Word geographies

October 2, 2014

Some good words here about Asya Pereltsvaig’s explorations in word geography, from the etymology section of her Languages of the World site, which has some cool maps. In no particular order (some postings have come by more than once, in different versions):

The Geography of ‘Book’ (link)

The Geography of the “Onion” Vocabulary (link)

What will you have: tea or chai? (link)

Say “Cheese”! (link)

The Geography of “Cucumber” (link)

The ‘cheese’ map:

 

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Answering a question with a question

October 2, 2014

Today’s Dilbert, with Dilbert and the pointy-headed boss:

Well, responding to a yes-no question with a question could just be a request for information — that would be taking the boss’s question “at face value” — but quite often the second question (conversationally) implicates that the answer to the first question is “yes” (why, the reasoning begins, would the second question have been asked in the first place?)

Action Item, Professional Superhero

October 2, 2014

From Martin Kaminer to ADS-L on the 28th, a link to this wonderful 2000 comic strip by Neil McAllister (apparently the only extant episode of Adventures of Action Item):




 

Mostly about jargon, but it also raises questions about discourse organization, in this case about how business meetings are organized.

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Saying but disavowing

October 1, 2014

From the NYT on Monday (9/30), “Some Judicial Opinions Require Only 140 Characters: Justice Don Willett of the Texas Supreme Court Lights Up Twitter” by Jesse Wegman:

One of Justice Willett’s tweets in 2013 showed a Bundt cake covered in chocolate sauce. The caption — “I like big bundts & I cannot lie” — was a pun on a line in “Baby Got Back,” a hugely popular and sexually explicit 1990s rap song. (When asked about that tweet, he said in an email, “Believe me, I’d never tweet the actual lyrics, or anything close to them.”) He said he has heard no complaints about that tweet, or any other.

Of course, the justice would never utter those words (and openly accept the sexist import of the rap song), but he’ll do his best to allude to them so clearly that anyone in the know will get the message. He’s saying, as clearly as he can, but disavowing the substance of what he’s saying. I’m not sure what the right term is for this speech act, but it certainly deserves one.

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Facebook vs. texting

October 1, 2014

Today’s Zits, returning to a frequent theme in the strip, means or modes of communication across the generations:

In earlier episodes, Jeremy rejected the idea of face-to-face talk (and even e-mail) in favor of texting. Now we discover that social networking is a step too far.

Pests on the march

October 1, 2014

In the NYT on Monday (9/30), “Once Considered Won, Battle Against Invasive Beetles Is Renewed” by Paul Glader, beginning:

It is a menace from Asia that over the past two decades has ravaged tens of thousands of trees in several states. But after being wiped out in New Jersey, it seemed to be in retreat in New York thanks to a warlike response from federal and state governments. It was gone from Staten Island and Manhattan, and the battle against it was tilting toward eradication in Queens, in Brooklyn and on Long Island.

That was until Charlie Crimi spotted one in his Long Island backyard — an Asian long-horned beetle. “I didn’t really know what it was,” Mr. Crimi said of the large, white polka-dot, shiny black bug with long, wavy antennas that he saw in the summer of 2013. But after some Internet research, Mr. Crimi, 54, realized he had seen the notorious insect equivalent of Jesse James. He emailed a photo of the bug to a state forestry worker and received confirmation that what he had seen was, in fact, an Asian long-horned beetle.

 

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Our playful scientists

October 1, 2014

Sprites, elves, trolls, gnomes, and pixies!

From the NYT Science Times yesterday (9/30), “On the Hunt for a Sprite on a Midsummer’s Night” [oh, the rhyme; science writing has tons of language play] by Sandra Blakeslee, beginning:

Armed with sensitive cameras and radio telescopes, [Thomas] Ashcraft hunts for sprites — majestic emanations of light that flash for an instant high above the thunderheads, appearing in the shapes of red glowing jellyfish, carrots, angels, broccoli, or mandrake roots with blue dangly tendrils. (Weather buffs call the tall, skinny ones “diet sprites.”) No two are alike.

And they are huge — tens of miles wide and 30 miles from top to bottom. But because they appear and vanish in a split-second, the naked eye tends to perceive them only as momentary flashes of light. It takes a high-speed camera to capture them in detail.

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Ling wars in Dingburg

September 30, 2014

Today’s Zippy has Dingburgers, drawn into camps on issues of linguistic variation and usage, slinging lots of technical terminology:

Most of these features — the glottal stop, NG coalescence, like, awesome, uptalk, whatever, vocal fry (creak, creaky voice) — have been discussed on Language Log or here, because they are associated with a collection of geographic or social dialect characteristics (region, age, sex, class, etc.) or particular styles and registers; they are socioculturally significant, usually in quite complex ways. The remaining three — strident voice, slack voice, and falsetto — are phonation types that have, I think, escaped attention on these blogs

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Today’s spam publication

September 29, 2014

From someone using the name “Tomas Kant”, to a huge number of groups (including the linguistics faculty at Stanford), a call for papers for a “journal”:

International journal of science, commerce and humanities (IJSCH) is an open access, peer-reviewed and refereed multidisciplinary journal published by post academic publications. The objective of (IJSCH) is to provide a forum for the publication of scientific articles in the fields of science, commerce and humanities. In pursuit of this objective the journal not only publishes high quality research papers but also ensures that the published papers achieve broad international credibility.

Yes, it stinks of spam; note the absurd breadth of the fields covered, and the absence of capitalization in the names of the “journal” and its “publisher”.

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Wichita is falling

September 28, 2014

In The Economist of 8/16/14, a piece on guitarist Pat Metheny on the occasion of his 60th birthday, “Guitar hero: A giant of the jazz world just keeps on innovating”, which gives me an excuse to mention his 1981 album As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls, because of its linguistically playful title and because of its role in my own life.

On the title, from Wikipedia:

As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls is a collaborative album by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, released in 1981. The title makes reference to Wichita, Kansas and Wichita Falls, Texas.

(Both phrases in the title have inverted word order, with the verb falls preceding the subjects — Wichita and Wichita Falls, respectively — rather than following them.)

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