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Chi Luu

Chi Luu is JSTOR Daily’s resident linguist. She 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.

Taylor Swift at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards

The Linguistic Evolution of Taylor Swift

If Taylor Swift shifts her accent in her transition from country to pop, does she lose the personal authenticity important to country music?

How to Meme What You Say

The linguistic theories behind what we're trying to say when we adapt and share internet memes.
George Floyd's image is projected on the Robert E. Lee Monument as people gather around on June 18, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia.

The Sorry State of Apologies

"Sorry" can be more than a mere word when it has real-world consequences.
Electric Fan

The Linguistic Case for Sh*t Hitting the Fan

Idioms have a special power to draw people together in a way that plain speech doesn't.
Children playing ring around the rosie

The Linguistics of Cooties (and Other Weird Things Kids Say)

The game of cooties lets children learn about the idea of contagion, but kid culture and wordplay aren't meant for adults.
Two face masks in front of some text about the COVID-19 virus

When Language Goes Viral

How do innocuous words become insidious in the face of a public health emergency?
3 boys hanging out outside laughing

Black English Matters

People who criticize African American Vernacular English don't see that it shares grammatical structures with more "prestigious" languages.
Young girls chant as activists rally for climate action at Sydney Town Hall on January 10, 2020 in Sydney, Australia.

The Linguistic Anatomy of a Political Firestorm

The prime minister of Australia has a background in marketing, but with the bush fire crisis, his manipulation of language is only getting him so far.
An angry mob in front of a computer screen

Cancel Culture Is Chaotic Good

Cancel culture may prove to be the most memorable linguistic trend of the past decade.
A man reading a newspaper with facebook reactions in a cloud around him

The Incredibly True Story of Fake Headlines

Are you still reading? Editors frequently use this space to include important contextual information about a news story.
A collection of Native American utensils and weapons

What We Lose When We Lose Indigenous Knowledge

By mistaking a culture's history for fantasy, or by disrespecting the wealth of indigenous knowledge, we're keeping up a Columbian, colonial tradition.
A laptop with a skull wearing a crown on its screen

The Life Changing Linguistics of… Nigerian Scam Emails

How do scammers use language to trick their victims?
Robin Williams In 'Dead Poets Society'

How “Carpe Diem” Got Lost in Translation

"Carpe Diem" doesn't actually mean "seize the day." The fact that we understand it that way suggests we are more traditional than we like to admit.
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.