I have to admit it surprises me this thing is still going after three years of near-daily posting. If I were simply talking to myself, I’d have given it up long ago; it’s the feedback that makes me want to continue, so let me repeat what I said in my first anniversary post:

People occasionally apologize for intruding on my time or say they don’t know enough to comment; I want to make it clear that I welcome everyone with an interest in the things I write about, whether they have any prior knowledge or not, and I love answering questions I get in e-mails—if your message comes at a busy time, I may take a while to get around to it, but I will answer it. And, of course, if you have an interesting link to pass along or a subject you’d like to hear about, let me know; I’m always on the lookout for new topics!

I thank all those I thanked there, and I note with pleasure that since the second anniversary the number of countries from which I’ve had visitors has grown from 120 to 150 (hello, Tonga and Ethiopia!). I quoted Pound (the end of Canto IV) in that first anniversary post; this time I’ll quote him (in Canto CIX) quoting Coke:

Si nomina nescis perit rerum cognitio.
[If you don’t know names the knowledge of things perishes.]

Well, actually, he’s slightly misquoting Coke, who said (in Coke upon Littleton 86) “nomina si nescis perit cognitio rerum.” (If you know not the names of things, the knowledge of things themselves perishes.) But if you googled that to try to find out who said it, you’d be convinced it was Linnaeus, because that’s what virtually every hit tells you; only the Bouvier Law Dictionary (1856) gives the proper attribution. (I imagine Linnaeus said it too, but he lived over a century after Coke.) So be careful out there on the internet, folks, and double-check everything you read, even if you read it here.

Addendum. I thank everyone for their kind (and frequently multilingual) comments, and an amusing one by MM reminded me that it might be a good idea to point out, for those who don’t know, that the family name Coke, as in the Sir Edward Coke quoted above, is pronounced like the word cook and not like the word coke. Amend your puns accordingly. Also, as long as I mentioned Linnaeus, I might as well debunk the myth that his real name was von Linné. His father’s name was Nils Linnaeus and he was born Carl Linnaeus; he took the name von Linné when he was admitted to the aristocracy. Amend your cocktail-party chatter accordingly. (What, they don’t talk about Linnaeus at the cocktail parties you attend? Pfft.)


  1. Greetings LanguageHat :)!!

  2. Felice triennium!

  3. Si nomina nescis perit rerum cognitio.
    We might also think of Confucius and the rectification of names, ugye?
    “If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”
    Hats off to Languagehat!

  4. Gongxi!Gongxi!

  5. John Emerson says

    Congrats! You are indispensable!

  6. Congratulations and felicitations on one of the very best, most informative, most compulsively readable, most illuminating blogs on any of the Internets. And I say that with all sincerity.

  7. Kol hakavod!

  8. Kudos and huzzah on the anniversary!

  9. Congrats and bravo, Hat! You do not now, and probably never will, cease to impress.

  10. Congratulations! May your weblog continue to enlighten and entertain us for many years to come.

  11. Hats off!
    A German made a joke in a talk at our school once. He was talking about the importance of background studies for learning languages, and he produced the sentence, ‘He picked up his Coke from the table’. I didn’t like to tell him it doesn’t work in English.

  12. Congrats!

  13. Congratulations. 3 years in blogging is an eternity…

  14. Congrats. Really great blog you got here.

  15. Joyeux anniversaire, et merci !

  16. Herzlichen Glückwunsch, O verehrter Language Hat!
    Dir zu Ehren habe ich einen Hut aufgesetzt, während ich diesen Kommentar mit meinen besten Wünschen sende.
    (Oui, moi aussi, des chapeaux, j’en raffole.)
    Et voici une belle fleur estivale, prise en photo par une amie dans un pays multilingue.

  17. זאָלסט ווײַטער גיין מחיל לחיל.

  18. Congratulations, LH. May you have another three years of daily blogging.

  19. Yay! Wish you many more.

  20. snarkyshoggoff says

    Wait a minute.. I’ve been enjoying your various links, comments and suchlike over on Meta for years and had no idea you had your own website.
    What’s wrong with this picture?
    Congrats on the three year mark. Now that I know it’s here I’ll be making a point to come read you regularly.

  21. OK, Zackary, I’m going to have to have to ask you to translate. My Weinreich dictionary didn’t help, nor did Google:
    “Your search – מחיל לחיל – did not match any documents.”
    And thanks, everybody!

  22. Oh, and Zackary: happy blogiversary to you, too!

  23. aldiboronti says

    Congratulations, lh. I doff my hat to you (albeit figuratively.)

  24. Congratulations. You’re an inspiration.

  25. Whipperblogsnapper!

  26. elessorn says


  27. 3 years yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada ten thousand years yada yada yada yada yada yada yada yada!
    The Japanese express the basic, important ideas in Chinese, the language for important stuff, but leave their weird cultural stuff in their own unintelligible script. It saves the rest of us a lot of time. I imagine it was all politeness talk.

  28. Jimmy Ho says

    I make serious efforts myself to reduce the Chinese-biased reaction toward Japanese, but unless I ever go to Japan and experience it as an everyday spoken language, I will always read it spontaneously as “san zhounian omedetô gozaimasu! Rangejji Hatto wansui!” etc.
    Three: Earth-Heaven-Human 天地人
    Or Three (Sangeng 三更, “Around Midnight”), a collection of short ghost stories from three different East Asian countries (the Korean and Chinese ones are great; the intermediate Thai one not so much; too exotified for my taste).
    May you keep it on for the myriads of years to come! You already know how important your site has been and still is for me.
    [This gives me an opportunity to drop a link that might be entertaining for maybe an entire minute; this song (direct -and legal- MP3 link) by Greek-Canadian rapper BZ Jam (light nudity warning here), et al., features five European languages besides English; BZ has a very “mangiko” accent (suits the genre if his influence is West Coast) and a particular grammar (see his genitive à la Solomos: “Amerika, i hora tou meli”); I give him props for keeping it real with the glossa so far from the patrida, but I could do without the vulgarity he displays in the other songs.]

  29. Jimmy Ho says

    By the way, I remember reading you saying you like Cavafy, which was most pleasant to me, since he is one of my dearest poets (if not the first of them).
    I wonder if you know an article by Etiemble (who drew French Comparative Literature out of its closeted regionalism in the Fifties) titled “Sur quelques traductions de Cavafis” (collected in Poètes ou faiseurs ?, the fourth tome of his “Hygiène des Lettres”, Paris: Gallimard, 1966). It is an awesome work on translation, Sprachgefühl and poetry, all through a single Cavafy poem (Keria). As an aside, it also reconciled me with French culture and poetry (I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with both).
    I was thinking about scanning it for myself; I will send it to you as soon as it is done.

  30. Please do, and thanks!

  31. Congratulations.

  32. LH, I sent you the first files (at your GMail account). I am afraid they are a bit heavy, so I hope they won’t be sent to the spasm file.

  33. It probably won’t work for everyone, but my affection for the French, already pretty OK, increased even more when I started thinking of them as Frankish.

  34. Always a great read! Thanks for all the work you put into this brilliant blog.

  35. To Jimmy Ho:
    So, so true. I’ve been here in Japan for long enough that I’ve flipped the other way and spontaneously now read characters as Kanji rather than Hanzi, but every now and then a word used far more in Chinese than in Japanese will stir up ghosts of my once better Mandarin. The other day I saw 平常 and immediately read it as pingchang. It absoutely made my day.

  36. Michael Farris says

    on 3: “a collection of short ghost stories from three different East Asian countries (the Korean and Chinese ones are great; the intermediate Thai one not so much; too exotified for my taste”
    Recntly saw this.
    I’d say the Chinese one (set in Hong Kong? in Mandarin?) is great and the only one with any emotional depth.
    The Korean one was just too slow for me (and too predictable) and the Thai one just didn’t make that much sense (even the Thai person that leant me the dvd thought so), despite some great visuals).
    My impression (based on this movie and another Thai ghost movie) is that unlike Japanese ghosts who have an unconditional isatiable grudge toward the living*, Thai ghosts are obsessive compulsives with their own agendas (which may or may not collide with the plans of the living).
    *A Japanese colleague was surprised when I told her of one kind of American movie ghost, who needs the help of the living to carry out a plan/achieve justice/deliver a message but who’s not dangerous once the plan is carried out/justice is achieved/ the message is delivered.

  37. Happy blogday!

  38. Gratulerer med dagen!

  39. Happy to have you on top of my daily rounds’ list.
    (And has been happy for 3 yrs).
    Happy anniversary to you, LH!

  40. Huge congratulations, and I hope the blog remains rewarding for you. There’s very little out there that I enjoy reading remotely as much, and I suspect that, indeed from the earlier comments here I know that, I’m far from being alone in this 🙂 .

  41. Congratulations! Sorry I’m late with this.
    Back in the old days, the Japanese expressed (most of) the politeness with Chinese characters too. The result was gibberish, of course:

  42. Sorry! May you go “mekhayil lekhayil” – from strength to strength. Maybe you’d spell it מחייל לחייל.

  43. Ah, thanks! Weinreich lets me down here; he has חייל only as ‘army, troops.’

  44. Grimaldi and Engel, in the Evolution of Insects cite the “Nomina si nescis, perit et cognitio rerum” as adapted by Linneaus from ‘Isidore of Seville’s (ca. A.D. 560-536: Patron Saint of Students) phrase, ‘Nisi enim nomen scieris, cognitio rerum perit’, in his Origines seu Etymoligiae: Liber I.
    I just happened to be looking for some quotes for our large collection of biological names.

  45. Well, somebody adapted it from Isidore, but it couldn’t have been Linnaeus, since he uses the same wording as Coke a century earlier; I doubt he got it from Coke, though, so presumably they both got it from some intermediate source. If I were Robert K. Merton, I’d do some thorough investigation and write a book about it. But I’m not, so I’ll just hope someone else does the spadework. Thanks for the information!

  46. ¡Feliz cumpleaños!

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