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Does your language affect your bank account?

benjamin franklin, money

New research argues that the answer is yes. Depending on what language you speak, you are more – or less – likely to save for retirement. Your primary tongue may even affect how much you weigh.

In January, M. Keith Chen, an associate professor of economics at the School of Management at Yale University, published a working paper on his research about the effect of language on economic behavior. Chen zoomed in on one aspect of language: how we deal with time. Each language organizes and describes the future differently. Linguists call this distinction future-time-reference (FTR, for short). Some languages, like German, have a weak-FTR, which means that the distinction between today and tomorrow isn’t very concrete. In his paper, Chen gives the example that in German, you can say, “It rains tomorrow” whereas in English you have to say, “It will rain tomorrow.” English is a strong-FTR language because there are clear, constant grammatical distinctions between today and tomorrow.

Analyzing retirement savings’ patterns, along with health habits, Chen found that people who speak weak-FTR languages prepare more thoroughly for the future than people who speak strong-FTR languages. In fact, weak-FTR countries save, on average, 6% more of their GDP every year. They also smoke less, exercise more, and are less likely to be overweight.

Chen also analyzed the data accounting for variables like gender, age, and religion, to isolate language as the primary factor. Even in these analyses, people who spoke weak-FTR languages outperformed their strong-FTR peers. Read Chen’s very academic and fascinating paper here.

This particular phenomenon is an example of linguistic relativity, or how languages affect how we think. We’ve discussed before how language affects how you see colors and perceive the world around you.

Further research along these lines hasn’t produced conclusive results, and linguists certainly have qualms with these socio-cultural extrapolations. From your experience, do particular languages seem to influence behavior, for better or worse? What are some examples? Share your thoughts with us, below.

Food mag attack

Chicago Sun-Times October 14, 2009 | Janet Rausa Fuller Last week’s shuttering of Gourmet magazine leaves an emotional void in the hearts of many foodlovers, but it doesn’t exactly create a gulf on the newsstand. We counted 36 food glossies clamoring for our attention at the bookstore. Here’s what six of them offer up in their current issues. web site healthy breakfast ideas

Bon Appetit $4.50, 130 pages On the cover: A hunk of unnaturally shiny-looking short ribs.

Inside: Four sugar pumpkin recipes; a German Octoberfest feast for 12; eight menus using fall produce, and a luscious apple dessert spread. The “Family Style” column, appealing in theory as it promises a kid-friendly dinner for four, presents a turkey meatloaf that just looks lifeless.

What to make: Golden Delicious Apple and Cheddar Turnovers with Dried Cherries (page 112.) Why aren’t these on the cover?

Cooking Light $4.99, 204 pages On the cover: Braised beef, carrots and turnips.

Inside: Almost dizzying array of content: six 20-minute chicken dishes, a taste-test of boxed chicken broths, four pages of healthy breakfast ideas and more. We chuckled at photos for a travel story on Chicago that show Thomas Keller (with Alinea chef Grant Achatz) and Marcus Samuelsson. Achatz aside, they’re not exactly hometown talent, but oh well — we’re intrigued by the lightened-up recipes for Ann Sather’s cinnamon rolls, Italian beef sandwiches and deep-dish pizza.

Take-home tip: Stir a few tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce into homemade caramel sauce, then drizzle over ice cream or pie (page 48).

Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade $4.99, 106 pages On the cover: Sandra Lee in an orange sweater, holding a cake with orange fondant pumpkins.

Inside: Hard to tell where advertising ends and editorial begins, but then, there’s not much need for ads — recipes specify branded products (Knorr Asian Sides, Simply Potatoes). If you like Bisquick, you’re in luck — we counted six recipes using the mix.

Just a thought: Making the pinecone-dotted centerpiece (page 83) seems like it would take longer than making some of the recipes.

Saveur $5, 108 pages On the cover: Perfectly pink lamb chops with salsa verde.

Inside: The usual worldly mix of topics — a book review of chef-of- the-moment David Chang’s cookbook Momofuku; preserving heirloom apples, written by noted conservationist Gary Paul Nabhan; Italy’s craft beer movement; cinnamon’s history and eight recipes ranging from cinnamon hard candies to Indonesian chicken curry. Main feature on lamb is exhaustive — a guide to different cuts, eight recipes and marinade and sauce ideas.

Food porn alert: The photo of an herbed tomato tart (pages 70 and 71) nearly blinded us with its awesomeness.

Food & Wine $4.50, 212 pages On the cover: A rustic pizza and a fat glass of Pinot Noir.

Inside: Everything you ever wanted to know about wine but were afraid to ask. A clever story asks sommeliers to name their bacon, White Castle Slider and coffee equivalents of wine. Travel stories on Oaxaca, French wine country and vineyards by the sea, and a New York chef’s tapas recipes made easier. here healthy breakfast ideas

Must-read: 15 rules for food and wine pairings. The companion recipes (pappardelle with veal ragu, honeyed fig crostatas) rock.

Everyday with Rachael Ray $3.99, 164 pages On the cover: Rachael Ray in an orange sweater, pushing a wheelbarrow full of leaves.

Inside: Surprisingly few photos of Ray. Plenty of loud graphics, and recipe after recipe after recipe. Octoberfest, tailgating and Halloween menus; a comparison of rice cookers (with four smart, quick recipes); five meals for less than $10, and a main spread on pasta by cookbook author Giuliano Hazan.

Woof: A soup recipe (page 160) — for the dog.

Color Photo: (See microfilm for photo description). ;

Janet Rausa Fuller

126 Comments

  1. Celina -  December 4, 2013 - 11:52 pm

    You are so interesting! I don’t think I have read a single thing like this before. So good to find another person with a few original thoughts on this subject matter. Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This site is something that’s needed on the web, someone with some originality!

    Reply
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