Language Blog Roundup: WOTY news, banished words, mooing with an accent

by Angela Tung on January 3, 2014

Happy new year, everyone, and welcome to the first Language Blog Roundup of 2014!

The biggest end-of-2013 word news is of course the words of the year. While the American Dialect Society votes on their choices this week, others have already made their selections.

At The New York Times, Grant Barrett unleashed a wordnado of words, and at The Wall Street Journal, Ben Zimmer uncorked the words that popped this year. Tim Walker at The Guardian rounded up his own choices; The Economist‘s Robert Lane Greene discussed his; and at Macmillan Dictionary blog, Stan Carey picked his own because reasons.

Misty Harris of Canada.com discussed cronuts, selfies, and twerking with a variety of word experts including Ben Zimmer, Grant Barrett, Nancy Friedman, and our own Erin McKean. Meanwhile, Lake Superior State University gave us their annual “banished words” list.

Remember the Hawaiian woman with the last name considered too long for a driver’s license? Well, transport officials changed their policy and she managed to get her name on her license after all.

This week we learned about the evolution of forbidden language, the language of Indian courts, and a mysterious law that predicts that size of cities. We found out about a creepy 15th century language experiment, the right and wrong ways to spell whoa, and the latest in Twitter lingo.

The neurological word of the week was mitempfindung, the phenomenon of scratching one place on your body only to feel it somewhere else, while the selfie variation of the week was felfie, a self-portrait in front of one’s farm.

At Language Log, Victor Mair discussed the difficulty of writing sneeze, hiccup, and cough in Chinese, and South Korea’s issue with a generic Chinese word for kimchee. At Macmillan Dictionary blog, Liz Potter gave the stories behind Boxing Day and Hogmanay.

Stan Carey dished on the Scottish clishmaclaver and the gender-neutral henchpersons. Jen Doll discussed language peevers and peeving. Fritinancy picked for words of the week ephemeral, short-lived, and retcon, which is short for “retroactive continuity” and refers to “reframing past events to serve a current plot need.”

Barry Popik traced the history of economedian, economist plus comedian, and Neiman Marxism, a term similar to limousine liberalism. Word Spy spotted anti-vaxxer, “a person who does not vaccinate their children in the belief that vaccines are harmful.”

We love that the Bay to Breakers’ mascot is named Ape Hashbury; these 19 regional U.S. words; and this Abedpedia, an A-to-Z guide to Abed’s pop culture references on TV show Community. Finally, we didn’t think it was possible but this podcast of Sir Patrick Stewart mooing in different accents made us love him even more.

See you next time!

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by Jelle]

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