This Week’s Language Blog Roundup

by Angela Tung on February 24, 2012

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.

We don’t know about you, but we’ve gone into Downton Abbey-withdrawal since Sunday’s season finale. Luckily, to tide us over till next season, we have pieces from Ben Zimmer and Ben Schmidt on Downton Abbey anachronisms (which got a mention on SNL’s Weekend Update, congrats!), and our own Word Soup post on the words and phrases the show (mostly) got right.

In sports, we were driven to the brink of Linsanity – near-insane enthusiasm over Taiwanese-American basketball player, Jeremy Lin – an early contender, says American Dialect Society, for the 2012 word of the year. The Linsanity continued as Ben Zimmer discussed the linguistics of Linsanity; Victor Mair bemoaned the questionable Mandarin equivalent of the popular portmanteau; and Lin himself filed an application for the Linsanity trademark.  Meanwhile, ESPN fired the writer who went with a poorly chosen headline regarding Lin. Pro-tip: don’t use “chink in the armor” in reference to someone of Asian descent. More tips if you need them.

In politics, Mr. Zimmer delved into the meh-ness and fail-ness of a recent GOP debate, while Johnson looked at what’s wrong with Democrat Party. At Language Log, Mark Liberman looked at Rick Santorum’s radical mis-speaking about President Obama; a Republican slogan that has Communist roots; and a grammar-based conspiracy. Geoffrey Pullum parsed sing, sang, and sung, and noted a novel illness, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, better known as a temper tantrum.

At Visual Thesaurus, Mark Peters explored the diversity of American English in his review of Richard Bailey’s Speaking American. At Macmillan Dictionary Blog, Michael Rundell told us more about how words get into the dictionary (with a nod to Wordnik, thanks!). John McIntyre suggested that more punctuation doesn’t improve your writing, and peeved about grammar peeves, while Stan Carey wondered where the grammar was in so-called “common grammar mistakes.”

At Lingua Franca, Ben Yagoda confessed that between you and I isn’t necessarily a grammar mistake, and Lucy Ferriss pondered illegitimacy. Meanwhile, the Angry Sub-Editor groused about crappy portmanteaus (or crapmanteaux), and Kory Stamper begged us to take her life, please. Sesquiotica told us about grackle; some plump words; the etymology of carnival; and all the hubbub (bub). The OUP Blog gave us the origin of the word dude, while the Virtual Linguist discussed the language of childbirth.

Fritinancy got her X on, and picked for words of the week, uppertendom, “the upper classes; the richest people in a city”; and nomophobia, “fear of being without a cellphone.” Erin McKean’s words of the week included echo boomers, “so-called because their parents were baby boomers”; devore, “a silk/rayon velvet on which a design is ‘printed’ using a heat-activated chemical”; and park and bark, “simply standing on stage and belting out the vocal line.”

Word Spy spotted altmetrics, “tools used to assess the impact of scholarly articles based on alternative online measures such as bookmarks, links, blog posts, and tweets”; peak people, “a time when the world’s population reaches a maximum”; engaged workaholic, “a person who works compulsively because he or she loves their job”; billion laughs, “an online attack that attempts to disable a website by sending a specially formatted sequence of characters such as ‘lol’ and ‘ha’.” Meanwhile, a group of German language experts voted shitstorm as the best Anglicism of 2011.

Superlinguo discussed flattery, respect, and kin terminology in Nepali and English. Dialect Blog examined inner city dialects, the c-word, hate speech, and  ‘The Jersey Shore’ and Jersey accents (not necessarily the same thing). We learned that goats change their accents depending on social surroundings, and that inner speech during silent reading reflects the reader’s regional accent. Meanwhile, pupils at a school in Sheffield, England have been banned from using slang.

In dictionary news, Joan Houston Hall and Erin McKean spoke with KQED about The Dictionary of American Regional English, which was also profiled in the Wall Street Journal. In library news, we loved The Little Free Library, as well as these pop-up libraries a New Yorker created out of old pay phones, perhaps inspired by the “adopt a phone kiosk” library program in Somerset, England a few years ago. Finally, we loved this illustrated lesson in linguistics, and this list of titles in search of a script from Stanley Kubrick.

That’s it for this week!

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