Link love: language (53)

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]

4 Responses to Link love: language (53)

  1. Harry Lake says:

    Nice list, thanks Stan. Your message marked as Priority. I liked the piece on ‘copyediting’, to which I would add a) read the text through at least once aloud and b) all rules apply even when it’s your own text (in my case, of course, a translation). Though obviously Mike’s source books aren’t mine, or yours, presumably.

  2. Ray Girvan says:

    Very good list – though the Real Rules vs. Grammar Myths one isn’t entirely without controversy. The first one – Personal Pronouns – ignores the observation that, according to Pullum & Huddleston, using “[name] and I” constructs in object position has become a mainstream variant in Standard English. The “dummy subjects and smothered verbs” and “The reason is because” sections look like subjective peeves: as you said in an earlier post, “redundancy is not inherently problematic”.

  3. Thanks for the link to my blog post — although since it was you who urged me to publish in the first place, I’ve been expecting it.

    (I also make an appearance in the “collective noun for collective noun” Storify, which I’d forgotten about. I stand by my submissions.)

    Following Ray’s comment, coordinated pronouns in English are complicated, and I would go as far as to say that the use of coordinated “me” in subject position for informal registers is borderline standard. But the Latinesque rule of sticking to “I” for subject and “me” for object is the only uncontroversial option, so it’s the right rule to teach to unconfident writers, and to advocate when a consistent style choice is called for. Awareness of flexibility is good too, of course.

    Using ngrams to explore the relative frequency of scalawag vs scallywag tells us more-or-less what we’d expect: that scalawag dominates in America and scallywag in Britain (it’s tempting to pluralise that). However, the ngram viewer shows a spike of British scalawags in 1977, the year I was born. It’s such an anomaly that I suspect an error in the data, but I’m not sure how to restrict Google Books results to British publications (the link from the ngram viewer ought to do that automatically based on the corpus selection, but it doesn’t).

    I found the Twitter map of Melbourne very awkward to use, partly because the graphs often didn’t refresh properly, and partly because it would have been more logical to specify a radius instead of using the rectangular window to define a region.

  4. Stan says:

    Harry: Those are good additions. Reading text aloud is always worthwhile, and can be especially useful after taking a short break, or with a critical listener at hand.

    Ray: Yes, I agree that it’s more complicated than that, and perhaps Ms McLendon would too. But in the context (presentation at an American Copy Editors Society conference), it makes sense to simplify such complexities – then journalists have a rule of thumb, and as Adrian says a consistent style choice.

    Adrian: It’s usually scallywag in Ireland, too. That is a curious spike for scalawag. It may be due to publication of a single book that uses the word a lot, just as Norman Duncan’s story The Siren Of Scalawag Run generates a spike in COHA for 1910–20. Or it could be somehow to do with your birthdate, after all.

    Good point about awareness of flexibility; perhaps this came up in discussion at ACES. In any case, the simplification serves as a general guideline for formal/semiformal usage. On a related matter, MWCDEU has an interesting note on between you and I that cites Chomsky and Henry Sweet in the phrase’s defence. It’s one for a separate blog post.

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