Thirteen years ago today, I became a blogger (ugh, I know, right?). It was the last year or so of the great Age of Bloggers, now lost to history. I had just started on the tenure track at my current place, Wayne State University, and thought to myself, “Clearly a tenure-track job will give me lots of time to randomly disseminate my thoughts about the world and academia!” Well. And yet here we are, thirteen years to the day after Front matter. When my first book (Numerical Notation) came out in 2010, I decided to mention Glossographia in my author blurb – and even then I thought to myself, will anyone ever remember this blog, or even blogs in general, in fifty or eighty or a hundred years when someone (???) pulls my book off a shelf in a library (???). Maybe not. And certainly some of the material is dated. But Teaching linguistic anthropology as integrative science – a post from the very first week of the blog’s existence – still embodies much of the way I think about stuff, and I still teach some of those same articles now – in fact I think I’m teaching d’Andrade’s ‘Cultural Darwinism and language’ (2002) this week. I don’t post here as much as I could or should, not anymore, but we’re not dead yet! Happy birthday, Glossographia. You’ve seen me through one pandemic, two promotions, three books, thousands of students and colleagues both online and in the elusive “in person” I’ve heard so much about. Here’s to thirteen more.


I’m not quite sure whether a blog that has been in existence for six years can qualify as having a ‘retro’ period.  But I spit on fascist definitions of retro!  Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@schrisomalis) may see, over the next couple of months, some tweets to old Glossographia posts (at least a couple years old) that didn’t get (in my not-so-humble view) enough attention when I wrote them.   I’ll note the year in the new tweet. If you don’t follow me on Twitter / don’t care about Twitter / regard Twitter as the spawn of some ineffable entity, then you won’t notice anything.

A new look

As you will see (at least, if you view the site on the WordPress page as opposed to on an aggregator or somewhere else), I have changed the theme and layout for the site.   Hope you like it – any theme is going to have its advantages and disadvantages.   Frankly I was getting annoyed at the small text size and plainness of the old theme, which had been around since the blog’s inception in 2008.  This one has larger text and is more modern, and the main headings are larger and clearer (now at the left sidebar).    Comments and criticisms are welcome, bearing in mind that this is a free WordPress site so my options are somewhat limited.

Up and at them!

Well, here we are again at the first day of classes (for me) at Wayne State.  This year my Language and Culture undergraduate class will be following and reading my blog posts here as part of our in-class discussions, and material from here will also end up on their final take-home exam.   So we may see comments and questions here from some newcomers from my undergrad class, who have no prior background in anthropology, linguistics, or both, and any of your comments and questions may show up as discussion fodder in my classroom.  Your kindness in the spirit of pedagogy is appreciated – thanks in advance.

It’s also the first week for a lot of new graduate students, both here at Wayne State and across the country, in all sorts of fields.  So, in the interest of spreading the word, here’s a great article, ‘The Ten Commandments of Graduate School‘, that deserves a careful read not only by students, but their mentors as well.

Phrontistic revisions

For those of you who may not know, I run a sister site to this blog, The Phrontistery, which in one form or another has been around since 1996, and which features an online dictionary of rare words, glossaries on various topics, and other language-related resources.  While the site has been more or less dormant for a few years – mostly I’ve just been keeping the place tidy without adding any new content, I’ve had a slow(ish) summer and so took the opportunity to get things up and running smoothly there again, with a bunch of new content and a new site layout.     Over the years I’ve given a lot of thought to somehow combining the two sites, e.g., by moving Glossographia over there or something, but I’ve never had the energy to figure out how difficult that would be.   Let me know if you think that would be a terrible (or great) idea, in which case I don’t have to think about it any more.


Yesterday, my post, Cistercian number magic of the Boy Scouts, was the 200th post on Glossographia since its inception.

Today, around 8:45pm EDT (roughly 15 minutes ago as I write), some lucky visitor to the site rolled over the odometer, marking 100,000 views of the site all-time.

In honour of these milestones, here is a an actual milestone, from Thanjavur (Tanjore), Tamil Nadu, India, which features the numerals ’14’ and ‘8’ in both Tamil and Western numerals.


Revisiting some old favourites

For whatever reason, I have a fairly large number of newly arrived readers here at Glossographia.    The blog has in fact been around for nearly five years; I started it when I was newly arrived on the tenure track at Wayne State and now I’m just about to go up for tenure in the coming academic year.  How the time flies.  Anyway, for those of you who may be new around here, I’ve put together a list of my top ten favourite posts from the past half-decade (in no particular order):

– In A feisty embuggerance, I highlighted one of the most ridiculous automatic citation difficulties imaginable, direct from Google Scholar (and still uncorrected!) (2009/10/21)

– In A typology of quotation marks, I showed that “what” we do with “quotation marks” is both complicated and “linguistic”. (2009/09/26)

– In Is the Phaistos Disk a phony?, I evaluate a controversial hypothesis while showing how experts in writing systems go about evaluating new hypotheses. (2008/09/14)

– In To grad or not to grad, I enter the growing discussion about how students should decide whether to go to grad school in the humanities and social sciences. (2009/03/27)

Anthropology’s thumb: is linguistic anthropology vestigial or opposable? was written as a lecture to senior WSU undergraduates as part of their capstone course in four-field anthropology. (2010/01/25)

– In Hyperdiffusionist Civil War history, I dissect the transatlantic long-range diffusion arguments of one archaeologist, and (apparently) annoy the essayist Errol Morris who wrote the article I criticize. (2009/04/05)

‘Chairperson’ and English lexiculture started as a student exercise in my undergraduate linguistic anthropology class and turned into an excursion into the history of gendered terms of authority. (2010/06/28)

– In Reference letters: a letter-writer’s views, I discuss my process for writing (and reading) reference letters for students applying to postgraduate programs. (2009/02/09)

– In Pseudo-writing at the zoo, I turn a family outing into an opportunity to think comparatively about texts that have the appearance of writing without any linguistic content. (2011/03/18)

Juvenile ethnopaleography is a satirical analysis of one of my son Arthur’s earliest and more interesting written productions, with insights from the history of number systems. (2010/02/06)


Blogroll update

I’ve just completed a thorough housekeeping of my blogroll (‘Other Sites’ to the right), deleting sites that are apparently defunct and adding some new ones that have come to my attention.     If I’ve deleted something in error, please let me know – sometimes it’s hard to know the difference between a long hiatus and stopping entirely (as I know all too well).    And, of course, I always welcome suggestions for new blogs focused on linguistics, anthropology, archaeology, the history of science, etc.

New blog: The Alien Commuter

I’ve started a new blog, The Alien Commuter. It’s a very different sort of place than this place, focused on my life as a Canadian living in Canada and commuting to work in the United States in the international city of Detroit. It might have some scholarly or academic content from time to time, but it’s more ethnographic, more personal, and more thoroughly North American in its anthropological focus. As always, comments are welcome.

More-on-nymous blogging

(but hopefully not ‘moronymous’ …)

Today in the New York Times there is an interesting article relevant to my previous post on pseudonymity in blogging, ‘The Outing of Publius‘. It bears directly on issues relating to identity, contrasting pseudonymity (which inevitably create an online identity that contains elements of the author’s ‘own’) with anonymity (which may, or so it is argued, be used to shield oneself from criticism of one’s opinions).