Searching for The One

The post from our buddy spoon reminded me of this website: Googlewhacking: The Search for The One True Googlewhack. The idea is to find a combination of two or more words with more than 3 letters and used in prose which have exactly one google hit. I propose a contest to find the most original/amusing whack using at least one linguistic term. Things like "phonetically lame". The rules are here. Send your submissions as a comment. Entries (if any) will be judged by the other Expling members (yes, I volunteered them). As we have no budget, the prize will not be monetary, but we will think about something. But hey, the winner will be known as the The Great Linguist Whacker. Good luck.


Expling gets Googlecached. The problem of Infinite Recursion.

This evening I received an e-mail from a faculty member who happened to be using Google to investigate the recency and frequency of novel slang-words. (The words connect to SHEW, but let's leave the professor anonymous). His message reads:

So here I was looking up "procrasturbate" and making my way from the 229 google hits for clues on how long this has been around, when one of the sites I clicked on jumped out at me, first for the fact that it also lists such of our faves as "frape", "veggiesexual", and "facebook (v.)", and my first thought was oh no, these words we're getting are all listed on and downloadable from this website. But then I noticed something else, as you will too: http://expling.blogspot.com/2004/12/joining-fracas.html is, it would appear, *yours*! You could have warned me!

As I too subscribe to Googlinguistics a methodological principle, the fact that our posts here get Googlecached (and rather quickly too) creates certain problems, such as the fact that Google-attestations may be second-order attestations. Or, for that matter, third-order, fourth-order, etc. Given that this very post contains a link to another post within this site, one begins to muse on the problem of self-referentiality and infinite recursion. Mind-warping stuff (if I may use the cliché).


2004 Word of the Year candidates (courtesy of SHEW)

The undergraduates in the "Structure and History of English Words" (SHEW) course here at Yale were assigned a semester-long project wherein they collected newly-coined English words (or novel senses of pre-existing words). Culled from the dozens of noteworthy submissions are five words that, I think, capture the Zeitgeist well enough to warrant candidacy for the American Dialect Society's annual "Word of the Year" (WOTY) award. The first three of these words need no definition. The other two reflect young people's growing preoccupation with online social networks; I've defined these words as they may be new to some (even to you geek-chic, techno-savvy, leet-speaking LingBloggers who may be past their college heydays). So, ladies and gents, without further adieu, they are (drum roll, please):

1. Deaniac
2. security mom
3. wardrobe malfunction
4. iStalking (n.) the practice of stalking an individual, or otherwise taking a prurient interest in them, by gathering personal information, e.g. their relationship status, friends or lovers, tastes in music, movies, books, etc., their AIM screennames or cell phone numbers, as can be found voluntarily posted on sites like friendster.com, thefacebook.com, or shared iTunes lists.
5. facebook (v.) to look up a person’s profile on thefacebook.com or on a university’s online facebook, for the purposes of verifying their identity, seeing who their friends are, or any number of reasons that verge on “iStalking” (see above).

(The students came up with many other coinages--some quite clever--that I don't think warrant the WOTY prize but which I'll share with you LingBloggers soon.)

(And yes, I use 'they'/'them' as singular, gender-neutral pronouns, for any of your Fowler-quoting, Safire-reading, AHD-Usage-Panel-citing closet-prescriptivists who may be blogging or "lurking" here...)

Titillating Truncations?

On the main UrbanDictionary.com site:
(sorry if this is offensive to any of you LingPrudes)

Of Pits and Pitting

A problem has plagued this explinger for some time and he still cannot make sense of it. Perhaps some other explinger might be able to splain it to him. The problem is this: Why do "pitted" olives still have their pits? Now for the second time I have bought pitted olives expecting no hard stones in the center and got just that, hard stones.

My first intuition is that "pitted" means that the pit has been removed. The OED supports this intuition: "Of fruit: having the pit or stone removed; = STONED ppl. a. and a. 6. "
Further, Mrs. \\//!_ _!3 points out that "pitted" cherries do not have pits.

And, there are about a gozillion hits for "unpitted" olives on Google, which do not have pits. Meanwhile, "unpitted" cherries still got their pits.

Somethin' funny goin' on here.


[Tom] Wolfe scoops Bad Sex award

As predicted in the Observer's review of the book last month, Tom Wolfe's latest novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons (Jonathan Cape), has picked up this year's Literary Review Bad Sex award.
The annual prize is awarded to the worst description of sex in a contemporary novel. Wolfe triumphed with the following - edited - passage:

"Hoyt began moving his lips as if he were trying to suck the ice cream off the top of a cone without using his teeth ... Slither slither slither slither went the tongue, but the hand that was what she tried to concentrate on, the hand, since it has the entire terrain of her torso to explore and not just the otorhinolaryngological caverns ... "

Okay. For all you fans of the otorhinolaryngological caverns!

Leet/Hacker Translator

As the Hacker/Leet languuage was a major hit among expling bloggers, here goes a website that converts automatically regular text into Hacker language, with varying degrees of hackerness. I found that 30% is quite readable, with noticeable modifications. 90%, for example, gives outputs like that:

7|-|1$ 1$ 4 #0|\|93. 73$7. (4|\| %05 .34P 7|-|1$ |\|475.4##%?

which is this with 30%:

Th1s 1s 4 l0ng3r t3st. C4n y0u r34d th1s n4tur4lly?

Quite entertaining. I also should suggest to my blogging colleagues that their nicknames are not very legible, especially for using multiple characters for multiple letters. The scrip suggestion would be:

W1ll13 30% Hacker
R5 40% Hacker, but not really good

The link: Script / Leet Translator

Google To Scan Books From Big Libraries

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Google Inc. is trying to establish an online reading room for five major libraries by scanning stacks of hard-to-find books into its widely used Internet search engine. The ambitious initiative announced late Monday gives Mountain View, Calif.-based Google the right to index material from the New York public library as well as libraries at four universities: Harvard, Stanford, Michigan and Oxford in England.

Looks like Sterling didn't make the cut. That said, is there anything Google Inc. will left undone? Will it be the next Walmart? Will people start referring to it as "Big Search Engine" akin to "Big Oil" and "Big Pharmaceutical" and "Big Ketchup" companies?


Phonetic Trills in Pop Music

This post is in regard to a problem I have been aware of for at least 15 years but have never had the language at my disposal with which to describe it. What I am about here is a discrepancy, a mismatch, between a classic rock and roll song of 1964 and an almost perfect cover of that song dating to 1982. Of course, I am talking about Roy Orbison (1964) and Van Halen (1982)'s "Pretty Woman". The mismatch occurs in the following lyrics:

Pretty woman, Oh you look lovely as you could be,
Are you lonely just like me

The problem is this: Roy Orbison's interpretation of "Adrrrrr...", I now know (thank you, Phonetics 120) is a Uvular Trill. Diamond David Lee Roth does not do a Uvular Trill, but in fact he performs an Alveolar Trill. Anyone familiar with the two songs will know instantly that to which I refer. This is something that has bugged me for years, and I now know why. Thus, no matter what the eventual outcome of my linguistics education, I am that much the better for it!


Cicada and the CIC

A possible answer to the Cicada question from below!

Awake, and Rub the ___ Out of your Eyes...

Sorry if some of you find this tasteless, but one of my SHEW students writes in his journal that he never knew there was a name for "the stuff that's found in one's eye after sleep." He cites the word as "gound," and claimed he learned it from his brother. The OED online defines "gound" as "Foul matter, esp. that secreted in the eye," but claims it's obsolete (!). Okay, so is there a non-obsolete way to refer to this substance in English? (I know it in Bengali--heard my mother use it since early childhood). Two phrases, "eye booger" and "eye crud," come to mind. According to Matt Weiner's blog, the stuff could be called "sleep" too, as reanalyzed from the expression "to rub the sleep out of one's eyes." From the standpoint of Googlinguistics, "Eye booger" generates 599 hits and "eye crud" 185. My question to you native-English-speaking LingGrads out there: what did you call it as a kid (or what do you call it when talking to your kid?). Does anyone else know or use "gound?"

"Have a good one!"

I just love (it) when, for example, I'm in a store checkout line and after paying the cashier I'll hear the parting line "Have a good one!" Now, what exactly is that supposed to mean? Have a good bout with the flu? Have a good b.m.? Have a good visit with your proctologist later on? Or simply have a good day? What? "Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeah, I'll have a good one alright. Same to ya!"


Rush Limbaugh in the Age of Cognitive Science

Rush Limbaugh is one of the most influential voices on the American political scene today. While many regard his voice as polemical and bombastic, he nevertheless has a primary role in formulating the metaphors which shape much of the new Republican Congress' policies. Though many dismiss his rhetoric as simplistic and intellectually facile, he clearly taps deep into the American psyche with his visceral language. Viewed from the perspective of metaphor analysis, Limbaugh's rhetoric is brilliantly constructed in its use of culturally entrenched metaphors, which resonate with the emotional feelings of his listeners and readers...

This is an interesting paper I came across that I think I will just let speak for itself.

On a somewhat related note, to the penultimate post, that is, I hear in Rush Limbaugh's coverage of Democrat consultant Lakoff, he has taken to pronouncing the first vowel in Lakoff's name as [æ] rather than [e], which we can all figure out at least one funny word that ryhmes with this (give or take one initial voiced affricate).

Go Jump in a Lakoff

Democrats' quest to figure out how to relate to voters in the American heartland has brought them to--where else?--Berkeley. The San Francisco Chronicle reports the party is seeking advice from George Lakoff, a professor of linguistics and cognitive sciences at the University of California, who "is a hot item in liberal circles these days as he argues Democrats must develop a message that resonates more deeply with voters"...Lakoff suggested that instead of talking about how Bush had run up the national debt, Democrats should label it a "baby tax''

More on Lakoff and the Democrats. I think I might be inclined to agree with James Taranto on this one. If the Democrats really want to identify with the flyover redstate voters, hiring a consultant from Berkeley is probably not the best way to do it. They'd be better off hiring someone from Texas A&M or Purdue or somewhere red. And anyway, "baby tax"? I'm afraid I have to rank that down there with Kerry's "W is for Wrong". And, while I am of course nowhere near the linguist that the great Lakoff is, I always thought euphemisms tended to fade to dysphemisms pretty quick anyway. Who knows, maybe it will work. Maybe not.

Go Canadian

A possible Christmas gift for that friend that is ashamed of being American right now an wants to travel without beeing booed: go Canadian. That is what this website sells. Included, a free report: "How to speak Canadian, eh"? I guess it is easier than speaking Australian. Or you can just go Quebecian if your language abilities allow you so. The possibilities are endless. So is the consumerism.

Dude -- professor studies 'dude'

A linguist from the University of Pittsburgh has published a scholarly paper deconstructing and deciphering the word "dude," contending it is much more than a catchall for lazy, inarticulate surfers, skaters, slackers and teenagers.

Reminds me of an old paper by Ross and Cooper called "Like Syntax", where the authors decipher the word like, "like". It seems like there is almost an entire cottage industry on this word now. Check it out, like, here:

And on a separate note, welcome to the fracas 2 _ !

joining the fracas...

Dear Friends,

I've finally heeded the ruckus and joined the fracas. And I'm only three months late! At first, not having a substantially new topic to broach and preferring to comment on the many already-active posts, I thought I'd enter quietly, without my typical hubris, and leave behind my trace only via comments--some of which include (feeble attempts at) doggerel. Suspecting, however, that Blogs do not typically trumpet the addition of new comments to dead posts, I decided I should post here, on the front-door. (Humility has proven short-lived).

But as a new post should bear at least some content besides the indexical-rich "I am here now!", I shall offer here some neologisms shewn to me by my SHEW students (they were told to collect new coinages from their daily life at Yale). Here are a few of them, for your puzzling pleasure, without gloss or etymology:
facebook (v.), veggiesexual (adj.), frape (v.), procrasturbate (v.).
I'll offer more later, when I've finished combing through the student collections. Oh, and a parting thought--as I won't be wintering, regrettably, in Melbourne or Calcutta--why don't we actively recruit some of our Australian or Asian LingGrads and encourage them to post to the blog over the winter recess, so that we may gloat in our blog masthead about "three" or even "four" continents!) Or, if it takes others the three months it took me to get here, we could postpone our gloating till the summer, when surely we LingGrads will span the globe!


Or better yet:

"Hemiproto-semipseudo-ante [up]-post-preantidisestablishmentarianistic(al) Linguistics"
Just liked the name...

Or should it bee...

..."Spearmental Linguistics?" What about " 'Mental Linguistics?" To satisfy a relatively highly ranking *NC I guess it could be " 'Metal Linguistics," featuring online chats with Mötley Crüe and Judas Priest, or we could perhaps, dare I say, derive [an unsettling silence begins to permeate the room], within various strata, of course, "Mendelian Linguistics" or even "Mendelssohnian Linguistics." Or we could spell " 'Metal Linguistics" as " 'Me?al Linguistics" for all the Cockneys out there who are still deprived of SIL IPA93 Doulos and the like. Can't be many of them, right? I mean come on, who doesn't have a free SIL IPA font?? (Is it more of a question with two question marks?? If so, how much (so)??)


Another place which attemps to cater to all your needs, wants, and even UNwants.

Tübingen must have thought it about time to start offering its visitors the opportunity ("...OF A LIFETIME!") to experience earthquakes firsthand. Connecticut experienced a few over the last several years but I was either sleeping when they occurred or else they were simply too weak or too far off to have any effect on me. I knew I wasn't going off the loose end last night when I felt 5 seconds worth of grumbling beneath the buildLING I'm living in and then felt the whole buildLING being whiplashed. The world never fails to surprise, even here in SW Germany, of all places. Enjoying solid ground, SCO'Re (<--If I were 20 that name would even cooler, n'est-ce pas?)

UC [Berkeley] scholar to help Democrats refine message

Any guesses as to whom this mystery scholar of the headline might be? Click to find out.


Now posting from two continents...

but no mirror sites. Yale Ling has not obtained that status of infectious disease, as of yet, though it should be. (That last clause presents a nice follow-up to Willie's post "New Haven Adverts..." Analyze dat! :-D)

Extended Adjective/Adverb Constructions

A quick note to comment on extended adjective and adverbial intensifier constructions, which are most commonly identified with German, I believe. However, the examples below are English. The first comes from a commercial for Yoplait yoghurt in which two bride's maids are kicking back, exhausted, after a wedding, savoring some Yoplait, discussing how good it tastes. (Surely a time rife for composing extended adverbials.) Here are a few of the constructions they came up with:

This yoghurt is:
"getting out of these shoes" good
"not catching the bouquet" good
"not getting stuck with a groom's man shorter than you" good

Separately, the country and western and blues band, "1100 Springs", has a nice extended adjective in a song, which is an extension of the NP "the blues". The extended NP:

I've got the "gone completely crazy 'cuz my woman done left me" blues.

New Haven Adverts for SCO'Re von Tübingen

SCO'Re von's mention below of Branford grocery store rules reminds me of an interesting syntactic specimen of an advertisement that can be seen around New Haven in at least two places I can think of. The specimen is a highway billboard for St. Raphael's Hospital, which reads:

"Our good experience ensures yours will be"

I won't provide an analysis, but it seems like there is some variety of polysemous antecedent reference enrichment going on, where the professional "experience" of the hospital workers corefers with the "yours" of the second clause. The problem of course is that the experience of the patient is not the same as the St. Raphael's staff or doctors; i.e., the patient's experience is having her appendix out or some such, while the St. Raphael's staff or doctors' experience is of course their professional experience. Yet, we make the association via polysemy just the same and apparently without too much difficulty. The implications of this are deep and wide...and on hold for another entry!

Truly one of the funniest books ever authored

There is some pretty crude language in here but that's what makes it so hilarious. CY introduced me to the book a few years back and I remember that I was literally, yes, LITERALLY hurting because I couldn't stop laughing. Enjoy.

Language fun, installment #1

Ok kids, get out your 3D glasses, it's time for fun!

Here's our challenge for today: Try to come up with a sentence that contains the longest uninterrupted string of phonetically equivalent words possible (in your native tongue of course).

Example A:

1. Had(1) had had Had(2) over for dinner the other night.
2. Had Had(1) had Had(2) over for a dinner of smoked salmon [(not Will!)] the other night, their differences might have become irreconcilable.

(with 'Had(1)' as a clipped form of 'Hattie' and 'Had(2)' as a term of endearment for a certain haddock fisherman/connoisseur LOL)

Yeah, I know. It doesn't get any better either. Leave now if you please, or forever hold your pEAce.

Example B:

For these I'm using structures in English with a double copula along the lines of "the problem is is that..." and "the point is is that..." (1)-(3) below might also be reminiscent of a recent language-related scandal in a certain seat of high power.

1. What the problem with the word 'is' is is that the whole issue is beyond the sphere of average everyday court proceedings.
2. The problem with the word 'is' is is is this issue going to become paramount in the court proceedings of the next few weeks.
3. The problem with the word 'is' is is is [the word] 'is' going to become paramount in the court proceedings of the next few weeks. (Wow, 5 in a row for this one. I don't think I can top that! (2) and (3) are a bit hard to make out on paper. Certainly with the right intonation they are much easier to grasp.)

So, anyway, I guess you're wondering where I came up with that crap. It's obvious that I didn't have much on my plate in the last few hours...


We cater to all (who would buy from us)

I'm just reminded of a little chuckle I had a couple years back over two signs that were posted in the Shoeperfresh in Branford--or is it Branhaven (?). Each was posted at an express checkout line. At one end of the store came a sign with the expected "10 Items or Less." At the opposite end, at the very same time time on the very same day mind you, came the second sign, which stated "10 Items or Fewer," much to my liking. Who ever said we all can't get along, purists and non-purists alike!

Tip: For any LingGrads out there, the afforementioned store is SO much nicer than the other option you people have in the middle of New Haven--you know what I mean, it rhymes with 'slaws'--and it's easier to reach, I've found, than the places in Hamden. Just take 95 North. Strike that. Maybe. I forgot about all the construction which might still be taking place in that section of 95. You could always try good ole Route 1 too.

Do I detect a predestin(at)ed linguaphile?

Poor Mr. Safire, having succumbed to the effects of syllable-initial lenition, may have thought it opportune to add a phonetically meaningless character and penultimate his stress in a reticent attempt to escape the shadows of his linguistically inclined predecessor formerly of the same surname. But that's just my opinion.

Two (or more) are (is?--I guess it depends on your own little personalized grammar) better than one...

Well let's see, I've been doing many things linguistics-related while in Tübingen, finding my way around the various departments, so in that sense I guess I really am studying linguistics in an "experimental" fashion at the moment. I was surprised to find that there are two linguistics depts. here, the "main" Dept. of Linguistics (Seminar für Sprachwissenschaft) and the Dept. of Comparative Linguistics (Seminar für vergleichende Sprachwissenschaft), the latter with only two or three "faculty" members, depending on whom one asks, and three rooms to its name--one for the secretary, the second for the "head" of the dept., and the last being a seminar room. (By the way, to you fellow LingGrads at Yale out there, it really sucks that your semester is almost over across the pond, while I'm not even halfway through mine over here! ;-D) Anyway, the "main" dept. is for my tastes a bit too, let's say, "NLP-oriented" (although there's nothing wroooooooooong with that as one famous TV character might say). I'm not sure that dept. even offers an intro phonology course, not that I could find at least. I'm having fun in the latter dept., learning, among other things, Breton (with a textbook in French, having to translate the Breton texts into German, and sorting everything out in English...as General Patton might have said, NUTS--it's all in good fun though) and Mayan glyphs (too bad I wasn't at Yale when Floyd Lounsbury (Mayanist/Iroquoianist) was around). The "language" depts. here (e.g. Slavic, German, English, and Romance) even offer relevant linguistics courses (compare this with the situation in the States)...go figure! As for the "city" of Tübingen, where a full fourth of the population of 80,000 consists of university students, it rains quite often but the setting is very pretty. And (tsk tsk, I started a sentence with a conjunction) as for my German getting any better, well, it would be nice if the natives wouldn't always be so eager to put their quite advanced knowledge of English into practice with me. I think Petra and Marianne are out there somewhere helping me in spirit. Alles Gute und bis bald...


Move over Neo-Cons!

In Europe, the theo-cons are rallying. Read all about it here.