This Week’s Language Blog Roundup

It’s that time once again when we bring you the highlights from our favorite language blogs and the latest in word news.

The Economist’s language blog Johnson rang in the Fourth with American accents and Accigone, the accent eradicator, while the Dialect Blog provided British accent samples instead.  At Language Log, Mark Liberman took a look at things that aren’t what they are, namely Google’s recent bids for Nortel patents (“pi” and “the distance between the earth and the sun” are just a couple of examples); some verbal illusions (no one is too busy to read this post, right?); and some variations on the French oh la la.

Language Corner at the Columbia Journalism Review took issue with using words such as gonna and wanna to convey dialect, while The Economist explored the diverse world of voiceovers and dubbing in the Arab film industry, from “Syrian musalsalaat, or soap operas,” to Gulf Arabic for “dramas from India and its neighbours.”

In endangered languages, it appears that as elders die off, fluency in Maori is diminishing, even as the number of Maori speakers increases, while according to K International, the Oaxca, an indigenous people of Mexico, are rethinking their strategy in maintaining their language.

K International also took a look at one foundation is using technology to preserve languages, as well as some unlikely language preservationists – teenagers, namely those in southern Chile who have been “posting videos on YouTube of themselves rapping in a mixture of Spanish and Huilliche, an indigenous language with only about 2,000 speakers,” as well as teens texting in regional and indigenous languages in the Philippines (as mentioned in our last post) and Mexico.  Another online project gives a home to dying languages, while social networking may give Welsh a new lease on life.

Johnson also mused on color naming, while Lynneguist at Separated By a Common Language discussed making suggestions in different cultures.  Arnold Zwicky had fun with telephon- combining words; some porn-manteaus; and mishearing Navy SEALs as baby seals.  Headsup: The Blog asserted that serve and serve up cannot be used interchangeably, at least where people are concerned.

The Virtual Linguist blogged about naturists’ – or nudists’ – slang (for instance, “cotton-tails. . .are people with white bottoms ie non-naturists, or, at the very least, recent converts to naturism”); a several hundred year old term for prostitute; and a couple of slang terms for money.  And the Dialect Blog recounted the evolution of the word, douchebag.

This week we also learned of a chimp who recognizes synthetic speech; a scholar who is studying how the concept of time differs across languages; and that the prolific British Library is building a database of Britain’s most obscure words. Some of our favorites?  Dimpsy, “half light, just turning dark,” gurtlush, “the best,” and tittermatorter, “seesaw”.  We also found out that the third edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction will be available later this year online for free, and then our heads  exploded with excitement.

That’s it from here! Till next week, adios, au revior, aufweidersehn!

This Week’s Language Blog Roundup

It’s Friday again, folks, which means it’s time for our Language Blog Roundup, in which we give you the highlights of our favorite language blogs and the latest in word news.

The ignoramus of the week award goes to the narrator of Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman’s biography video. Huntsman, the former Ambassador to China and Utah governor, speaks Mandarin Chinese and Hokkien, “whatever that is,” quips the folksly narrator. As the article helpfully notes, it’s “a Chinese dialect based in Taiwan, and spoken throughout Southeast Asia by about 47 million people.”

Ben Zimmer at Language Log commented that we “now face the fascinating prospect of having two major presidential candidates who can speak Asian languages with some degree of proficiency” (President Obama knows Indonesian, from his time in Jakarta), and Huntsman has talked about “the importance of learning foreign languages as a bridge to cross-cultural understanding.”  Robert Lane Greene at The Economist wrote about presidential language abilities, while the prolific Ben Zimmer noted some new words from this early stage of the election campaign.

The New York Times pondered Sarah Palin’s undeniable influence on the English language (“How’s that hopey-changey stuff working out for ya?”), while K International discussed how Twitter is changing language, and Stan Carey reviewed Guy Deutscher’s book, Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages.

Hopefully after you’ve read Through the Language Glass, or any book, you won’t have biblio-amnesia and forget what you’ve read, though chances are you will (here’s a whole list of book recommendations for you to forget).  In “Whatpocalypse Now?” Mark Liberman at Language Log talks about libfixes, in this case sportspocalypse.  Arnold Zwicky, coiner of the libfix term, has an extensive list.

Meanwhile, a pub brawl broke out in Penrhyndeudraeth, a Welsh village, when bar patrons in the predominantly Welsh-speaking area were forced by management to make their orders in English. We’re happy to report that the pub is now “back under Welsh-language friendly management“. In the Twitterverse a less violent, though no less passionate, disagreement occurred over accent marks.

The Virtual Linguist engaged in a taming of the various meanings of shrew, which originally referred to a “wicked, evil-disposed or malignant man,” and in “the 14th and 15th centuries. . .was applied to the Devil.”  The Wrdnrd enjoyed some sake terms, while Mark Peters over at Oxford University Press blog informed us he likes bullshit and other slang.

Stan Carey also wrote about Silbo Gomero and other whistled languages, while The Dialect Blog posted about Quebec English and California English and the “gay accent,” if there’s a such a thing.  Separated By a Common Language explored the American and British expressions, respectively, “it’s up to you” and “it’s down to you.”

Like Scots words? You can contribute them to an online dictionary.  Meanwhile the Squamish Nation published their first dictionary, “designed to help the Squamish learn their own language and bring it back from the brink of extinction.”

In our neck of the woods, medical students at the University of California, San Francisco are helping to bridge the language divide between doctors and patients through a “free mobile translation application” they invented, which “allows health care providers to play medical history questions and instructions out loud, so far in five languages.”

In fun stuff, the Oatmeal taught us the difference between “ie” and “eg”; the Phoenix New Times listed the best bands with punctuation or typographical marks in their names; and hey, did you know there’s a Language Museum? Flavorwire alerted us to the 30 harshest author on author insults in history. Our favorite? Some William Faulkner on Ernest Hemingway – and vice versa – action.

Finally, we wanted to give a special shout-out to our librarian friends as they kick off ALA 2011 in the Big Easy. Nowadays, librarians and libraries are often heading the way in terms of increasing access to information online. For instance, the National Library of Medicine released its “Turning the Pages” iPad app, which  “is free and features selections from three rare books from the Library’s collection.”  The Biodiversity Heritage Library helped to digitize and hosts part of Charles Darwin’s huge personal scientific library.  It was announced that the British Library and Google would be working together to digitize “about 250,000 texts dating back to the 18th Century.”  (Of course “the project will take some years to complete,” so until then, have some fun with the British Library’s interactive timeline on the history of the English language.)

The Atlantic went as far as to suggest that big media could learn a lot from the New York Public Library and what it has been doing around “innovative online projects,” such as “smart e-publications, crowdsourcing projects, and an overall digital strategy that shows a far greater understanding of the power of the Internet than most traditional media companies show.”

Speaking of an innovative online project, this week JK Rowling revealed, an interactive website that will exclusively host the e-book formats of the Harry Potter series, as well as include a social networking element and additional background for the original stories.  The site goes live July 31, Harry’s birthday, though you can sign up now.

That’s it from here!  Tune in next week, same Wordnik-time, same Wordnik-channel.

This Week’s Language Blog Roundup

It’s Friday again, fellow word nerds, which means it’s time for our Language Blog Roundup, in which we bring you the highlights of our favorite language blogs and the latest in word news.

Yesterday was Bloomsday, and if you’re still jonesing for some Joyce, check out our blog post, which gives a bit of history and a roundup of all things Ulysses around the web.

Fritinancy’s vote for word of the week was the Streisand Effect, or the “backfiring of an attempt to hide or remove a piece of information,” named for Barbra herself when her “attempt in 2003 to suppress photographs of her residence inadvertently generated further publicity.”  Word Spy spied some excellent words including bacn and champagne problem. However, our favorite was timmolation, “the destruction of a person’s career or reputation caused by lewd or insensitive Twitter posts.” Speaking of which, The New York Times offered a medley of “my bads.”

The NYT also noted that justices seem to be turning more and more to the dictionary for help in the courtroom while Johnson, The Economist’s language blog, warned that the dictionary isn’t the law, at least not in a courtroom, and that “rather than rely on dictionaries, statute-writers should be as careful as possible to use words in the way that they are commonly understood (especially in quality edited writing).”

Johnson also noted a Chinese artist defying the laws of censorship with secret puns and homophones ( Fǎ Kè Yóu, you French-Croatian Squid!) while Wired deciphered the secret meanings in text message punctuationK International was excited about automatic sign language and “Tattúínárdœla Saga, the ‘Star Wars’ story rewritten in the style of the Old Norse Sagas and translated into Old Norse as well” (sure, why not).

Dialect Blog wondered when Americans stopped talking “British”; pondered the Scots-Irish influence on Appalachian English; and puzzled over the multiple meanings of the Irish dialect word, craic. The Virtual Linguist took a look at philogynist, the opposite of misogynist; bridewell, a lovely-sounding place but not a nice place to be; and grockle, a West-Country word for “tourist.” Arnold Zwicky came across some cool words too, including foofaraw and garmento, as well as several portmanteaus, such as murderabilia, viewmongous, mathemusician, and Newtiny.

Daily Writing Tips discussed the changing meanings of the word freak, while The Independent reported on one man’s war on cliches. Meanwhile, the Oxford University Press Blog proposed that teaching proper comma usage wouldn’t necessarily improve writing.

Language Log mused on minimal pairing and why some jokes won’t die (a priest, a rabbi, and the Dali Lama walk into a bar. . .). Stan Carey at Sentence First discussed the evolution of the language organism, while Boing Boing examined how visual perception varies across languages; the NSA Style Manual; and a house made of bookcases (in the inimitable words of Cory Doctorow: WANT).

In more “want” news, the British Library announced they would be releasing “more than 1,000 rare books [from their 19th-century collection] in the form of a single app for the iPad.”

Finally, you may have heard about the gentleman who was kicked off an airplane for swearing. He was speaking “Brooklynese,” he insisted, and claimed that Brooklynites “curse as adjectives.” Others would beg to differ.

That’s it from here.  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.

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.

We love lists, and so does the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.  Their exhibit, “Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations,” is open now through October 2, and features lists such as “bills to pay, things undone, failings in oneself and others; lists of people to call, stuff to buy, errands to be accomplished,” as well as “lots of lists of artworks, real and imaginary.”

Another very long, very old list is “the 21-volume dictionary of the language of ancient Mesopotamia and its Babylonian and Assyrian dialects, unspoken for 2,000 years but preserved on clay tablets and in stone inscriptions deciphered over the last two centuries,” which was finally “completed by scholars at the University of Chicago” this week after a 90-year effort, as reported by The New York Times.

Arnold Zwicky poked a bit of fun at The Gray Lady and its demure coverage of New York hot dog chain Papaya King’s suggestive marketing for its new Hollywood location.  (See for yourself.)

Speaking of, um, weiners (yes, we went there), Johnson (*sigh*), The Economist’s language blog, lauded the congressman’s real apology (as opposed to a fauxpology) but questioned his characterization of his indiscretions as “mistakes.”  Johnson also discussed the berk-wanker (sorry) language spectrum of descriptivists and prescriptivists.

Meanwhile, Language Log explored the origins of the phrase, “that’s mighty white of you” (which surprisingly did not always have to do with race); how language style matching may predict relationship attraction and stability; and the Navy SEALs of snowclones.  Language Log also took on speech-based lie detection of Russian ATM machines, and discussed more trouble with translation, Italian this time.

K International talked about some Italians who were unhappy with the Jersey Shore cast, pronouncing them supercafoni, or superboors, as well as the challenges of translating humor.  Sentence First considered the origins of a “thick” Irish expression while Dialect Blog mused on the “foreign” Welsh accent; estuary English; Pittsburghese; and objected to objections about a particular British dialect.

Bananagrammer reviewed the good and the not-so-good of the new Scrabble words in the British Collins dictionary; Online Universities aggregated “40 fascinating lectures for linguistics geeks”; and Word Spy spotted the SoHo effect, “when the artists who made a neighborhood cool and exciting are forced to move out because they cannot afford the rents after the area becomes gentrified.”

Ken Jennings, Jeopardy! uber-champion (the Navy SEALs of Jeopardy! champions, perhaps?), was so inspired by chatting with Merriam-Webster dictionary editors at last week’s Scripps National Spelling Bee, he put together a list of “songs about looking words up in dictionaries.”

Finally, while we at Wordnik love words and everything about them, sometimes no words, whether spoken or texted, is better, especially during a movie.

That’s a wrap!  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.

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.

First up, the Bee! Congratulations to Sukanya Roy! The eighth-grader from South Abington Township, PA won with cymotrichous, “characterized by having wavy hair.” Congrats also to all the spellers for their stupendous performances! Check back here on Monday for full recap, as well as a couple of fun announcements.

Last week the word world lost an important figure with the passing of Gil Scot-Heron. A “notable voice of black protest culture . . . and an important early influence on hip-hop,” he was a spoken word artist and musican who rose to prominence in the 1970s. You can learn more about Scot-Heron’s life and work at his official website.

The New York Times discussed another man of letters in its review of Joshua Kendall’s The Forgotten Founding Father: Noah Webster’s Obsession and the Creation of an American Culture. While most famous for penning that famous dictionary, he was also “notably dislikable,” as well as “[a]rrogant, condescending, humorless and socially tone-deaf.”  We still like him.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal spoke with a modern lexicographer challenged with keeping up with today’s rapidly changing slang while Fully (sic) railed against an old Australian law that hasn’t caught up with modern times, namely the Summary Offences Act (1966), which rules that one may be fined for “antisocial behavior,” including “sing[ing] an obscene song or ballad.” Perhaps to avoid the fine, one may want to use one of Arnold Zwicky’s many suggestions for replacements of, shall we say, the king of four-letter words (we like frak).

The Columbia Journalism Review listed some other words and phrases one may want to avoid, as well as a recent word best described as “wish it wasn’t the word of the week” – Weiner (there, we said it).  Johnson considered legalese and misunderstandings around euphemisms, while the Dialect Blog blogged about l vocalization; the difference between a pub and a bar (pub = cozy, bar = sleazy?); the supposed Fargo accent; and the relationship – or lack thereof – between climate and accent.

While we’re on accents, NPR had a story on the curious case of the foreign accent, incidents of individuals suddenly acquiring an accent, probably as the result of head trauma, while there were reports that bilingualism is no big deal for the brain, and in may in fact be an advantage. While that may be true for most people, this translator of cruise ship memos, pointed out by Language Log, seemed to have trouble (“Timid and rapidly grown prostitutes, anyone?”).

K International wrote about the Amondawa, a small tribe in Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest, unique in that it has no word for time, and instead “see[s] events in the context of life stages and transitions.” They don’t celebrate birthdays or keep track of how old they are, but “change their names to reflect what stage of life they are in and their current role in their community.”  (Sounds good. I’ll be “Phyllis” instead of 40.)

The Word Spy spied TINO, a political candidate who is “Tea in Name Only” and does not actually ascribe to the party’s views; a haycation, or vacation on a farm; the last name effect, or how people with surnames closer to the end of alphabet are supposedly quicker to make purchase decisions; and our favorite, chartjunk.

Motivated Grammar pronounced the “one another” versus “each other” distinction “a bunch of made-up hooey,” and proposed that grammar mistakes may often be due to speedy delivery, rather than ignorance, perhaps one of the many arguments for why the world needs editors.

On a final bittersweet note, Ben Schott announced this week that he is leaving The New York Times, and that “after two and a half years, thousands of posts and tens of thousands of comments, Schott’s Vocab is closing its doors.”  However, he’ll continue to supply Schott Op-Eds for The Times, and you can always follow him on Twitter.

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.

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!

This Week’s Language Blog Round-Up

It’s Friday, which means it’s time again for our new(ish) weekly series, Language Blog Round-Up, in which we bring you the highlights from our favorite blogs and the latest in word news.

In punctuation land, Slate discussed the rise of “logical punctuation,” or the placement of commas and periods outside of quotation marks, while The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks continued to fight the losing yet hilarious battle against superfluous punctuation (“Think” Positive; “Greatest” Mural; “Do Not” Put Nothing [sic] Here).

The Columbia Journalism Review‘s Language Corner discussed the broadening definition of curator (with a shout-out to Wordnik, thanks!) beyond “one who manages. . .a museum collection or a library,” to journalists, Tweeters, and even “closet-clearing gurus.” Meanwhile, The Economist‘s language blog, Johnson, discussed the “insider language” of another profession in “Airplanese” (what the heck’s a “ground stop”? why “deplane” and not just leave?); the unique accent of the U.S. inland south (think northwest Texas, swathes of Oklahoma, and north Arkansas); and whether or not to use “shall” (don’t).

The bloggers at Motivated Grammar assured us that changing language is not like changing math (thank goodness), while those at the Language Log discovered that Wikipedia has a sense of humor (at least about toilets); the College Board endorses the passive voice; that “can” versus “may” can (or may?) be a matter of life or death; and the dangers of being accidentally counter-revolutionary.

Lynneguist at Separated By a Common Language contemplated a “funny,” yet hated, British cliché while the Virtual Linguist questioned the origin story of another well-known British saying; bemoaned the capaciousness of cliches used during news reports on troubled former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn (care for some champagne socialist?); and discussed Strauss-Kahn’s perp walk.

The Word Spy noted the recent comeback of cybrarian, “a librarian who works with digital resources online,” just in time for the centennial of the New York Public Library’s main building. In celebration, the NYPL will be exhibiting, among other pieces, cuneiform tablets and typewriters; a Gutenberg bible; a love letter from John Keats; and Charles Dickens’ letter opener, the handle of which was made from “the paw of Dickens’s pet cat Bob” (post-mortem, of course).

In live animal news, the Baltimore Sun discussed how race horses get their (sometimes) crazy names ($5 to win on Bodacious Tatas!), while The New York Times covered the Kegasus (part pegasus, part, um, keg? but it’s a centaur, oh never mind), one man/horse/beer-vessel who will be way too busy partying to race.

That’s it for this week. Remember, if you’d like your language blog to be included in our weekly round-up, let us know in the comments, via email , or on Twitter.