Welcome to the Language Blog Roundup, in which we give you the highlights from our favorite language blogs and the latest in word news and culture.
In the world of politics, Rick Perry said “oops,” and Slate told us where oops comes from. Mark Liberman at Language Log took issue with Perry’s latest campaign ad and his lack of a verb, as well as speech-based lie detection “software” that supposedly proves Herman Cain is innocent of sexual harrassment. Meanwhile Robert Lane Greene at Johnson discussed Newt Gingrich and language, and Spanish in America.
In dictionary news, Ben Zimmer discussed the latest edition of the American Heritage dictionary, while the Scottish Language Dictionary charity is putting together the Concise Scots Dictionary. Erin McKean reviewed books that promise to help you talk better, and spotted in the Wall Street Journal week in words tobashi, solomo, and bronies, as well as Likeonomics, handwiches, and dead doubles.
At Language Log, Mark Liberman wrote about kids yesterday (and made us feel Principal Vernon old) and wondered if Lincoln could have furled his brow. Geoffrey Pullum objected to another’s objections about the passive voice, and kicked himself over tiramisu. Ben Zimmer considered Kate Bush’s 50 Words for Snow, while Mr. Pullum at Lingua Franca poked another hole in the many-Eskimo-words-for-snow argument.
Also at Lingua Franca, Ben Yagoda advocated going with the shorter word, and examined the overuse of right (I know, right?). Carol Saller wondered if all lawyers are not liars, while Allan Metcalf discussed the word guy.
At Macmillan Dictionary Blog, Ben Trawick-Smith considered the fall of the r-less class, while Stan Carey discussed Received Pronunciation and Dortspeak and questioned the “ideal” form of English. On his own blog, Mr. Carey let us know about the very cool Spaceage Portal of Sentence Discovery, “a database in which we the English-loving citizens of Internet can store countless examples of all the interesting language patterns and elements we are able to categorize.”
John McIntyre shook his head over usage literalists, while Motivated Grammar asserted that descriptivism doesn’t mean “anything goes.” Lynneguist gathered a month’s worth of American and British English untranslatables; and Johnson presented its results from its British and American English survey. The Virtual Linguist wrote about the experiences of Monica Baldwin, who spent 27 years in a closed convent and “could not understand much of the English being spoken around her when she finally rejoined the outside world”; brand names of Western products in China (“Hey, you dinged my Precious Horse!); and a study that showed that lower-pitched voices attract more votes.
Fritinancy’s words of the week were murmuration, a flock of starlings (her post includes a truly amazing video), and Semmelweis reflex, “the tendency to reject new evidence because it contradicts established norms or practices.” Fritinancy also wrote about tech jargon of yore, merry as a Starbucks verb, and this Mr. Tea set, which we have added to our Christmas list. In tooting our own horn news, Fritinancy gave a shout-out to our new series, Word Soup, in her November linkfest (thanks!).
Sequiotica posted about swizzle, umpteen, plouk, and mondegreens. Dialect Blog explored Multicultural London English; Chicano English; dialect work in the old days; and when Twitter words are spoken. The Word Spy spotted, among other words, war texting, “using text messages to break into a remote system such as an automobile or a GPS tracking device”; no planer, “a conspiracy theorist who believes that no planes were involved in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001”; and two-pizza team, “in a business environment, a team of employees that is not too large (and so can be fed with at most two pizzas).”
Speaking of food, we learned where the hot dog and hamburger got their names; all about It’s-It ice cream; and the history of macarons, macaroons, and macaroni. We were grateful for this list of non-errors, and chuckled over this punctuation cartoon from the Grammar Monkeys and this list of seven bar jokes involving grammar and punctuation. We pondered the language of the future, and what gets lost in translation. We learned that “only one veteran Navajo code talker remains of the original 29 Navajo Marines,” and that immigrant entrepreneurs often don’t need English to succeed. We wondered if comedy foreign accents are ever a good idea (depends on the accent).
We enjoyed these 20 Vonnegut-isms (well, except for the semi-colon remark), these 50 literary put-downs, and these six authors’ reading habits. We were delighted to learn that Neil Gaiman will be on The Simpsons this Sunday, and were a bit a creeped out by this Lego statue of Mark Twain. We were shocked to hear that Jane Austen might have been murdered, and were astounded that Salman Rushdie had to fight to use his own name on Facebook. We loved Salvador Dali’s 1969 drawings for Alice in Wonderland, as well as these vintage illustrations from Old French Fairy Tales.
Flavorwire gave us a brief history of time travel literature; this collection of rejected titles for classic books; and 10 famous literary characters and their real-life inspirations. They also offered 10 wonderful fake books by TV characters and a comprehensive rule book to pop culture’s fictional games (Calvinball, anyone?). Meanwhile, the PW blog told us about 6 fictional drugs with unintended consequences, Anglophenia offered up some money slang, and Time interviewed Michael Adams, the editor of Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages.
Finally, our favorite Tumblr of the week was The Books They Gave Me, reflections on books given by lovers.
That’s it for this week! Check in the week after next for the next Language Blog Roundup installment, and don’t forget to catch our new series on Wednesday, Word Soup.