This Week’s Language Blog Roundup

by Angela Tung on April 6, 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.

Erin McKean kicked off the week, and celebrated April Fool’s Day, with a piece about the language of hoaxes. Ben Zimmer honored the start of the baseball season by telling us how the ball game gave us the word jazz, while Ben Yagoda examined elegant variation and baseball writers, and we got in on the game with Japanese baseball words.

The Hunger Games inspired Stan Carey to consider a lesser-known meaning of starve. Slate explained some of the unusual names in the books and movie, as well as French-Canadian swearing in Mad Men. The Telegraph went as far as to call Mad Men the most literary show on television.

Johnson discussed split infinitives and journalese. Robert Lane Greene traced the rise of dude. At Language Log, Mark Liberman talked to the TV and took Rush Limbaugh Literalville-ly; Julie Sedivy looked into death by Balzac and grenade-like words; and Victor Mair stressed the importance of spacing, and delved into illiteracy in China and feihua, or nonsense, poetry.

David Crystal spoke with NPR about the story of English. Stan Carey referenced Crystal’s book in his post on standard English and bad grammar, and assured us who to follow is grammatically fine. At Macmillan Dictionary Blog, Michael Rundell explored irony and dictionaries, Stephen Bullon gave us the story behind jerrycan, and guest poster Heng-ming Carlos Kang compared infinitives and gerunds. In The NY Times, Constance Hale desperately sought some synonyms while Kitty Burns Florey diagrammed sentence diagramming.

At Lingua Franca, Allan Metcalf deliberated on language purity, or lack thereof, in English, and enjoyed some one-syllable gems; Lucy Ferriss wandered through Zuckerverb land; and Carol Saller discussed difficult writers, which John McIntyre found disturbing. We’re glad he recovered and gave us words describing the space between a curb and sidewalk.

Lynneguist counted seconds, American and British-style. Fritinancy examined a name in the news, Oikos University, and for words of the week, picked stockist, “a retailer or distributor that stocks goods for sale,” and demise as a verb, “to grant or transfer by will or lease.” Erin McKean’s wordy choices were flexicurity, a blend of flexible and security; nibs, coffee beans with the shells removed; and adularescence, the effect of light on “adularia, a kind of moonstone.”

Word Spy noticed pink slime, “an industrial meat byproduct consisting of compressed low quality beef trimmings treated with ammonia gas and used as a filler for ground beef”; hashtag activism, “activism that uses a Twitter hashtag to promote a project or cause, particularly when it requires no other action from people”; and hackerazzi, “a person who breaks into a celebrity’s email account or computer.”

The Virtual Linguist discussed the suffix -buster, while Sesquiotica hurried on about jildi, had a word about you guys, and got behind bakkushan. The Dialect Blog gave us some words of faint praise and hey and its variants. Chicago Magazine explored the Chicago accent, while BBC wondered why fantasy world accents are British. Meanwhile, Lapham’s Quarterly defended the thesaurus.

Some words were banned from New York City school tests, and then they weren’t. Jezebel told us the linguistic history of a certain male body part, while we learned a few factlets about the factoid, some modern phrases we owe to Shakespeare, and  gangster language. We also learned that PTSD was once known as nostalgia and soldier’s heart, that soda has overtaken tonic, at least in Boston, and that some British foods are extremely misunderstood. We agree that Kraft is no cunning linguist when it comes to a new (unfortunate) snack name.

We were excited about this newly translated fairy tale. We loved these minimalist posters of children’s books and this list of alternative names for the Seven Dwarfs. We’re so happy someone is taking “dead words” and turning them into art. We felt bad for these monks (“Oh, my hand”), and will take C.S. Lewis’s advice on writing.

Finally, we were saddened by the passing of poet Adrienne Rich.

That’s it for this week. Until next time, please enjoy some of Ms. Rich’s poetry.

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