October 2015: SXSW accepted, Polyglot Conference, NELS & NWAV editathons, and storifies

My SXSW panel with SwiftKey about the linguistics of emoji was accepted!

I did three Wikipedia editathons, at NELS in Montreal, NWAV in Toronto, and at Queen’s in Kingston. Here’s a summary of all three editathons. The NELS editathon was my last under my Inspire grant from Wikimedia, and it also got picked up in Concordia’s news service which led to me doing an interview about it with CBC Homerun.

I attended Polyglot Conference in New York City, which I’ve storified the livetweets from. I also storified my livetweeting of Rainbow Rowell’s new book, Carry On, as well as a linguistic parody of Taylor Swift’s Blank Space that I wrote a while back.

Articles for Mental Floss:

I did interviews for a number of articles:

And several of my previous articles got picked up elsewhere:

Selected blog posts:

I took so many cute wugshots this month I couldn’t pick just one. Here’s a series of crocheted wugs which Concordia linguistics student Caitlin Stahl made and brought to NELS, a wug I drew on a children’s magnetic toy in a store in NYC, and a line of marching wugs from a blackboard in the University of Toronto linguistics department.

crocheted wugs wug toy wugboard

July 2015: Lingstitute, four #lingwiki editathons, and stub sorting

In July 2015, I attended the month-long LSA summer institute (aka lingstitute) at the University of Chicago. My primary purpose there was to run four, weekly editathons to improve linguistics-related articles on Wikipedia. There were a total of 76 participants and 50 articles improved in 5 languages — for more details, see the report here. Many thanks to everyone involved!

We also had a tumblinguist meetup at lingstitute, and here’s a picture of our hands with wugs drawn on them. I livetweeted many other lingstitute events, which can be found on twitter. Plus, a lingstitute-inspired survey about what your favourite vowel is.

Shortly before lingstitute, Emily Temple-Wood (Wikipedia User:Keilana) and I created a wug-tastic linguistics stub sorting guide, for those who may be interested in contributing to linguistics-related articles on Wikipedia but don’t know much about linguistics — and it’s already seen some use at the editathons!


Selected blog posts:

I took this picture at the Seminary Co-op bookstore at UChicago. The linguistics and Marxism sections are right next to each other — I was told it’s so that all the Chomsky can be together.

seminary coop bookshelf linguistics+marxism

May 2015: Emoji interviews, 3rd blogiversary, Language Files videos, and CLA #lingwiki

I did several interviews on emoji this month: for Youth Radio on NPR, for The Fader, and for CNET, plus a few tweets about emoji that got quoted on News.Com.Au:

emoji language tweet

I organized the third #lingwiki editathon at the annual meeting of the Canadian Linguistics Association / Association canadienne de linguistique (ACL|CLA). We had 32 participants who edited a total of 43 articles – you can see the full report here. Many thanks to the sponsors, Wikimedia and the ACL|CLA, and of course to all the participants.

I launched a series of linguistics videos with YouTuber Tom Scott. We co-wrote five videos as a third season of his Language Files series — the first two went up in May, and the next three will go up in June.

The third video in LingVids, my previous collaborative videos project, also went up this month.

Articles for Mental Floss: Does this sentence sound incomplete, or?“You” versus “u” as a formality distinction, and 15 ways to laugh online.

It was my third blogiversary on All Things Linguistic, so I posted a roundup of my favourite posts from the past year. Selected blog posts from this month:

And finally, here’s a photo of the linguistics section in Strand Books, from when I visited New York City this month. I’m especially pleased that they have separate sections for linguistics and etymology!

strand bookshelf

Top posts from 3 years of All Things Linguistic

Cross-posted from All Things Linguistic.

It’s my third blogiversary! Let’s celebrate by looking back at some of my favourite posts:


Linguist Humour


Language activism

Linguistics and pop culture

Internet Language

Gender pronouns

Things about languages

Linguistics videos



Haven’t been with me this whole time? It’s okay — you can see the highlights of year one and year two right here.

April 2015: Wikimedia #lingwiki grant, language is open source talk, resources for high school teachers, and IPA Scrabble

IPA Scrabble set

I received a grant from Wikimedia to fund the upcoming #lingwiki editathons in May (at the CLA in Ottawa), July (at the LSA summer institute in July), and October (at NELS in Montreal). You can see the grant information here: Linguistics Editathon series: Improving female linguists’ participation and representation on Wikipedia. The grant was funded through Wikimedia’s Inspire campaign to improve the gender gap in Wikipedia editing, which was a great fit considering that a lot of fantastic female linguists have participated in previous lingwikis, and many articles about notable female linguists have already been added. I’m excited to see more articles in that area as well as our other two categories of under-documented languages and linguistics stubs improved in the three upcoming lingwikis.

I gave a lightning talk called “Language is Open Source” at AdaCamp Montreal, a conference for women in open source and open culture. You can read the full text here. I also facilitated a round-table session about linguistics at AdaCamp — turns out there are a quite a lot of former linguists in tech!

I wrote two articles for Mental Floss:

I compiled a resource post for high school teachers who want to do linguistics activities with their classes. Feel free to share with any high school teachers in your life!

The second episode of Ling Vids came out, on what “wanna” tells us about how sentences fit together:

Selected blog posts:

I also posted some gorgeous photos of an IPA Scrabble set that the Yale Undergraduate Linguistics Society made (see all the pictures here):

IPA Scrabble set
IPA Scrabble picture courtesy of YULS

March 2015: internet language on Mental Floss & interviews, second #lingwiki, LingVids

In March I started writing a new series on internet language for Mental Floss. My first post takes a look at your ability to even: Is “even” turning into a verb? Why is it so hard to “can even”?

I also did interviews for two articles on internet language: That Way We’re All Talking Now on Matter (follow-up comments here) and no capitalization is funnier on HuffPost Books.

I organized the second #lingwiki Wikipedia editathon, for which the central event took place online via the Twitter hashtag, but with in-person satellite editathons in Singapore (organized by Lauren Gawne), Canberra (organized by Hedvig Skirgard) and Madrid (organized by Manuel Alcántara Pia). A total of 24 participants from four continents participated, creating or improving 54 articles in 7 languages. Full details here, including a list of all articles edited. I also attended and helped facilitate at my local Art+Feminism editathon earlier in the month.

I jointly launched a new collaborative project, Ling Vids, a series of videos about linguistics. You can watch the first video below, on whether a sentence is more like a bracelet or a mobile:

Selected posts from All Things Linguistic

February 2015: On writing, Unravel interview, and March & July editathon plans

I wrote about the differences between teaching, pop linguistics, and pop science, in which I also bid farewell to editing for Lexicon Valley, although you’ll still see my writing popping up there occasionally.

I did an interview in Unravel Magazine about popularizing linguistics and writing about internet language.

Lingstitute editathon news

The second #lingwiki will take place online on the last weekend of March, the 28-29, with the peak online hours being 7-10pm US/Canada-EDT = 7-10am Singapore time, etc. Lauren Gawne of Superlinguo is also organizing an in-person editathon in Singapore, and Hedvig of Humans Who Read Grammars is organizing one in Canberra, Australia. I’m also in touch with organizers in Spain, who are translating my original slides (benefits of Creative Commons licenses!) and planning an editathon for the first weekend of April.

For more in-person events, I confirmed with the organizers of the 2015 summer institute in Chicago that they’re interested in hosting some #lingwiki events. So we’ll be having four editathons, one each Wednesday afternoon, and I’ll also be running a seminar on guiding your class to edit Wikipedia during the first week, in case any Lingstitute instructors want to take advantage of it. If anyone who’s not going to be in Chicago wants to take advantage of the July linguistics energy around Wikipedia and edit yourself or organize an editathon, you can follow along the #lingwiki hashtag and do feel free to get in touch with me for organizing tips.

Selected posts from All Things Linguistic:

I also finally finished my linguistics in Cabin Pressure series, with a post on the final episode, Zurich.

A giant outdoor wug brite, courtesy of Montréal en Lumière.
A giant outdoor wug brite, courtesy of Montréal en Lumière.

January 2015: Tumblinguists, LSA editathon report, WOTY, interviews, and an excellent shelf of books

Powell's linguistics section, continued

I started the year at the Linguistics Society of America’s annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, where I spoke on a panel about popularizing linguistics in online media. I represented tumblr and tumblinguists, and you can view my slides online here; I’m told there will also be a video online eventually, so I’ll link to that whenever it’s up. I also organized a Wikipedia editathon to improve linguistics-related articles, which had 27 participants and improved at least 41 articles. Editathon links:

I’m currently organizing a second editathon to take place online around the #lingwiki hashtag. Please fill out the doodle poll here if you want your time preferences/timezone to be taken into consideration when scheduling it.

Several interviews with me (and various other linguists) are now online:

And I’m not interviewed, but I’m one of the many linguists that you can spot in this Word of the Year newsclip from Al Jazeera.

I also wrote several posts about the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year vote on Lexicon Valley:

Selected blog posts

[Update: I forgot to mention that All Things Linguistic also now has a new theme, with a large header image like all the cool kids these days.]

Here’s a picture that I took in Portland at Powell’s Books — I’ve never seen such a large linguistics section at a general-audience bookstore (and this picture doesn’t even include all of it!). The linguistics section was pretty picked-over by the time I got there on Sunday, but I heard that several linguists found some good deals!

Powell's Portland linguistics section
Part of the linguistics section at Powell’s Books in Portland. They even separate out linguistics from usage guides and “fun facts about language” books. I’m a fan.

2014 Year in Review

Cross-posted from All Things Linguistic.

What a year! I finished my MA in linguistics at McGill at the end of 2013, so in 2014 I started writing linguistics for a general audience full time. By comparison, here’s 2013’s (much shorter!) highlights post.

I started the year at the LSA in Minneapolis, where “because x” — which I’d written several posts about — was voted Word of the Year for 2013.

I wrote A Linguist Explains the Grammar of Doge. Wow. It was my second article for The Toast and currently has nearly 50k shares (wow.) Related: the article summarized as a doge image, the second generation of internet language, Dogeblanca, French doge, wuge, and my interview with the BBC.

Further Toast pieces included:

In the spring, I became the editor of Slate’s language blog, Lexicon Valley. Here are a few of the posts that I wrote (full list here).

I also had the privilege of working with many great writers on Lexicon Valley. It’s hard to pick, but here are a few posts by other people. (See also this summary of top Lexicon Valley posts from 2014.)

I continued writing for Grammar Girl, and also started writing for The Week and Schwa Fire. Selected posts:

I did an interview with Steven Pinker and reviewed his recent book The Sense of Style

I wrote several series of blog posts:

I wrote several individual advice posts:

Notable posts on language and society:

On language, the internet, pop culture, and fan-guistics:

General interest:

In the “linguists gonna ling” category, I became part of the group blog Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing. In addition to the LSA annual meeting, I gave a keynote on internet syntax at McCCLU and attended SULA, NWAV, and NELS.

At a meta-blog level, I celebrated my two-year blogiversary and 1000th post on All Things Linguistic, and wrote an FAQ. I also started publishing monthly summary posts of my linguistic activities, blog-related and not, on my personal website, so you can check those out if you’re worried about missing anything major.

Upcoming: I’ll be starting next year as usual at the Linguistic Society of America annual meeting in Portland, Oregon in early January, where you can catch me on the Popularizing Linguistics via Social Media panel, at a linguistics careers networking event, running a Wikipedia Editathon, and of course generally in the hallways and on #lsa2015. I’m bringing my copy of linguistsagainsthumanity and I hear there may be a few other ling-games brought, so feel free to bring any games you have and/or join us (probably in the lobby or other common area) if you see people playing!

December 2014: Swearing, explaining linguistics, and more Cabin Pressure

I wrote an article on the syntax of fuck for The Toast, reviving the classic paper, “English Sentences Without Overt Grammatical Subject”. I also joined Strong Language, a new blog about the language of swearing, and wrote a post about this delightful bilingual sticker that I snapped a photo of in Montreal. The comments on both the original wordpress post and my subsequent cross-post to tumblr are very much worth it for further commentary.

Il est interdit de faire smashy-smash. It is forbidden to fuck shit up.
Il est interdit de faire smashy-smash.
It is forbidden to fuck shit up.

I made a link round-up with resources for how to explain linguistics to your friends and family this holiday season, which was resoundingly popular on facebook (perhaps from linguists hinting to their friends and family!)

I continued my blog series on the linguistic aspects of Cabin Pressure, which ultimately came to the attention of John Finnemore, who writes and acts in the show.

For Lexicon Valley highlights, see this list of the top posts of 2014.

Selected blog posts:

Upcoming: Wikipedia editathon and panel about popularizing linguistics online (I’m representing tumblr) at the Linguistic Society of America annual meeting in Portland, Oregon next week.