This Week’s Language Blog Roundup

by Angela Tung on December 16, 2011

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

What do you think the word of the year should be? At NPR, linguist Geoff Nunberg selected occupy:

It was a late entry, but since mid-September it has gone viral and global. Just scan the thousands of hashtags and Facebook pages that begin with the word: Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Slovakia. Occupy Saskatoon, Sesame Street, the Constitution. Occupy the hood.

Occupy was in the top slot of Time’s top 10 buzzwords of 2011, and made both Fritinancy’s words of the year roundup, which also included humble, personhood, and swagger, and Ben Zimmer’s (supercommittee, deather, and brony were a few others). Meanwhile, Forbes offered up the most overused business terms of 2011, and Allan Metcalf at Lingua Franca provided a helpful guide as to how the WOTY is chosen and an album of WOTYs in years past.

The Atlantic gave us a glossary to the U.S. debt crisis, and The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money magazine launched their financial glossary (powered by Wordnik!).

Erin McKean revealed the secret behind brandworthy advertising and marketing terms; the perfect non-peeving gift; and the language of bros. Gawker declared chad the new bro; Fritinancy asked advertisers to stop ‘tis-ing her, bro; and PW told us where bros can go for books.

In words of the week, Erin spotted monozukuri, Japanese manufacturing skills; retail-tainment; and NoMad, “North of Madison Square Park” in New York City. Ben Zimmer examined apprenti, while Word Spy spotted couch commerce, “ordering goods and services while relaxing at home”; grey-sky thinking, “negative or pessimistic thoughts, ideas, or solutions”; hopium, a sort of irrational optimism; and fat finger problem, “the tendency to make errors on a device where the keys or screen elements are too small.”

Fritinancy noticed infidel, “an unbeliever with respect to a particular religion, especially Christianity or Islam,” and the Donner Party comma, “the comma of direct address,” which makes the difference between “Let’s eat, Grandma!” and “Let’s eat Grandma!” In other punctuation news, the Columbia Journalism Review considered the dash.

Johnson discussed the rudeness of automatic politeness; wondered what exactly is the Chinese language; and discovered the truth about mince pies. At Language Log, snowclones and eggcorns were hung by the chimney with care, with hopes that Newt Gingrich would not be there. Chinese and Pashtu nestled snug in their beds, while visions of Chinglish danced in their heads. Lie detection software made such a clatter, Mark Liberman detected something was the matter. Another Eskimo snow myth Geoff Pullum wanted to dash, along with the vocal fry hubbub (evinced by Kim Kardash). Overlap portmanteus, how fun, how merry. They are also known as sweet tooth fairies.

The Virtual Linguist pondered another kind of portmanteau, couple nicknames, as well as the etymology of the word panda and the term, zombie debtor. At Macmillan Dictionary blog, Michael Rundell perpended prepositions while Stan Carey examined eponyms. On his own blog, Mr. Carey discussed aposiopesis, “an abrupt breaking off of a thought, mid-sentence, often because of overwhelming emotion,” and the linguistics of LOLcat speak, as inspired by Superlinguo’s excellent presentation on the subject.

Sesquiotica also got catty – over the word cattery – and told us why it’s not the Silicon Valley. Jan Freeman raised an eyebrow at supposed “improvements” on Charlotte Bronte’s language (this lady would surely not approve). At Lingua Franca, Ben Yagoda noticed that everyone is starting their sentences with so, while Geoff Pullum coined misles, “private misanalyses of written forms that yield phonological errors if and when the word has to be spoken,” and wondered about the appropriate way to respond to academic hate mail.

Fritinancy reviewed rude wine brand names, while Dan Jurafsky discussed potato chips and “how the language of food advertising reflects socio-economic class.” Fully (sic) explored monolinguism in Australia and swearing on TV.  The Dialect Blog discussed dialects and register; th-fronting (“‘thing’ becomes ‘fing,’ ‘bother’ becomes ‘bovver,’ and ‘both’ becomes ‘bof’”); couple dialects; the Christmas dialect divide (is it merry or happy Christmas?); and the Cornish accent. Meanwhile at Entertainment Weekly, Meryl Streep talked about how easy accents are for her.

The New York Times made us want to read our books again and learn Dothraki and Klingon. We learned that in Russia, words come first, then deeds; why informers are called rats; ten words we didn’t know were onomatopoeias; and the mysterious origin of Auld Lang Syne. We found out that technology can both kill and save languages; babies understand grammar; and that JRR Tolkien, while a master storyteller, was an incredibly boring teacher.

We were excited to read an excerpt from Amy Tan’s short story, her first new fiction in six years, and to boldly go where no one has gone before with these first drafts of the Star Trek opening monologue. We wished for this awesome rules of magic chart in poster size, and added this Game of Thrones map to our holiday list, though these Ron Swanson cookies would do too.

Finally, we were saddened to learn of the passing of writer Christopher Hitchens, “the incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant.”

That’s it for this week. We wish you all happy and healthy holidays.

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