

Jesse Sheidlower points out a "VERY strongly worded spelling/punctuation rant", to be found here.

(Unless you have a very large screen, you'll want to use "right-click>>Open link in new window", or maybe try this link instead. Warning: some NSFW text in VERY large type…)

This seems to reach rage-o-meter values not seen since the "pilotless drone" episode.

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The defend-your-turf area?

OK, I'm back in Philadelphia and my copy of Louann Brizendine's The Male Brain has arrived. I still haven't had time to read it, but I promised to look up the business about the dorsal premammillary nucleus, so here goes.

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My hovercraft is full of ham

Today's Doonesbury explores the problem of over-ambitious translation:

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Radok? Boramander? Zulif?

According to CNN ("At least 7 arrested after raids in three states", 3/28/1010):

Federal authorities plan to unseal charges Monday against several people arrested in a series of weekend raids in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, prosecutors in Detroit said Sunday. […]

Mike Lackomar, a county leader for the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, said the target of the raid was a Christian militia group called the Hutaree. The group proclaims on a Web site that it is "preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive."

The origin of the group's name, Hutaree, is not explained on what seems to be their web site. And there are other linguistic mysteries to be found there, including their system of paramilitary ranks.

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Some may fear this word

A Language Log reader named metanea points out to us that the Urban Dictionary claims aibohphobia is a technical term for the irrational fear of palindromicity. The etymology will raise a smile. Just stare at the word for a few seconds, and it will reveal itself to you.

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Mangling the prostidude

The Associated Press reports:

America's first legal gigolo leaves rural brothel

LAS VEGAS — America's first legal male prostitute has left a rural Nevada brothel after a two-month stint that generated plenty of attention but fewer than 10 paying customers.

Brothel owner Jim Davis said Friday his Shady Lady Ranch had parted ways with the nation's first "prostitude."

Prostitude? Really? That caught the eye of Amy West, who read the wire story in The Boston Globe and posted about it on the American Dialect Society mailing list. Amy rightly suggested the blend should be prostidude.

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Anarthrous irony

There's been a lot of discussion of what Joe Biden apparently said to Barack Obama at the HCR signing ceremony:

When he turns to the president, some combination of careful listening and lip-reading suggests that Biden said "((this is)) a big fucking deal".

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Glamour, disrobing, and successful execution

What is the connection between (a) successfully executing something tricky that not everyone could get away with, like an escape or an acrobatic maneuver or a daring sartorial fashion statement, and (b) removing by tugging, stripping, or peeling?

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What's the Male Brain made of?

The cover of Louann Brizendine's new book The Male Brain is puzzling.

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