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Chi Luu

Chi Luu is a computational linguist and NLP researcher who tinkers with tiny models and machines to uncover curious mysteries in human language. She has degrees in Theoretical Linguistics and Literature, with a morbid focus on dead and dying languages. She has worked on dictionaries, multi-language search engines, and question answering applications.

A person holding a newspaper on fire

How Language and Climate Connect

While we’re losing biological diversity, we’re also losing linguistic and cultural diversity at the same time. This is no coincidence.
A dad laughing at his own joke.

The Dubious Art of the Dad Joke

Is it really only dads who can tell dad jokes? And is this corny humor universal? Our linguist takes a deep dive.
Fifteen redacted pages of the Mueller Report

Are We Being Framed?

How the linguistic trick of framing shapes meaning--and can lead to deception.
The Copper Coast Geopark, County Waterford, Ireland.

When Language Started a Political Revolution

Will Brexit fracture the UK? Ireland, for example, has its own cultural identity and language, which are perhaps more linked to Europe than to England.
Robert Redford, The Great Gatsby (1974)

When Very Bad Words Are the Sh*t (Linguistically Speaking)

The fact that people can use “literally” about things that can’t possibly be factual may literally make your blood boil.
Hamlet. Poster for W. S. Hardy Company, 1894

When Did the Verb “To Be” Enter the English Language?

A Curious Reader asks: To be or naught to be?
A couple expressing affection

The Language of Your Love Life

Pet names and baby talk between lovers can be cringe-worthy and even incriminating. So why do couples use such lovey-dovey language?
A woman writing a letter at a table

The Ladylike Language of Letters

Letters reveal how language changes. They also offer a peek into the way people--especially women--have always constructed their private and public selves.
Mr. Knightley and Emma Woodhouse, from Jane Austen's Emma

Jane Austen’s Subtly Subversive Linguistics

Why are Jane Austen books still so beloved? A linguist argues it has more to do with Austen's masterful use of language than with plot.
Neon text on the side of a building reads "All we have is words, all we have is worlds."

The Hidden Life of Modal Verbs

A linguist explains why we get so distracted by the fiery language of politics, while ignoring urgent information reported by scientists.
hawaii stars lava mana

The Mysterious Mana of Speaking

The Austronesian concept of "mana" helps us understand that behind the monolithic "magic" of modern power and authority, there is a fragile human dimension.
Woman shakes head in blurred motion against business buzzwords

The Tangled Language of Jargon

What our emotional reaction to jargon reveals about the evolution of the English language, and how the use of specialized terms can manipulate meaning.
Appalachian Mountains dialect

The Legendary Language of the Appalachian “Holler”

Is the unique Appalachian dialect the preserved language of Elizabethan England? Left over from Scots-Irish immigrants? Or something else altogether?
compliments

The Uncertain Art of the American Compliment

The way Americans compliment is maximalist and enthusiastic, but it may not always be sincere. Our resident linguist unpacks the language of politeness.
drag queen

The Unspeakable Linguistics of Camp

When gay and lesbian people had to invent their own languages with which to talk with each other, camp led the way.
Brothers Grimm

The Fairytale Language of the Brothers Grimm

How the Brothers Grimm went hunting for fairytales, accidentally changed the course of historical linguistics, and kickstarted a new field of scholarship in folklore.
Second Amendment language

Revisiting the Messy Language of the Second Amendment

The debate over the Second Amendment is not just about guns—it's also about grammar.
Cropped Image Of Man And Woman Kissing

The Murky Linguistics of Consent

In many #MeToo stories, crucial signals, verbal and non-verbal cues, are sent but not received. Why is that?
Australian kids

Small Poppy Syndrome: Why are Australians so Obsessed With Nicknaming Things?

What's behind the Australian habit of nicknaming and abbreviating everything? Nicknames may just reveal how Australians see themselves and relate to each other.
Censorship bubble

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Words?

Censorship isn't just redacted text and banned words. What happens when censorship is furtive, flying under the radar as much as possible?
Oxford English Dictionaries

In Celebration of Lost Words

At some point in their lexical histories, lost words' original meanings died and have been revived into a mere semblance of their former selves.
Mrs Miss Ms

From the Mixed-Up History of Mrs., Miss, and Ms.

Language can reveal power dynamics, as in the terms of address, or honorifics, are used to refer to a woman's social status: Mrs., Miss, and Ms.
Origins of speech crow

The Origins of Human Speech: More Like a Raven or a Writing Desk?

Language is the cognitive faculty that separates humans from other animals, but interjections have often been equated with the primitive cries of animals.
Derek Bentley

Sentenced to Death (and Other Tales from the Dark Side of Language)

One cold morning in 1953, Derek Bentley, a nineteen-year-old youth in the wrong place with the wrong words, was hanged for a murder he did not commit.
Unabomber words

Fighting Words With the Unabomber

Some of the world's most baffling criminal cases were solved thanks to some seemingly harmless point about language. Take the Unabomber, for example.