This Week’s Language Blog Roundup: Election, WOTY, and terrifying origins

by Angela Tung on November 16, 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.

The Peace Hat, FDR (WWll) and Fala, Too!

The Peace Hat, FDR (WWll) and Fala, Too! by Tony Fischer Photography

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by Tony Fischer Photography]

You might have heard there was a little election last week. Mental Floss told us where red states and blue states come from while Zinzin gave us a history of Presidential pet names and nicknames. Our tweet about waiting to vote in line or on line got Jen Doll thinking about the semantics of voting and line waiting. Ben Zimmer questioned the razor-tight-ness of the presidential race, examined the We are all the X now trope, and helped us figure out the origin of Romney’s latest Mittonym, poopy-head, and the phrase, fiscal cliff.

As 2012 winds down, candidates for Word of the Year (WOTY) abound. Oxford Dictionary’s UK pick is omnishambles, “a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations,” while its choice for the U.S. is the verb form of GIF, “to create a GIF file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event).” Wondering how Oxford came up with GIF? Here are some animated GIFs that tell the tale. Also check out these 11 former WOTY candidates that are now delebs.

The end of the year also means holiday-time, which means holiday cliches. Do what John McIntyre says and shun them.

In dictionary news, Macmillan Dictionary announced that they will be going completely digital, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the owner of the American Heritage Dictionary, has acquired Webster’s New World Dictionary.

In other language news, Jonathan Green told us about the Scottish slang of Trainspotting author, Irvine Welsh. Ben Zimmer showed how Twitter language reveals gender, and at Language Log, discussed using syllepsis in headlines while Mark Liberman took a bite out of toothbutterJohnson explored the tu-vous distinction and, inspired by our Diwali post on Indian-Anglo words, delved into the etymology of punch and other five words.

At Lingua Franca, Geoffrey Pullum leaned to the adverbial right while Ben Yagoda celebrated the flexiptivist, “a position between the classic prescriptivist and descriptivist.” At Macmillan Dictionary blog, Gill Francis discussed the big ask of online dictionaries, Stan Carey served up the origin of the word treacle, and on his own blog did not make a hames of the word hamesHe also had some fun with the Fargo accent.

In words of the week, Erin McKean noted vore, a fetish involving “the idea of being eaten whole and alive, eating another alive, or watching this process”; haikai, “a form of lighthearted collaborative poetry in which each poet links his verse to the previous one’s”; dancheong, a “Korean ornamental style”; and sourdough, a brave imbiber of the Sourtoe cocktail.

Fritinancy’s word choices were fondleslab, “a touchscreen device, particularly a tablet computer, to which its owner appears unnaturally attached,” and epistemic closure, “a reference to closed systems of deduction that are unaffected by empirical evidence.” Also don’t miss our interview with Fritinancy, aka Nancy Friedman, about the art of naming.

Sesquiotica explored the punworthy mediochre, and the pronunciation of madder and matter. The Dialect Blog looked at the Higgins’ boast, the claim to have “an exceptional knack for guessing dialects,” and dialect gripes about The Help. The Virtual Linguist shared an unusual definition of cocktail and the origin of the word banshee. Meanwhile, Ozwords was as game as Ned Kelly.

This week we also learned how to spell out a scream and other style tidbits from the Chicago Manual of Style, the terrifying origins of the phrase, drinking the Kool-Aid, and the disturbing origins of 10 famous fairy tales. We wished that this New York Times’ language tool were open to the public. We loved these literary comics, the idea of William Shatner reading our poetry (full of Shatner pauses, no doubt), and these limericks of every single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

That’s it for this week!

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