Archive for the ‘This blogging life’ Category


May 21, 2016

As the number of spam comments on this blog rapidly careens towards 5 million (yes, 5,000,000) since late December 2008, I reflect on the stats for this blog (putting aside AZBlogX, which is a livejournal site; Language Log; and the mailing list ADS-L). As of 1 p.m. PDT today, the figures were:

6,031 postings (~6k)
196 Pages
9,820 comments (~10k)
4,993,281 spam comments

Fortunately, an efficient piece of software automatically deletes most of the spam, so I don’t have to see it at all. Spambots learn ways to avoid this software, but then the software finds new patterns in the spam and gets really efficient again. We’re in a period where the software is triumphant, but that will inevitably change again.

Rather more puzzling are the daily stats on views of this blog. For a long time, this figure stood at about 1000 views per day, with occasional rises to 1500 or more, but in the last few weeks the figure has dropped to about 800, with an occasional rise to 1000. I don’t know how the view count is determined, but it’s not a count of how many times someone reads the blog, because some readers get to the blog by means other than clicking on one of its addresses ( or

The drop in the view count coincided with a huge swell in people who “follow” this blog, so maybe the drop has to do with the consequences of “following” me, however that works. Or maybe people just don’t like the topics I’ve been posting on recently, sigh.

Perils of: unspacedalllowercase

March 18, 2016

An annoyance of references to sites on the net is that


If your site is named Mouse Envy or mouse envy or MouseEnvy or mouseEnvy, your helpful hints to the parsing of the name are totally erased in the name


which could represent all sorts of things, like the joint project name

Mo. U. See & N. Vy

Normally this is just an annoyance, but sometimes the transformation could induce serious misreadings.

On Facebook recently, Robert Coren reported on a possible problem with the website for a Han Dynasty restaurant — handynasty — because it was subject to misparsing as handy + nasty. Others followed with other possibilities:

Pen Island — penisland — penis + land

Experts Exchange — expertsexchange — expert + sex change

[from Italy] Powergen Italiana — powergenitalia — power + genitalia

I don’t know anything about the purported originals (except for Han Dynasty) or about whether there’s been an actual issue over net access for the potentially ambiguous unspacedlowercase versions. But they’re still good stories, se non è vero, è ben trovato.


Briefly: what is a category?

February 29, 2016

Life on the net brings many annoyances. Software is frequently updated, in ways that sometimes make you have to re-learn how to do things. Blogging sites (I use WordPress for this blog and the much more tolerant livejournal for AZBlogX) and social media sites  (I read and post to Facebook and Google+) change the way they work, frequently, and they almost never announce these changes, so you suddenly discover that things no longer work the way they used to, and you have to discover (by trial and error, or asking around) a way to do what you want to do.

Facebook is famous for changing the way it works, sometimes apparently trying something out (maybe on only some of its users) and then changing things back the next day. Vexing.

WordPress made some substantial changes, unannounced, a few months ago, and I’m still coping with one of the little oddities of the current system, the way the label Uncategorized is used.


A quandary

October 27, 2015

Recently I’ve gotten two requests from acquaintances to remove a posting from this blog — one from a woman I’ll refer to as F, one from a man I’ll refer to as M. Both F and M are in long-standing relationships with a same-sex partner, people I’ll refer to as pF and pM, respectively. Both pF and pM have professional lives that are significantly associated with their homosexuality; they are “publicly gay”. F and M have notable professional lives, neither associated in any way with homosexuality, and both believe that their sexuality is a “private matter” and that their professional and personal lives should be entirely separate. I’ve posted about F and about M, in each case referring (in my posting) to their relationship with their partner, with the result that my postings identified F and M as gay. F and M objected to my making their sexuality public, and asked me to delete these postings from my blog.

The cases turn out to be significantly different, however, in ways that caused me to dismiss F’s request out of hand but to worry about whether I should take M’s request seriously.


The 4 million

August 18, 2015

From O. Henry in 1906, the collection The Four Million:

The Four Million is the second published collection of short stories by O. Henry originally released in 1906. There are twenty five stories of various lengths including several of his best known works such as “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Cop and the Anthem”. The book’s title refers to the then population of New York City where many of the stories are set.

(The 2014 census estimate for NYC was 8.49 million — more than doubled in nearly 110 years.)

Meanwhile, the number of spam comments afflicting this site passed 4 million yesterday. (more…)

A thousand likes

June 19, 2015

On Wednesday, a notification from WordPress that I had achieved

a thousand likes

on this blog since it started late in 2008.


Guys in Heat

June 8, 2015

(Warning: this is a posting, often in very plain language, about gay porn flicks, the actors in them, their bodies, and the sex acts the pornstars engage in. Visually not X-rated — those images are on AZBlogX — but far from innocent. Not for the kiddies or the sexually modest. There’s a fair amount about language in there, but there’s a lot to offend the sensitive.)

Unearthed on my desktop, this playful cock-tease photo of the engaging Christopher Ash (a.k.a. Tony Bendanza and Tony Bandanza):


A word about how the photo got onto my desktop and why I’m posting about it now.

Then about Ash, body types, and sociotypes, and the porn flick Guys in Heat.


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?