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.
Last week the American Dialect Society picked its 2011 word of the year, occupy, “verb, noun, and combining form referring to the Occupy protest movement.” Other categories included Most Useful (humblebrag, “expression of false humility”); Most Creative (Mellencamp, “a woman who has aged out of being a ‘cougar’ (after John Cougar Mellencamp)”); and Most Outrageous (assholocracy, “rule by obnoxious multi-millionaires”). Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society, gives a recap at Visual Thesaurus.
The Economist discussed the gift of learning foreign languages, while Johnson discussed lexical accuracy in politics; the dreaded comma splice; fewer versus less; and Rick Santorum and the word santorum (NSFW), as coined by Dan Savage.
At Language Log, more Santorum shenanigans went on as Mark Liberman considered “blah” people. Mr. Liberman also examined political speech errors; “g-dropping” in songs and life; the origins of the phrase just sayin’; and the “floating discourse adjunct,” kind of thing. Victor Mair explored sauce in Texas and caravanserai on the Silk Road, and Mandarin Chinese in Mainland China versus Taiwan. Julie Sedivy wrote about the loss of speech, while Geoff Pullum discussed the passive voice and the stupidity of commenters.
In other political misspeaking, Jan Freeman posted about Ron Paul’s statement that he’s “nibbling,” as opposed to nipping, at Mitt Romney’s heels. At Lingua Franca, Lucy Ferriss explored day and month words; Geoff Pullum revisited the singular they; Ben Yagoda peeved on a variety of topics; and Allan Metcalf asserted that efforts to revive and banish words make no difference (don’t tell that to British journalist John Tottenham – awesome!). At Macmillan Dictionary blog, Michael Rundell explained the difference between terminology and jargon, while Stan Carey got into inkhorn terms, and on his own blog engaged in some baby talk.
Fritinancy got hoity-toity and was all about the umlauts. Her word of the week was emoji, “Cartoonish icons used to communicate emotion in email and texting,” which is “from the Japanese; a blend of ‘e’ (Japanese for ‘picture’) + ‘moji’ (‘letter’).” Word Spy spotted showroom, bustaurant, ineptocracy, and Janopause, “the practice of abstaining from alcohol for the month of January.”
Erin McKean rounded up the interesting words and linguistic trends of 2011, and noticed this week in words, like-jacking, moitié-moitié, resto-mod, and supremes. At The Boston Globe, Erin confronted the horror of ungrammatical song lyrics, and on the Colin McEnroe show talked dictionaries, print and otherwise.
Lynneguist explained the British English phrase just about, and the difference between the American English haste makes waste and the British English more haste, less spend. Kory Stamper described life as a lexicographer while Arnold Zwicky took a look at gastropubs and separated spellings. Sesquiotica considered triolets, ballades, and toques – or is it tuques? The Virtual Linguist told us it was Irish monks who first put spaces between words, and that “Germany has a problem with so-called ‘opium grandpas‘.”
Dialect Blog delved into t-tapping (“‘bitter’ sounds like ‘bidder’”); compared the New England and East Anglia accents; and wondered if there was ever a “veddy British” R. Grammarphobia explained where the word hobnob comes from; Motivated Grammar assured us hashtags aren’t ruining anything; and Grammar Girl told us the origins of the @ symbol and the word OK.
Meanwhile, The New York Times’ crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz was schooled on the true meaning of the word illin’; J. R. R. Tolkien’s chances at a Nobel were dashed by “poor prose”; and Mark Twain ranted about bad writing. We were excited to read this posthumous article from Christopher Hitchens, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, and to imagine Daria, Rory Gilmore, and Rupert Giles as lit bloggers.
We learned that robots show randomness in language, that language is hardwired to be positive, and that there are some filthy words we still can’t say on TV. We found out which books were the most metal of 2011; that people crazy about Downton Abbey are probably crazy for books; why authors tweet; and why libraries have that smell.
We loved this dictionary of superstitions (“Finding a hairpin promises making a new friend; losing one is more ominous, suggesting that an enemy is close at hand”); this website that is attempting “to create a multi-layered ‘storyverse’ that links, cross-references and catalogues every mention of pretty much everything in fiction”; these 25 epithets from literature; and this Tokyo bookstore that personally recommends books to its customers. We also loved this Japanese store and its “fuckin’” sale (fuckin’ was a play on the Japanese word fukubukuro, meaning “lucky bags,”) and were saddened that they changed their sign.
Finally, thanks to Word Blog for including us in their 50 Best Blogs for Word Lovers.
That’s it for this week!