We're back

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Yesterday afternoon, a popular link from the Washington Post (Ana Swanson, "The equivalent of “It’s all Greek to me” in 30 other languages", Wonkblog 3/25/2015) caused a spike in LLOG page views; this happened to cause a disk drive to fill up, because the back-end database server was keeping binary logs of all transactions; this caused and/or uncovered various other problems; and so LLOG was down for about 24 hours.

More specifically, the site displayed

Error establishing a database connection

in response to nearly all attempts to display WordPress pages.

As a result of several hours of intelligent and heroic labor by Wayne Hill, we're back, with updated and better-configured version of all the underlying software packages. So performance should be better, but in any case, things are working.



  1. Eric P Smith said,

    March 26, 2015 @ 7:14 pm

    Well done. I knew I could rely on you to be up and running again with the minimum of delay.

  2. Rubrick said,

    March 26, 2015 @ 9:48 pm

    Back-end? Binary logs? Packages? It's all Haskell to me….

  3. Victor Mair said,

    March 27, 2015 @ 9:37 am

    A few observations inspired by our Language Log crash on the day before yesterday:

    1. The remarkable staying power of Mark's post, "The directed graph of stereotypical incomprehensibility"(1/15/09).


    2. What made Ana Swanson think of that 2009 post in March, 2015?

    3. The thing about Mark's chart that intrigued me the most is that it indicates Persian speakers seem to think Japanese is the hardest language to understand. That makes me wonder how and when they would have come in contact with Japanese speakers that would make them think like this.

    4. One glance at the chart indicates clearly that Chinese is considered to be the most incomprehensible language to speakers of other languages (the idea that Greek was the most incomprehensible language was popularized my a medieval Latin proverb). This impression is borne out even more strongly by the huge number of informative comments to Mark's post. As I have pointed out on numerous occasions, including several LLog posts, Mandarin is one of the easiest languages to learn to speak, but Chinese is hands down the hardest to read and write.

    5. The chart shows that, exceptionally, the Chinese do not think that other human languages are the most incomprehensible, but rather that extraterrestrial language is the hardest to understand. However, it is significant that, in doing so, they are talking about writing, not speech:

    tiānshū 天書 ("heavenly writing")



    This is sometimes also referred to as guǐhuàfú 鬼画符 ("ghost / demon symbols").

    This underscores the fact that, for the Chinese themselves, it is their script that is the most difficult aspect of language, and that there is no earthly, human comparison for it.

    6. In actuality, when it comes to incomprehensibility of spoken language, the Chinese are more apt to refer to other Sinitic topolects rather than to foreign languages.

  4. Francois Lang said,

    March 27, 2015 @ 12:07 pm

    On the graph arc from Chinese to English, what is the significance of "chicken intestines"?

  5. Rakau said,

    March 27, 2015 @ 4:57 pm

    If Volapuk is the danish hardest language I wonder whether there are examples of fictional languages being used metaphorically as the hardest language. Eg Tolkein's elf language. Or even Diego Marani's vostyach?

  6. BZ said,

    March 31, 2015 @ 3:04 pm

    Shakespeare is best experienced in the original Klingon after all

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