Seventeen Years of Languagehat.

Seventeen years! Seems like just yesterday I was celebrating six months. When I started, blogs were still a happening thing (and in the first year of operation I was making erudite jokes about the fancy new word), but for quite some time now they’ve been a relic (hey, remember the first decade of the 21st century?); the cool kids moved on to Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Ghu knows what all. But I keep blogging along, and it’s not just because I’m stuck in the past (though it’s not not because I’m stuck in the past): I simply can’t see any of those shiny new venues as a replacement. Sure, you can put your thoughts (and pictures of meals, if that’s your thing) on any of them and get feedback, but all they are is dust in the wind — yesterday’s tweet or Facebook post isn’t even used to wrap fish before it’s forgotten (unless Facebook decides to show it to you in an unwanted anniversary slideshow). I know they’re not literally gone (the internet never forgets), you can retrieve an old tweet if you really want to, but how often do people do that unless they want to play gotcha?

Whereas as long as a blog is around and the comments are open, conversations can go on forever. People can respond to questions from a decade before, and I’m still getting comments on my very first post. I go back to old posts (there must be over 6,000 of them by now) and enjoy the dialogue, which sometimes sparks fresh thoughts. And of course LH is a substantial part of my intellectual history by now; losing it would be like losing a chunk of my brain. So my heartfelt thanks to all of you who have taken part in it over the years, and I hope you’ll continue to drop by for links, thoughts, jokes, et alia varia.


  1. Happy cicadan cycle, Hat! Here’s to 103 more years.
    Astounding to see you keep up so diligently for so long – earlier this month I asked my Dagesh Kal co-authors if they want to celebrate our decaversary and got mainly embarrassed replies about either our dormancy or the fact that I still celebrate blogging…

  2. A good moment to say thanks. You post a lot of good stuff.

    For myself, I prefer the blog format. There are still several blogs I read regularly, though yes, the energy has gone out of the format for the most part, and expiring blogs exceed new ones, sadly.

    Some have a few interesting comments now and then, but yours is by far the most active and interesting comment section. That’s also a tribute to both the quality of your posts that keep people coming back, and your ability to sustain a community.

  3. John Cowan says

    This blog feels to me very much like the tree-structured BBSes that I used to participate in heavily in the 1980s. Although there wasn’t a specific subject matter or someone committed to posting daily as is the case here, the comments were of much the same quality and the feeling of community was absolutely the same.

    Except for LH not being, like, tree-structured. But in those days, when transmission speeds were slow and everything was done TTY-style, it really wasn’t practical to display all the comments on a post at once, so each comment was itself a post with a menu of the titles of the immediate responses to it.

    There was even an analogue of the commented-on posts: the command # took you to the most recent post you had seen, and the command F moved you forward in time, thus jumping around the tree randomly but helping you to catch up with everything that was being written.. Reading the BBS this way was known, of course, as “effing and pounding”.

  4. John Cowan says

    I should mention that LH is now the only blog with both daily posts and comments that I now read. I just don’t have time or energy to keep up with the stream of comments anywhere else. But here, ah, here it’s all worth it.

  5. F-book and Tweeter are so much despised by just about everyone that cool kids are probably in the desperate search of something else. Or maybe they already found it, just not telling us.

    And of course, thanks LH for doing it.

  6. Jonathan Wright says

    I don’t often comment here, but on this special occasion I would like to say how much I have enjoyed following your thoughts over the years. Languagehat has been a part of my life – a small part of course, but certain a stimulating and enriching one. Thank you all

  7. David Marjanović says

    F-book and Tweeter are so much despised by just about everyone that cool kids are probably in the desperate search of something else. Or maybe they already found it, just not telling us.

    They haven’t. And they can’t, because these things are natural monopolies.

    I just spent half a minute wondering whether to even mention the death of Google+.

  8. Martin Langeveld says

    I think I’ve been reading and sometimes commenting for most of those 17 years. Here’s to many more!

  9. ə de vivre says

    Although I haven’t been commenting for all those years, and the frequency varies a lot, I’ve been reading el-hat since I was in high school. Occasionally I think about what a fixture this place has been in my somewhat chaotic life, and it never gets any less strange.

    Best content on the internet in quantity and quality!

  10. January First-of-May says

    F-book and Tweeter are so much despised by just about everyone that cool kids are probably in the desperate search of something else. Or maybe they already found it, just not telling us.

    It used to be Tumblr – right up until the porn-cancelling debacle a few months ago. I’m not sure what it would be now – the only option I could think of offhand is back to Twitter, but then I’m not particularly much of a cool kid, so I’m probably missing something obvious.

    I personally still remember the time when LiveJournal was a big thing (…in Russia, at least – everywhere else it went out of fashion back in the mid-oughties). I technically have a LJ myself, but nobody had commented on it since 2013 or so (my WordPress blog is more active, but not by much).

  11. Go mbeirimid beo ar an am seo arís.

  12. Bathrobe says

    My own site celebrated (or didn’t celebrate, to be more exact) its 19th anniversary last month. There is no community, alas (although I did meet a Vietnamese fan in Tokyo last month and a new contributor for Korean has come forward). And I got cold feet about blogging and dropped it about a year after I started. Anyway, I’ve read at some blogging software site that the comment function isn’t even necessary; just use Disqus.

    But to hell with all that! The thing that makes LanguageHat so special isn’t (just) the format, it’s the COMMUNITY. While membership has changed over the years, there are always people with insights into languages from all over: Europe (of course), the old Soviet Union, pre-European North America, the Middle East, Africa, East Asia, and (somewhat amusingly) Mongolia. I’m still waiting for a deeper pool of contributors on Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and pre-European Australia, but I’m sure there’s another “Lameen” or “David Eddyshaw” waiting out there to dazzle us with new insights. And it’s good to see young’uns contributing to the mix of views.

    I look forward to Languagehat continuing to charm, entertain, and educate lovers of language everywhere. Long Live Languagehat (LLL)!

  13. John Cowan says

    I tweet at @woldemar_avalon, but I don’t follow anyone or retweet anything.

  14. Stu Clayton says

    Except for LH not being, like, tree-structured.

    More rhizomatic, I suppose. But that term is so 80s. How time flytes.

  15. May I join with my congratulations and my thanks to our host. To me, this place is the equivalent to one of those 18th/19th century salons, where you went for stimulating conversation and for new ideas.

  16. Congratulations!

    I’m sure all would agree with me that LH has been part of our own intellectual histories, too. It’s astounding to think that I’ve been reading your blog for longer than I went to primary school–and with room to spare for the whole BA. And that’s not an accidentally unconscious comparison–how much have I learned from this site!

    Every day for 17 years…it’s not easy to be thankful enough for such a selfless labor of love, but my thanks you have, Hat.

  17. Time to hang a gilded “Est. 2002” sign at the top.

    I am looking at all the blogs on the left hand side of my RSS reader. Some have fallen by the wayside, some slowed down, some moved to Facebook (and then fell off or slowed down). The longevity, the personal approach, the anti-gimmickry, all keep me happy.

    I once thought of starting my own linguistics blog, inspired by Language Hat, but then realized I didn’t have near the endurance for it.

    It occurred to me I don’t remember how I first stumbled here. I remember how I found LinguistList even before then—that was through an actual printed directory to the internet—but I don’t remember how I found this place, or Language Log either.

  18. Congratulations and thank you. Perhaps Kottke competes, but LanguageHat certainly has to contend for greatest blog of all time, no?

  19. David Marjanović says

    Anyway, I’ve read at some blogging software site that the comment function isn’t even necessary; just use Disqus.

    Not only do I hate the very concept of these identity providers, but Disqus has a few really annoying bugs – paste anything into the comment window, and it’ll flood your comment with line breaks, for instance.

  20. Stu Clayton says

    # On October 6, 2017, Disqus announced that a snapshot of its database from 2012, containing 17.5 million users’ email addresses, login names and sign-up dates from between 2007-2012, had been exposed.[37] The data dump also included, for about a third of the affected accounts, passwords that had been salted and hashed with SHA1. #

    The cryptographic algorithm SHA1 is not secure.

    # All major web browser vendors ceased acceptance of SHA-1 SSL certificates in 2017.[8][9][10] In February 2017, CWI Amsterdam and Google announced they had performed a collision attack against SHA-1, publishing two dissimilar PDF files which produced the same SHA-1 hash.[#

  21. Stu Clayton says

    To ensure your data is safe, keep it tucked in your bra or underwear c’est selon.

  22. Trond Engen says

    Let me join the choir. I haven’t been here since the beginning, but I may very well stay to the end (whichever comes first).

    I first came here on a lead from the late sci.lang regular John Atkinson (whose knowledge of everything, but especially Australian and Bantu languages, in the hands of a lesser person, could have made Bathrobe cry for mercy). For a while I was to and fro, not really wanting to make a leap onto the Web, but in the end I couldn’t resist the steady stream of interesting and entertaining comment threads, and I found myself reading and commenting almost daily.

  23. Lars (the original one) says

    In re SHA-1, a collision attack is not the same as decryption, but it means that you can’t use the algorithm for digital signatures, and password hashes are essentially signatures. (A similar collision attack against the MD5 signature algorithm was used to create an unauthorized intermediate signing certificate for SSL back in the early days, aided by non-random serial number assigment).

    For the Disqus case it is still a weakness because it means you might be able to construct a password that will give the same hash and be accepted instead of the original one. There might be parameters that reduce the probability, however — if your password is limited to 12 ASCII characters, for instance, and the stored hash is 32 hex digits, it is very unlikely that you can find a different password that collides, but on the other hand it is much easier to do an exhaustive search on the password. (Google spent 110 GPU years to create one collision!)

  24. David Eddyshaw says


  25. Ha, I guessed that meant wànsuì even before googling! I’m afraid even I would run out of things to say in 10,000 years, but I appreciate the thought.

    it’s the COMMUNITY.

    Amen to that. If it were just me blathering into the void, I’d have given it up years ago.

    I’m still waiting for a deeper pool of contributors on Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, and pre-European Australia

    We used to have zizka/John Emerson for Central Asia, but he’s moved to Facebook (and politics), alas. Maybe he’ll return when politics gets a little less crazy. Anyway, yes, I second your desire.

  26. Ура! I, too, stand by the blog format — my blog is essentially my mental file cabinet. And yours has been handy for me, too: more than once I’ve searched unusual words and phrases while translating and found helpful information at!

  27. Remembering when…. and happy to congratulate you on seventeen years. And conveying my best wishes for all those to come…

  28. Kinkikot awuk’! LanguageHat-ს გაგვიმარჯოს!

    I wish I could remember when I started reading LanguageHat, but I think I blocked the exact date from my memory after a professor I had at the time commented after my first comment here, correcting me.

    So this is not just thanks and congratulations to you, Hat, but to all of the other commenters who have expanded my horizons and made me very thankful I never got into Russian literature.)))

  29. Oh, wow, so I’ve been reading you since nearly the beginning. And I’m still blogging away as well, in my own small way. Happy Blogiversary.

  30. January First-of-May says

    As far as I can tell, I first discovered Language Hat in late February or early March of 2016; the earliest comments by me that I could find are from March 3, 2016.
    Chances are that I’ve discovered it through some early Language Log article, in preparation for the Language Log Twelve Years Later project (which was an extensive undertaking that didn’t even make it to a tenth of a percent of its planned run – I considered reviving it, but wasn’t sure what to do with the long-obsolete title).

    I feel quite sad that I did not have the opportunity to discover LH years ago, upon checking early Language Log articles in, say, 2010 or 2007. (I’m not actually sure whether I was checking early Language Log articles in 2007, though I think I did in 2010.)

    The blog that I still regularly check the longest, and that had been reasonably frequently posted in over that period, remains Leonid Kaganov’s; I’m not sure how far back does my regular checking of it go, but I was definitely already reading it back when Medvedev was still president.
    I’ve been a regular reader on some websites since back when Medvedev wasn’t president yet, though I don’t think any of those were frequently updated blogs.

    (The longest consistent run I could trace dated back to December 2004, on a website that went on an indefinite hiatus three weeks ago; the oldest remaining is probably Absurdopedia, which I started reading in December 2006 and officially joined in May 2007, though I’ve only visited it very sporadically over the last few years.)

  31. David Marjanović says

    I’m afraid even I would run out of things to say in 10,000 years

    Try to imagine how much language change you could witness during that much time. 🙂

    But if you prefer… 九千歲!

  32. ə de vivre says

    ???????? ???????? ???????? ????????????!

  33. And if 만세 is too much, then να τα εκατοστήσεις!

    Matured for a minimum of 17 years, Chateau de Lacquy’s XO is a blend of 60% Baco, 30% Ugni Blanc and 10% Colombard. This is a complex and creamy Armagnac with notes of vanilla and spice.

  34. Congratulations! & no end of thanks. The thrills here are thrills indeed.

  35. I sometimes find a blog devoted to a subject I’m interested in, and read the entire archive, post-by-post.

    Curious whether anyone else here ever does that?

  36. David Marjanović says

    I did that with 2 webcomics that I eventually lost track of, sadly.

    Edit: yes, I’m pretty sure I’ve done that with blogs with smaller archives.

  37. Trond Engen says

    I do that if the subject is interesting and the corpus is manageable, but mostly not as a deliberate project. I just read backwards, post by post, until there are no more.

    For web comics and web novels I start from the beginning, though.

  38. January First-of-May says

    I do that if the subject is interesting and the corpus is manageable, but mostly not as a deliberate project. I just read backwards, post by post, until there are no more.

    I usually don’t know in advance when doing that whether the corpus is manageable (so sometimes I stop partway through when I realize that it isn’t), and I tend to read from the beginning when it’s a deliberate project (few of those actually finish unless the corpus actually is quite short).

    One big “read backwards, post by post” project that I did end up finishing was Hellenisteukontos (followed by its sister blog Opuculuklar), though that was a special case after I did my usual “open new tabs for anything interesting” round on my father’s computer and ended up with a clearly unmanageable mess of 200+ tabs for the same blog. As I recall, the project took me several months.

  39. Stu Clayton says

    加油 !

  40. Heh.


    No link for that. It’s my own coinage, by reading がんばれ (ganbare) backwards.

  41. Ксёнѕ Фаўст says

    One of the greatest places online to talk about linguistics and other humanist topics. And mannerly, too, unlike some other places, forums I know, which became dominated by attentive nutbags and/or overly influenced by vulgar chan ‘culture’.

    As one Fryderyk Niecki would say, happy eternal return!

  42. J.W. Brewer says

    It is sobering to think that this blog will be old enough to vote by Election Day in 2020, but I would encourage it to keep focused most of the time on the non-political topics it enjoys that are perhaps of greater ultimate value for human flourishing sub specie aeternitatis. Plus if it wanted to vote I presume it would have to do so in Massachusetts which is so unlikely to be a swing state that it’s an excellent opportunity for the pure expressivism of voting for a wacky third-party candidate or strategically abstaining.

  43. Trond Engen says

    One big “read backwards, post by post” project that I did end up finishing was Hellenisteukontos

    Yes, me too. Also several other blogs on the Language Hat sidebar including Lameen’s Jabal al-Lughat and more recently The Untranslated. Outside of the sidebar, but following leads from here, e.g. Magnus Pharao Hansen’s Nawatl Scholar last year.

    On most blogs, however exciting, I’ve never taken the step from lurking to participating, usually because the commenting interface puts me off, and if I don’t participate I eventually lose track, just like back in school. So thanks for making it easy for us too!

  44. My pleasure! I hate complex interfaces too, so I try to make it as easy as possible.

  45. David Marjanović says

    the non-political topics it enjoys that are perhaps of greater ultimate value for human flourishing sub specie aeternitatis

    Well, sub specie geologiae nothing but climate policy matters for human flourishing anymore. We have 410 ppm CO₂ in the air now; do you have any idea how horrifying this is? We haven’t had that much in 10 million years, perhaps 20, perhaps 55. We already have the warmest temperatures of the last 110,000 years, soon we’ll have the warmest of the last 420,000, and more is in store; the rise of CO₂ and temperature is faster, IIRC 10 times faster, than it was at the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum 55 million years ago (when an enormous amount of methane bubbled up from somewhere… like it’s doing out of the melting permafrost now). If we continue to fuck this up, there will be no more human flourishing. There will be floods and storms and famines and tropical diseases worldwide, and good luck evacuating Bangladesh.

    But that doesn’t mean we have to discuss climate policy here. We can do that elsewhere. We can also walk and chew gum at the same time. I’m neither a politician nor a climatologist by soon-to-be-paid day job myself, and I just finished reading a thesis on the history and prehistory of heteroclite nouns in Germanic…

  46. Trond Engen says

    soon-to-be-paid day job

    Is this when we congratulate?

    a thesis on the history and prehistory of heterocline nouns in Germanic…

    Now I’m intrigued. Is this relevant to the discussion of be and *wes-?

  47. David Marjanović says

    Is this when we congratulate?

    Kinda. It’s a 6-month grant that will pay my rent. 🙂

    Is this relevant to the discussion of be and *wes-?

    No. It’s about fire and water and sun and Brunnen (“well”, earlier “spring”) and Scheune (“barn”).

  48. Congratulations on this milestone – I’m glad you’re here!

  49. Trond Engen says

    It’s a 6-month grant

    Then I’ll congratulate for six months. Extension will be given as conditions allow.


    Yeah, sorry. I just noticed you said “nouns”.

  50. ألف مبروك, and keep it up! For me, this site remains one of the hubs of the web.


  1. […] on the heels of Languagehat’s seventeenth birthday! Steve marked that grand occasion with a moving entry, in which he reaffirmed his commitment to the blog format, despite the fact that it has “for […]

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