Link love: language (62)

For your weekend-and-beyond reading pleasure, a roundup of language-related items I’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks:

Gibberish as a tool of empowerment for girls.

Rewilding our language of landscape.

Historical slang terms for money.

Ghost of editor past (cartoon).

What part of ‘No, totally’ don’t you understand?

Ending utterances with a comma is definitely A Thing.

A corpus of 25,000 early English texts is now openly available.

The amazing story of the Doves Press typeface.

Old proverbs we should use more often.

Swearing around the world.


The science of mumbling.

The different pronunciations of snooker.

The use and distribution of adverbial likely.

Kúl, beibí, plís, frík: Icelandic is starting to borrow words informally.

How Twitter and Bing could improve their automatic translation.

The changing emotional connotations of punctuation.

The awkward unpredictability of prepositions.

The complex lexicon of ebooks.

What the spellchecker saw.

Why descriptivists are usage liberals.

A close look at ‘overshoot’ in typeface design.

‘The good fight’ as a convenient fiction for grammar moralizing.

The secret history of the % sign.

By Jove!

Best ‘common misspellings’ listicle ever.

The history and use of gendered suffixes: -ess, -ette, -trix (podcast).

Self-taught signer steals the show at Sweden’s Eurovision heats.

Linguists and journalists can be friends.

Parts-of-speech differences in good and ‘bad’ writing.

The last acceptable prejudice – regional accents.

Why the fax machine isn’t quite dead yet.

27 fonts that explain your world.

Honk if you love etymology.

The history of garlic.

Finnegans Wake is being set to music.

How reading and writing differ on paper and screen.

The complicated consequences of accidental CAPS LOCK.

The linguistics of reaction gifs and gestural phrases like facepalm.

Strikingly, rapidly: the rise of ly brand names.

An emoji keyboard is on the way.

Babbling may hint at our ancestors’ pre-linguistic communication.

The Manx language, declared extinct in 2009, is undergoing a revival.

Finally, three articles were published yesterday in defence of singular they: by Ben Zimmer at the Wall Street Journal, Anne Curzan at the Chronicle of Higher Education, and John E. McIntyre at the Baltimore Sun.

As I said on Twitter, it would seem like a tipping point if I didn’t feel that point had already occurred in the most meaningful sense several centuries ago. But some people – not least copy editors – still need persuading.

More links, if you want ’em, in the archive.

22 Responses to Link love: language (62)

  1. astraya says:

    At first I misread the item as being about a ‘self-taught singer’, which isn’t nearly as interested. But it reminded me of an unfortunate misprint in a book I have called ‘Tasteless Lists’. One of ’10 Hard Acts to Follow’ was a man who ‘allowed himself to be literally crucified onstage: while the nails were being driven into his hands and feet, he would entertain the audience by signing [sic] “After the Ball Is Over”‘.

  2. What a great resource. Thank you!

  3. On ghosts: This one didn’t work for me, and I left a comment (in moderation).

    On prepositions: At school, did you hand your assignments in, or up? In Australia we handed ours up, and I’ve heard the Germans do the same, while apparently both the British and Americans hand theirs in.

    On fax machines: I can remember, if barely, when there was one fax machine in the town and you had to make an appointment to use it. The era of a fax machine in every office was very short.

    On Manx: I’m always struck by the contrast in orthography between Manx and related languages. Words spelt in Irish or even Welsh look quite dignified to my eye, whereas those in Manx look rather childlike. It’s the digraphs like “ck” and “ey” that are common in simple English words but less common in technical ones.

  4. John Cowan says:

    We already have a good word for demi-decade, though not as intuitively obvious: lustrum, after the five-year cycle of ancient Roman purification.

    The Irish word eiscir, mentioned in the article on names for places, has been borrowed into geologist’s English as esker.

  5. psycheamor says:

    thanks for the information :) it’s helping me.

  6. Stan Carey says:

    David: I actually wondered about the possibility of that word being misread, and hoped the reinterpretation’s relative mundanity wouldn’t deter potential readers. I’m now intrigued by your book of tasteless lists.

    Elizabeth: It’s a pleasure – thanks for visiting.

    Adrian: I love the ghost cartoon, and I don’t think it needs to meet your stringent criteria for Dickens allusions. Hand up was our phrase, IIRC, but I don’t know how universal that is or was in Irish schools. And we referred to homework, exercises, etc., not assignments. We had a fax machine at home because my mum was a journalist for a time; it saw regular if not prolific use.

    John: Lustrum is a lovely word, and (unlike demi-decade) concise, but I’d imagine most readers would have to look it up. I like esker too, and recall learning it in school geography.

    psycheamor: You’re welcome.

  7. John Cowan says:

    I’ve actually never worked in an office without a fax machine, although it generally did more duty as a printer and copier. Once you have a scanner and a printer in the same box, copying and faxing are basically trivial additions, just requiring a phone line for the latter.

  8. nurn says:

    Hey Stan, I think one of your links is broken. It’s the one for regional accents.

    Otherwise, I’m having a great time going through all of these! Thanks again.

  9. languagehat says:

    Doesn’t work for me either; I get sent to (“You’ve been redirected to this page because the link you clicked is now inactive”).

  10. Lane Greene says:

    My own link isn’t working for me either. Stan, any chance it is some gremlin in your site? (And what’s up with https?)

    Sorry folks – Google will get you there, though.

  11. Lane Greene says:

    Also, I’m getting the problem with Chrome and IE but not Firefox.

  12. Stan Carey says:

    The links redirect to when I use Chrome or Internet Explorer, but they work when I use Firefox. So if you have FF available, try that if you like. Ryan Godfrey on Twitter says:

    WordPress is employing some skullduggery & injecting some affiliate/tracking code on some links. This one is broken. If you turn off javascript, the link works. Of course, the entire rest of web breaks, including the Economist page.

    Thanks, WordPress!

  13. Stan Carey says:

    A few more tweets from Ryan Godfrey, collected:

    You can find a few people wondering about isolated cases in WP forums. I haven’t seen WP employees owning up, though. The 3rd-party js [javascript] seems to be a kind of parasite that attaches itself to links/linked keywords it likes. In this case “regional accents,” I believe. If the link text changes I think it will detach. Depending on perspective it’s more of a symbiont than a parasite, I guess, because WP certainly knows.

    And via email (shared with permission) from Peter Howard, who suggests WordPress may have an arrangement with a marketing company called Skimlinks:

    I too had problems with the links to The Economist blogs redirecting. I took a look at the source code of Sentence first and found it contains some javascript that’s associated with an organisation called skimlinks, who deal in tracking cookies. The javascript apparently adds something to the links (dynamically, because it’s not in the source but seems to be added when the page is loaded.) It adds: ‘data-skimlinks-orig-link=””‘ and it’s that that seems to be causing the redirection.

  14. […] read it yet (or his first book, Mountains of the Mind), but I featured a related article in a link love post last year, plus others on […]

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