I’ll start with a couple of links on linguistic research that you can participate in. First, there is the page of online experiments at Cognition and Language Laboratory. One that is still going on is the “Gorp Test”, which takes about five minutes. I participated in this one, and was so interested in the debriefing that I made Doug and Adam take the test, too. There are several other ongoing experiments in addition to the Gorp Test, which I haven’t taken yet, and also a page of experiments they’re not running anymore but which you can put yourself through anyway.
Probably any of my readers could participate in the above research. This next research is only for “hyperpolyglots” — people, like the late linguist Ken Hale or the fictional scoundrel Harry Flashman, who can speak six or more languages. This considerably narrows down the field, but I’m putting the link in anyway because I’d like to see this research get some informative results. Michael Erard, the guy who brought you Um: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean, is working on his next book Babel No More. Part of his research consists of this survey for any hyperpolyglots out there, so if you are or know one, respectively follow or forward the link.
Last month I noted Jan Freeman’s absence from her column at The Boston Globe, and pointed to a guest column written by Erin McKean. McKean has continued to fill in for Freeman, and wrote this fun piece about how she accidentally invented a word. She observes that there was “no cheerleading” or “PR campaign” for her word; “I just used it myself, in context, and other people picked it up naturally.” I had the distinct feeling that she was refraining from saying, “Santorum, I’m looking at you.”
In my last post, one of the attestations of sanc as the past tense of sync comes from “the Buck Family Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language”. This would be the family of Jamis and Tarasine Buck (Jamis is the husband, Tarasine the wife), whose blog Catching Glimpses is almost entirely devoted to funny things their kids say. I don’t like to give away entire blog posts, but these posts are so short that I’m going to break my rule and give a couple of highlights from it. There’s the instant classic “Mom! Nathaniel just called me a tattle-tale!” And this one:
Kaitrin: I picked these dandelions to give to Dad and Nathaniel when they come home on Saturday!
Tarasine: Oh, that’s so nice! It’s just that Saturday is in three days — they’ll be dead by then.
Kaitrin: (wide-eyed) Dad and Nathaniel will be DEAD on Saturday?!?
Furthermore, this is no ordinary blog with parents telling about funny things their kids say. The mother is a linguist, who is attuned to and suitably appreciative of moments like this one:
When recently asking how to spell the word “tree”, Kaitrin said, “When you put an ‘r’ after a ‘t’, it makes it sound like a ‘ch’!” Not many adults notice that, I’ve found.
If you like the posts in the “Darndest things” category here, you’ll want to browse through the Buck family’s archived posts.
Lastly, here’s another funny story from Greg Larson, this one on how he got into trouble in second grade. But what’s the linguistic angle, you ask? Well, let’s see, it’s … taboo language. Or at least, what a second grader thinks is taboo language.