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December 16, 2022

Cute Linguistics Gifts

I find the holiday gift-giving season very stressful (and societally-mandated seasonal gift-giving in general). After watching several YouTube videos on gifts for specialized hobbies, I wondered what kind of linguistics gifts you could give someone. It's not a very materially-focused hobby, after all. So here's an attempt at something you could conceivably gift someone who likes linguistics which they could enjoy. None of these links are sponsored (though if that sort of thing doesn't bother you, let me know - I'm not against getting some kind of actual revenue efrom this blog).


For the aspiring historical linguist in your life, "The Story of Our Language" by Henry Alexander is old (1960s), but is an accessible introduction to how modern English developed from Old English. It can be purchased very cheaply on the secondhand market.

"Introducing Linguistics: A Graphic Guide" is a wonderful little intro that covers multiple subfields of linguistics and is pocket-sized.

"Language Myths" by Laurie Bauer and Peter Trudgill covers a variety of Linguistics 101 topics and myths like "In the Appalachians They Speak Like Shakespeare", "Maori is an inferior language because you cannot use it to discuss astrophysics," "kids are ruining English."

John McWhorter's linguistics books tend to be aimed at a broad audience. Of the ones I've read, the closest I can think of relating to historical linguistics is "Words on the Move: Why English Won't—and Can't—Sit Still (Like, Literally)". I think it covers some aspects of language change.

Deep in Linguistics Sauce

Lingthusiasm is a podcast focused on linguistics. You can gift someone in your life a subscription to Lingthusiasm, if you know they're a podcast type. If you're not into podcasts, they still have you covered with linguistics paraphernalia. I own the 'liquids for your liquids' bottle. It's a simple, lightweight aluminum watter bottle with no fancy features, but the people at work always ask me what the symbols mean, and then I get to explain liquids to everyone. There's also one with glottal consonants on it, if those are more your style. I also have the mask, but I would not recommend it as a serious COVID mask - it is not fitted to the face so air escapes out the side, and the polyester jersey has a tendency to stick to your nostrils and make it hard to breathe.

William Labov's Principles of Linguistic Change. This is a 3-volume set, but it's helpful for anyone interested in the variety of features that motivate language change. You can read it straight through if you're a maniac or just keep it as a reference work. If you know there's a particular subfield your friend is interested in, you can just buy one of the volumes (e.g. cultural factors is volume 3).

If you're passionate about linguistics, what kinds of gifts would you consider thoughtful and fun? What about something for a younger person who's just getting into linguistics?