Archive for January, 2015

More bon voyage

Perry C. writes:

I hope you've been well. I am an active reader of language log and often notice posts that point to odd phrases. On my way back to Penn, jetblue had a sign at LAX that read "have a more bon voyage." I'm not sure of the meaning that the sign (attached below) is trying to convey. Any explanation?

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Education in Xinjiang

A government sponsored mural in Kashgar:

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China flushes India

The following photograph of a Beijing shop sign was buried on my desktop for about five years (I think that it originally came to me from Ori Tavor):

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Language lesson

This is painful to watch, but here we go:

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Expendables 3: World Series

There are some intriguing features about this Japanese poster for Expendables 3:

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Zhou Youguang, 109 and going strong

A year ago, I wrote "Zhou Youguang, Father of Pinyin" (1/14/14) to celebrate Zhou xiansheng's 108th birthday and his many accomplishments in language reform and applied linguistics.  Included in that post were a portrait of ZYG in his study and numerous links concerning the man and his works.

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Metaphoric mash-up of the month

Dave Davies, "Clarke out of Philly mayor's race — Butkovitz in?", newsworks 1/13/2015:

Butkovitz made it clear months ago he wanted to run for mayor. He engaged an experienced campaign team, but found it hard to raise money, particularly from unions, as long as there was a chance Clarke might run.

In November, Butkovitz called the whole thing off, said he wasn't running. But he said yesterday Clarke's announcement might change his thinking.

"The phone is ringing off the hook today," he said. "There's a large number of people, contributors, activists, calling up and asking me to get into the race. We're going to have to put a barometer into the water here and figure out what the lay of the land is."

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Predictable structure in songs, faces, words, & roles

From Gregory "Sir Mashalot" Todd, proof that all Country songs released in 2014 were underlyingly the same:

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The Word of the Year is a hashtag: #blacklivesmatter

At the American Dialect Society annual conference (held in conjunction with the Linguistic Society of America in Portland, OR), the 2014 Word of the Year was a rather unusual choice: the hashtag #blacklivesmatter. I presided over the voting session (in my capacity as the society's Chair of the New Words Committee). You can read the official announcement here and my recap of Friday night's voting in my Word Routes column for here.

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Missing woman remains found

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Stylometric analysis of the Sony Hacking

The question of who was behind the hacking of Sony peaked a couple of weeks ago, but it is still a live issue.  The United States government insists that it was the North Koreans who did it:

"Chief Says FBI Has No Doubt That North Korea Attacked Sony" (New York Times — January 8, 2015)

James B. Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said on Wednesday that no one should doubt that the North Korean government was behind the destructive attack on Sony’s computer network last fall.

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It's hard being loved by jerks

The most tasteful and relevant of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons:

The title "Mahomet débordé par les intégristes" means "Muhammad overwhelmed by the fundamentalists"; and the speech balloon "C'est dur d'être aimé par des cons" means "It's hard being loved by jerks", a thought that must also occasionally have occurred to Moses, Jesus, Buddha, and others.

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Why definiteness is decreasing, part 2

In an earlier post on this topic ("Why definiteness is decreasing, part 1"), I suggested that the decrease in definite-article frequency in published English text, over the course of the past century, might be connected with a decrease in formality.  Roughly, this means that writing has been becoming more like speech (though speech has also been changing, and writing and speech remain very different).

In this post, I want to discuss two other socio-stylistic dimensions — age and sex. If the language is changing, then we expect to see "age grading", where younger people tend to exhibit the innovative pattern, while older people's usage is more old-fashioned. And because women are generally the leaders in language change, we expect to see women at every age being more linguistically innovative and men being more conservative. In other words, "young men talk like old women".  And as the plot on the right illustrates, differences by age and sex in the frequency of the seem to confirm this hypothesis. (Click on the graph for a larger version.)

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