A seemingly empty room of ninjas, and other new collective nouns.
What happens to your accent when you sing?
An L E G that is sure to M U U.
Meet Roger W. Shuy, forensic linguist.
When “claim quotes” mislead.
Ali, Banda, Chakechake… and a world of phonetic alphabets.
Prepare to wince: scholarship now has an “impact profile”.
Merriam-Webster’s 10 most-searched words of 2009.
Some say there’ll no be dick in Moby-Dick.
The Happy Earwig Motel and other delights in a three-part Simpsons brand-o-rama.
For lexicographers, cardigans are optional.
Language as an evolutionary endowment. (PDF, 1.06 MB)
Otto Jesperson on natural and artificial language formation.
Finally, inspired inanity from a monosyllabic Monty Python:
Great fodder for brain and laugh-muscles, Stan. Thank you. We’d have no lack of topics for the next fortnight.
As for Webster’s No.3, furlough: Checking its meaning [permission] and (possible) derivation [loube], Erlaubnis came to my mind. Well, and pronouncing both furlough and Verlaub, the resemblance is … ear-catching.
You’re very welcome, Sean. There’s no lack of material out there to choose from!
Your linguinstinct seems spot-on: the Shorter OED gives the word’s origin as Dutch verlof, modelled on German Verlaub, from ver- + West Germanic base of leave (noun). It adds that the stress on the first syllable in furlough seems to show the influence of the Dutch oorlof = German Urlaub. Also listed are an obsolete spelling furlow and another earlier (E17) form forloff; see also the Online Etymology Dictionary.
That word, furlough, reminds me of one of my lecturers at university, who insisted on mispronouncing the word slough (she said it as sloff; and yes, I know it is pronounced differently to furlough, but they are spelled the same, and hence the jog). I resisted the urge to correct her, as she new a hundred times as much as me about the subject matter (renaissance literature). Good ol’ Webster, eh.
Love Monty Python! You should link their skits more often, Stan. XD
I have a question for anyone who reads these comments and considers him- or herself to be somewhat of a grammarian:
When it comes to plural time, and the frequency is not followed by a noun, but the implication is there, should you add an apostrophe?
For example: My sister’s birthday is in two days. “Days” is not followed by a noun, but could there be an implied / unspoken one (such as the word “time”)? And if so, would it be more correct to say: My sister’s birthday is in two days’ — or even, My sister’s birthday is in two days’ time.
Here’s another one, for reference: You won’t be the same in ten years. It implies that they won’t be the same, ten years from now. Once again, because of the preposition “in”, is there an unspoken (unwritten) “time” there, that requires us to insert an apostrophe (…the same in ten years’, or …the same in ten years’ time).
I learned that you do add an apostrophe for plural time, but it seems that without a noun following it, it is hard to decide whether or not to include one.
Thanks in advance for an answer. And thanks for all the links, Stan!
Oh God, I made a typing mistake with the word “knew”. I must look like a right dolt. >.<
Tim: Pronunciation of the -ough ending is notoriously variable from word to word — something you’re well aware of, being an English teacher! It does seem strange that a professor of literature would pronounce slough as /slɒf/, but we probably all have our ‘deaf’ spots. Maybe it resulted from semantic or morphological association with trough.
The first examples you cite don’t need an apostrophe: in two days; in ten years. If time is included, I would add an apostrophe, since the phrase seems to imply an elliptical of or worth of, e.g. in two days’ (worth) of time. This is a ‘descriptive genitive’, ‘classifying genitive’ or ‘genitive of measure‘, rather than a traditional possessive. The terminology is somewhat overlapping, and guidance is mixed. See Merriam-Webster for a historical assessment.
The apostrophe in two days’ time is advisable, and I would always include it in formal contexts, but it might not be an absolute grammatical requirement, since two days seems to play an ambiguous role as a quasi-possessive (requiring an apostrophe) and as an adjectival phrase (not requiring an apostrophe). But we may need a professional grammarian to clarify the matter! The film title Two Weeks Notice attracted a lot of opprobrium and guerrilla proofreading, but I’m not convinced that the ‘missing’ apostrophe constitutes an error so much as a stylistic convention. I will look deeper into it when I get the chance.
Oh, and don’t worry about typos. They happen to everyone. I pay no attention to them unless they appear in text I’m editing or in surprising forms or contexts.
Interesting and fun links. Thank you! I thouroughly enjoyed the lexicographers’ cartoon and comments. I laughed and laughed at the Monty Phyton’s video (and listened to a few more, on YouTube.) I know very little about those guys. They were not part of my French youth’s cultural environment.
I still have such a terrible accent. I would pronounce furlough: furlow… (the obsolete spelling)until someone (probably one of my sons) would correct me. And then I would repeat the same mistake the next time. I have no ear at all for proper English pronunciation. When my two boys were 6 and 7, they spent six months trying to make their mother say th… even showing me to put my tongue on the inside of my upper teeth. Then, one day, they looked at one another, shook their heads, and agreed to let me be. We’ve lived happily forever after. The dear boys, having a British father, took after him, and never had the problem.
Who really cares? Unless you’re playing Henry V, on the stage. When people don’t catch what I’m saying, I spell the word, or write it down. And when I lived in Houston, Texas, my English was much more understandable than the southern American drawling I would be surrounded by.
You’re welcome, Claudia! I’m delighted but not surprised that you enjoyed Monty Python so much. They excelled at surreal comedy that was sometimes sharply satirical and sometimes silly for its own sake. Despite being quite experimental, even anarchic, they became very popular and influential in this part of the world.
Your difficulty with th- reminds me of my own problems pronouncing some Polish sounds. I find it a difficult language to reproduce accurately. I’m sure your accent isn’t so terrible. If you can make yourself understood, you’re fine; anyway, accents bring colour and personality to speech. Unless, as you say, you are playing Henry V, in which case a strong dialect or foreign accent might prove distracting or even off-putting to some of your audience.
What a great blog. Sean Jeating from Omnium sent me here.
Thank you, patz1. You are very welcome to Sentence first! I am beginning to think I should hire Sean as my online publicist…
Stan I meant to say, thanks for fascinating links
My pleasure, Jams. Thanks for stopping by.
Or they say in Esperanto “ege amuza” :)
Glad you had fun with them, Brian!
[…] on this blog before, when I included his paper “The Evolution of Language” (PDF) in an early collection of language links. Here’s a diagram from the […]