Archive for the ‘This blogging 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.

The comments section

May 14, 2015

A little while ago, a comment appeared on my “Confessions of a Grammar Queen” posting that had nothing to do with that posting; instead, it was a message (since deleted) to me, suggesting that I would enjoy an “Ancient Grammar Police” cartoon the commenter had found on the American Mensa site. (The cartoon was unattributed there, but I happen to know that it’s a Non Sequitur cartoon, and I enjoyed it when Mark Liberman posted it, under the heading “Strunk and Ptah”, on Language Log on 10/6/11.)

Warning: The comments section of a posting is for comments on that posting, not for messages to the blogger (my e-mail address is very easy to find, by the way), and it’s not a space where people can write on whatever they want (that’s why people should have their own blogs, or use social media where free discussion is welcome).

(It turns out that I let this commenter get away with something similar back in 2013, after he’d posted a germane comment on an earlier posting, but then posted a link to a cartoon he thought I’d enjoy, as a comment on a posting where it wasn’t relevant. Normally I’d complain to the commenter, but though he gave me a name then, he didn’t supply a usable address for reply, and his name was so common that I couldn’t unearth such an address for him. I should have been more suspicious then.)

A blogging puzzle

April 27, 2015

Recently I got a comment on a posting of a Bizarro cartoon (“Dinosaur connoisseur”), wondering why I hadn’t commented on the space alien and the stick of dynamite in it, and I explained — as I had a number of times before, to other readers of this blog — that this was just one of cartoonist Don Piraro’s things, a little game he plays with his readers: some number of “secret symbols” are salted in almost all his cartoons (they have nothing to do with the actual content of the cartoon), and then their number is noted in the cartoon, just above Piraro’s signature.

Here’s a recent Bizarro with a pun on boot, with two secret symbols:

The eyeball and the piece of pie. The symbols are listed here.

Now the question is: How can I provide this information to my readers?

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The three million mark

January 17, 2015

Earlier this morning, the number of spam comments Akismet has snagged on my WordPress account (since December 2008) passed three million; last I looked, the score was 3,002,256. On these milestone occasions I reflect some on the blogging experience.

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Yesterday’s word for the day

November 3, 2014

I’ve written occasionally about my linguistics dreams; typically, I have an unshakeable dream (it keeps coming back during the night) about some point of linguistic analysis that seems very urgent because it’s such a breakthrough; or a dream about some name that haunts me; or a dream about a term that cries out for analysis. On waking, the point of linguistic analysis turns out to make no sense at all; the name is of a real person, but no one of significance to me; and the term is of interest, but it’s not news to me. Yesterday, it was the last, and the term was the very formal philoprogenitive (‘having many offspring’ or ‘showing love for one’s offspring’ — NOAD2).

I rushed to my computer to search for the word — and found there a posting by me on this blog: “Our philoprogenitive congressmen” of 4/7/12. Many sighs.

Our forgetful scholars.

feuilletonist?

October 30, 2014

My postings on this blog range over a number of topics, and they also take a number of forms. Many of them are relatively short responses to things I’ve overheard, examples I’ve come across in my reading, or linguistic phenomena in the comics. Often light in tone, but with serious linguistic content. What to call this sort of posting?

The New Yorker used to call similar columns casuals; now they appear as items in the “Talk of the Town” section of the magazine. Another label recently came to my attention: the feuilleton. Not entirely perfect, but close. In any case, that would make me a feuilletonist.

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Recent changes in Pages

October 5, 2014

Several recent changes in the Pages (as opposed to the Posts) on this blog: another publication (in .pdf format) that somehow got missed in earlier collections; and a revision of the Pages to include a section on XWriting, links to X-rated material of several kinds.

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On the spam train

September 12, 2014

While I was sleeping, the tally of spam comments reported by Akismet for this blog passed two million; at the moment, it seems to be 2,000,736. Obvious trash is filtered out automatically, without my even seeing it. But every day there are requests from Akismet for me to moderate comments, most of which I’d characterize as non-obvious trash, some of them fairly clever attempts to get me (and my readers) to link to a url that usually turns out to be a commercial site of one sort or another. Recently, many of these come from sites in Germany, I don’t know why.

Some of them are content-free congratulations on the marvels of my site. I have to look at congratulatory comments fairly carefully when they come from people I don’t recognize: a few of them mention specific content from one of my postings and have no commercial link, so they get a pass.

Others masquerade as requests for technical help of some kind.

And then there are the “advice” comments, designed to get a rise out of me: they report that there are a lot of misspellings (not specified) in my postings; or complain about some posting that I provided only “visuals” (images), when I should have posted more text; or complain about some posting that I provided only text, when “visuals” were necessary. Sigh.

Clickbait schemes

July 17, 2014

Andras Kornai wrote me on Tuesday to comment on a prominent pattern he’d seen in online clickbaiting, exemplified by:

You Won’t Believe What This Cop Did When The Cameras WEREN’T Rolling. WOW!

Man Attempts To Hug a Wild Lion. What Happens Next Stunned Me

He’s collected hundreds of similar examples and wondered whether others had noticed the pattern (many have in fact been annoyed by it) and whether it had gotten a name (not so far as I know). In this particular schema, the “hook” is an expression of astonishment or surprise, which can be expressed in a number of ways, referring to the reader (“you won’t believe”, “you’ll be amazed”) or to the presumed writer (“… stunned me”, “I couldn’t believe”), in a variety of syntactic constructions. As a temporary expedient, I’ll refer to this as the SURPRISE! clickbait scheme.

The scheme is “semi-formulaic”, in a way that’s reminiscent of the precursors to snowclones (see “The natural history of snowclones”, here): a culturally significant idea is given a number of formulations; one version achieves special status (in a formula); and then this formula serves as a template for new expressions. The SURPRISE! scheme hasn’t yet crystallized as a formula, but it’s nevertheless recognizable by its form(s) and functions.

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Karenispam

June 20, 2014

A moment out from posting more or less serious things to note this entertaining comment, which was snagged by my WordPress spam filter and turned up at the top of the queue (so I noticed it):

[N N fountain pens] On hearing this Anna sat down hurriedly, and [N N] hid her face in her fan. Alexei Alexandrovich saw that she was weeping, and could not contro [N N Fountain Pens] l her tears, nor even the sobs that were shaking her bosom. Alexei Alexandrovich stood so as to screen her, giving her time to recover herself…

A brief digression with Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin and Anna Karenina. And their damn N N fountain pens.


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