Here’s video of the first (Improbable) Conversation: Cats/Liquids/Language

Here’s recorded video of last week’s event, the first in a collaborative series by The Conversation and Improbable Research. The goal in these: Two researchers, in different fields, explore each other’s worlds a little bit. “(Improbable) Conversation: Physics and Psychology of Cats“, with physicist (and Ig Nobel Prize winner, for exploring the question “Can a Cat Be […]

Here the first (Improbable) Conversation: Cats/Liquids/Language

Join us this Thursday for the premiere of a new kind of conversation: Two researchers, in different fields, explore each other’s worlds a little bit. Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, will compere. Here’s who and what: “(Improbable) Conversation: Physics and Psychology of Cats“, with physicist (and Ig Nobel Prize winner, for […]

Toilet graffiti studies 1731 – 2007

The first scholarly work on toilet graffiti was very likely The Merry-Thought: or the Glass-Window and Bog-House Miscellany. Part 1  written and published by ‘Hurlo Thrumbo’ in 1731. ‘Hurlo Thrumbo’ was, many believe, none other than poet, playwright, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor, lexicographer. and man-of-letters Samuel Johnson himself.   “The Original Manuscripts written […]

The Meaning of Shoes—Specifically, of the Word “Shoes”

Shoes can be meaningful, sure. The word “shoes” is full of meaning, as are words for particular varieties of shoe. This study tries to make that clear: “A Look at the World Through a Word ‘Shoes’: A Componential Analysis of Meaning,” Miftahush Shalihah, Journal of Language and Literature, vol. 15, no. 1, 2015, pp. 81-90. […]

‘Sort of’ – academic study

When did English-speaking people start saying “sort of”? The phrase can be found at least as far back as 1788 – as is explained in this paper ‘History of the sort of construction family’ (presented at ICCG2: Second International Conference on Construction Grammar, Helsinki.) by David Denison FBA, Professor Emeritus of English Linguistics at the University […]

SIL e-Books – the bees’ knees for rhyming jingles (linguistics study)

If you’re after in-depth information about hanky panky, tittle tattle, or even argy bargy then where better to look than the pages of SIL e-Books ? In particular, chapter 16 of ‘A Mosaic of languages and cultures: studies celebrating the career of Karl J. Franklin*‘ – ‘Helter skelter and ñugl ñagl: English and Kalam Rhyming […]

Whistled languages – like ‘local cellular phones’ (study)

“Whistled languages are a valuable heritage of human culture.” – explained a 2004 paper : ‘Bioacoustics of human whistled languages: an alternative approach to the cognitive processes of language’ (in : An. Acad. Bras. Ciênc. vol.76 no.2, June 2004). It was authored by Dr. Julien Meyer of the Laboratoire de Dynamique du Langage (DDL)-CNRS, Institut […]

Podcast 87: How kids learn to say “Trick or Treat!”

Jean Berko Gleason explains how kids learn to say “Trick or Treat!” —and how it helps them stride down the road to adulthood. That’s the story in this week’s Improbable Research podcast. SUBSCRIBE on, iTunes, or Spotify to get a new episode every week, free. This week, Marc Abrahams discusses “Trick or treat!” with Boston University psychology professor emerita Jean Berko Gleason. Early in her career, Gleason gained fame for […]

Intimate exaltation in Japanese, in English

How does one come to understand the concept and role of  intimate exaltation — especially intimate exaltation in Japanese — if one does not speak Japanese or live in Japan? One place to start: “Speech-style shifts and intimate exaltation in Japanese,” Yoko Hasegawa, Proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, 269-284, […]

Cannibalism nutrition study, or translation snafu?

Lesson: When translating your study title into another language, check for cannibalism. Here’s an example: “Nutritional Characteristics of Lithuanian Olympic basketball team-players,” Rimantas Stukas [pictured here], Marius Baranauskas, Proceedings of the International Conference on Non-Communicable Diseases Management, Klaipėda, 2012, p. 25.