This Week’s Language Blog Roundup

by Angela Tung on September 23, 2011

Welcome to this week’s Language Blog Roundup, in which we bring you the highlights from our favorite language blogs and the latest in word news and culture.

Monday was International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and in celebration Erin McKean explored the origins of pirate lore, while The Book Bench remembered when pirates were pyrates, and took a look at some modern-day pirates, some dangerous, some less so.

Monday was also the ASCII-based emoticon’s birthday (though that wasn’t the first time typographical symbols were used to convey emotions), while Thursday was the birthdays of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

For Banned Books Week, which begins on September 24, The New York Times reported on a Mark Twain book that has finally been unbanned after 105 years. In other language news, Britishisms have invaded American English; the Romany Gypsy dialect made an appearance in a Kent court case; and escaped pet birds are teaching their wild brethren English.

At Johnson was a post about transgendered pronouns. Robert Lane Greene detailed the rise of the word awesome, and explained the difference between Afghans, Afghanis, and Afghanistanis. Lynneguist took on the both of us, the two of us, and you and me both, while Dialect Blog pronounced marry, merry, and mary. Dialect Blog also posted about the Geordie accent, and accents at the Renaissance Faire.

Fritinancy questioned Netflix’s new service, Qwikster, and the phrase, forward-doing, while her word of the week was resistentialism, “the theory that inanimate objects demonstrate hostile behavior toward us” (I think my computer has a bad case of resistentialism).

At Language Log, Julie Sedivy wondered if grammar can win elections; Mark Liberman wondered about sugar “wight”, and the phrase, the most number of; and Victor Mair flushed out some Chinese bathroom hijinks. At the Macmillan Dictionary blog, David Crystal explored trademarks that have become generic, and Stan Carey discussed slang and innovation in language. Meanwhile, word worlds collided with Mr. Carey’s review of Mr. Crystal’s book, Evolving English, “an illustrated history of the language.”

Word Spy spotted gazundering, “as a house buyer, reducing a previously agreed-on price for a house just prior to signing the contract,” and pity friend, “on a social networking site, a person whose friend request you accept out of pity” (not to be confused with this NSFW word).

Grammar Girl explained bow up, a Southern phrase meaning “to assert oneself, stand up to,” while Pop vs Soda mapped the generic names for the bubbly stuff by region. The Virtual Linguist told us there are 800 languages in New York; was galvanized; and pinned the origin of pin money on haberdashers and hatters. She also considered the drawing room and parlour; listed the top ten telewords of 2011; and sailed along with some naval slang and Rick Jolly’s book, Jackspeak: A Guide to British Naval Slang and Usage.

Other language guides that caught our eye this week were The Septic’s Companion, “a British slang dictionary with audio pronunciations”; The Jargon File, also known as The Hacker’s Dictionary; and McSweeney’s proposed additions to the internet lexicon.

In author news, a posthumous book of poems by Shel Silverstein is coming out this month. NPR had a story about Silverstein; Ben Zimmer had fun with the book’s title, Every Thing On It; and The New York Times took a look at children’s authors who broke the rules, including Silverstein, Maurice Sendak, and Dr. Seuss.

Here’s a letter from T.S. Eliot to Virginia Woolf; a literary tour of the stories of H.G. Wells; and what Shakespeare really meant. Here are five strange things named after writers, and the last words of 25 writers who are deceased. Unlikely Words showed us why the Oxford Comma is important (work those pasties, Stalin!), Moleskine introduced a new line of Star Wars notebooks, and we learned how to create placeholder text Samuel L. Jackson-style (NSFW, as things Samuel L. Jackson tend to be).

That’s it for this week. See you next Friday!

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