Rob is a Thief’s Name

I’m currently watching season two of the webseries The Outs. I watched the first season a few years ago with my friend Mike, and we both loved it. Anyway, I came across this semantic gem in season two, episode one.

In this scene, Mitchell tells Oona about this guy he’s been seeing. Upon learning that his name is Rob, Oona says she doesn’t trust him, which leads to the following exchange:

I think they both make great points. Now I’ll be on the lookout for other first names that are also verbs.


Resting Bernie Face

I Always Have That Look on My Face

Fusion ran a story with an amazing headline this week: “A Visual History of Bernie Sanders’ Resting Bitch Face.”


This headline was sparked by an interview with Bernie Sanders on Face the Nation. The host mentions that Sanders had a “stoic” look on his face when Hillary Clinton spoke at the DNC, and then asks him what was going through his mind at the time. Sanders replies: “I always have that look on my face. You know, it’s nothing new. I’m not always a smiley kind of guy.”

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Delete Your Account

I was a sometimes listener to the podcast Reply All who has been converted to an always listener because of a recent episode called “Vampire Rules.”

At the end of each episode—or at least the ones I’ve listened to so far—there’s a segment called Yes Yes No, where PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman millennial-splain the internet to their boss Alex Blumberg. In this episode’s Yes Yes No, the following tweet is explained.

This imagined conversation is in reference to a real tweet that Hillary Clinton made about Donald Trump. Trump tweeted “Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama—but nobody else does!” And Clinton (or presumably her social media manager) responded with “Delete your account.”

“Delete your account” is a relatively common response to someone saying something silly, stupid, or horrible on social media; it’s used sometimes jokingly and sometimes in earnest. Vogt and Goldman go on to explain that Clinton obviously wasn’t the one who came up with “Delete your account” because she’s unlikely to be so fluent in social media slang:

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The Essence of the Gist

I’ve been watching and enjoying Maria Bamford’s show Lady Dynamite. It’s surreal and non-linear and has left me with more questions than answers, but it’s the sort of show you more experience than understand. (I am not averse to this type of show; I am a devotee of The Prisoner.)

One line, which happens to be related to language, made me laugh, so I thought I’d share it here. Maria is telling her friend about how this guy she met from “OkCubes” has an anger problem and shouts profanities (and shoots puppies who are about to cure cancer) when he’s frustrated.

Very little of this is likely true—well, maybe the shouting part—but Maria is looking for an excuse to not go out with this guy again. So when her friend questions the veracity of her date’s reported speech, Maria admits that maybe that’s not exactly what happened, but “it was the essence of the gist of it.”

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Dictionary Playlist

A while back I made a dictionary playlist. The songs are linked in some way to lexicography or linguistics. Some of the connections are tenuous—”I Put A Spell on You” is a definite stretch. One of the songs is about peevery, but it happens to have a grammatical error in the song title. Can you spot it? That bothered me at first, but now I find it funny. It’s an amazing song, at any rate.



I periodically add to this list. If you have any suggestions for additional tracks, let me know. Hope you enjoy it!




Reduplication in Game of Thrones



Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones was harrowing, to say the least. However, amid all the darkness, I had a moment of levity as a linguist when Meera Reed uses contrastive focus reduplication (sometimes also called lexical cloning or the double construction).

As Meera is packing up her things, she explains to Hodor what’s happening:

“We can go home now, Hodor. Well, maybe not home home, but somewhere that isn’t a cave.”

What’s Reduplication?

If you’re not already familiar with reduplication, here’s quick linguistics lesson: in English (and other languages) sometimes words, parts of words, or phrases are repeated to create a novel element of meaning. This element of meaning can range from an added connotation to an entirely different sense. I’ve written about reduplication for the blog if you’d like to read more about it.

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A Conversation About Internet Linguistics

Last week I interviewed linguist Gretchen McCulloch at the offices in Oakland, California. We discussed many pop-linguistic topics, including the role of memes in our culture, the lowercasing of the term internet, and her upcoming book.

I was first introduced to Gretchen’s work through her Benedict Cumberbatch piece on the Toast, and in our conversation I learned that while she might possess the skills to summon Wimbledon Tennismatch, she is more excited by the linguistic variations of his name than by his acting work.

One interesting topic Gretchen and I covered was the four major stages of English development (Old English, Middle English, Early Modern English, and Modern English). Considering that we’ve been speaking Modern English since around 1700, I asked Gretchen if we’re due for a new classification of English.

While we have linguists like David Crystal talking about computer-mediated communication as a new era of language development, this idea hasn’t really made it beyond the linguistic community and we’d both love to see this happen more widely.

Here’s a clip from our conversation:

So often slang or grammar born on the internet is dismissed as “stupid” or “wrong,” or as a sign that the English language is being ruined. Linguists and lexicographers, of course, see it very differently. This allows us to fully enjoy things like people purposely misspelling the word snake, another meme I learned about from my conversation with Gretchen.