language links, ling-anth links

Language links 1/15

Every Monday, I share some of what I’ve been reading in the past week.


Once more, for the kids in the back: “The effects of sexist language are not negligible. Language enables us to order and categorise the world. If our language is biased, our ordering and categories will be inaccurate.” (And did you know: historically, Mrs. had nothing to do with marital status and was chiefly a professional title?

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Special topics: shithole linguistics

A few days ago, the Republican president of the United States reportedly called a bunch of countries a shithole. And a bunch of smart people responded quickly.

Kory Stamper writes about lexicographers’ delight with swearwords end up in major publications. Dictionaries require as much written evidence as possible of usage — and swearwords are thin on the ground in written publications.

Ben Zimmer takes us through the history of shithole, with this Elizabethan gem: “Six shitten shotes did I shoote in thy mowth that I shot from my shithole.”

Others have discussed when and how newspapers decide to print swearwords rather than circumlocuting.

Are you curious how to translate shithole into other languages? Strong Language, Quartz, the Washington Post, and Newsweek all have you covered. Plus: Ancient Greek.

Maybe we could stop it with the euphemisms like vulgar and call it what it is: racist. And let’s not forget that racism is not purely an individual characteristic — this is part of “a pattern of crude, dehumanizing and racist language to describe migrants and asylum seekers that has steadily edged its way into the mainstream.

January 16, ETA:

Lucky Ben Zimmer got to write about this twice — looking at shithouse.

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language links, ling-anth links

Language links 12/11

Every Monday, I share some of what I’ve been reading in the past week.


Words are gendered: “The main finding was that women saw jobs as less appealing, and were less likely to think they belonged, when an ad relied heavily on masculine-coded vocabulary. (Men’s perceptions were less affected by the choice of words: they did find ‘feminine’ ads less appealing than ‘masculine’ ones, but the effect was very slight.) The researchers concluded that the wording of job ads is a factor affecting women’s willingness to apply. The issue isn’t just that women see themselves as unsuited to particular kinds of work: even when they have the right qualifications, the perception that they won’t fit in cropped-c47620c5e92a01104c2e9b60258cc3fb.gifis reinforced by ads that use masculine-coded language.”
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