Link love: language (59)

September 7, 2014

Link love is back! I took a break from this regular feature a year ago, for reasons, but never intended that break to be permanent. So here’s a selection of language-related articles and other material that caught my eye over the last while. It’s a bumper crop.

10 words that are badly broken.

How do you rhyme in a sign language?

What to say to peevers.

Podcast on accent diversity and prejudice (22 min.).

How do our brains treat metaphors and idioms?

Sending text messages in calligraphy.

When nouns verb oddly.


The defensive/impatient use of Look.

What were medieval scriptoria really like?

Timeline of 870 madness-related slang terms.

De-extinction: when words come back from the dead.

Who can save Ayapaneco?

The fevered art of book blurbing.

Google’s global ‘font family‘.

On loanwords and the Dictionary of Untranslatables.

The strange hidden logic (not hidden strange logic) of adjective order.

For a president today, talkin’ down is speaking American.

Unpacking America and Americans.

The origins of bum’s rush.

The problem of socialised male speech dominance.

Graphing the frequency of English letters and their position in words.

A good podcast on linguistic relativity.

On the birth of italics.

Crowdsourcing linguistic explanations.

Stand-up comedy in a second language.

Samuel Beckett and the voices in our minds.

Comparing the language of climate change in Germany and the US.

10 ‘grammar rules’ it’s OK to break.

The bodacious language of Bill & Ted.

Microaggressions in metacommunication.

Lovecraft and the art of describing the indescribable.

Why a painting in the White House has a deliberate spelling error.

How slang wilding was used to uphold a narrative of race and crime.

:) vs. :-) – Stylistic variation in Twitter emoticons (PDF).

Is erk related to oik?

Learning the language of love, 1777.

Interesting interview with Games of Thronesresident conlanger.

Also, GoT is more linguistically sophisticated than you might think.

Against editors? Make that For writers.

What goes in a dictionary when the dictionary is online?

A list of words coined (or notably used) by Edgar Allan Poe.

Recreating silent-film typography.

How to market a dictionary, 1970s-style.

That will do for now. If you’ve the appetite and time for more, you can browse the language links archive, or visit some blogs and sites linked in the sidebar – they’re all good. You can also follow me on Twitter – on the days I’m there I usually post a few links, among other things.

One last thing, lest it get lost in a list of ling-lust: the Speculative Grammarian book, which I reviewed positively last year as a feast of satirical linguistics, is now available as a PDF for $5.95 – or $4.95 for Sentence first readers.

Link love: language (58)

October 20, 2013

A quick roundup of links on language, words, and linguistics in the news and around the web over the last few weeks (plus one or two from the archives):

The linguistics of ventriloquism.

Exclamation marks in graphic design.

Linguistic maps of the world, 1741.

A monumental curse.

The importance of paragraphs.

Is this what Proto-Indo-European sounded like?

Cute little Cholera Plague: the worst baby names in history.

Ironic dictionary of literary terms.

Rickrolling in Klingon.

Jigsaw family.

A tip-top primer on reduplication.

Joseph Stalin’s passion for editing.

A lingua-licious tour of libfixes.

On anchor(man) vs. news reader.

Do marmosets take turns to communicate?

[Update: more on marmoset conversation from Margaret Wilson.]

Is it wrong to put two spaces after a full stop? (My thoughts on this.)

Dog fooding, yak shaving: hacker terms for Ada Lovelace Day.

How old is TGIF?

The rise of the text tattoo.

On criticising “poor grammar”.

A hithertofore unrecognised neologism.

Words through which the root curr- courses.

How early modern English grammar differs from today’s.

Why dictionaries define words everyone supposedly knows.

Holy Sh*t and the history of swearing (book review).

The Seeing Speech phonetics project.

Are poisonous and venomous mutually distinct?

BuzzFeed and Duolingo are crowdsourcing translation.

The Chicago Manual of Style chats with Ben Zimmer.

Accent discrimination in the UK.

Linguistic ruin? LOL! A study of teens’ instant messaging language (PDF).

The poetics of babytalk (PDF).

Are Elvish, Klingon, Na’vi and Dothraki real languages?

[language links archive]

Link love: language (57)

September 9, 2013

Here’s my pick of language links from the past few weeks. I’m overdue, so this is a bigger batch than usual. Some I’ve already tweeted. Enjoy!

A silent alphabet.

When books were shelved backwards.

Synaesthetic map of London Underground.

Poetry is not a hiding place.

Dictionaries are not gatekeepers.

The evolution of English spelling (audio).

Practical uses for books.

Jonathon Green’s slang timelines.

The dame of dictionaries.

Lesser-known back-formations.

Test your ear for foreign languages.

On the lexicon of Irish begrudgery.

Blatant and flagrant converge in meaning.

Good sense on grammar and grading.

Kevin Rudd’s hand gestures.

Is that a mild hybrid or a hybrid hybrid?

See the wood/woods/forest for the trees.

What makes English (or any language) hard to learn?

How to be a reasonable prescriptivist.

A basic emotional lexicon of Yolŋu-matha.

How would you kill the n-word?

Spurious correlations between language and culture.

So you know a linguist…

Celebrity non-English tattoos.

The obscure etymology of askance.

Did Burroughs and Kerouac really fight over the Oxford comma?

Surnames of occupation.

Using full stops (or not) on Twitter.

Benjamin Franklin sanctioned spelling wife as yf.

How do youse spell it?

The Lexicon Valley podcast is now a blog.

Where does warm the cockles of your heart come from?

A field guide to uncommon punctuation.

Language can affect the sensitivity of visual perception.

So we use sentence-initial So as a tool for managing conversation.

The typewriters authors used.

Figurative is my middle name.

Animated history of typography:

[archive of language links]

Link love: language (56)

July 30, 2013

It’s been a month, more or less, since my last set of language links. Here’s the latest batch of articles and videos I’ve enjoyed in recent weeks, or unearthed from further back:


Glossologics, a very interesting blog on languages and word history.

Auden and the OED.

Phonetic pitfalls of shm- reduplication.

Yola and Fingalian – the forgotten ancient English dialects of Ireland.

Editing The Witches for Roald Dahl.

Journalism is home to this cliché.

Test basic spelling and apostrophe use at high speed.

The world’s most beautiful miniature books.

Rachel Jeantel’s language in the Zimmerman trial.

A brief history of yippee-ki-yay.

Familects: the secret language of families.

Europe’s new vocabulary of economic pain.

Your more/less ethnic-sounding name.

Speaking of which: Padraig versus Starbucks.

How technology threatens sign languages.

Huh? Ahh!

What to do about impactful?

While bending over backwards with idioms, don’t put your foot in it.

Why do we have both a and an?

Fascinating discussion on quotation mark history.

Forensic stylometry; or, how Robert Galbraith was revealed as J.K. Rowling.

Begging the question – why all the fuss?

Confessions of a recovering pedant.

Perthshire Cant – a secret Scottish language heading for extinction.

Digitising Joseph Wright’s English Dialect Dictionary.

7 theories on the origin of dongle.

Musical training and second language acquisition (podcast).

Joseph O’Connor, like, likes like:

US accents: where and why?

[archived language links]

Link love: language (55)

July 4, 2013

The number of subscribers to Sentence first has doubled in the last few months. If you’re new here, welcome, and if you’re a veteran reader, thanks for your endurance. The blog placed respectably in’s recent poll/competition of top language professionals’ blogs. Thank you to and all who took time to vote.

My Twitter page also placed well. Its focus is on language, mixed with books, chat, general and specialist links, and miscellany. If you tweet, feel free to follow or say hello. I pop in and out most days. Blog and Twitter both made’s overall list of top language lovers, which you might like to browse for a random assortment of linguaphiles.

And so to business, or rather fun: a roughly monthly set of language-related links I’ve enjoyed in recent weeks. There’s a lot here, but I try to be picky. Some I’d have blogged separately about were I not so busy editing, so hopefully they’ll make up for the relative scarcity of new posts here at the moment.


Does grammar matter? Stop asking silly questions.

English is no longer the language of the web.

What’s wrong with the passive voice?

How emo got political.


A homonyms quiz.

The Ogham stones of Scotland.

Not all distinctions are equally valuable.

Unsent emails from a lexicographer.

Think similar; or, the nouning of adjectives.

The coupling of speech and gesture appears to be ancient.

Are you incentivized to avoid incent?

A bleisurely look at our fondness for blends.

The secret history of cracker.

Is the Voynich Manuscript structured like written language?

Female doctor or woman doctor? How about neither?

A brief history of swearing (podcast, 25 min.).

Çapuling: the swift rise of a new word.

Medieval pet names.

In polite defence of ‘No problem’.

Where does the phrase nest egg come from?

What is an accent?

Cyber’s new life as a standalone noun.

Standard English is a continuum, not an absolute.

The new language of social media photos.

The etymology of goblin.

Shitstorm in a (German) dictionary.

Since vs. because: on clarity and made-up rules.

Light Warlpiri, a (relatively) new language in northern Australia.

Samuel Johnson’s notes on the letters of the alphabet.

Teenage hyperpolyglot: an interview with Timothy Doner (9½ min.).

Dissecting the meaning of Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz.


[archive of language links]

Link love: language (54)

June 5, 2013

Another month means another selection of language and book links, the latest batch including tiny libraries and great secrets, badgers and Moo Fields, jive and wiki. Something for everyone, I hope.

Slim Gaillard’s jive dictionary.

Preserving the Texas German dialect.

Favourite sentences.

The world’s tiniest library.

(Not counting Marc Giai-Miniet’s.)

On slipping a phrase into the language.

Throwing cold water on “ultraconserved words”.

Phonetic analysis of Marge Simpson’s disapproval-sound.

Watching badgers, not inhaling: 10 scandalous euphemisms.

Explaining the Latin jokes in Asterix (h/t LanguageHat).

Indian languages as a primer on historical linguistics.

The Pig Latins of 11 other languages.

Wiki: a word’s journey.


What can we learn from children’s writing?

The role of editors in codifying Standard English.

“Because I say so!” The trouble with Gwynne’s grammar.

Cunning Geo, Moo Field: amazing place names of Orkney and Shetland.

How learning a foreign language reignites the imagination.

N.K.Y.S.A. (Nobody knows your stupid acronym.)

On descriptivism and grammaticality.

Why do we say Yeah, no?

All the headlines from The Simpsons.

“Herein lies the great secret: Thought is made in the mouth.” (A Dada manifesto by Tristan Tzara.)

[language link archives]

Link love: language (53)

May 7, 2013

To keep at bay the ever-present danger of running out of things to read on the internet, here’s a selection of language-related links I’ve enjoyed in recent weeks.

For hardboiled hacks and editors: Grammarnoir 5.

How pointing makes babies human.

Cucumber map of Europe.

Animated pop-up books.

Kán yu andastánd wot aim seiing?

A classical alphabet in rhyming form.

The genealogical etymology of scalawag.

Instead of awesome.


The psycholinguistics of CAPTCHAs.

Anzac, possie, furphy: words from Gallipoli.

Paper vs. screens: the reading brain in the digital age.

GloWbE, a new 1.9b word corpus of global web-based English.

Real rules vs. grammar myths (PDF).

Our many synonyms for death.

On newspapers’ use of illegal immigrants.

What’s the collective noun for collective nouns?

Language structure is partly determined by social structure.

Analysing elephant signals and gestures.

Copyediting principles.

Language, like immigration, is “thoroughly untidy”.

How Vesalius’s anatomical metaphors broke the mould in 1543.

Archive of the indigenous languages of Latin America.

Twitter language map of Melbourne.

Endless rewriting.

Killer Bs.


[Archived language links]


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