linguist humour

Who would have believed that the perfect Wikipedia photo caption could have been improved on? (Alan Ferrier on twitter)

I love this as an example of Gricean humour. Grice’s Maxims say to only say things that are relevant (i.e. interpret everything someone says as if it adds relevant information to the conversation). In this case, the caption is “improved” by adding (right) after the name of the bagpiper. In many photo captions, (left) or (right) is used to tell us which of several similar-looking people the caption is about. If there were several bagpipers or even humans, (right) would be a neutral, informative information. 

But here, the only entities in the photo are Piper Kerr and the indifferent penguin. It’s very easy to tell the difference between them. So adding (right) brings with it the absurd interpretation that (right) is relevant information, i.e. that the piper and the penguin are hard to tell apart. 


Ling & Lang Bingo sets — how to play:

Multiplayer version:

Each player gets a randomly selected piece of popular journalism dealing with language(s), linguistics, or linguists. Taking turns, you could read one paragraph each, everyone crossing off what they think they detected in the presented passages. The first one to complete a row (horizontal, vertical, diagonal) shouts “Bingo!” and wins.

Note: Of course one should rearrange the table cells, otherwise there’d be multiple winners. (Do some actual copying and pasting if necessary.)

Solitaire version:

Grab yourself a news article on ling & lang or listen to anyone from outside linguistics talk about ling & lang. Make sure you only yell “Bingo!” if that doesn’t get you expelled from a lecture.

Pro tip:

If you want to make the game a little bit harder, do the same with scholarly articles.

  • Romans: *steal the Greek Gods, only change the names*
  • Greeks: As artists who respect creative integrity and intellectual property, we are disgusted at how much you’ve copied. From the hair to the suit, do you not have any value for respect for originality? You’re a laughing stock. It’s cheesy, it’s disgusting, we personally found it artistically atrocious.
If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.
—  Nelson Mandela