This Week’s Language Blog Roundup: passings, Philly accent, Quidditching

by Angela Tung on April 12, 2013

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.

A Room With a View, from Drafthouse

We were saddened by the passing of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the screenwriter behind A Room With a View, Howard’s End, and and many others, as well as that of legendary film critic Roger Ebert. Check out Visual Thesaurus’s ode to Ebert’s lexicon and 10 movies he really hated.

This week also saw the passing of independent publisher Peter Workman; actress and Mouseketeer, Annette Funicello; and Britain’s first woman prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. Read about Thatcher’s linguistic legacy.

In the business of language, last week Rosetta Stone bought online language learning community, Livemocha, for $8.5 million; Nook debuted Nook Press, a self-publishing platform; and Waterstones founder is planning on launching a “Spotify for books.”

In language news, the Associated Press dropped the term, illegal immigrant, from its lexicon, and what may be the largest proofreading project ever began with 100,000 volunteers proofreading the 25,000 books of Project Gutenberg.

The New York Times kicked off National Poetry Month with Times Haiku, “Serendipitous Poetry from The New York Times.” Also at The Times, Henry Hitchings complained those irritating verbs as nouns.

At Johnson, Robert Lane Greene wrote about NPR’s new blog on race, Code Switch, and code-switching itself, “the instant and frequent switching between two distinct languages.”

At Lingua Franca, William Germano looked at epistolary closes; Anne Curzan considered on the other hand; and Ben Yagoda wondered what does that even mean? Meanwhile, Geoff Pullum discussed his disdain for George Orwell’s famous essay, “Politics and the English Language.”

At Language Log, Mark Liberman’s crash blossom of the week was nozzle thought gun, while Ben Zimmer made a plea for DARE, the Dictionary of American Regional English, which “ is experiencing a serious financial crisis.” Consider making a donation.

Ben was also busy over at The Atlantic talking about his media (over)consumption habits and some bad driving lingo at The Boston Globe. At Macmillan Dictionary blog, Liz Potter told us the story behind the word Persian and Stan Carey rounded up some thoughts on whom.

On his own blog Stan admired “some superb entropy” in the language of spam. Megan Garber, inspired by Stan’s collection of synonyms for the exclamation point, added some of her own.

Fritinancy had fun with the stock phrase, not your close relative’s X, and in words of the week, picked cucoloris, “a screen with oddly shaped holes cut through it, placed before a light source to throw diverse shadows on an otherwise uniform surface,” and Poisson D’Avril, “a person who is taken in by an April Fools’ Day prank.”

Erin McKean’s words of the week included hippodrama, “plays in which horses took center stage)”; ogooglebar, Swedish for “ungoogleable”; mongo, “sanitation slang for treasure salvaged from trash”; and baranek, Easter lambs in the Polish tradition that are “hand-carved in butter or formed in brilliant white sugar wearing tiny bows.”

The Word Spy spotted de-extinction, “the artificial recreation of a previously extinct species”; work-life overload, “an excessive burden caused by the combined responsibilities of a person’s work and personal life”; and amygdala hijack, “an immediate, overwhelming, and usually inappropriate emotional response to a perceived threat or emergency.”

We learned about how the Philly accent is changing. The Dialect Blog explored northeastern Pennsylvania’s “un-northeastern” accent; dived versus dove in American dialects; and Downton Abbey and the death of drama school accent enforcement.

The Virtual Linguist told us about frimponged, “to tackle very aggressively,” and other football terms; Mr. Slang – aka Jonathan Green – explored synonyms and slang for death and dying; and James Harbeck explained how foreign languages mutate English words.

We learned why people hate certain words and why tech neologisms make people angry. We agree that these are business cliches that everyone should love to hate, but it might be fun to use biz speak instead of lorem ipsum. Plus did you know these nine things about swear words?

We found out why there are different names for the same country, why so many urban train stations are called Penn Station, and the art of naming a dog. We’ve always wondered why dogs rule literature and cats run the web, and now we know.

We loved this piece in McSweeney’s about commas and love, and this article in The New Yorker about words that shouldn’t last but do. We also loved this Game of Thrones bestiary and these fun facts about the Dothraki language. We laughed at these creative TV edits of naughty movie lines and enjoyed these weird and wonderful Shakespeare adaptations.

We want to participate in this Japanese Quidditching meme but not some of these international memes (please don’t put pantyhose on your dog).

That’s it for this week!

[Photo: “A Room With a View,” Drafthouse]

Barry Popik April 16, 2013 at 8:39 am

Make that “Hamburguesa Mexicana” and “Sequestrocalypse.” I have Crohn’s Disease and I can barely stand today. I don’t make any money from my work. I don’t know why Wordnik is making me do this after missing my last 3,000 posts since 2011.

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