This Week’s Language Blog Roundup: Taboo initials, language peeves, and more

by Angela Tung on August 24, 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.

This week we celebrated the birthdays of two of our favorite writers, Dorothy Parker and Ray Bradbury. The Oxford Words Blog feted Dorothy Parker with a recap of her writing life, including words she coined or popularized, while Flavorwire offered Parker’s guide to life. Brainpickings shared a Ray Bradbury documentary on storytelling, and we celebrated the science fiction author with our favorite words from science fiction TV.

The New York Times experienced STFU-gate, about which Arnold Zwicky had a thing or two to say. While The Times doesn’t like certain words, of course it likes others. Meanwhile, over at the Scrabble national championships, another controversy arose.

In language news, Ben Zimmer traced the origin of hipsters, hippies, and hepcats and discussed crowdsourcing the dictionary. John McIntyre proclaimed he’d gladly go to lexicographer hell for adding new words to the dictionary, and Jan Freeman explored the curious pleasure of language peeving.

At Language Blog, Ben Zimmer rendered “Pussy Riot” in Russian; Geoff Pullum considered one “legitimate” adjective; and Mark Liberman tried to solve the mystery of off the cuff. Victor Mair ordered up some more Chinglish menu items (one spiced broccoli is better to die to go please!) and revealed the greatest Japanese export to China.

At Lingua Franca, Allan Metcalf discussed the new New England accent, Geoff Pullum explored the mysterious rules of grammar, and the winner of Lingua Franca’s grammar limerick contest was announced. At Macmillan Dictionary blog, Michael Rundell considered the “orderliness” of language; Orin Hargraves was out of countenance; and Gill Francis deliberated on up to. Stan Carey delved into irregular verbs, and on his own blog, focused on children’s awareness of irregular verbs and different types of brags.

For words of the week, Fritinancy chose low bono, “at a reduced fee or discounted rate,” and hooliganism, “rioting; bullying; rough horseplay.” Word Spy spotted thrillax, “to do something that is both stimulating and relaxing”; binge viewing, “a period of excessive indulgence spent watching previously broadcast episodes of a TV show”; and fat finger trade, “an erroneous or inadvertent trade, particularly one that has significant market consequences, caused by a typo.”

Erin McKean noted wormholes, video screens or virtual windows that allow “far-off teams [the illusion of] working side-by-side”; Mobot, a victory dance performed by British distance runner Mo Farah; mouseburger, “a plain and ordinary woman who must work relentlessly to make herself desirable and successful”; and exposome, “a person’s lifetime of environmental exposures.” At the Dictionary Evangelist, Erin recalled her time working on the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus and a conversation with David Foster Wallace.

Sesquiotica examined spruiking, rumpus, and yump. The Virtual Linguist explained interview without coffee, “army slang for a severe dressing-down,” and harry as a verb. Oz Words wasn’t too devo about this shortening of devastated. Lynneguist said please in restaurants in England, while the Dialect Blog explored the Cockney v/w mystery, told us to fuhgeddaboudit, and gave us the 4-1-1 on urban metonyms.

In other news, Shitterton took the prize for most unfortunate place name, while these individuals won for worst writing. Some writers were transformed into Legos; some actors and writers were transformed into Edith Wharton, her friends, and colleagues; and some Lord of the Ring passages were transformed into other writers’ styles.

We loved these 50 literary put-downs, these 19 old-timey slang terms (we’re off the cob!), these 11 words with no English translation, and this slew of sneezes heard from around the world. If we were in New York, we’d gladly frequent this new science fiction bookstore dedicated to out-of-print SF books. In movie and television news, we learned about invented languages from Hollywood to Bollywood, the Baltimore accent in The Wire, and the language of the Buffyverse in celebration of the 50th birthday of James “Spike” Marsters.

Finally, our favorite new site of the week is As I Lay Frying, which pairs pictures of donuts with literary quotations because: of course.

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