Tonight will be the American Dialect Society’s annual vote for The Word of the Year!! Unfortunately, I’m not in Portland to vote. The list of nominees are here. My picks?

  • Most Useful: even
  • Most Creative: columbusing
  • Most Unnecessary: lumbersexual
  • Most Outrageous: second-amendment
  • Most Euphemistic: thirsty
  • Most Likely to Succeed: casual
  • Least Likely to Succeed: platisher
  • Most Notable Hashtag: #notallmen
  • Word of the Year: Ebola

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Let’s just get this out of the way: There are, in fact, differences in the way men and women think, speak, act, etc. How much of that difference is due to nature and how much is due to nurture is up for debate. But that is not what this post is about.

This post is about a particular language myth that, for whatever reason, will not die. There are literally dozens of peer-reviewed, scientific studies refuting this myth, and yet the popular culture clings to it.

The myth I’m referring to is the idea that women talk more than men. More »

So I finally got around to beating Never Alone!! It was a good game overall, but as I was thinking how to review it, I had a hard time deciding whether to review it as a Native American, as a Linguist, or as a Gamer. So why not all three? (Warning: Spoilers in the “gamer” section) More »

Last week, Jennifer Lawrence and Conan O’Brien had a little spat about whether the past tense of “sneak” is “snuck” or “sneaked.”

So which is it?

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I know I promised to buy Never Alone on release day, but as it turns out, none of the gaming systems or computers I own can play it. Waiting for Black Friday sales to bulk up this thing.

In the meantime, Happy Wugsgiving!

wugsgiving

Flashback to my first quarter of grad school.

We take turns buying snacks with a $40 budget in my department. It was my turn that week. I bought a lot of snacks. An older grad student comments on all the snacks, and I mention that I found a couple coupons, so I was able to get more snacks than usual.

His response?

“That’s some wicked palatalization you got there!”

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As the internet’s leading wugologist (is anyone else a wugologist?), I’ve decided to begin collecting the diverse variety of wugs found in the world. After all, wugs come in all shapes, sizes, and colors! More »

I’m not gonna lie, I’m somewhat jealous of #thegiftofdata. This couple tracked their text messages for a whole year of dating and a whole year of marriage, and got some pretty cool word clouds out of it!

A few months ago, Linguistics Club had a arts & crafts night, and most people ended up making cute wugs!! But I forgot to blog about it! More »

I’m a linguist. At the core of my soul, I believe in descriptive linguistics. A biologist goes out in the world, and describes the anatomy of the plants and animals he collects. He doesn’t say “this shouldn’t exist, because evolution says it shouldn’t!” Likewise, linguists go out in the world and describe the languages they collect. They don’t say “this shouldn’t exist, because the grammar rules says it shouldn’t!” Linguists and biologists alike wonder at all the weird structures they find, and aren’t judgmental about them.

Is there a time and a place for “correct grammar”? Sure, but it’s cultural. It’s not an objective fact. Stephen Fry put it nicely: just like you dress up your attire for special occasions (like job interviews), so do people dress up their language. All the science says that most of the “rules” people are taught in grade school are totally bunk. When I taught Intro to Linguistics last summer, I spent a whole lecture going over why Weird Al’s Word Crimes was totally bunk. Other linguists did so too.

Which is why I feel totally weird and out of place being a prescriptivist teaching “correct” “academic” writing. Sure, I can teach them some common conventions and research skills. But I’ve been asked questions like “Is it Tom and me or Tom and I?” And the real answer is “it depends” or maybe “whichever one is more frequent in your dialect”, but the answer they want to hear is “it’s Tom and me if the phrase is an object and Tom and I if the phrase is a subject, because and me are case-marked pronouns and English was a historically case-marking language even though we don’t use case anymore except in these pronouns and some people who still use whom“.