“one step ahead of the Wangses”

Yes, another linguistics post.

Yesterday on The Economist’s Gulliver blog:

the status of being able to afford to go abroad, ensuring you keep one step ahead of the Wangses, may be a factor

This is almost certainly wrong ungrammatical. Our writer M.D. bases this turn of phrase on the idiom keep up with the Joneses. But in that usual one, we get an -ses because the surname is Jones. Since we can’t have Joness—because by English rules it would be pronounced /dʒoʊ’nɛs/, which really wouldn’t do—we change the -s prefix to -es, giving us the Joneses.

But the Chinese surname is Wang! There’s no word-final -s. The family with the last name Wang are the Wangs.

Lest I be accused of pedantry or prescriptivism here, allow me to note that “keep up with the Wangses” has merely 21 Google hits (although this number will probably rise when Googlebot sees this post), and that’s with “omitted results included”. “Keep up with the Wangs” on the other hand has 54,900 Google hits, and in the top few are a Wall Street Journal blog, an article in The Telegraph, a New York Times article (from 1993, no less), and a paper by a Princeton economics professor.

Request for grammaticality judgment

A quote from my Linguistics 100 lecture notes from April 14, 2014: “(graduate) syntax courses often filled with acrimonious arguments re: grammaticality”. Fellow linguistics students know what I mean.

The first rule of grammaticality judgments is to never trust your own. Therefore:

xkcd — the brilliant webcomic beloved by millions of readers every week — creator Randall Munroe delivers hilarious and informative answers to questions you probably never thought to ask. It’s time to meet your hero.

The above paragraph comes from promotional material for an appearance Randall Munroe is making in Berkeley on September 12. My question is thus: is that em-dash parenthetical permitted?

My own intuition says that you can’t split up an NP like xkcd creator that way.

Temperature dependence of quartz

The thin lines are various CPU core temperature measurements; in purple, NTP‘s reported PLL frequency, which tracks the apparent drift of the motherboard’s real-time clock, which is based on a quartz crystal oscillator—which is evidently very temperature sensitive (hence why temperature-compensated crystal oscillators (TCXOs) and oven-controlled crystal oscillators (OCXOs) exist).

pll_freq_vs_temp