No language links 4/23

If you’re in the NYC area, come see me talk tonight!


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.


“The turn of the century”

I had to read the following paragraph three times to understand it: “There’s been interest in neural networks and analog computation and more statistical, as opposed to algorithmic, computing since at least the early 1940s, but the dominant paradigm by far was the algorithmic, rule-based paradigm— that is, up until about the turn of the century.” (Source)

That’s right, folks — people are using “the turn of the century” to mean the turn of the twenty-first century. I can’t articulate fully why I find this so strange, but I do.