I got namechecked in the hovertext of an xkcd comic this month, which may have resulted in more congratulatory messages from friends than when my book was reviewed in the New York Times, so, you know, it’s good to see that everyone has their priorities on track.
My Wired article about code being based on English got translated into Japanese for Wired Japan. I can’t actually read it, but I suppose that’s the point. Here’s the English version again if you missed it.
Several exciting Lingthusiasm-related announcements!
Our main episode on Lingthusiasm was an interview with Janelle Shane, who the Very Online might recognize as that person who gets neural nets to come up with weird names for ice cream flavours, colour terms, and other delightfully strange experiments. We talked about how machines understand language (and don’t) and her excellent new book You Look Like A Thing And I Love You.
We also challenged Janelle to train a neural net on Lingthusiasm episode transcripts, which Lauren and I performed to great hilarity in a special bonus episode (technically February’s bonus, but released at the same time because we didn’t want to make you wait). Here’s a short excerpt:
Gretchen: “We’re gonna start with the question of, ‘How do we spell “soup”?’ How do we spell soup?”
Lauren: “Yes. I had to say ‘soup’ in the first 10 minutes or so of this episode because I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh! I just can’t spell “soup.”’”
Gretchen: “Oh, my gosh! I just can’t spell ‘soup.’”
Lauren: “Oh, my gosh! I just cannot spell ‘soup.’”
Gretchen: “Oh, my gosh! I just cannot spell ‘soup.’”
Lauren: “Oh, my gosh! I do not know how to spell ‘soup.’”
Gretchen: “I know how to spell ‘soup.’”
Lauren: “Oh, my gosh! I have never been able to sell ‘soup.’”
Gretchen: “I’m sorry, Lauren, but I can’t spell ‘soup.’”
Lauren: “Oh, my gosh! I’m so sorry.”
Gretchen: “Thank you, Lauren.”
Lauren: “We are very sorry. This is a problem.”
Gretchen: “Sorry, Lauren.”
Lauren: “Can I borrow you some soup?”
Lauren: “And soup.”
Gretchen: “And, you know, I think it’s a good question.”
Lauren: The thing thinks we’re very into soup.
Gretchen: We’re in a soup loop.
Janelle: I love it.
As you may have noticed, GPT-2 did okay at figuring out the tone of a Lingthusiasm episode and the back-and-forth turntaking between me and Lauren, but as for the content…let’s just say that we don’t vouch for any of the linguistics in this particular episode. But we do vouch for the hilarity.
Technically, January’s bonus episode was about predicting the future of English, so you effectively get two bonuses this month! Make sure to also read Janelle’s blog post about making the robo-generated Lingthusiasm episode.
We also made a Discord server (easy to use chatroom) for Lingthusiasm patrons, thus solving the problem of “Your podcast got me into linguistics, but now I don’t have people to fan out about language with! Where do I make lingthusiastic friends?” Here’s how to join.
Finally, we announced the LingComm Grant, a $500 (USD) grant that we’re giving out to help another linguistics communication project, thanks to the support of the Lingthusiasm patrons! See the announcement thread or check out our new LingComm.org website for details.
I started the year by attending the Linguistic Society of America annual meeting, this year in New Orleans. As usual, I ran a lingwiki Wikipedia editathon and judged the Five Minute Linguist competition.
This month’s media list, which is finally calming down again to something resembling normalcy:
National Print/Top Online:
- Harvard Business Review’s “Ascend” – roundup “10 Best Books You Should Read if You’re Looking for Something New”– 1/7
- Bookriot – roundup “RIOT ROUNDUP: THE BEST BOOKS WE READ OCTOBER–DECEMBER 2019”– 1/7
- Archiletras (in Spanish) – feature – 1/15
- The Etymology Nerd – mention – 1/27
- Slate/FutureTense – mention – 1/30
- Math With Bad Drawings – roundup “Books I loved in 2019”– 1/6
- Dan Pink’s Pinkcast newsletter – roundup “my 4 favorite books of 2019”– 1/7
- Chestnut Hill Local – roundup “New Books”– 1/19
- The California Aggie – roundup “Culture Corner”– 1/17
- Canadian and Montreal minor linguistic divides
- I read the upcoming Murderbot novel and tweeted a tantalizing snippet because I’m not authorized to share the whole thing yet
- GretchenCon would be getting a bunch of people together to nerd out about linguistics
- The “passing notes in class” arms race
- Twitter has reactji now
- This is a wug musician. Now there are five of them. There are five ___.
- Get you a wug that can do it all
- baby’s first keysmash
- Large boulder the size of a small boulder: today in “your capacity for understanding the grammatical properties of language is not reliant on the meaning actually making sense”
- I updated my Linguistics Jobs page, which now contains nearly a hundred posts on things people do with a linguistics degree (largely non-academic)
Selected blog posts:
- Cookies decorated with IPA symbols
- These students speak perfect Spanglish — and now they’re learning to own it
- So apparently I’m in an xkcd hovertext now (about ok vs okay)
- xkcd: vowel alignment chart
- Interpretation/translation, subtitles, and a speech by Korean director Bong Joon-ho
- Comparative evolution of Cuneiform, Egyptian, and Chinese characters
- A parody post about linguistics jobs: wug farmer
- Linguistics jobs: community radio outreach coordinator
- New grad school advice post: do I need to have done a linguistics major to apply for linguistics grad school?
- Bilingual palindromes
This month’s photo is the obligatory screenshot of the hovertext in the xkcd comic containing my name.
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