This Week’s Language Blog Roundup: Binders, Britishisms, and more

by Angela Tung on October 19, 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 celebrated Dictionary Day on Tuesday with a fictional dictionary contest – congratulations again to all the winners! – while at The Atlantic, Jen Doll told us a few things about Noah Webster, the lexicographer the day honors.

In politics, Ben Zimmer discussed moochers, while in the aftermath of the first presidential debate, he examined President Obama’s after-the-fact comeback, or l’esprit de l’escalier, “the wit of the staircase.” Orin Hargraves, meanwhile, delved into the language of both contenders.

After the vice presidential debate, we heard a lot of malarkey, my friend, from Ben Zimmer, Jen Doll, and Nancy Friedman, while the second presidential debate gave us a sketchy deal, binders and barb words, binders full of women, and binder reviews (oh, internet, will you marry me?). We learned about interruptions in debates, Paul Ryan’s accent, and how to say Missouri.

In Australia, the prime minister’s speech prompted a dictionary to change its definition of misogyny, which, Fully (sic) explained, wasn’t so much a change but an update “to bring it up to speed with the last 30 years of common Australian usage.”

This week we also learned that Americans are apparently “barmy over Britishisms,” to which Jen Doll, Lynneguist, and Dialect Blog all responded. Perhaps part of that barmy-ism can be credited to the Beatles and their influence on the English language, as discussed by Michael Rundell at Macmillan Dictionary blog.

Also at Macmillan, John Williams wondered if there’s a case for publically, and Stan Carey took a look at some lesser spotted portmanteaus, and on his own blog, posted about Scott Kim’s very cool symmetrical alphabet.

At Language Log, Victor Mair pleaded against the butchering of the name of the winner of the Nobel prize in literature, Chinese writer Mo Yan, and Mark Liberman considered the pronunciation of the seemingly simple word, with. Johnson discussed the slang term, guys, and Grammar Girl taught us some Yoda grammar.

At Lingua Franca, Allan Metcalf announced the winners of his latest contest, invent “a new bogus rule of usage,” and suggested that weird words won’t win in the game of neologism. Ben Yagoda talked about reaching out and had some fun with some puns.

In words of the week, Fritinancy selected hustings, “a place where political speeches are made; more generally, the campaign trail,” while Word Spy spotted sageism, “discrimination based on a person’s gender and age”; doorer, “a driver who opens a car door into the path of an oncoming cyclist”; tech-life balance, “the use of technology in such a way that it does not interfere with or reduce the quality of one’s personal life or relationships”; and digital dualism,“the belief that online and offline are largely distinct and independent realities.”

Erin McKean’s word selections included sundowning, a condition “in which the fall of darkness causes confusion and fear” in patients with dementia; boffo, Variety magazine speak for “excellent”; and ralli quilt, a “marriage blanket” from Pakistan or India. Erin also spoke with the ModCloth Blog about the awesome job of lexicography.

The Dialect Blog wondered if Received Pronunciation – or a “standard British accent” – was ever rhotic. Sesquiotica considered the whippersnapper and enjoyed the foliage. The Virtual Linguist told us about having a stiff upper lip, being on the ball, and the origins of the pomegranate.

We found out how British sign language is changing, that slang is the universal language, and about bigger, better Google Ngrams. We learned how New York City neighborhoods got their names, the origin of the dog ate my homework, and why people quit cold turkey.

We’re excited about this previously unseen poem from JRR Tolkien and this new volume of “spare words” from Douglas Adams, and are intrigued by the idea of a science fiction adaptation of Moby-Dick, which, by the way, celebrated its 161st anniversary yesterday.

We loved these photos of writers hanging out together, this letter from typewriter lover Tom Hanks, and these Halloween costumes based on books. We were in awe of these incredible libraries from around the world and that MythBusters host Adam Savage has a list of 17,000 palindromes (come to Wordnik, Adam! we love lists too).

That’s it for this week!

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