Two fine new additions to the internet:
1) The Snowclones Database. Erin O’Connor, a grad student in computational linguistics, has set up a site “inspired primarily by Mark Liberman et al’s Language Log and Chris Weigl’s Eggcorn Database.” As she says:

A snowclone is a particular kind of cliche, popularly originated by Geoff Pullum. The name comes from Dr. Pullum’s much-maligned “If Eskimos have N words for snow, X surely have Y words for Z”. An easier example might be “X is the new Y.” The short definition of this neologism might be n. fill-in-the-blank headline.

There are only a few up now, but “at least 30 more… queued up to be posted”; comments are open, and she’s taking suggestions.
2) Glottopedia “is a freely editable encyclopedia for linguists by linguists that is currently being built up. It will contain dictionary articles on all technical terms of linguistics and is multilingual. In addition, there are survey articles, biographical articles und language articles, potentially on all linguists and all languages.” The editors-in-chief are Martin Haspelmath and Sven Naumann, and they want your contribution (you must sign in with “your real name, or an abbreviation of it, not a pseudonym”). A great idea, and I wish it every success. (Via Anggarrgoon.)


  1. À propos of 2), during this year’s Fund Drive, the Linguist List was collecting money for improving linguistics coverage in Wikipedia.

  2. The Witch says

    What a wonderful thing that snowclone database is! I wish I could send the link around to our entire newsroom describing it as “a list of things to avoid when you write.” Thanks for finding it… and I’m sure glad i found your blog!

  3. “A snowclone is a particular kind of cliche, popularly originated by Geoff Pullum.“
    One can blame Geoff Pullum for many things, but I don’t think one should blame him for originating the many clichés for which he coined the name snowclone

  4. John Emerson says

    The Wiki project is really commendable. I wish other academic specialties had as good an attitude. I have found Wiki to be a tremendous resource.

  5. Yeah, I recently discovered there was hardly anything available in English on Ivan Shmelev, a pretty important Russian writer in the early 20th century, so I put together a Wikipedia article on him, and now when you google his name it’s the second hit. I love the ability to add to human knowledge so directly.

  6. Our host has gone mad with power!
    Specialists adding to Wikipedia is great, but you hear so many stories about such projects being reverted, deleted and otherwise ruined by ill-informed folks abusing (consciously or otherwise) the Wiki system. The idea of separate, specialist Wikis, that can set their own rules, have editors who can make informed judgments, etc., sounds much more promising.
    (Of course, the great thing is that we get to have both, freely and instantaneously accessible to anyone with an Internet connection or a phone less than 5 years old.)

  7. you hear so many stories
    I don’t think it’s very sensible to allow your life to be ruled by the stories you hear. Yes, I’ve heard those stories too, and I’m sure some dumb things have happened, particularly in articles on hot-button topics, but I’ve never actually had a single problem in all the articles I’ve worked on, and I strongly suspect the stories represent a tiny subsection of the Wikipedia Experience. If you’ve actually suffered from Wikidom, that’s one thing, but third-hand outrage is too wispy for me.

  8. Eh, I’m not exactly ruled by fear on this. I use Wikipedia all the time, and I think it’s the bomb. (I re-learnt most of my college math there.) I’m glad to hear that academics/specialists are starting to organize their presence there, because it is usually the first Google hit. But I’m also glad to hear about efforts like Glottopedia, because they will presumably become valuable information sources too.
    Like I said, since it’s all free on the Internet, we don’t have to choose. We get it all at the same time.

  9. My experience has been that historic national questions get the most tampering. Great figures of the past are often claimed by more than one nation, successful past nations are claimed by several contemporary nations, and so on.
    Probably religious and ideological subjects get equal tampering, but I don’t follow them as much.
    Many articles are somewhat incoherent because both sides were allowed to say their piece.
    However, Wiki is an incredible resource which just needs critical reading. It’s not unique in this respect; for example, as far as I’m concerned the standard philosophical dictionaries are all wrong.

  10. I’ve dabbled with editing Wikipedia (not the language sections) and I’ve found if you cite the material you add from reliable published sources, people tend to leave it alone. “Religious and ideological subjects” are indeed the most contentious – and least trustworthy – areas. You could spend your entire waking life arguing with “POV warriors” if you wanted. Obviously, you get cranks (usually to be found haunting the talk pages of articles) and the modern equivalents of Goropius Becanus are fatally attracted to the linguistic pages (see “Talk:Armenian language” for example), but mostly they get driven off by the saner users.

  11. David Marjanović says

    Fortunately, most languages are simply too obscure for potential Becky Award nominees, and are therefore left alone. Even on talk pages like those of “Nostratic languages” and “Altaic languages” the actual crankery is limited.

  12. Andrew Dunbar says

    Don’t forget the UniLang Wiki mentioned here 2.5 years ago.

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