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 were saddened by the passing of journalist Michael Hastings and science fiction author Richard Matheson, whose novels include I Am Legend, Hell House, and The Shrinking Man. We will also miss Devo drummer Alan Myers, and actor James Gandolfini (read Sopranos creator David Chase’s moving eulogy).
In language news, a study showed grammar may be hidden in toddler babble, and Japan’s national broadcaster is being sued by a viewer “for ‘mental distress’ caused by an excessive use of words borrowed from English.” Meanwhile, Idibon rounded up the world’s weirdest languages.
At the Boston Globe, Ben Zimmer taught us some mobspeak, and at Visual Thesaurus focused on courtroom words, including Justice Antonin Scalia’s argle-bargle. Meanwhile, Slate created a handy glossary of Scalia-isms.
At Language Log, Geoff Pullum discussed the long-awaited split infinitive at The Economist. At OxfordWords blog, Simon Thomas rounded up five words that are older than we thought; at The Week, James Harbeck looked into four very old words for very new things; and at Macmillan Dictionary blog, Stan Carey offered some fossil words of yore.
Also at Macmillan, Gill Francis advised us to stop asking silly questions about grammar, and Michael Rundell taught us about bagel and other tennis lingo; and on his own blog, Stan hunted for the origins of tantivy, and explored the difference between envy and jealousy.
Arika Okrent told us about four subtle changes to the English language, and a tiny island where men have their own language. Kory Stamper explained why dictionaries need to change with the times. At Lingua Franca, Anne Curzan looked into whether a sight for sore eyes is a good or bad thing.
At World Wide Words, Michael Quinion shed light on why restaurateur doesn’t have an n while restaurant does, which explains why we have such trouble spelling it. But it looks like we’re not the only ones who are bad at spelling, and who can blame us since English spelling is so bizarre and people should relax about it anyway.
In words of the week, Fritinancy selected chapulling, “a term used by Turkey’s anti-government activists to describe their peaceful demonstrations,” and syzygy, “a straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies in a gravitational system.”
Erin McKean’s choices included dataveillance, “the ability to surveil people through their data trail”; mumblecore, a type of film that features “improvising nonprofessional actors and have low budgets (and low production values)”; and jaripeo, the Mexican rodeo.
Word Spy spotted zenware, “software designed to enhance focus by removing or blocking a computer’s visual distractions, and threenager, “a three-year-old who displays the moodiness and attitude of a teenager.”
The Dialect Blog nominated Singapore English – or Singlish – as the dialect of the 21st century, and took a look at Anglicized Spanish. Lynneguist had her own take on American and Brits pronouncing words from Spanish.
In grammar, Grammar Girl gave some great tips on how to avoid the comma splice, and Mark Allen compared since and because. In punctuation news, we learned what some people are doing about “apostrophe catastrophes,” as well as some tips about how to use hyphens correctly.
In naming, Slate related the history behind Kemosabe; Salon grouped bizarre celebrity baby names into eight categories; and The Guardian offered a celebrity baby name generator. Early Modern England shared some medieval pet names and The Morning News told us how cocktails get named.
We loved these alternative libraries in New York, these artifacts from the New York Public Library’s children’s books exhibition, and these photos of discarded books. We enjoyed this map showing the original meaning of place names in North America, this Venn diagram of bro-ness, and this LEGO glossary.
This week we also learned how eight famous writers chose their pen names, 12 other famous writers’ take on rejection, that Jane Austen may replace Charles Darwin on the 10 pound note, and that James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake has taken off in China. We love Bloomsday – or is that Blumesday? – but also wondered why Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway doesn’t get her own day.
That’s it for this week!