Archive for the ‘My life’ Category

That time again

May 22, 2015

Time for Stanford to appoint me as a Consulting Professor of Linguistics for the coming academic year, so I’ve been asked to supply an updated c.v. This is a requirement that comes down from the School of Humanities and Sciences, which actually makes the appointment. But somewhere along the line, my department is involved.

Now, my c.v. is gigantic (I’ve been a university professor since 1965, after all.), but I passed it along. But, thinking that my colleagues might be concerned about what I’ve doing recently, I added a side note:

for some years, my scholarly work has been conveyed almost entirely on-line, through Language Log (since 2002), my own blog (since 2008), and the American Dialect Society mailing list. I’ve posted about 10,000 times in these places (over 5,000 in my blog alone); this work is sometimes technical, but often it’s essentially educational, making linguistic topics available to a wide audience (my blog is viewed 1000 to 1500 times a day). Some of the topics covered on a regular basis:

language play; language in the comics; the language of sex and sexuality; the language of food; grammar, style, and usage; several types of anaphora (Verb Phrase Ellipsis, so-called “dangling modifiers”, anaphoric islands); morphology (especially synthetiic compounds, back-formation, and what I’ve called “libfixes”); and some semantic/pragmatic topics (e.g., negative polarity items and implicature).

I’m hoping this will be acceptable.

Unconventional lives

April 28, 2015

Following up on my posting on Elsa Lanchester, some remarks on her unconventional family and her relationship with Charles Laughton. And then notes on the spectacularly unconventional lives of Lord Berners and Robert Heber-Percy.

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Armenian days

April 27, 2015

Some time ago I came to consciousness in the middle of the night to intriguing music from WQXR (classical music from NYC): a collage of melodies, many hauntingly semi-familiar. Hmm, Charles Ives? Not any Ives I recognized, and quieter and less assertive than you expect from Ives. Unfamiliar and charming.

Symphony No. 50 Mount St Helens by Alan Hovhaness. And that took me to Armenians in the U.S., especially to the west of Boston (near where I lived when I was in grad school); to the Armenian diaspora; and to the genocide, a hundred years ago, that triggered the dispersal of Armenians.

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This week’s remarkable photo

April 8, 2015

From a memoir piece by Sissela Bok in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Scholar, “Meeting the Mystics: My California encounters with Gerald Heard and Aldous Huxley”, about a time in her life shortly after she married Derek Bok (in 1955) and settled in the United States. Through her husband, she met a set of mystics, rebels, and countercultural icons. A photo from January 1960 in Southern California:

Left to right: Gerald Heard, Christopher Isherwood, Sir Julian Huxley, Aldous Huxley, and Linus Pauling

Rebels all, mystics, LSD explorers, and so on. All, of course, men. And all in suits; well, the ’60s had not really gotten underway yet. You can tell that Heard was the true rebel because he’s the only one with a beard.

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Child’s play

February 20, 2015

(On music rather than language.)

On WQXR this week, Exploring Music programs on the theme “Child’s Play”, with Tuesday’s show featuring music by children. An Elgar piece written when he was 12, several very early Mozart works, of course, and the Mendelssohn Octet, written when he was 16.

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Signs of spring

February 5, 2015

While more snow is afflicting the northeastern U.S., out here on the left coast there are signs of spring. In my neighborhood, the spears of tulip shoots have now broken ground: spring flowers on the way! And the songbirds are now vocalizing like crazy.

In ten days or so (mid-February) the first trees will start to leaf out: the California buckeyes.

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Antonio Soler and the Mournful Valley

January 21, 2015

Not long ago, WQXR played some keyboard sonatas by Padre Antonio Soler, a favorite composer of mine since my student days at MIT but one not especially widely known. That tweaked bittersweet memories of those days in Cambridge MA, especially powerful at this time of the year, in what I’ve come to think of the Mournful Valley of Mid-Winter, in between January 17th, the anniversary of Ann Daingerfield Zwicky’s death (this year, the 30th anniversary) and January 22nd, my man Jacques Transue’s birthday (this year, the 73rd; Jacques died in 2003) — and with celebrations of love, for Valentines Day, very much in the air.

This wil be about Ann — another posting of many about her and her family — who shared an appreciation of Soler with me.

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Another linguistics dream, sort of

December 23, 2014

Every so often I have an intense long-lasting dream that’s about linguistic analysis. The dream starts with something I recall (in the dream) as having read on the net but not yet responded to, and it absorbs my attention for a long time, working out the details. Until I fully wake up, it doesn’t occur to me that none of it makes any sense at all.

Last night the trigger was some (imagined) web report on a piece of software to detect British automobile plates that have taboo vocabulary on them — why does it never occur to me that these premisses are totally nutso? — and automatically change them to something innocuous.

As is usually the case, I’d gotten to my computer on awakening before realizing that all of it was will-of-the-wisps. It always is.

Rioting

November 29, 2014

Much of the discussion of the rioting in Ferguson MO after the shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man, by white police officer Darren Wilson — especially by white commenters — has focused on property damage during what started as protests over police actions. Relatively even-handed report from Wikipedia:

The shooting sparked protests and unrest in Ferguson, in part due to the belief among many that Brown was surrendering, as well as longstanding racial tensions between the majority-black Ferguson community and the majority-white city government and police. Protests, both peaceful and violent, along with vandalism and looting, continued for more than a week, resulting in night curfews. The response of area police agencies in dealing with the protests received significant criticism from the media and politicians.

The white response has tended to paint the protestors as dangerous and out of control, drawing on negative stereotypes of blacks. Black commenters point instead to long-standing grievances, amounting to rage, over police actions. (This rage doesn’t of course excuse property damage, but it does explain the depth of the black response.)

Now a tour of rioting of various sorts, following some personal observations about police forces.

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A ride on the Reading Railroad

November 13, 2014

(Not much about language, but mostly about my life, train travel, and train stations.)

From Ann Burlingham, this card in the game of Monopoly, which she posted on Facebook in connection with a story about the Koch Brothers’ campaign against high-speed rail in the U.S.:

(#1)

I grew up in a suburb of Reading PA, from which the Reading Railroad got its name, and I traveled often on the railroad in my childhood and young adult years. It was the route to Philadelphia, and, beyond that, to Princeton and on to New York City.

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