Nineteen Years of Languagehat.

I’m shaking my head in disbelief as I write this: nineteen years! It started out as a goofy experiment — I was leaving comments on blogs, and bloggers were saying hey, why not blog, so I blogged — and I’ve kept soldiering on, even as almost all those early compadres have vanished into the mist, some to Facebook and some into the unknown (though I believe Squiffy-Marie “Des” von Bladet is still piginawigging away at Diaryland, wherever that is). As I do every year, I thank all those who drop by and participate in the ongoing conversation, without which the blog would be pointless (I have no desire to pontificate into thin air). I may well have learned more here than in grad school (I certainly remember more of what I’ve learned here), and I have no intention of stopping: next year (inshallah) the vicennial post!

Since I’m not planning to write separately about Trifonov’s posthumous novel Время и место [Time and place], I’ll just mention here that it was a great disappointment: considerably longer than the short novels that made his name, it is told by a self-centered narrator who talks about a self-centered writer who tries to write a novel about a writer writing a novel about a writer… Trifonov has fun mocking the self-reflexivity of it all, but the fact is that it doesn’t work, and in a way that makes me wonder about his place in the literary scheme of things. I get the impression he doesn’t care about people themselves so much as the moral quandaries people find themselves in, so he keeps introducing batches of new characters who get themselves into scrapes involving parents, lovers, teachers, and publishers; the situations might be interesting, but he gives us no reason to care about the people involved, so it becomes more and more tedious as the novel goes on. I was glad when it was over.

And for lagniappe, here’s a paragraph that tickled me from Lauren Collins’ New Yorker “Paris Postcard” interview with the French actress Camille Cottin:

Cottin spoke with a light British accent, a legacy of living in London as a teen-ager. After high school, she studied American and English literature at the Sorbonne; her thesis was on “Harry Potter.” She also taught English to teen-agers. “I was terrible,” she said. “I had all the seventeen-year-olds who were completely high on pot, so no one would ever answer any of my questions. It was like forty red-eyed rabbits just staring at me.” She added, “I didn’t want to say if I didn’t know something, because I would lose my credibility, so I started inventing words. One day, a girl says, ‘How do we say chirurgie esthétique?’” Cottin was stumped. “So I go, ‘Surgical aestheticism.’” She went home and looked it up in the dictionary, and the next day said to the student, “What I told you is the American way, but the English way is ‘plastic surgery.’”

C’est ça l’astuce! OK, time to go, à demain, same time same station, pip pip cheerio, don’t take any wooden nickels, and always look on the bright side of life!


  1. Bathrobe says

    I get the impression he doesn’t care about people themselves so much as the moral quandaries people find themselves in, so he keeps introducing batches of new characters who get themselves into scrapes involving parents, lovers, teachers, and publishers

    Sounds like Korean soaps, constantly inventing new twists and situations, except that Korean soap operas always manage to keep people engaged.

  2. David Eddyshaw says


  3. Llanfairpwllgwyngyll!

  4. Thanks for all these years of my wasting time on comments, which don’t feel like a waste of time at all.

  5. Happy Nineteen years!

    I had an English teacher who would ask the students to look up the words in the dictionary, if we asked how to say a word in English. Although I’m sure she knew most of them already.

  6. Onnitteluni!
    First time I catch one of these at a time where it still feels appropriate to cheer.

  7. Thanks for creating the best blog on the internet, Hat!

  8. Bathrobe says

    Well, I missed my chance to be the first to congratulate Hat.

    Nineteen years is an awful long time. I guess Hat was around 50 when he started; that’s a big slice of life (I’m too lazy to do the maths, but that’s well over a quarter of a lifetime). I first came on board around 2005 or 2006, which makes me one of the longest-running current commenters on the blog — John Emerson, and maybe a couple of others, go back even further, of course. So it’s alarming to sit here and think, “Yeah, it wasn’t too long ago I said that on LH” — like maybe, 2007! How time flies.

    I also stand in stunned admiration at Hat’s ability to post day-in day-out over such a period of time. I think it’s related to his generalist, humanistic view of language. Language and linguistics blogs can easily become inward-looking and specialised, reflecting the narrow interests of the writer in their own particular neck of the woods, and (perhaps) the quest to find a deeper (syntactic) proof of… something. Hat’s interests are broad and deeply and unfailingly engaging: literature, words, history, society, good writing, and of course that old perennial peevery. That is why it seems to attract a varied readership that helps to continually expand its horizons when other blogs keep churning around in the same old circles.

    Finally, I also stand in awe at Hat’s ability to throw out well-written posts almost at the drop of a hat. Very few of his posts feel as though they were dashed off in a hurry, although I expect that many were. It’s wonderful that words seem to flow so freely and effortlessly from Hat’s pen, making his posts almost always a pleasure to read and (more importantly) a temptation to respond to.

    One more year to 20 years of LanguageHat, and then to the next decade!

  9. David Eddyshaw says

    What Bathrobe said …

  10. Congratulations on 19 years of this, from one of your early readers, admirers, and fellow bloggers. It’s kind of…shocking. But on we go!

  11. Ah, Beth, always a delight to see you here! Yes, shocking, what a long strange trip it’s been, and I’m glad to have had your company (and even to have met you… seventeen years ago, bon Dieu!!).

  12. Congratulations on 19 years! 19 MORE! 19 MORE! 19 MORE!

  13. So two more years until your blog is legally allowed to have a beer in its country of residence… but I’ll raise my glass anyway. Prost!

  14. Nineteen years is one Metonic cycle, meaning today the Moon has (approximately) the same phase as when LH opened. To wit, about 50%, waning, but still gibbous. L’chaim!

  15. Indeed! And that’s the cycle of Jewish and Gregorian dates synchronizing: from the 22 of Av, 5762, to the 22 of Av, 5781. Happy Birthday! (q.v.)

  16. Van harte gefeliciteerd, Hat!

  17. The first posts of LH are now located at

  18. Congratulations!

  19. ktschwarz says

    You once proclaimed that Languagehat was your dissertation — by now it’s far more than that, it’s a life’s work.

    Approaching eight thousand open threads, almost all with substantial discussions, and all spam-free!

  20. I am often humbled by the knowledge displayed by you and the commenters, and have learned so much here. Многая літа!

  21. Many congratulations, many happy returns, and many, many thanks! You’ve built something beautiful and unique that embodies everything best about the internet.

  22. I must say, some of those early posts were a bit primitive and groping compared with the polished posts we are accustomed to now.

  23. Happy birthday! Here is a present for you.

  24. Ha, that’s hilarious — thanks!

  25. Trond Engen says


    Yesterday my wife and I drove from Trondheim, and we stayed for the night at AJP’s place in Asker with his wife and daughter. When I was asked about Languagehat at breakfast, I could tell that Languagehat the blog had just turned nineteen. Dyveke then told about how AJP a couple of times had decided that Internet took too much of his time. He stopped blogging, and later he also quit Facebook, but Hat and the Hattery always meant too much for him.

  26. Thanks, that’s very good to hear. I miss him and his presence here every day.

  27. מזלטאובֿ!
    ביז אַ הונדערט צװאַנציק!

  28. א גרויסן דאַנק!

  29. J.W. Brewer says

    Following up on Hans’ point that 19 may be thought young in some contexts even if old in other contexts, let me offer this text (admittedly not what you’d call “celebratory”) of potential linguistic interest — interest just insofar as it tends to require an annotated glossary (available via some googling) to make sense of all the lexical items even though it’s obviously sung in English. Some of the obscure-to-outsiders lexemes will be transparent to anyone Australian but others were in-group jargon that was a bit opaque to the median Australian which may in a complicated backhanded way have actually helped make the song a hit down there by adding a veneer of authenticity/specificity.

  30. John Emerson says

    I am totally impressed by Hat’s success in keeping this site alive, running, and peaceful duting that whole time.

    Others I remember from back in the day that are still going, without having been swallowed up by a nonprofit, include Eschaton ( and Unfogged (

  31. გილოცავ! Cheers to the next year!

  32. Გმადლობთ!

  33. All us kittens appreciate the 8,000 balls of yarn you’ve assembled and thrown us so tirelessly. Thank you again.

  34. Thanks for sticking with it all these years. Yours is usually the first blog I check each morning. I still far prefer blogs to FB and its ilk.

  35. Frank Gibbons says

    Congratulations Hat! I’ve been reading for an age, dropped a few comments over the years, but only when it seemed I could add something useful or interesting (this is a tough place to do that!) I wanted you to know how much I’ve enjoyed it over the years.

  36. Thanks for the kind words! And I value all Hatters, whatever the frequency of their comments. I can feel you all out there, reading and enjoying…

  37. jack morava says

    Borges says a writer creates his precursors, but a great blogger creates a community. Congratulations and props to S Dodson and friends, one of the liveliest and most vital places on the net.

  38. John Cowan says

    All us kittens appreciate the 8,000 balls of yarn

    I am certainly one of those hyperactive felines. But I feel I must point out that this is only post #7722.

  39. But some of the posts contain multiple balls of yarn.

  40. Garrigus Carraig says

    Nineteen years! How on earth?! Thanks for this near-unfathomable bounty!

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