Happy Bloomsday!

Every June 16, James Joyce fans everywhere celebrate the Irish writer’s mammoth tome, Ulysses.

Serialized from 1918 to 1920, Ulysses was first published in its entirety in 1922 by Sylvia Beach, who started Shakespeare and Company in Paris. Deemed “obscene” due to a passage that included the main character, Leopold Bloom (for whom the holiday is named), masturbating, Ulysses was banned in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom till the 1930s.

Bloomsday began in 1954 “on the 50th anniversary of the events in the novel, when John Ryan (artist, critic, publican and founder of Envoy magazine) and the novelist Flann O’Brien organised what was to be a daylong pilgrimage along the Ulysses route.”  Now 57 years later, Ulyssean festivities are still going strong.

The little bookshop that started it all is displaying artwork from artist Stephen Crowe’s “Wake in Progress, his ongoing project to illustrate every page of [another Joyce novel] Finnegans Wake.” In Dublin and New York, Joyceans celebrated with Bloomsday breakfasts. Broadway is putting on a daylong, celebrity-studded marathon reading, while tweeps are attempting to tweet all 256,000 words of Ulysses in 24 hours.

Meanwhile, author Frank Delaney is deconstructing one line of Ulysses a day; photographer Motoko Fujita put together a book of Joyce-inspired photographs; and Rory McCann, an Irish software developer, created an algorithm to solve the Ulyssean riddle, can you cross Dublin without passing a pub? (The short answer: yes but it’s not easy.)

Feeling less ambitious? You can see the what, where and when of 16th June 1904, as well as just the where.  Or if you’ve always wondered what the entire text of Ulysses translated in 2D barcodes looks like, you’re in luck. Of course we at Wordnik aren’t empty-handed – we have lists for this, Ulysses, Ulyssean, and Joycean.  And with the end of the Ulysses copyright next year, who knows what will happen (Bloomsday flash mob, anyone?).

Whatever you decide to do (or not do), you have 365 days to read, or re-read, the novel for next Bloomsday.  Or you can watch the movie.  We won’t tell.

This Week’s Language Blog Roundup

It’s time again for our weekly Language Blog Roundup, in which we bring you the highlights from our favorite blogs and the latest in word news.

At The Huffington Post, Robert Lane Greene discussed some grammar pet peeves, offering a “taxonomy of language mistakes and non-mistakes,” such as Rules Everyone Knows, Standard But Tricky, and our favorite, as coined by Arnold Zwicky,zombie rules, a “long list of peeves on the part of single individuals that somehow made it into grammar books and teaching materials” (zombie rules attack! better checkmy CDC manual).

Mr. Zwicky, meanwhile, mused on the origins of chow-chow, and discussed the marmaxi (as opposed to the martini), the French idiom chaud lapin, and just in time for Memorial Day weekend, nude – but not naked – beaches.  He has also assembled an extensive list of language blogs and resources. Check it out.

A cornucopia of articles on the metaphor arose (from Psychology Today; Johnson, The Economist’s language blog; and The Atlantic).  The Atlantic also got its swag on.

Slate argued against the em dash, while the bloggers at Language Log wondered what “even” even means; explored the rejection of the power semantic; pondered the U.S. North Midland dialect (“You want punched out?”); and were boggled by faux Chinese characters.

Stan Carey took a look at another invented language in his post on J.R.R. Tolkien and conlangs, or constructed languages; K International suggested a link between Elvish and Welsh (le hannon! you’re welcome); and BBC News reported on robots that have developed their own language (Skynet anyone?).

In the land of more made-up words, someone on, of all things, the TV show “Cougar Town” coined one – gagbysmal, which we can only guess means “abysmal to the point of gagging,” while Hal McCoy at the Springfield News-Sun remembered another one, embarrassivity.

Arr! The Dialect Blog posed a theory on the origins of an almost-made-up language, the pirate accent, while Word Spy pointed out another recent meme, planking (don’t try this at home, kiddies) as well as, on a more serious note, brain waste, “Immigrants who were skilled professionals in their home countries but have been forced to take unskilled jobs in their new country.”

The Virtual Linguist investigated Scotland Yard’s code name for President Obama, chalaque, “crafty or cunning, especially someone who is too clever for their own good — like Smart Alec in English, I suppose” (however, it turned out that the much reported “Smart Alec” is not President Obama’s code name across the pond after all); as well as British Prime Minister David Cameron’s tumbleweed moment when a joke he cracked at the American president’s expense “was met with stony silence.”

Finally, The New York Times compared the writing styles of U.S. Supreme Court justices, and announced the Ulysses Meets Twitter 2011 project, an experiment from “Stephen from Baltimore,” in which volunteers are invited to tweet the mammoth novel in 140-character snippets on Bloomsday, June 16.

That’s it for this week. Remember, if you have a tip or would like your language blog to be included in our weekly roundup, let us know in the comments, via email (feedback AT wordnik DOT com), or on Twitter.  Till then, namárië!

75 Years Later, Joyce Obscene Again

Every Bloomsday for the past 27 years Symphony Space has done a program of readings from James Joyce’s Ulysses, and every year those performances have been broadcast on WBAI, 99.5 FM in New York.

Tonight, though, according to The New York Times, WBAI will be parting ways with Symphony Space due to “apprehension about obscenity and government regulation.” Symphony Space will be reading the racy* “Ithica” episode, while WBAI will be playing it safe with other passages.

This immediately got my Irish up: how dare our government censor great literature! Then I read the article more closely, and it doesn’t actually say anything about government censorship. Symphony Space and WBAI censored themselves “to avoid concerns at the radio station about some of Joyce’s words and descriptions.”

How gutless! In 1933 a federal judge ruled that Ulysses was safe for public consumption, and what was deemed acceptable then has to be infinitely more so in this lurid age, when hair-palmed teenagers have so many better options for making themselves blind. It’s disappointing that Symphony Space and WBAI lack the courage of their convictions. The government rarely displays either**, but you expect more of great cultural institutions.

That said, I bet they both put on a good show. Genteel readers can listen to the family-friendly WBAI production, while you pornographers out there can enjoy the Symphony Space slimefest.

* Kidding. It’s not half as racy as this.

** Though it makes me think maybe the Bush administration might be right after all that industry can regulate its own CO2 emissions. If the culture industry can do such a good job regulating itself, why not coal-fired power plants?