Featured Feeds: Language Log

Featured Feeds is a new segment on This Is Conlan wherein I feature some of my favorite feeds. That is to say, it’s wherein I feature some of the more obscure websites and blogs in my RSS reader. They’re the “hidden gem” feeds I love (and think you should love too).

First up is Language Log, a linguistics blog I discovered three or four years ago. It was started in 2003 by two professors at the University of Pennsylvania and has since grown to include a bunch of contributors. For a word nerd like me, this blog is like a really good simile.

I was kind of wary when I first visited Language Log. I thought it might be full of descriptivist snobbery. I enjoyed my linguistics class in college, but quickly became bored with the fierce linguistic descriptivism (i.e., focusing solely on how language is actually used by real people, and rejecting rules of grammar). Some linguists seem to elevate this principle to a religion, insisting no English usage is any better or worse than another. My own point of view is more prescriptivist (i.e., focusing on how language “should be” used), although I enjoy non-dogmatic prescriptive/descriptive discussions. I think the tension is necessary for a beautiful, enduring, and flexible language like English.1

Luckily, Language Log mostly avoids the preachiness on either side of the issue, instead offering a fascinating and entertaining assortment of word histories, malapropisms, puns, and neologisms (and “neologisms”). I love it when they use data to debunk and deconstruct common language myths. (Freebies: Eskimos don’t really have 800 words for snow, and the number of times the president uses the word “I” in a speech isn’t really so different from any other president.) Often the analysis is so thorough you’ll wonder why anyone would ever care about such things. This is the type of stuff I love.

(Sometimes the analysis can get a bit too technical and esoteric even for me. But those posts are easy enough to skip.)

As a bonus, the commenters on Language Log are some of the best I’ve seen anywhere on the web. They almost always keep the discussion constructive, and often provide intelligent insight or genuinely funny commentary. It’s nice to look forward to internet comments for a change.

If you’re at all interested in the English language, and not afraid of a little intellectual material, give Language Log a spot in your RSS reader.

  1. I’m actually far more concerned with consistency and clarity in language than I am with following grammar rules. Most of the misunderstood “rules” of English are intended to aid clarity of expression, but have been taken too far by prescriptivists. []

‘Tis the season

Season’s greetings, my loyal viewers. As you may be aware, I have not blogged here recently. I have however, blogged elsewhere and done other matters of things. I just wanted to wish you all a happy holiday season filled with peppermints and cheeses of various assortments (there’s no such thing as vegan cheese).

And, since this is the season for giving, I want to give each and every one of you the opportunity to donate money to me using the handy “Donate” button on the right side of the page. Who knows? It might even encourage me to write things here more often.

In fact, it will. For instance, if you donate you will receive a thank you gift of words as follows.

Donation (Dollars) Gift (Words, on a topic of your choosing)
Less than $10 Up to 20
$10 100
$20 250
$50 500
$100 1,000
$500 2,500, plus a hearty handshake and a smile1
$1,000 5,000, the handshake, the smile, a drawing of a wizard (or old-timey, grizzled prospector), and a colorful badge in the sidebar naming you or your company an official “This Is Conlan A-OK Thing”

Each gift comes with an official numbered e-certificate of authenticity suitable for printing out (at your own expense) and framing.

Do you have a topic you’ve just been itchin’ to choose? Then act now! This is a limited time offer, probably!

Happy Holidays.

P.S. The title of this post is short for “Curtis the Season,” a former professional wrestler of some note. Curtis “The Season” Gorkosky got his nickname because he came down on his opponents “with the brute force of a vernal equinox” according one breathless newspaper report in 1934. The name stuck and, when he retired from wrestling in 1951, Gorkosky founded the famous gift card company Season’s Greetings. The company went bankrupt in 1958 due its immense investment in the failed, ahead-of-its-time “I’m glad he’s dead” line of funeral cards (which is still an untapped greeting card market), yet to this very day the company name remains synonymous with wishing someone dead around the holidays.

  1. My mom says my smiles are like gold, because they are rare and precious. So, you know, take that into account []

I’ma let me finish

Hello, People of the World. I’ve decided to stop blogging.

Just kidding. I’m busy working on other stuff that will become apparent soon, as well as trying to make money. In the meantime, This Is Conlan is resting while we get used to the new design. I will be back at some point. And it will be a sharp one. The point, I mean. Ouch.

Fresno Famous: Me

It’s true. I am now Fresno Famous. So to speak. Go read it. Famous Whitewater probes for deep insights into what makes me tick.1

If you’re visiting after reading about me on Fresno Famous, welcome. This Is Conlan is a welcoming community. Even more than the Unitarians. And according to the posters I used to see in the subway, Unitarians don’t care about anything! So, you know, that’s pretty welcoming. Although, I suppose now it seems I’m not very welcoming to Unitarians. But that’s not true. I love Unitarians… It’s the Unitarian Universalists that must be stopped!

Anyway. If I were a bilingual lawyer, I would say, “Mi casa es sue casa.” Get it? Hahaha, oh man. We love to laugh…

  1. Hint: muscle spasms. []