Just got an e-mail from frequent commenter John Cowan with a worthy cause and a book offer:

The Dictionary of American Regional English is very
close to being canceled, unless they can get more money. See here for details.

I accidentally bought two copies of McWhorter’s Power of Babel.
I will send a hardback in very good condition to the first Hattic who
contacts me at, and I will pay postage.

On your marks, get set, go!


  1. marie-lucie says

    The Power of Babel is not like a textbook at all, although it teaches you a lot about language and linguistics. It is a fun to read, painless introduction for people with little or no training in linguistics. I have recommended it to a number of both linguist and non-linguist friends. Even if you personally know a lot about the field, the book is interesting and fun, and would make an excellent present for a friend who does not know much about the field. The cultural references (music, TV, etc) might be a bit dated for a teenager, but otherwise it can be enjoyed at any age. And here John Cowan is offering you a brand new hardback version, just the thing for a birthday present for yourself or someone else.
    Here is the first sentence (as I remember it): I first fell in love in kindergarten.

  2. Not actually brand-new: used, but in good shape.
    In any case, we have a winner: J. K. Denne’s teenage daughter, who is said to be fascinated with linguistics. May she read it in good health!

  3. jamessal says

    Good for J.K. Denne’s daughter! Who could possibly resent a teenager enthusiastic about linguistics for beating you to the punch? Not I! (Does she know what praeteritio means?)

  4. marie-lucie says

    Good for her!

  5. >to the first Hattic

  6. Would not “Hattite” be better?
    Heh. At first I read the suggestion as hattie and started to answer, simply, “No.”

  7. Hattic seems wrong. What are the alternatives? Hattite, Hattist, Hatter, Hatto, Hattie?

  8. Kári Tulinius says


  9. mollymooly says

    Hatters gonna hat.

  10. As I understand it, we are Hatters and Hat has Hattic powers.

  11. Hattict.

  12. Hattifnatt(ar).

  13. David Marjanović says

    Obligatory monthly reminder of the Hattic language.

  14. David Marjanović says

    Hatters gonna hat.


  15. Obligatory occasional reminder about the legend of the cruel Archbishop Hatto.

  16. “That was a real Languagehattori Hanzo!”

  17. As someone whose interest in linguistics does date back to his teens, I think THE POWER OF BABEL would be an excellent introduction to the topic for any adolescent or young adult. In fact, if J.K. Denne’s daughter has any further questions afterwards and posts them here, I for one would be more than happy to supply whatever answers I can.
    (And why do I have the odd impression that I will read her doctoral dissertation one day?)
    Jim: your “Languagehattori Hanzo” made me smile: cutting edge linguistics, not a doubt.

  18. No fair, Etienne! I saw her first! 🙂

  19. Trond Engen says

    I can trace my interest in linguistics pretty exactly: The linguistic world map in my father’s atlas, which I read to pieces before I was 10. But then, maybe not. I’ve come to see that my father must have read quite a lot of comparative linguistics when he was young, because he used to say outrageous things that I later found out were founded in linguistic evidence. And my grandfather, the self-educated farmer, once told me about his dream about studying the origins of the Norwegian language.
    Congratulations to the young lady. Well earned!

  20. When Kári Tulinius came up with Hattori, I assumed he was referring to the famous Japanese linguist Hattori Shirō — until Jim swept the field with Hattori Hanzō, of course!

  21. And if Etienne reads her dissertation, it will be because he is the last academic historical linguist still standing.

  22. marie-lucie says

    JC, the last academic historical linguist still standing
    I don’t like being faced with contemplating my demise. Yes, Etienne is much younger than I am.

  23. Sorry, m-l. But you are retired, if far from dead; you aren’t supervising theses still.

  24. marie-lucie says

    I forgive you, JC.

  25. Thank you. Actually, though, I note that Etienne said only “read”, not “supervise”, so your rebuke of me was justified.

  26. Maybe “(drug) hattic” could be what was meant?
    and I will pay postage — Even to Mars? I think there’s a spaceship every decade or so.

  27. David Marjanović says


    Wikipedia says he published in eight languages. I’m impressed.

  28. John Cowan says

    Almost 20 years have passed. I wonder what, if anything, has happened to J.K. Denne’s thirtysomething daughter?

  29. Almost 20 years have passed.

    For 20 read 10.

  30. David Eddyshaw says

    In my experience, teenagers fascinated by linguistics usually become ophthalmologists.

  31. John Cowan says

    Once upon a time, Mama Bat, Daddy Bat, and Baby Bat were hanging upside down in a nice warm cave. Baby Bat looked around and saw there were no other bats within eyesight or sonar range. “How nice it is,” said Baby Bat, “only the four of us here.”

    “Three, darling,” said Mama Bat.

    Baby Bat flew into a range. “You know very well I can’t count!”

  32. Hmm. If J.K. Denne’s daughter is now in her twenties, then the possibility exists that she is studying linguistics somewhere even as I type this. Or did she decide to study something else? Number theory? Classical Japanese swordsmanship? Film history? Or all (or some) of the above, perhaps? (Don’t laugh: I recently had a -brilliant- undergraduate student doing a double degree in Theater and the History of science, two subjects I normally would not associate with one another).

    Perhaps I will indeed read her doctoral dissertation someday, but I suppose it needn’t be on linguistics, or solely on linguistics…

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