This Week’s Language Blog Roundup: Banned Books Week, grammar wars, and more

by Angela Tung on October 5, 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.

It’s Banned Books Week, and the American Library Association has listed 97 of the most banned books of the 20th century while The Huffington Post rounded up the ten most banned books of the year. We love this quote from frequently banned author, Judy Blume, and these funny responses from authors on being banned, like this one from John Irving: “I imagine, when I write, that I am writing for young readers — not for uptight adults.”

In politics, Mitt Romney got literary while Ben Zimmer explored bipartisanship and rounded up some words from the first Obama-Romney debate. In British English versus American English, lexicographers galore explored Britishisms and the Britishization of American English, and Stan Carey discussed anti-anti-Americanism.

Ben Zimmer begged Apple to stop the funnification; Jen Doll had some fun with eggcorns, mondegreens, and other word mistakes; and Arrant Pedantry had some “funner” grammar. Robert Lane Greene and Bryan A. Garner debated which language rules to flout (or flaunt), and The Atlantic put a call out for spelling standardization. Neil Genzlinger complained about the overuse of really on television, while Jerry Seinfeld (yes, the Jerry Seinfeld) real(ly) responded.

At Lingua Franca, Ben Yagoda explored the thin red line and got eye-rate about Iran. Allan Metcalf announced a new contest: “forge a brand-new [grammar] usage rule that will pointlessly vex students in English composition classes, and writers for publications, for generations to come.”

At the Macmillan Dictionary blog, Michael Rundell wondered about crowd-sourcing and dictionaries; Stan Carey explored different types of dictionary crowd-sourcing; Orin Hargraves served up pasta language; and Liz Potter gave us some tips on maybe versus perhaps. Meanwhile, Motivated Grammar declared that misuses of myself and yourself are nothing new.

In words of the week, Fritinancy selected lucky ducky, “an American who pays no federal income tax because his or her income level falls below the tax line after deductions and credits,” and civility, “behavior or speech appropriate to civil interactions.”

Erin McKean noted gansey, an English and Scottish fisherman’s sweater; alligator fruit, another name for the avocado, also “called an ‘alligator pear,’ which should not be confused with the alligator apple, a relative of the soursop and cherimoya”; homosociality, “the tendency of people to hire others who look and act like them”; summer melt, “when students change their plans or decide to attend another school after getting in off the wait list”; and railgating, tailgating on a light-rail train.

Word Spy spotted selfie,“a photographic self-portrait, particularly one taken with the intent of posting it to a social network”; racebending, “the practice of hiring actors whose race is different from that of the characters they portray”; orange-collar, “relating to a worker who wears an orange safety vest while on the job”; baby-lag, “extreme fatigue and disorientation due to the sleep deprivation associated with parenting a baby”; and flirtationship, “a relationship that consists mostly of flirting.”

Sesquiotica considered the phrase I’m just saying and the German word, Zungunruhe, “migration restlessness.” Lynneguist compared the British and American English versions of the word sleepover. Johnson broke Pennsylvania Dutch; The Guardian professed a love for Nigerian pidgin; and the Dialect Blog took a look at singing in dialect, specifically when Brits go GenAm.

We learned a little about the history of the Welsh language; that the sign language African Americans use is different from that of whites; and the secret lives of little words. We learned about the names of the seasons and the names of winter storms.

We weren’t really surprised to find out that these famous authors had ghostwriters. We loved F. Scott Fitzgerald’s response to hate mail, this letter on the beauty of words, and this website of tweets in iambic pentameter. We want this unofficial Downton Abbey cookbook right now.

That’s it for this week! Really? Really.

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