Something obvious


Sometimes people are busy, and cannot update blogs for a very long time. In case you hadn’t noticed. Basically, I’ve got so much on my plate at the moment that blogging is pretty much the furthest thing from my mind (well, maybe there’s something even further away…), and it seems unlikely it’ll stop being there for a while longer. Nice while it lasted, though. Maybe there’ll be a return some day.

Linguist in the…news?


I listened to Saturday’s broadcast of Wait, Wait on the trip to work today, and did a double take (aurally) when I heard that guest Secretary of Energy Steven Chu was playing for “Susan Goldin-Meadow of Chicago, Illinois.” Of course, Prof. Goldin-Meadow’s work on Gesture was the topic of a Wait, Wait limerick back in 2001 (here).

I suppose it could have been another person with the same-sounding name. But then, maybe she’s a language researcher as well.

2010


Two thousand ten. Why? So that my kids and their friends can make fun of me for using some archaic turn-of-the-century nomenclature while hovercar-ing them to school.

PS, I want someone who is a strong advocate for twenty-X and who is an advocate of syntactic or phonological deletion accounts of right-node raising to say something like two thousand five to/through 11.

Remember the time when the beef was contaminated?


Recent English Xinhua article headline:

Oklahoma firm recalls beef products might be contaminated

I knew we forgot something!

An environment for hyponegation


A few times over the past year I’ve noticed a nice place where hyponegation (less negation than is necessary to convey the logic of what you want to say) happens: in wide scope negation involving because clauses. Consider:

It’s not that he didn’t hire you because you were black. They didn’t hire you because you showed up dressed like you didn’t want or need the job and you showed up late.

This sentiment was conveyed here like this:

Sweetie…they didn’t hire you because you were black, they didn’t hire you because you showed up dressed like you didn’t want or need the job and you showed up late.

Here’s another example (I think; it’s hard to tell just looking at text):

I don’t like fans from Philly because of the rivalry. I don’t like them because they are crass, obnoxious, and always want to fight.

And I can recall several times hearing the basic form

I don’t X because A, I don’t X because B.

meaning “I don’t X, and it’s because of B, not A.” One could speculate on why this might happen. E.g., you’ve already started the sentence with main clause negation on the auxiliary (as opposed to a cleft like it’s not because…), so to maintain the proper amount of negation you’d have to have a not after the negative auxiliary (I don’t not X because A). It’s not quite a repeated morph, but it’s awkward enough that maybe it’s worth avoiding. Interesting, though, because there’s no way that I don’t X because A could be interpreted on its own as I don’t X, and not because of A. You need the contrast with the second clause for anything to make sense.

Collaborative text re-creation


Yesterday slashdot posted a story about password security. In the comments, user sopssa said,

Websites could do more to protect their users too. For example if you accidentally write your password here on Slashdot comments, it comes up as masked. Like for example my password is ********.

Which set off a series of replies and re-replies, the result of which was the reenactment of this infamous interaction. What’s interesting is that the result is the appropriate sequence of turns, with way more people involved: multiple people play the same role. Whoever happens upon the text at some point in time posts the next line (or decides that whoever did the last line wasn’t funny/etc enough and starts their own version of the text).

No shelf life


USA Today has an article on Bill Cosby with the headline Bill Cosby prides himself on comedy that has no shelf life. I thought that was an odd thing to have pride in: comedy that’s out of date as soon as it’s out of your mouth. But then the entire piece was about how timeless his comedy is.

Google, please! On the one hand,

Young Coconuts are perishable and have virtually no shelf life at all. (link)

Unlike our regular growler selections, cask ale has no shelf life and is highly perishable. (link)

There is basically no shelf life on expensive caviar, two or three days so plan to plan accordingly. (link)

On the other hand,

If you want a safer product that will last much longer in the fridge, add a bit of acid blend or citric before its cooked. Pomona is a citrus based product that has no shelf life like regular and no/low sugar types. (link)

REAL black powder has no shelf life if stored well. Substitutes like pyro and trip 7 im convinced loose effectiveness if several years old. (link)

Flashlight Batteries – 10 years (the flashlight can be recharged forever and has no shelf life) (link)

As far as distilled spirits go, like your Bacardi Limon (YUM!), or your whiskey, an unopened bottle has no shelf life. (link)

Excellent. I think the “lasts forever” meaning is more common, but for whatever reason it’s not what came to my mind first when I saw the headline. I guess it sort of means, “it has nothing which you would call a shelf life, i.e., lasts forever,” as opposed to “it has a shelf-life value value at or near zero.”

I was trying to think of other expressions like this. What first came to mind was what I (once upon a time ) thought “priceless” and “no/little love lost” meant. (apparently originally the latter was in fact ambiguous, but I don’t know if anyone still uses the “they’re still good buds” meaning anymore).

Google books in local weekly


This week’s issue of East Bay Express (a local alternative newspaper) features a piece on the controversies surrounding Google Books, mentioning none other than “linguist Geoff Nunberg.”

Like George Lakoff and John McWhorter, Nunberg is a member of that exotic and improbable specie — a celebrity linguist; he’s written numerous books and has a regular guest spot on NPR’s Fresh Air. At the conference, he pointed out, in amusing and devastating detail, yet another problem with Google’s Book archive: it’s riddled with mistakes.

Language Log readers will be familiar with commentary on this topic.

PS, much as it’s nice to get two other current/past Berkeley folk mentioned as celebs… Chomsky? Pinker? Henry Higgins?

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