A mixed metaphor walks into a bar, seeing the handwriting on the wall but hoping to nip it in the bud.
A misplaced modifier walks into a bar owned by a man with a glass eye named Ralph.
Welp, sup, yep, yup, nope
Though we have presented quite a bit of informal and recent use, our earliest written use of welp goes back over 70 years. It shows up in a scholarly article on two of welp’s linguistic cousins: yep and nope. Well gained that final -p as part of a normal process of articular: the lips come together to stop the sound of well and prepare for the next sound, and some hear that stoppage as a -p. This means it is very common in speech. One linguist went so far as to say that anyone who didn’t know what welp meant was probably an alien.
A San Diego federal judge Friday dismissed a $10 million defamation lawsuit filed by the owners and operators of San Diego-based One America News Network against MSNBC and political commentator Rachel Maddow. Last summer, the liberal host told her viewers that the Trump-friendly conservative network “really literally is paid Russian propaganda.”
Hashtag of note
You will probably notice immediately that it contains a full-width dash, in other words a Unicode (probably Chinese-origin?) character. For some reason, this is all over Twitter in posts from Anglophone people I am almost completely sure have no input method installed that can actually produce it.
It’s not a real dash at all but a “Katakana-Hiragana prolonged sound mark“:
Errant v. Arrant
But curiously, arrant and errant are the historically the same word, with an interesting and tangled history.
Women's Romanization for Hong Kong
This is not to say that this type of ad hoc, spontaneous Romanization of Cantonese has not already existed for some time. Indeed, young people have been using it extensively for texting, on social media, etc. for years. What’s new is that it is now consciously being employed to out fake protesters who do not know Hong Kong Cantonese and its informal writing system.
FUCT in the brain
Scientists have found that swearing most likely originates in the right hemisphere of the brain, and within that half, in the “primitive” part of the brain, the limbic system. The right half of the brain [which] is responsible for nonpropositional or automatic speech, which includes greetings, conventional expressions such as ‘not at all,’ counting, song lyrics, and swearwords. Propositional speech—words strung together in syntactically correct forms to create an original meaning—occurs in the left hemisphere.
But the evidence for this conclusion is weak, in my opinion.
One law to rule them all?
Power-law distributions seem to be everywhere, and not just in word-counts and whale whistles. Most people know that Vilfredo Pareto found them in the distribution of wealth, two or three decades before Udny Yule showed that stochastic processes like those in evolution lead to such distributions, and George Kingsley Zipf found his eponymous law in word frequencies. Since then, power-law distributions have been found all over the place
Or maybe not? Many of the alleged “power-law” examples are actually log-normal, or some other heavy-tailed distribution, according to a paper by Aaron Clauset, Cosma Rohilla Shalizi, and M. E. J. Newman, “Power-law distributions in empirical data” (SIAM Review 2009). As an alternative to the paper, you can read Cosma’s blog post “So You Think You Have a Power Law — Well Isn’t That Special?”, 6/15/2007; or this summary of the results in “Cozy Catastrophes”, 2/15/2012:
So “-bachi” is now an English suffix for any food prepared live by Asians on a metal plate.
“Whaumau” is a well-formed but non-existent Māori word, which would be pronounced /faʉmaʉ/ — that is, basically the same as the English pronunciation of the internet acronym FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out. And that’s what it means.
Taking shit from the chancellor
“It generated quite a shitstorm,” she said, using the English term — because Germans, it turns out, do not have one of their own.
A better way to calculate pitch range
Today’s topic is a simple solution to a complicated problem. The complicated problem is how to estimate “pitch range” in recordings of human speakers. As for the simple solution — wait and see.
You might think that the many differences between the perceptual variable of pitch and the physical variable of fundamental frequency (“f0“) arise because perception is complicated and physics is simple. But if so, you’d be mostly wrong. The biggest problem is that physical f0 is a complex and often fundamentally incoherent concept. And even in the areas where f0 is well defined, f0 estimation (usually called “pitch tracking“) is prone to errors.
So the first question is what character coding scheme ENET uses, and what data-entry skills particular Georgia county registrars have. That is, does ENET allow characters like í and ç to be stored? And if so, do county registrars know how to enter them?
An inconclusive psycholinguistic take on post-period spacing
All spaces are beautiful.
Zebra finch self-tutoring
The background is the experimental literature on zebra finch song learning. If one of these birds is raised in acoustic and social isolation, it never learns to sing a species-typical song, but rather continues to produce “proto-song”, which is a sort of songbird equivalent of grunts and groans. In contrast, with a relatively brief exposure to an example of adult song during a “critical period” early in life, a bird will (later on) learn to sing properly, in fact imitating the tutor’s song quite closely.
The punch line: a zebra finch raised in acoustic and social isolation, with “tutoring” by playback of its own vocalizations from a few moments before, acquires species-typical song in just about the same way as a bird raised with exposure to a “wild type” adult model.
It’s not just go playing computers that can learn from themselves.
Ask Language Log: with + nonfinite clause?
A staff member at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, responsible for providing guidance for journalists on pronunciation, terminology, grammar, and usage, has asked me about “a particular usage of with, which seems to be doing the job of a conjunction.” He wonders whether the construction in question is correct English or not.
Bottom line: It’s a clearly grammatical and acceptable construction. Use it if you like it. Don’t let the prescriptive usage guides grind you down.
Wall Street big
A brief history of the bigs, the poors, the olds.
"Good morning" considered dangerous
The Israel Police mistakenly arrested a Palestinian worker last week because they relied on automatic translation software to translate a post he wrote on his Facebook page. The Palestinian was arrested after writing “good morning,” which was misinterpreted;
Terror of singular 'they'
Beware of struggling to obey prescriptive injunctions that don’t come naturally to you; they can warp your ability to use your native language sensibly.
Also some fun stats about who gets sick in Spanish hotels.
A new flavor of transcription/encoding error.