The british money

I don’t know if this is information available on every major internet news site, but I just found out that the UK is changing the design of their coins.

See the new ones here.

Aw, I get all nostalgic about UK coins, I remember when I used to get 10p (one of the old big ones, before they made everything small) as payment for doing my chores every week and I would go and buy lots of sweets and I would think about how great it would be if one week I could save my 10p and then the next week I would have 20p and be able to buy a pack of nerds! But I never did. And I really like the pound coins they have in circulation now, with the different symbols for Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and England, and the mottos in the different languages around the outside, Welsh, Gaelic, Latin (can’t have anything in English, that’s far too pedestrian for coinage). But I like this new idea of using the Royal Arms. I’m just not sure about it’s being split up over six coins. It’s a nice design, it’s just . . . it’s coins, they tend to live separate lives and I’m sure there will be kids who never realize that all those funny pictures are actually part of one big picture, but then maybe it will be a great moment for them when they do realize.

Name confusion

So the new Nick Cave album, Dig Lazarus Dig, has be getting a fair amount of radio play on the stations I listen to, and one thing I’ve noticed is that the DJs keep saying “Lazareth” instead of “Lazarus”, and not only have they been saying it, but it took me awhile to notice. For some reason it sounds so natural. So I checked Google, and they both get a fair amount of hits, but the “Lazareth” ones are mainly from non-English speaking countries. It seems like it’s a mistake, a confusion with “Nazareth,” but I’m not so sure. Is there something natural about substitution “th” or “s”? It’s like a lisp. Or are they two different language endings, “eth” and “us” that we just added to the name “Lazar,” although, to be fair, most of the “Lazareth” hits aren’t about the Bible story, they’re just names.

on not understanding

Here’s a quote I just read from the handout for Chris Pott’s Logic for Linguists class here at the Institute. Someone should have told me these things last year. Linguistics is hard.

Chris Barker has the following quotation at his website:

“In mathematics you don’t understand things, you just get used to them.”
—John von Neumann

This is a deep insight into the way in which humans come to understand semantic theory as well. It’s here as a kind of warning: if this is your first time through material like this, then you can’t expect to fully understand all the hows and whys. It takes repeated exposure, and it takes time for these things to sink in. Thus:

• Don’t give up if you feel like you don’t quite see what’s happening.

• Expect to feel confused at times, as we settle into this web of interdependent concepts.

• Raise your hand often — it’s the only way to get your needs met.

• Expect this to take a lifetime.

My bike

I got a bike today! I’m just renting it for while I’m here, but it’s so exciting. Everyone rides bikes here, it’s a big, flat campus, plus it’s the only way to get into town and the best way to get to the train station to go to exciting places like San Francisco and Santa Cruz (i.e. the beach). So I went down the the renting shop today and they hooked me up with this nice blue road bike (pictured below):

And another view (it has a side basket in the back):

I got on it outside the student center and realized that I have no recollection of the last time I rode a bike. I think it was before college. But now, I am going to be all experienced for . . . bikey things. I’m excited. (oh, and can our resident bike-people tell me why some bikes have the straight bar, “boys bike” thing and some have the diagonal bar, “girl’s bike”?)

Letters from camp

I tell you, it’s like a constant linguistics party! Okay, so we only have classes four days a week (which is the only way to do things) so we get Wednesdays off, which basically means we have two Friday nights, which is what linguistics is all about. I mean . . . Anyway. So things have gotten so much better, it always takes me a week at these things, to realize they’re awesome.

On Tuesday evening there was a lecture (by Marianne Mithun, the it-girl of field linguistics, she told us about Mohawk). Then there was a party that magically happened from everyone walking from the lecture to the bar. I had some great conversations and got to meet one of my linguistic heroes. Then on Wednesday I met with one of my profs here and we had a good conversation about unaccusativity and the crazy verbs I’ve been studying. It’s so good to be able to discuss this with so many people!

Then I went to a philosophy of language conference and most of it was over my head, but it was about Game Theory, which seems really interesting, although a little too mathematical for me. The more interesting of the two talks I went to was given by Chris Potts (who was speaking in place of someone who couldn’t make it). He was talking about different gradable adjectives, like “tall” and “wet” and “straight” and how they fall into different categories. For example, if you have two items sitting on a table and you say to someone, “hand me the tall one,” well, even if they are both under six inches the person will still hand you one of them. But if you have two glasses of water, both partially filled, and you say, “hand me the full one” the person will be confused, because neither one of them is full.

Classes are going pretty well, one is really fun, one is really interesting and I feel like I really know what’s going on and can ask good questions, one is kind of boring (probably because it’s early in the morning), but we got a data set today to work on, so that’s exciting, and one is kind of my enemy right now, Semantics. Oh man, I haven’t done any kind of logic since my freshman year Intro to Philosophy class and I just don’t get it. I mean, propositional logic I’m alright with, but predicate logic and set theory? Hell. I don’t know. We turned in some homework today. I’m interested in seeing how I did. But it’s like learning a new language, it just takes a certain amount of exposure, and I’m getting that because I’m sitting in on a class on “Events” which is all semantics too. It’s good, I need to know this stuff, getting to know a topic is always somewhat painful, though.

Nouns: different is always more hilarious

So, it’s taken me so long to reply to mom’s comment on my last entry that I decided to write a post on this. I just had a class today on count/mass nouns and I have so much info you would not believe! Okay, if you want an overview that is good but not overwhelmingly technical read this. You can skip the singular/plural section, the mass/count section is the most interesting.

About less and fewer, the professor pointed out that this isn’t really a mass/count division, it’s a division between singular mass nouns (e.g. milk) and plural count nouns (e.g. m&m’s). (Granted it doesn’t make much difference, but of course singular count nouns can’t be used with “fewer.”) “Less” is becoming far more prevalent than “fewer” because it is more recognized as the opposite of “more” which is used for both the sg mass and pl count nouns. My prof also pointed out that many/much are good diagnostic terms for the mass/count division and I realized it’s really funny to use “much” with plural count nouns (e.g. “I have too much emails in my inbox” “I have too much clothes on”).

A few other interesting notes, plants are confusing in the mass/count division. You can have a field of corn but not a field of bean. You can have rosemary but not rose. You can’t grow rhubarbs in your garden, or squashes, but you can grow potatoes and tomatoes. Also, someone has coined the term “universal grinder” for when count nouns are transformed into mass nouns, as in “after the accident there was cat all over the road.” Our professor also pointed out that foreign food items often surface as “zero plurals” (like “deer” and “sheep”) so people sometimes say “croissant” (I’ve never heard this) and “falafel” instead of “croissants” and “falafels,” although to me falafels also sounds hilarious.


I’m so tingly excited, it’s like Christmas. My friend and I are going to bike over to the local independent bookstore for their party. I called them up earlier today and the guy answered the phone “Kepler’s books and magic” “Did you just say magic?” I asked. “It’s a limited time offer.” he said. Hope said we should make our bikes look like brooms. I think that might be a little hard. Speaking of brooms, that cover illustration is totally Harry on a broom in a Quidditch pitch. This is the first time I’ve really looked at it. I’m so excited! And so sad!! All those years, it seems so long that I’ve been reading these books, I don’t want it to be over! I don’t want Harry to die!! But I guess I won’t find out for awhile, anyway because I’ve got crazy amounts of work to do this next week. Why did it have to come out now?? So don’t tell me anything. Anyone.

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