Language Log is on Facebook

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Hey, I hadn't realized that Language Log is now on Facebook and you can "like" it (in the old days that was becoming a "fan"). My dear son Morriss, the social media maven in our family, tipped me off! I've linked to it on my own Facebook page, but I expect word will spread faster by mentioning it right here. Someone will have to explain in the comments when and why it happened — I can only say it has happened!


  1. Mark Liberman said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 1:35 pm

    Apparently this is one of Facebook's new "Community Pages", which are something like Wikipedia pages rather than like pages for (and by) individuals or groups.

    The message at the top of the Language Log page says that

    Our goal is to make this Community Page the best collection of shared knowledge on this topic. If you have a passion for Language Log, sign up and we'll let you know when we're ready for your help. You can also get us started by suggesting the Official Facebook Page.

    It's not completely clear to me who "we" in this message refers to. Is it someone employed by Facebook who made a list of "topics" to be launched? That's what "we'll let you know when we're ready for your help" suggests. And the 4/19/2010 TechCrunch article says

    At launch Facebook has created over 6.5 million community pages, around topics like Cooking, Cycling, and Hiking.

    Conspicuously absent are options to actually add content to the page, aside from updating your status with a relevant keyword. There’s no Wall, and there’s no way to post photos or videos. Instead, Facebook is currently inviting users to apply to add content to these pages later on (it sounds like Facebook is still fleshing out how exactly this will work).

    The contents of the current LL Facebook page suggest that we're just one of those 6.5 million (!) "topics" — which must have been automatically generated — and so far, anyhow, there doesn't seem to be the equivalent of Wikipedia's View History tab to let you see who did what when.

  2. Timothy Martin said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

    This started a few weeks ago. Facebook basically took all of the different types of "interests" people list in their profiles, and (seemingly) auto-generated a page for each one of them. In the past, clicking on "classical music" in someone's Interests list would have generated a list of other users in your network that also listed that interest. *Now* what's happened is that every interest links to a separate page for that interest, which people can also choose to Like at some point if they wish. (I assume that "Liking" something automatically adds it to your Interests list, though I haven't checked.)

    The annoying thing about this is, you have to approve of being a member of these community pages. If you select not to be a member of the, say, Classical Music page, then it is impossible to list classical music in your Interest list anymore. So you either have to be part of this community page where everyone can see everyone else in it, or you have to not advertise the things you like on your profile. It's pretty ridiculous.

  3. Army1987 said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

    Ah, yeah, the zillion automagically-created pages to which anything I write in my profile will link…

  4. Dierk said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

    So, it's not so much this very Web site but just using the same name to create contents on the topic of language?

    Sue them!

  5. Army1987 said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 1:59 pm

    It's so dumb that in "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman (Richard Feynman)" the part before the comma links to a page and the part after to a different one.

  6. Barbara Partee said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 2:14 pm

    This doesn't sound good! I had guessed that Mark or some one of us had done it, and I just hadn't heard about it. Some of the entries on it look like copies of Language Log posts. They really shouldn't be allowed to do this, if "they" have control of it and not "us".

  7. Barbara Partee said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 2:32 pm

    From the time I first posted above until now, the page has gone from 8 'likers' to about 128, but now some (including me) are starting to "unlike it" since real Language Log folks have no control. Mark and others, what do you think? Should Language Log actively discourage people from 'liking' that site? Or what? I'm rather confused! Not sorry I drew attention to it, but quite unsure how to respond to this situation!

    [(myl) I'm equally puzzled. For myself, I guess I'll hold off and see what these "community pages" turn out to be.]

  8. Nick said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 3:04 pm

    Isn't there a way to make your own page to replace a community page before the community page reaches fruition? I honestly know nothing about facebook anymore because they change it so often, but I see many pages that are more than the auto-generated community pages. Were these just ones that have been around awhile?

  9. Nick said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

    Followup: It looks like you can make an "official" page yourself:

    Perhaps someone at Language Log should do this so they would have full power over its contents, and all of us loggers can feel free to like it? It sounds a lot better than something "adopted and maintained by the Facebook community."

  10. Timothy Martin said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

    @Nick: There are community pages, official pages, and groups ( The pages you're referring to are one of the latter two. I don't know what happens when community and official pages conflict.

  11. Timothy Martin said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 3:13 pm

    Aw man, Nick. Now I just look like a jerk. :-/

  12. Caelevin said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

    I have not previously liked Language Log on Facebook, I do not have it liked now, I do not intend to like it in the future.

    I like (in the newly anachronistic sense of the word) unportaled access to the site. In this my like is implicit, as well as antisocial.

    Life was so much simpler when I got out of bed this morning, but being possessed of a porch, a cane and the Will to Scold, I am intent on keeping the Interwebz off my lawn, at least for one more day.

  13. wally said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

    Meanwhile, the in crowd is starting to desert facebook:
    (read the comments), tho I suppose a publicly available blog wouldn't have privacy concerns.

  14. Army1987 said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 5:59 pm

    I suggest creating an official page and/or disregarding the automatically generated page (whatever it's called).

  15. Barbara Partee said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

    I've now signed an ACLU petition to Facebook about privacy — they sent around the petition notice right after that all-hands meeting was called. (

    And John Lawler has now "reported" that Facebook-created site for "impersonating you or someone you know".

    Just creating an official page won't be enough if one can't uncreate this FB-generated "community" page — right now the LSA has two pages, and it looks terribly confusing to me – both have the LSA logo. It's true that one says it's not officially connected with the LSA — but I'm not sure that's a FB-generated page — and the other clearly is. I think it would be a good idea to create one under LLog's control and to fight for the elimination of the FB-generated one.

  16. Nick said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 6:51 pm

    Which pages for the LSA are you referring to? There's the official page:!/pages/Linguistic-Society-of-America/106449172711257

    …which LSA sent an email out promoting a few weeks ago, and then there's the "Friends of…" LSA page, which is just an unofficial page created by some people who like the LSA. There ARE two LSA community pages, but no one likes them and you can only see them if you show the complete search results for "Linguistic Society of America". Neither of the pages with the LSA logo are auto-generated.

  17. mollymooly said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 7:12 pm

    In the Facebook Language Log, Ben Zimmer has a moustache.

  18. Barbara Partee said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 8:47 pm

    @Nick, Thanks, good, I'm relieved. I guess I immediately started to be paranoid about Facebook everywhere. That's better then.

  19. Nanani said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 9:26 pm

    I've never touched Facebook, but my interest in this post was piqued by the way "like" has suddenly gained a new meaning.

    "No one likes you" now means something completely different!
    And the outcome of this big meeting could potentially sink a new meaning if it leads to "Like" being unimplemented!
    How… -awesome-.

  20. svan said,

    May 13, 2010 @ 11:21 pm

    I think the posts on the Facebook Language Log page that look like copies from here are in fact from people who like that page and have made posts on their own Facebook pages linking to particular Language Log posts. I recognize one of them as something posted a couple days ago by one of my FB friends, and it's now on the FB LL page under her name.

  21. Dierk said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 3:38 am

    I recently connected my YouTube account to my Twitter account so that specific YT actions are published on T. You know, when you put a video into your favourites, when you comment, subscribe or like. Curious result:

    'I liked a video – [link]'

    YT declares the action of clicking a button labelled 'Like' now 'to like', hence 'liked' means quite the opposite of what people will usually understand, namely that in the past I found this video entertaining but not anymore [while I actually do like the video now].

  22. Sili said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 3:46 am

    It would likely require a maintainer, but it does sound like there's a market for an official LL fan page on Facebook. At least I think it's possible to set up fanpages – the Bad Astronomer had to do it recently after acquiring too many 'personal friends'.

    Personally I like LL on Linkedin.

  23. mollymooly said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 7:02 am

    @Dierk "'liked' means quite the opposite of what people will usually understand, namely that in the past I found this video entertaining but not anymore"

    I disagree. I would say "I liked 'Casablanca'" rather than "I like 'Casablanca'", because watching it is notionally a once-off event — even if I've seen it a few times and will probably watch it again some time. OTOH "I like 'The Simpsons'" –because it's still running and I still like the new episodes– might contrast with 'I liked "The Simpsons"" which could mean I liked the older episodes but it's gotten stale lately. In the latter case, I still like [present tense] the older episodes –assuming they're still available on reruns, DVD, etc– even if I rarely watch one.

  24. Plegmund said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 7:27 am

    I can't see why Lanuage Log needs to use Facebook, and I don't think you should allow these shenanigans to bounce you into signing up for an official presence there.

  25. Sarah said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 8:12 am

    I use facebook quite a lot and I'm comfortable with it most of the time, BUT:
    I posted the link to a language log post on a friend's wall the other day ('Eyjafjallajökull FTW' – we'd been discussing how to pronounce it) and now my post on his wall got automatically posted on the language log facebook page.

    It is a bit freakish, isn't it?

  26. Sarah said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 8:17 am

    I forgot that I also meant to say that I like the general idea of these community pages. It might add some actual content and meaningful exchange to the disposable blubbering that is most of the facebook communication. Might.

  27. Barbara Partee said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 8:26 am

    @Dierk, @Mollymooly — I think Dierk is right, and there really is a new verb "like", which is an action verb rather than a psychological state verb. The new one is the action you do when you hit the LIKE-button. The opposite of the standard verb is "dislike", the "undo-action" form of the new verb is "unlike". With the old, stative, verb you can use "used to" and "for many years", which I think wouldn't work with the new verb (though maybe the new one can be used not only for 'hitting the 'like' button' but also for the resulting state that gets you into, in which case it would have all the uses of the old verb PLUS the new instantaneous-action sense.)

  28. dl said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 10:06 am

    For the real language log on facebook …

  29. nonpoptheorist said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 11:35 am

    The posts appearing on the community page are just from users with too open privacy settings?

    I'd hate to see posts made on peoples walls, concerning specific areas, surfacing in the public arena. Especially where faith or sexuality are concerned. I really don't think FB should be in charge of 'outing' people. It was bad enough during the recent UK elections for students wanting to 'like' the Conservatives against the majority of their student body associates.

  30. Stephen Jones said,

    May 14, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

    This link has a nice animation showing how Facebook regularly destroys your privacy.

  31. Army1987 said,

    May 15, 2010 @ 7:15 am

    There's some brouahaha *right now* because the "community page" (or whatever it's called) of Silvio Berlusconi automatically includes any post by anyone including the words "Silvio Berlusconi".

  32. Karen said,

    May 15, 2010 @ 11:31 am

    Some interesting stuff from Barry at Staring at Empty Pages on Facebook and its policies, plus discussion of what it all means when "everything is opt-in" by using Facebook in the first place.

  33. Nick said,

    May 15, 2010 @ 11:33 am

    Yeah, most people don't realize how public their status updates are. I have changed my privacy settings so that only friends can see my updates, and I did this even before I realized facebook would be smattering them on community pages. I suggest everyone do the same. In fact, everyone who is on facebook should go through each option in the privacy setting, because you'd be surprised what some of the defaults are. After doing this, there shouldn't be any worries about information-mongering by facebook. For the most part it really is as private as you make it.

  34. Sarah said,

    May 15, 2010 @ 11:58 am

    Well, I did eventually realize that my post is visible in the community page only for me and 'my friends' … I have set pretty strict privary settings for the obvious reasons.

  35. Diane said,

    September 20, 2010 @ 10:04 am

    I just visited the Language Log Facebook Fan page, and I noticed that the URL is NOT yet personalized. May I suggest that you guys visit this page?

    When a fan page has 25 friends or "fans", you can actually customize the URL by logging in (as an admin) and then changing the username :-)

    Hope I was able to be of help!
    P.S. you can also customize the FBML :-)

    You can also try out a custom Facebook Fan Page Set Up .

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