This Week’s Language Blog Roundup

by Angela Tung on July 22, 2011

Is it Friday already? Why yes it is. This language blog roundup’s on us.

Last week we linked to a BBC piece about the high cost of spelling mistakes.  This week The New York Times’ Virginia Heffernan wrote about the price of typos and the difference between good and bad spellers: “Good spellers are often drawn to poetry and wordplay, while bad spellers, for whom language is a conduit and not an end in itself, can excel at representation and reportage.”

In News of the World news, a few words dominated, including flame-haired (though Johnson wished it didn’t), hackergate, foam pie, and tiger wife (not to be confused with tiger mother or trophy wife).

Meanwhile, there was much hubbub over another piece published last week on supposedly irritating Americanisms (or irritating supposed Americanisms?). Language Log had one or two things to say about it, as did Johnson, The Economist’s language blog; John McIntyre at the Baltimore Sun; and Lynneguist at Separated by a Common Language (though at first Lynneguist resisted and wrote about baby teeth versus milk teeth instead).

In more Britishisms versus Americanisms, Jan Freeman at The Boston Globe talked pants, while Vickie Hollett at the Macmillan Dictionary Blog explored the British and American differences in small talk, including Americans’ skill at saying goodbye. Stan Carey saw no sense in an academy of English and discussed an Irish stereotype.

Johnson took on phobias and the “gay” accent, and the Dialect Blog wrote about the cloth set, the Philadelphia accent, and childrens’ accents. Meanwhile, at UC Berkeley, freshmen are being recorded for an “Internet-based experiment to map and match accents from across the state and world.”

Fully (sic) unpeeled some banana terms while Arnold Zwicky served up some fake Italian foods.  Kai von Fintel at Language Log wondered why tasty means something that tastes good while smelly means something that smells bad, and New Scientist reported on studies that suggest people seem to instinctively “link certain sounds with particular sensory perceptions.”

Christopher Muther at the Boston Globe considered what may be the literally most misused word in the English language; Michael Rundell at Macmillan Dictionary Blog pondered it’s and its; and K International examined irregular verbs.  Motivated Grammar hashed out all of a sudden versus all of the sudden, and reviewed Write More Good, the new book by The Bureau Chiefs, the same folks behind the Fake AP Stylebook.

In other news, this week the Devil’s Dictionary turned 100.  The satirical lexicon incorporates “whimsy, existential pessimism, cheap puns, sex jokes, and just about every other trick in the comedian’s book.”  Nerve listed the “Ten Greatest Lists in the History of Western Civilization,” while Open Culture offered an impressionist’s impressions of Shakespeare.  In Alaska the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics got started, including a storytelling event, while the Washington Post challenged readers to come up with the best name for the current heat wave (we like the Big Schvitz).

Finally, while this past weekend’s carmageddon in Los Angeles may have been much ado about nothing, it did yield the portmanteau of a portmanteau of the week: plankmageddon (seeing is believing).

Until next week, take care. It’s been nice talking to you. Catch you later.

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