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Last Build Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2017 00:33:14 +0000


Scraping the Mold off Meanings.

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 00:31:12 +0000

It’s high time I gave a shoutout to Amateur Reader (Tom) and his literary blog Wuthering Expectations. What impelled me to post at this particular time was his series on Benjamin and Barbara Harshav’s American Yiddish Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology (1986), which I now want a copy of; in this post he focuses on Jacob […]


Tue, 21 Mar 2017 21:53:21 +0000

Tessa Wong reports for BBC News on Kristang, a creole spoken by a community of people of mixed Portuguese and Asian ancestry in Malacca and Singapore: Until two years ago, university student Kevin Martens Wong had never even heard of his ancestral tongue, let alone spoken it. The Singaporean linguist was researching endangered languages when […]

A New Daodejing.

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 18:45:08 +0000

Longtime LH commenter John Emerson writes: For about 40 years I have been studying the Daodejing (Tao Te Ching, Laozi, Lao Tzu) and am now writing a book about it. Eventually it will include a translation and commentaries, but right now I only have a reedited Chinese text. Please tell any of your Classical-Chinese-reading friends […]

Six Polish Books that Should Be Translated.

Mon, 20 Mar 2017 00:31:57 +0000

I’m a big fan of pointing out good books that haven’t been translated, and Antonia Lloyd-Jones has a list of six that should whet translators’ appetites. I’m particularly struck by the first one, whose description makes me wish I read Polish: 1. A meticulously researched, epic historical novel set in Italy: Maciej Hen, Solfatara (WAB […]

Dictionary of Canadianisms Online.

Sun, 19 Mar 2017 00:25:15 +0000

A decade ago I posted about the project to revise the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, whose first edition appeared in 1967. The revised second edition is now online here, free for anyone to access. As Dave Wilton says at (where I learned about it): The new edition not only includes words that […]

The Oxford Comma and the Law.

Sat, 18 Mar 2017 00:21:12 +0000

I wasn’t going to post about this, but everybody and their brother (and my brother, for that matter) sent me links about it, so I guess I have to. Fortunately, Dave Wilton of has done an excellent post on the topic that begins: The Oxford comma was in the news recently when a federal […]

Two Words.

Fri, 17 Mar 2017 00:20:25 +0000

1) In a text I was editing there was a reference to “rhopalic verse.” Having no idea what “rhopalic” meant, I looked it up and discovered it meant “having each succeeding unit in a prosodic series larger or longer than the preceding one” (e.g., each line in a poem being a syllable longer than the […]

A Sonic Atlas of English.

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 00:36:36 +0000

A Sonic Atlas of English Language is a 131-page book the bulk of which consists of a list (to quote the title page) of “8000 English words, organized by the relative audio frequency of each word, from the highest to the lowest pitched: A potential reference for spatial acoustics and sound design, the study of […]

Why Some Hate “Frisco.”

Wed, 15 Mar 2017 00:20:56 +0000

I am, of course, aware of the loathing expressed by some denizens of San Francisco for the abbreviation “Frisco,” but I always wondered about it; now, thanks to Vinnee Tong’s KQED piece on the topic, I know. The nickname itself originated in the late 19th century, and: “Not long after people started using it, other […]

A Tsvetaeva Question.

Mon, 13 Mar 2017 18:25:34 +0000

In my reading of Tsvetaeva, I’ve gotten to the first poem she wrote to Pasternak after rapturously devouring his 1922 masterpiece My Sister, Life (see this LH post, in which the word ржи [rzhi], the oblique form of рожь [rozh’] ‘rye,’ also features), and I’ve run into a simultaneous crisis of semantics and textual criticism. […]

Sounds and Meanings Revisited.

Mon, 13 Mar 2017 00:01:00 +0000

David Shariatmadari has another interesting linguistics-related piece in the Guardian that begins: Scientists have just published a startling analysis of commonly used words in 4298 languages (62% of all those spoken). They wanted to find out if there were associations between particular sounds and meanings that couldn’t be put down to the fact that the […]

Dralyuk’s 1917.

Sat, 11 Mar 2017 16:43:19 +0000

It’s high time I spread the word about Boris Dralyuk’s brilliant compilation 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution. Fortunately, I don’t have to expend a lot of effort explaining to you how brilliant it is, because Caryl Emerson has done it for me in this TLS review (happily available even to nonsubscribers). I’ll […]

The Meaning of Marg bar.

Sat, 11 Mar 2017 01:35:26 +0000

A recent guest post at the Log by Reza Mirsajadi clears up a point that had eluded me even though I studied Persian fairly intensively for a while: For much of my adult life, whenever I have had to defend the Iranian people to conservatives, they have fought back with the “Death to America” argument. […]

The Best Anagram in English.

Fri, 10 Mar 2017 01:36:23 +0000

Mark Dominus describes his method of finding and ranking anagrams in this post: This gave me the idea to score a pair of anagrams according to how many chunks one had to be cut into in order to rearrange it to make the other one. On this plan, the “cholecystoduodenostomy / duodenocholecystostomy” pair would score […]

Making Babel Sizzle.

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 01:14:41 +0000

Robert Minto has an appreciative review of Boris Dralyuk’s translation of Isaac Babel’s Odessa Stories (Pushkin Press, 2016); I’m bringing it here because it includes one of those translation comparisons I enjoy so much: Babel’s Odessa stories have never been presented as colorfully in English as they are here, in Boris Dralyuk’s translation. In his […]

E grādment.

Wed, 08 Mar 2017 01:52:16 +0000

A lucky dive into Google Books sent me back to the surface clutching a reference to a book I hadn’t known about but knew I had to read, A Poem Containing History: Textual Studies in The Cantos, edited by Lawrence S. Rainey. (Since the damn thing costs $85.00 and nobody’s selling a used copy for […]

Patrick Findler in Siberia.

Mon, 06 Mar 2017 21:48:36 +0000

I imagine there are few LH readers who remember the posts from the early days in which I linked to the wonderful travel blog the mysterious pf kept during his wanderings in Russia (a blog, alas, which has long disappeared from human ken — I mourn it frequently). Well, pf has come out into the […]

Sports Nicknames.

Mon, 06 Mar 2017 00:54:16 +0000

Ben Yagoda’s Lingua Franca post Why Don’t Athletes Have Good Nicknames Anymore? covers a subject dear to my heart (my answer to the titular question: because the good nicknames were given by the fans in the cheap seats back when sports were cheap entertainment, but now they’re big business and there are no cheap seats); […]

So Pitted!

Sun, 05 Mar 2017 01:22:05 +0000

Brendan Leonard’s “The Unlikely Origins of Outdoor Slang” is not only a fun read, it’s based on actual evidence, which is refreshing in any piece on language in a popular periodical (in this case Outside). Leonard is up on recent discoveries, correctly pointing out in his opening paragraph that “dude” “started with, believe it or […]

Revenge of the Copy Editors.

Sat, 04 Mar 2017 01:38:57 +0000

As a copy editor myself, of course I enjoyed this piece by Thomas Vinciguerra, which begins: Backed by the cheery fiddle and guitar of Tom Moss’s “Gypsy Night Dance,” the bespectacled white-haired gentleman in a blue blazer, striped bow tie, and pocket square is holding forth on the language issue of the day. “I’m sometimes […]