Missouri Ballot Issues: Amendment One

October 15, 2008

ST. LOUIS, MO–English has been the “common” language of Missouri since 1998, come November 5th it could become the show me state’s “official” language. Constitutional Amendment One would change Article One of the State Constitution to make English be the only language allowed during all government meetings. full story


Derivation by deletion of punctuation

October 13, 2008

LANGUAGE LOG–There’s a little lake near here called Sob Lake. I only recently learned the etymology of this name. According to Akrigg and Akrigg’s British Columbia Place Names, the lake was originally named by a survey party. Finding the homesteader who lived nearby obnoxious, they recorded their opinion of him by naming the lake “S.O.B. Lake”. The authorities in Victoria, however, felt that this was improper and bowdlerized it to “Sob Lake” by removing the periods. full story


Coordinate possessives

October 13, 2008

LANGUAGE LOG–Comments on Mark Liberman’s Left Dislocation posting drifted for a while into the vexed question of how to express possession when two (or more, though I’ll restrict myself to two here) conjoined possessor NPs are involved. For the coordination of a 1sg (pronominal) possessor NP with a 3sg non-pronominal possessor NP, commenters came up with five possibilities full story


Word Face-off: Library vs. Bibliothèque vs. Bibliotheek vs. Bibliothek in Canada, Belgium and Switzerland

October 7, 2008

WORD FACE-OFF–Today, a comparison involving multilingual countries and their Google searches for certain words. Let’s begin with Canada: Library totally dominated here although its popularity declined somewhat through time. In Canada, approximately 75% of the population speaks English and 25% French. When doing a Google Insights for Search test for the same word in both full story


Code-switching conscious?

October 6, 2008

LANGUAGE LOG–In commenting on a recent LL post, Daddy G. asked

Does the term “code-switching” apply ONLY to those instances when the practice is consciously employed for effect? Or is the term more generally applied to the switching itself, regardless of whether or not there is conscious control involved? full story


Left dislocation

September 24, 2008

LANGUAGE LOG–A couple of days ago, Jim Bisso sent me a question:

I’ve been embattled by a bunch of peevologists over the grammaticality of sentences of the sort: “my mother(,) she is a good person”. I have pointed out that many kinds of apposition are not only acceptable  full story


Shattering the Illusions of Texting

September 19, 2008

LANGUAGE LOG–In my capacity as executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus, I recently had the opportunity to interview David Crystal about his new book, Txtng: The Gr8 Db8, a careful demolition of the myths surrounding text messaging. You can read the first part of my interview full story


The secret life of words

September 19, 2008

THE ECONOMIST–Many will know that the word “muscle” comes from the Latin for “mouse” (rippling under the skin, so to speak). But what about “chagrin”, derived from the Turkish for roughened leather, or scaly sharkskin. Or “lens” which comes from the Latin “lentil” or “window” meaning “eye of wind” in old Norse? full story