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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.

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 and 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.
Declaration drafting

When Did Colonial America Gain Linguistic Independence?

By the time the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, did colonial Americans still sound like their British counterparts?
Woman thinking

The Science of Thingummyjigs (and Other Words on the Tip of Your Tongue)

What is actually happening when you can't think of the word you mean? It's called Tip of the Tongue syndrome and yes, it's been studied.
gift or poison

Friend or Faux? The Linguistic Trickery of False Friends

"False friends" appear or sound like words in their own language, but have different meanings in others. They give us insight into how language changes.
young women talking

The Totally “Destructive” (Yet Oddly Instructive) Speech Patterns of… Young Women?

Two years ago, this column sprang into life by enthusiastically wading into the absurdly long-running debate about some ...
talk therapy

When Language Can Cure What Ails You

Healthy talk is often promoted as the way for us to become even better humans. But is talking about our health always a key to actual better health?
Trump mouth

The Language Wars

As a society becomes increasingly unstable, linguistic innovation happens more rapidly.
Dr. Evil

Very British Villains (and Other Anglo-Saxon Attitudes to Accents)

What do peoples' accents really reveal about them? The villainous British accent crystallizes the love-hate special relationship between the US and the UK.
Murió la Verdad (The Death of Truth)

The Collapse of Meaning in a Post-Truth World

2016 was certainly an unstable time in history. Even the way we use language to convey our collective fears about the state of society seems fractured.
Copenhagen

The Cozy Linguistics of Hygge and Other “Untranslatable” Words

Why English speakers love "hygge" and other "untranslatable" words about emotional states.
Double exposure image of woman, imagination concept

Synesthetic Adjectives Will Make You Eat Your Words

Fragrant. Sweet. Tangy. Certain synesthetic adjectives actually trigger cognitive simulations of eating.
Nasty Woman Mug

Bad Language for Nasty Women (and Other Gendered Insults)

Is it true that "nasty" is more likely to be applied to describe women than men?
Fresh vegetables salad on wooden table

The Nitty-Gritty on Reduplication: So Good, You Have to Say it Twice.

Reduplication is a widespread linguistic process in which a part or an exact copy of a word is repeated, often for morphological or syntactic reasons (but not always).
Parrot

What the Folk? The Charming Yet Totally Malappropriate Story of Folk Etymology

Etymology is a funny thing. Even if you're not a word nerd, you might have wondered why so many English idioms we use are Just. So. Weird.