Countdown to Christmas – Question 23: Monday 23rd December

Normally, when you drag a pointed object along someone foot from heel to big toe, the toe will curl down. However, in ALS, the toe goes in the opposite direction and point upwards. What is this called?

Test for ALS(a) The Rossolimo sign

(b) The Babinski sign

(c) The Stransky sign

ANSWER: The Babinski sign.

The Babinski sign is a test of what’s called the plantar reflex – the natural tendency for the toes to curl down when something is scraped across the bottom of the foot. In ALS, there is an abnormal response in that the toes go upwards. Actually, in infants up to the age of one, you can see the Babinski sign but it disappears and is pathological in adults.

The test is named after Joseph Babinski (1857-1932) who was a Polish neurologist. He presented his observation about the plantar reflex at a conference in 1896 in Paris, and it then became referred to as the Babinski sign or Babinski reflex.


About Joseph Babinski on Wikipedia.

About ALS from the ALS Association.

Countdown to Christmas – Question 22: Sunday 22nd December

What was the name of the Speech Therapist who worked with the Aflac duck during 2013, as part of the rehab team nursing him back to health after a tragic accident?

(a) Angela Webster

(b) Allison Weber

(c) Andrea Westinghouse

(d) Amanda West

ANSWER: Allison Weber.

Played by Atlanta actress Jammie Patton, Allison Weber is part of a multi-disciplinary rehabilitation team dedicated to bringing the Aflac duck back to full health.


Actress Jammie Patton talks about working with “duck royalty.”

Countdown to Christmas – Question 21: Saturday 21st December

You are asked to evaluate a client who has had a stroke. Which one of the following tests is most appropriate?

(a) BDAE-3

(b) BDI-2

(c) BLT-2

(d) BTAIS-2

Therapy interview

ANSWER: BDAE-3: The Boston Diagnostic Aphasia Examination – Third Edition.

The BDAE has been around for some time now – one of the Dudes was using it in the 1980’s! – and it’s now in its third edition. It’s designed to determine and distinguish disorders of language function and neurologically recognized aphasic syndromes.  The test contains a short form for rapid access to diagnostic classification and quantitative assessment.

The BDI-2 is the Batelle Development Inventory and screens, diagnoses, and evaluates children from infancy to age 8. Domains include personal-social, adaptive, motor, communication, and cognitive.

The BLT is the Bankson Language Test for kids aged 3:00 to 7:00. It aims to measure children’s psycholinguistic skills in the three general categories of semantic knowledge, morphological/syntactical rules, and pragmatics. Not to be confused with the sandwich of the same name!

The BTAIS-2 is the Birth to Three Assessment and Intervention System, which screens language comprehension and expression, nonverbal thinking, and motor development.


The Directory of Speech-Language Pathology Assessments collated by ASHA.

The BDAE from PsychCorp, a part of Pearson Education, Inc.

Countdown to Christmas – Question 20: Friday 20th December

So tonight, Dude 2 is going to sit in front of his TV, and wrap up watching the final episodes of Season 3 of The Walking Dead, a few more episodes of Downton Abbey, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.  In my never ending desire to know what happens before it happens – reading the last chapter before the first, or watching spoilers despite the alerts – I have a few questions about the Diving Bell and the Butterfly and hopefully your accuracy and correctness will result in a quiet 15 minutes with a wonderful cup of joe… so here goes. 

  1. What scanning technique is used by Dominique Bauby to write his book?
  2. What syndrome was he diagnosed with?
  3. The title of the movie is a metaphor of how Bauby describes himself.  What part of his body is represented by the butterfly?

Good Luck and may you not encounter any zombies while wrapping up your Holiday shopping.   

Tweet your answers to @speechdudes and as it’s so close to Christmas, we’ll give you 24 hours from now.

Countdown to Christmas – Question 19: Thursday 19th December

You only have a few hours for this one! Dude 2 actually wanted to tweet it at 11:59 PM! But it’s a one-word answer so an easy win for someone. What word is used to describe the automatic repetition of vocalizations made by another person?

ANSWER: Echolalia!

Echolalia is the repetition of vocalizations made by another person and can be present in autism, Asperger syndrome, aphasia, schizophrenia, and other forms of psychopathology. Echoing speech and behavior is actually a normal feature of development but when it becomes persistent to the exclusion of generative speech and actions it becomes a pathological state.

The word comes from the Greek ekho (ἠχώ) meaning a repetition of sounds, and lalia (λαλιά) meaning “to speak or talk.” Echo is also a character from Greek mythology who was a nymph cursed by Juno so that she could only repeat the last few words of anyone she heard.

Echo and Narcissus


About echolalia from Synapse in Australia

The myth of Echo and Narcissus from Ovid

Countdown to Christmas – Question 18: Wednesday 18th December

As many of us prepare to fly prior to Christmas Day, it’s worth remembering that the chances of being involved in a fatal air accident are 1 in 29 million. You actually have more chance of being eaten by a shark (1 in 11 million) or killed in an accident with a lawn mower (1 in 3 million).

AirplaneSo given that air travel is statistically stunningly safe, which part of the flight is most likely to be fatal?

(a) Take off

(b) Initial climb to cruising altitude

(c) Descent

(d) Landing

ANSWER: Takeoff

According to 2012 statistics, here are the percentage fatalities based on the portion of a flight:

Taxi, load/unload, parked, tow 0 %
Takeoff 16%
Initial Climb 14 %
Climb (flaps up) 13 %
Cruise 16 %
Descent 4 %
Initial Approach 12 %
Final Approach 13 %
Landing 12 %

Flying is easy – it’s not hitting the ground hard and fast that’s the tricky part ;)

An underlying issue here is that when you think about the dangers of any activity, it’s important to be prepared to look at any actual evidence that’s available to evaluate the reality. For example, although the perception of flying is that it seems more dangerous that using a lawn mower, the numbers tell us otherwise. Similarly the belief that terrorists are lurking around every  corner ready to kill you and your loved ones is stronger than the numbers. An interesting post from earlier this year showed that you are more likely to be killed by a toddler than a terrorist (number of terrorist deaths on US soil in 2103=3; number of people shot by toddlers=5).

The point is that using evidence and statistics is to be preferred over perceptions and feelings. This is, of course, easier said than done because human beings respond at an emotional level much more intensely and frequently than they do at a rational level.  If there’s a clash between our personal beliefs and statistics, we will always blame the statistics – which is like saying we believe a sample size of 1 versus a sample size of millions.


Airplane crash statistics: from 2012.

Statistics Brain: a good site to explore all manner of statistical information.

Countdown to Christmas – Question 17: Tuesday 17th December

The annual Victoria’s Secret TV show took place a few days ago. This is where women who are greater than 3 Standard Deviations from the norm dress in clothing that can only be worn by Victoria’s Secret models, in an attempt to make everyone else buy underwear designed for women who are within +/- 1 Standard Deviation from the norm. So, in what year did Louis Reard invent the bikini?

(a) 1926

(b) 1936

(c) 1946

(d) 1956

bikiniANSWER: 1946

Although Louis Reard is credited with naming the two-piece bathing suit with its now generic name of bikini, another designer, Jacques Heim, actually launched his version two months earlier than Reard. He called his the Atome but Reard clearly was the better marketer and took the name bikini from the Bikini Atoll – the site of the world’s first atomic bomb test. He wanted folks to associate the effect of his product as being similar to a nuclear explosion!

The word bikini comes from a Malayo-Polynesian language called Marshallese (from the Marshall Islands) or Ebon. The original word is pikinni (/pʲɨkɨnʲnʲɨj/) and means “surface of coconuts.” We kid you not!


All you need to know about Marshallese from the World Atlas of Language Structures.

A History of the Bikini from the Bikini View website.

Countdown to Christmas – Question 16: Monday 16th December

What type of verb is “have” in the sentence “Have you the time?”

(a) Auxiliary verb

(b) Lexical verb

(c) Subjunctive verb

(d) Copular verb

wrist watchANSWER: Lexical verb!

In this example, the word have is being used as a near-synonym for “to own” or “to possess.” This contrasts with its other function as an auxiliary, or helping, verb.


About lexical verbs at The Tongue Untied

About auxiliary verbs at The Tongue Untied



Countdown to Christmas – Question 15: Sunday 15th December

It’s Sunday and a day of rest for many folks. For some, it’s also a religious occasion. And for Pentacostals, it may be an opportunity to indulge in “Speaking with Tongues,” a phenomenon where individuals are moved by an alleged supernatural force to articulate in an inspired – and unknown – language. But what is the scientific name for this?

Speaking in tongues

(a) Glossolalia
(b) Linguaphilia
(c) Lexiosynthesis
(d) Grammatologosia

ANSWER: glossolalia

From the Greek glossa meaning “tongue” or “language” and lalein meaning “to talk or prattle,” glossolalia is a type of fluent speech that is devoid of meaning. It sounds like language but turns out not to be. People tend to use their native phonology to create glossolalic utterances – so if you’re a native English speaker you are unlikely to use /ps/, /ts/, or /ks/ at the beginning of a syllable boundary, but if you are a native Greek speak, you will. In a classic study fron the 1970’s, William Samarin concluded that glossolalia is “unintelligible babbling speech that exhibits superficial phonological similarity to language, without having consistent syntagmatic structure and that is not systematically derived from or related to known language.” [1]


Interesting article from a religious perspective. Holm, R., Wolf, M. and Smith, J.K.A. (2011). New Frontiers in Tongue Research: A Symposium. Journal of Pentacostal Theology, 20, 122-154.

Short video of an example of glossolalia – unfortunately titled [2]:


[1] Samarin, W.J. (1972). Variation and Variables in Religious Glossolalia:  Language in Society, ed. Dell Haymes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pgs. 121-130.

[2] The example here is used because it’s brief and illustrates the point. The title of the video, “Crazy hat lady” is unfortunate because it’s linguistically ambiguous; does it means a lady wearing a crazy hat, or a hat-lady who is crazy? It also shows why hyphens are needed so we can work out if it’s a “crazy-hat lady” or a “crazy hat-lady.” It’s also wrong to insinuate she is crazy because many people of faith are quite sane and sincere people – just misguided in their belief in a non-existent supernatural being.

Countdown to Christmas – Question 14: Saturday 14th December

Are you done with finals… Good.  If not, sorry to hear that.   So today’s question has nothing to do about speech pathology, audiology, neurology, or famous people.  No puzzles, multiple choice, fill in the blank, or diagrams… just a test of your creativity.  In fact, it’s open until Christmas Eve – that’s December 24th for those of you who want to set your Google Calender to beep at you.

Write a haiku about the Holiday Season and the Speech Dudes.  If you don’t know much about the Speech Dudes, that really doesn’t matter.  Make it up.  (Mark Twain once said, “Never let the Truth get in the way of a good story.”)

Be creative.  Work in your favorite Christmas or Holiday message.  We know we’re not WestJet ( so we can’t promise big screen TV’s,  bikes, or socks.  Just coffee or your favorite Starbucks treat.

So break out your best creative mind; scrawl away on a few napkins; jot it down in notepad; but just let us see your best mix of Japanese Culture and the Holiday Season.  Our favorite Haiku will win.  This contest will stay open all the way through to the 24th and then we’ll announce a winner on Christmas Day – the only tweet we’re likely to send!

Email your answer to speechdudes (at) – we’re not going to limit you to 140 characters – and as this will be our Christmas Day finale, it’s open to ANYONE who is following us on Twitter – and who can use a Starbucks $5.00 eCard.