News roundup

Well there certainly has been a lot of action here since my post about the Embuggerance and Feisty fiasco. Alas, no word on any action on the part of the great Googly deity. Greetings to all newcomers arrived from Language Log, Language Hat, The Volokh Conspiracy, and parts a-Twitter. In lieu of thoughtful content, here are some things that have amused me over the past week:

Various blogs have noted (with various ranges of dismay) a new pop-sci volume entitled Manthropology by Peter McAllister, which takes the well-known fact that there is a decline in both male and female skeletal robusticity associated with industrialism and turns it into such gender-essentialist nonsense as “If you’re reading this then you — or the male you have bought it for — are the worst man in history”. As far as I can tell the author has no advanced degree in anthropology and has never published any peer-reviewed work in support of his rather extreme claims.

There’s a curious blog post over at the NYT by Olivia Judson on the relationship between facial expression and the phonetic inventory of languages. She asks whether speakers of languages in which certain vowel sounds (like [i] ) are common are more prone to smile on that basis. Perhaps not, but there’s an abundant literature on the relationship of speech and facial expression, much of which is found in the notes below the post. Hat tip to Julien at A Very Remote Period Indeed for alerting me to it.

Lastly, for any of my students who may be reading and were paying attention last week, when we discussed George Lakoff’s NATION AS FAMILY metaphor, or for any of you from the true north strong and free, I give you this amusement from the webcomic Toothpaste for Dinner. I do want to register a complaint that my part of Canada (south-southwestern Ontario) seems to have already made its escape – or perhaps is the insane relative abandoned in the basement? You decide.

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