Link love: language (59)

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.


15 Responses to Link love: language (59)

  1. wisewebwoman says:

    As usual the richness of your post takes far more time than I have available at the moment.

    Broken words – most of them anyway, I knew for some odd reason.


  2. languagehat says:

    I kind of wish you’d broken this up into three or four posts — it’s far to much to deal with at one sitting, and frankly I’m probably not going to come back to it repeatedly over the next couple of weeks to do it justice. But hey, I found some great stuff on a quick run-through, and maybe I underestimate myself!

  3. nissemus says:

    “What to say to peevers” contains as much illogical tosh as the illogical tosh it complains about.

  4. languagehat says:

    Why do you say that? What specifically do you object to?

  5. Re Google’s font family, it’s ridiculous that there still isn’t a standard way to embed arbitrary squiggles in text, a feature that has long been present in older technology (the pen). Should be easy enough for a character encoding system to include a “freehand” mode. OK, character-by-character encoding is easier if you want things to be searchable, but that isn’t always the priority.

    Re people complaining there are too many links, it’s really quite short compared to many linkfests out there, some of which I read weekly. Also, I’d expect that anyone who reads a lot of language articles on the Internet has probably seen many of them before, so reading the rest shouldn’t be too daunting. Finally, it’s hard to see what advantage there would be in splitting them into several smaller posts, unless the advantage is purely psychological. Browsers have bookmarks for a reason.

  6. John Cowan says:

    Eh, I just opened them all in tabs in a separate browser window, so I get to them when I get to them.

    I liked the one on blurbs. Of course, the real reason Capote blurbed To Kill A Mockingbird is that the character of Dill, the young boy who lives next door during the summer only, is closely based on him!

  7. Stan says:

    WWW: I even like that phrase, broken words, like there’s a jumble of letters and morphemes on the floor.

    Hat: I wouldn’t expect anyone to consume it all at one sitting! Think of it as a buffet that won’t go stale; you can pick at it piecemeal as and when you like, without any obligation to finish it. Also, it will likely be several days before I post again, and weeks (or months) before the next batch of links.

    nissemus: I disagree, but I’d like to see an example of what you mean.

    Adrian: My grasp of the technical challenges of creating a universal font family is minuscule, but it does seem strange that something approaching it hasn’t already been achieved.
    When I took a break from ‘Link love’ I thought I might write more regular, short posts on items that would otherwise have appeared in these linkfests, but it didn’t happen. No one should feel bound to click on everything (though some will happily do so): as you say, some items will be familiar; and not everything will interest everyone. It’s just as well I haven’t been gathering links for the full absent year!

    John: Ah, and that way you get the satisfaction of closing each in turn, like sequentially crossing off a To-Do list. (Other people’s browser habits interest me.) It’s so long since I read Mockingbird that I don’t remember Dill. I should rectify that.

  8. On the subject of browser habits, when reading a page that contains many links (e.g. linkfest, Twitter stream, etc), I typically have up to five of them open in tabs at any one time (not including the tab that contains the list of links itself, nor the “home” tab that usually contains either my own blog or its stats page). I rarely use more than one window.

    When that number of tabs is already open, I try to make a decision about one of the current tabs (either to close it or to put it on the queue to read later) before opening another. Occasionally I’ll open a sixth tab (particularly if it’s the last one on the list); it’s a flexible maximum.

    The browser’s list of visited vs unvisited links is a blunt instrument (confused by small variations in URL and not applicable on Twitter), but I make the most of it, usually not opening a link if my browser says I’ve already seen it. There’s a Firefox add-on that lets you manually mark links as visited or unvisited, and I don’t know how anyone does without it.

    My “read later” queue is a menu on my bookmarks toolbar. It’s where I store articles that I might link to myself (on Twitter and/or my blog), after I’ve had a chance to read them properly (which usually means in hardcopy).

  9. sshaver says:

    “Look” is an exclamation that I suspect is taught in media training to politicians now. They use it to avoid a direct answer to a question, exclaiming “Look!” as if they are about to cut to the heart of the matter, when really they’re just using it to cover an exit out the nearest door.

  10. John Cowan says:

    Oooh, nasty error in the Atlantic piece on silent film fonts: the use of typists for letterers in the subhead. (At first I thought it should have been typographers, but it wasn’t type in those days but handwriting, as the article itself says.)

  11. […] been almost three months since the last collection of language links: definitely time for another. There are lots, so get comfy and […]

  12. […] sequence at once conventional and unconscious. This article at Slate (which featured in a 2014 linkfest on Sentence first) has a good overview. Language Log visited the topic last year in response to a […]

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