G’day Inmate

G’day Inmate

              This photograph was posted to reddit today under the subreddit “History memes”. The text in the image says, “Mate is just short for ‘inmate’ because Australia was literally a bunch of convicts forced to live there.” It is correct that Australia was once a British penal colony (1788-1868). […]

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Peter, Paul and Mubashirah

Peter, Paul and Mubashirah

In her “Dear Abby” column, Jeanne Phillips (writing under the pen name of Abigail Van Buren) recently advised a reader of Indian descent to avoid choosing a “foreign” name for his future children, and to instead select a “traditional Western name”. Phillips said: “Not only can foreign names be difficult to pronounce and spell, but […]

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Why I’m Not A Grammar Nazi
By September 28, 2017 1 Comments Read More →

Why I’m Not A Grammar Nazi

Years ago, I was interviewed for a podcast in which the host began our conversation by asking, “So, you’re a grammar Nazi?” I proceeded to explain to this guy why I was not a “grammar Nazi”. Three years later, I married him, but I digress… It’s a common misconception that linguists are “grammar Nazis”, “grammar […]

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The meaning of “marriage”

The meaning of “marriage”

Recently, I was surprised (and disappointed) to learn that someone whose views I typically find to be progressive and open-minded planned to vote “No” in a same-sex postal vote “survey” in Australia. There are many reasons why people oppose same-sex marriage, although one of the main arguments cited by this person was that the definition […]

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What is Linguistics?

What is Linguistics?

        What is Linguistics? What is a Linguist? Don’t Google it! I’m looking for non-linguists to take this short survey. This 5-minute questionnaire is about perceptions of linguistics. Don’t worry about being “right” or “wrong”. I’m interested in your beliefs and assumptions. Thank you!    

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The meaning of “Covfefe”

The meaning of “Covfefe”

Yesterday, a friend wished me a “Happy Covfefe Day”. Initially, I wondered if “covfefe” was a foreign word or an acronym that I simply didn’t know. Occasionally, someone will ask me the meaning of an archaic or specialized word, but if I don’t know it, they see it as a “Gotcha!” Such is the lot […]

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A pox on you!

A pox on you!

Swear words and insults in the English language have common taboo themes, most notably sex, race and ethnicity, and religion. The former are extremely offensive, while blasphemy has mostly lost its punch, although we still hear many people taking the Lord’s name into vain. But one category of profane words has mostly fallen out of […]

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Body Language: Pulling Your Leg

Body Language: Pulling Your Leg

This morning a reader emailed the following article to me: This is What the Position of Your Legs While Sitting Reveals About You. “Is it true?” she asked. The article features the following image and presents an analysis of each way of sitting. The author claims that Position A reveals “this person thinks that neglecting […]

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Where’s that accent from?

Where’s that accent from?

I was in a department store recently when the sales assistant initiated the following conversation: “Where’s that accent from?” “Oh, well I’m…” “Wait! Let me guess! You’re from England, right?” “No.” “Um…New Zealand?” “No.” “South Africa?” “No.” “Scotland? Ireland?” “No!” “Germany?” “No!” “Then where?” “I’m Australian.” “Ah! I knew it! That was gonna be my […]

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Linguists in “Arrival” and other pop culture

Linguists in “Arrival” and other pop culture

In the new movie Arrival, gigantic spaceships touch down across the globe. To analyze the alien species that emerges from the spacecraft, a special team is assembled, which is headed by…a linguist! Linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) successfully deciphers their complicated alien writing system. The film explores a theoretical field known as xenolinguistics, in which […]

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