This Week’s Language Blog Roundup: Binders, Britishisms, and more

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 celebrated Dictionary Day on Tuesday with a fictional dictionary contest – congratulations again to all the winners! – while at The Atlantic, Jen Doll told us a few things about Noah Webster, the lexicographer the day honors.

In politics, Ben Zimmer discussed moochers, while in the aftermath of the first presidential debate, he examined President Obama’s after-the-fact comeback, or l’esprit de l’escalier, “the wit of the staircase.” Orin Hargraves, meanwhile, delved into the language of both contenders.

After the vice presidential debate, we heard a lot of malarkey, my friend, from Ben Zimmer, Jen Doll, and Nancy Friedman, while the second presidential debate gave us a sketchy deal, binders and barb words, binders full of women, and binder reviews (oh, internet, will you marry me?). We learned about interruptions in debates, Paul Ryan’s accent, and how to say Missouri.

In Australia, the prime minister’s speech prompted a dictionary to change its definition of misogyny, which, Fully (sic) explained, wasn’t so much a change but an update “to bring it up to speed with the last 30 years of common Australian usage.”

This week we also learned that Americans are apparently “barmy over Britishisms,” to which Jen Doll, Lynneguist, and Dialect Blog all responded. Perhaps part of that barmy-ism can be credited to the Beatles and their influence on the English language, as discussed by Michael Rundell at Macmillan Dictionary blog.

Also at Macmillan, John Williams wondered if there’s a case for publically, and Stan Carey took a look at some lesser spotted portmanteaus, and on his own blog, posted about Scott Kim’s very cool symmetrical alphabet.

At Language Log, Victor Mair pleaded against the butchering of the name of the winner of the Nobel prize in literature, Chinese writer Mo Yan, and Mark Liberman considered the pronunciation of the seemingly simple word, with. Johnson discussed the slang term, guys, and Grammar Girl taught us some Yoda grammar.

At Lingua Franca, Allan Metcalf announced the winners of his latest contest, invent “a new bogus rule of usage,” and suggested that weird words won’t win in the game of neologism. Ben Yagoda talked about reaching out and had some fun with some puns.

In words of the week, Fritinancy selected hustings, “a place where political speeches are made; more generally, the campaign trail,” while Word Spy spotted sageism, “discrimination based on a person’s gender and age”; doorer, “a driver who opens a car door into the path of an oncoming cyclist”; tech-life balance, “the use of technology in such a way that it does not interfere with or reduce the quality of one’s personal life or relationships”; and digital dualism,“the belief that online and offline are largely distinct and independent realities.”

Erin McKean’s word selections included sundowning, a condition “in which the fall of darkness causes confusion and fear” in patients with dementia; boffo, Variety magazine speak for “excellent”; and ralli quilt, a “marriage blanket” from Pakistan or India. Erin also spoke with the ModCloth Blog about the awesome job of lexicography.

The Dialect Blog wondered if Received Pronunciation – or a “standard British accent” – was ever rhotic. Sesquiotica considered the whippersnapper and enjoyed the foliage. The Virtual Linguist told us about having a stiff upper lip, being on the ball, and the origins of the pomegranate.

We found out how British sign language is changing, that slang is the universal language, and about bigger, better Google Ngrams. We learned how New York City neighborhoods got their names, the origin of the dog ate my homework, and why people quit cold turkey.

We’re excited about this previously unseen poem from JRR Tolkien and this new volume of “spare words” from Douglas Adams, and are intrigued by the idea of a science fiction adaptation of Moby-Dick, which, by the way, celebrated its 161st anniversary yesterday.

We loved these photos of writers hanging out together, this letter from typewriter lover Tom Hanks, and these Halloween costumes based on books. We were in awe of these incredible libraries from around the world and that MythBusters host Adam Savage has a list of 17,000 palindromes (come to Wordnik, Adam! we love lists too).

That’s it for this week!

This Week’s Language Blog Roundup: Political speech, feck, Shakespeare, and more

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.

In politics and language, Jen Doll at The Atlantic discussed linguistic crutches such as VP Joe Biden’s literally, while The New York Times explored President Obama’s English and other presidential speaking styles (or lack thereof).

Fritinancy’s words of the week were politically inspired: feckless, from John McCain’s statement regarding Obama’s “feckless foreign policy,” and arithmetic, from Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention (“What new ideas did we bring to Washington? I always give a one-word answer: Arithmetic.”).

Lucy Ferriss and Ben Zimmer both examined Mr. Clinton’s folksy rhetoric, while Ms. Ferriss also took a look at pharaoh’s chickens and Mitt Romney, and Mr. Zimmer wondered why everyone from Bill Clinton to Mark Zuckerberg was doubling down.

At Language Log, Ben Zimmer discussed ambiguity in politics and advertising; Victor Mair examined censorship in China; and Mark Liberman delved into mommy and daddy parties and euphemisms and The New York Times. At Lingua Franca, William Germano interpreted signage in the UK; Ben Yagoda explained the nonsensical nature of idioms; and Allan Metcalf analyzed the nasal drawl.

At Macmillan Dictionary blog, Orin Hargraves decoded tech talk while Paul Cook hunted for lexical blends the computational way. Stan Carey put on a sock puppet show, and on his own blog, explored meanings and origins of feck and shared some animated etymology. Johnson told us about the best word ever and place names as shibboleths.

In words of the week, Erin McKean noted the fashionable smasual, smart-casual; Manhattanhenge, “the twice-a-year phenomenon where the setting sun aligns with Manhattan’s roughly east-west street grid”; swellegance, a blend of swell and elegant; and noodnik, “a Yiddish word that comes from a root meaning ‘to bore, to pester.’” Arnold Zwicky posted about micropolitans, “cities [that] do not have the economic or political importance of large cities, but are nevertheless significant centers of population and production.”

Word Spy spotted fiberhood, “a neighborhood that has Internet access via fiber-optic cable”; foodbaby, “a distended stomach caused by overeating”; and mansplaining, “explaining in a patronizing way, particularly when done by a man who combines arrogance with ignorance of the topic.”

Dialect Blog talked about this and that in foreign dialects and the South African ee. The Virtual Linguist looked at canny and uncanny, gender bias in job ads, and predistribution, “an alternative to the policy of ‘redistribution’ … meant to tackle the problem of inequality earlier in the process.”

Grammarphobia gave us a short history of the word wow. Sesquiotica explained around, about, and approximately; the origins of pissant and git; and peplum, “that skirt-like bit that some tops have attached to them at the waist.” Meanwhile, Lauren Conrad listed the ten most mispronounced words in fashion.

In the land of Shakespeare, we got excited about Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing and fell in love with these beautiful cut-paper illustrations of Romeo and Juliet. We were taken with these Scandinavian fairy tale illustrations and these science fiction visual interpretations. We squeed over the graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time.

We were intrigued by the idea of a Chinese translation of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake and were wowed by these bookstores repurposed from unused structures. We learned about the “hipsterfication” of Australian pubs, organic syntax, some diner lingo, and how to drink like Hemingway. We found out where letters come from. We chuckled over Charles Dickens’s library of fake books (Bowowdom sounds like a bestseller) and laughed out loud at this Fred Armisen-as-Penny Marshall book trailer.

That’s it for this week!

This Week’s Language Blog Roundup: Lying, Eastwooding, YOLO

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.

In case you didn’t know, it’s election season. Robert Lane Greene at Johnson took a look at the intricacies of political speechmaking. At Lingua Franca, Ben Yagoda discussed the media’s reluctance to call a lie a lie while William Germano deliberated on Eastwooding and talking to empty chairs. At Language Log, Mark Liberman tallied Chris Christie’s first person pronouns, and Victor Mair translated Jon Huntsman’s Mandarin statement about Mitt Romney.

Also at Language Log, Mark Liberman posted about sign language and weapons, and Victor Mair considered tattoos as communication and creeping romanization in Chinese. Meanwhile, Johnson discussed the Hinglish Project.

Ben Zimmer seized the day with YOLO and told us how the proof got in the pudding. Stan Carey clarified why people misspell just deserts. At Macmillan Dictionary blog, he dialogued on dialects, and Orin Hargraves was reminded of past participles and irregular verbs. At Lingua Franca, Ben Yagoda dropped some f-bombs and other euphemisms; Geoffrey Pullum bemoaned more zombie rules; and Lucy Ferriss connected with the etymology of wifi.

In words of the week, Erin McKean noted benihana, a scooter trick; glamping, glamorous camping; and alexithymia, “difficulty identifying feelings.” Fritinancy’s selections included zombee, “a honey bee that has been parasitized by the ‘zombie fly,’” and smasual, “a portmanteau of ‘smart casual,’ a British description of a style of dress in which ‘smart’ means ‘stylish.’” Fritinancy also snacked on some chips – or is it crisps? – and the Awl served up some writer food from A to Z.

The Virtual Linguist mused on the origin of blue moon. Sesquiotica noodled on canoodle, floated supernatant, and shed some light on triboluminescence. Dialect Blog explored the aristocratic American accent, the speech of old L.A., and ow reduction; assured us that Canada has regional dialects; and wondered if Cockney rhyming slang is Irish.

Superlinguo recognized Tesla’s linguistic contributions, Brainpickings gave a nod to words invented by David Foster Wallace’s mom, and Flavorwire displayed some adorable school photos of famous authors.

We were creeped out by this list of literature’s creepiest devils. We immediately began using this list of 10 stinging British insults, and chuckled over these dirty etymologies and these 19th century synonyms for sex. We learned about the lives of punctuation marks, a brief history of the shortening of neighborhood, and what the Muppets’ Swedish chef is actually saying. We loved this ode to the list and agreed that these are 19 perfect moments in subtitle history (epic thrash metal!).

That’s it for this week! Until next time, trying some Eastwooding. After all, YOLO.

Synesis and Garden State places

Today’s word of the day is synesis. The dictionary definition is “a construction in which a form, such as a pronoun, differs in number but agrees in meaning with the word governing it.” A typical example is when the subject and verb don’t agree, as in “There were a large number of people waiting.” To most people, that sounds better than “there is a large number of people waiting,” even though “number” is ostensibly the subject which should be paired with the “was” form of the copula.

Today’s list of the day is “funny place names in the Garden State.” Cheesequake, New Jersey, is a helluva town.