Cuz it ain’t in the dictionary

June 24, 2016 1 Comment Chad Nilep Teaching, Words , , , ,

This morning in my English composition class, composed mainly of Japanese speakers, I came upon another pitfall of relying on “in the dictionary” as a test of acceptability. The verb ‘ruralize’, which rarely appears in books published after 1940, is nevertheless present in bilingual dictionaries.

Oh, pants

January 21, 2016 No Comments Chad Nilep Folk Linguistics, In the news , ,

If a dog wore pants, would word meaning help us decide what they should look like? Using prototype theory and native speaker judgements, we find no clear, shared definition of the word ‘pants’. The results point to gradient understanding of meaning.

Religious terrorism is sadly not unique

January 19, 2015 1 Comment Chad Nilep In the news , , ,

The January 7th attacks in France caused great sadness, anger, and fear. They also occasioned outpourings of support, and analyses of what went wrong. Some responses assert that religiously inspired terrorism is “unique” to Islam. Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian violence show that this is incorrect. Understanding religious violence requires careful analysis, not easy assertions.

Shock. Lehman shock.

November 25, 2014 3 Comments Chad Nilep In the news, Words , , , ,

Japanese media use the label “Lehman shock” to refer to the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent shocks. The phrase “financial crisis” occurred frequently in 2008 but has dropped ever since. “Lehman shock” endures, even though Lehman Brothers was neither the first nor the largest institution to fall.

Where have all the numbers gone? (Or 1 + 99 = 53 + 47)

December 5, 2012 No Comments Chad Nilep Discourse, In the news , , ,

In 2011 the American Dialect Society listed ‘the 99%’ among its Words of the Year. In 2012 ‘47%’ became the new politically-charged number. These numbers are connected in a way that might not be obvious.

Mitt Romney was recorded declaring, “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.” Because they pay no income tax, Romney suggested, 47% of Americans are dependent on government. This resembles a charge made in 2011 by conservative activists at the53.tumblr, which in turn was a response to the Occupy Wall Street-affiliated wearethe99percent.tumblr.