This Week’s Language Blog Roundup

by Angela Tung on December 2, 2011

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

At Language Log, there was much contention over Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year, squeezed middle. Geoffrey Pullum thought the WOTY should be a word and not a phrase, while Ben Zimmer thought the WOTY need not be a word. Mark Liberman was also puzzled by the OED’s choice, but basically agreed with Mr. Zimmer, and also suggested a separate phrase of the year.

Eric Baković considered Michelle Bachmann’s lack of a gaffe and the importance of context; while Mr. Pullum took on the politics of prescriptivism, and Mr. Liberman talked peever politics. Meanwhile, Arnold Zwicky rounded up Language Log’s peever posts.

Over at the Boston Globe, Mark Peters wrote about why “personhood” is powerful; The New York Times discussed the lexicon of Occupy Wall Street; and BBC Magazine wondered about wealth words and who exactly count as “the rich.” The Macmillan Dictionary blog finished up Class English month with posts from Dan Clayton on the language of the “common people”; John Wells on the rise of the “r-ful” class; and a roundup from Laine Redpath Cole of words loaded with the most class content. At Johnson there were posts about legislative acronyms; that “vile Americanism,” the word likely; and untranslatability and forced distinctions.

In words of the week, Erin McKean spotted appumentary (“an app with the same sort of material you’d find in a documentary film”); BYOD (“bring your own device”); holothurian (another word for sea cucumber); and postprandial somnolence, “after dinner sleepiness.” Fritinancy noticed sharrow, “a road marking indicating that the road is to be shared by cars and bicycles”; caramel, of which there is disagreement about both etymology and pronunciation; and the loneliest wine in the world, which would actually go perfectly with this very lonely cookbook (but perhaps not this one of terrible banana recipes).

Stan Carey explored how the Klingon language was invented; hybrid etymology; and strange usage of the word too. The Virtual Linguist noted that Brits are saying thank you less (though are no less polite), and examined another word of the year. Sesquiotica explained haplology, “removing one of two sequential identical or similar sounds or syllables,” and celebrated his 1000th post with a discussion about milli. Superlinguo had a case of the hiccoughs but could still appreciate President Obama’s attempt at Australian lingo.

The Dialect Blog explored the changing dialect of hip-hop; the different meanings of geezer; noun phrases and stress; and how people think they make sounds. The Word Spy spotted drunkorexia, “eating less to offset the calories consumed while drinking alcohol”; diabulimia, “an eating disorder in which a diabetic person attempts to lose weight by regularly omitting insulin injections”; smartphoneography, “photography using a smartphone’s built-in camera”; and mailstrom, “an overwhelming amount of email; an email deluge.”

Smithsonian Magazine took a look at the science behind sarcasm, while the Richard Dawkins Foundation explored language and evolution. The Library as Incubator Project seeks to connect artists and libraries, while the British Library has made 300 years of newspaper archives available online. Meanwhile, X-Men writer Chris Claremont donated his archives to Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the library phantom of Edinburgh, Scotland has returned, leaving behind exquisite paper sculptures.

In author news, Wednesday marked Mark Twain’s 176th birthday. The Morgan Library celebrated with an online exhibition; Flavorwire reminded us of a lovely love note from Twain to his wife; and Mental Floss listed 10 quotes Twain didn’t really say. Google honored the author with a doodle depicting a scene from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, while we offered a list that was more Huck Finnian.

We were excited to see Maragret Atwood’s own illustrations for her latest book, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, as well as Madeleine L’Engle’s first story, written when she was 15 and included in the collection, First Words: Earliest Writing from Favorite Contemporary Authors. Slate gave us a brief history of invented languages in music, while The NY Times mused on traffic warnings in haiku. The Independent imagined food writing in different authors’ voices; McSweney’s translated one sentence into multiple literary genres; and BlogHer Offered these 17 gifts for grammar geeks.

Our favorite new website is That Is Priceless, which pairs classic art with hilarious captions. Meanwhile, our friends over at Bab.La are searching for the most beautiful English word. Help them out!

That’s it for this installment! Keep up with our blog by subscribing to the blog feed or follow us on Twitter.

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