Welcome to the inaugural post of our new weekly series, the Language Blog Round-Up, in which we’ll be taking a look at some of our favorite language blogs and the latest in word news, and giving you the highlights.
The Economist’s language blog, Johnson had lions on the brain, discussing the proliferation of lion-like Arabic names and a few of the 400 different ways of saying “lion” in Arabic, according to al-Husayn ibn Ahmad ibn Khalawayh, a 10th century Arabic scholar, in his “The Names of the Lion.” A true OCD-Wordnik at heart, the scholar also composed such gems as “The Names of the Serpent,” “The Book of Trees,” “The Names of the Hours of the Night,” and “On the Names of the Wind.” I think we have lists for those!
Meanwhile, The Virtual Linguist explored the controversy and history around the word “slut”, from its first attestment around 1402 (at the time, the word also meant “kitchen maid” and was used affectionately), to the development of “promiscuity and loose morals” sense in the 16th century, to an upsurge in the 1980s, and most recently, SlutWalks, an attempt to reclaim the word.
Beauty Marks discussed the challenge of disparate products with the same name (when you hear “Magnum,” do you think ice cream or condoms? or perhaps Ben Stiller’s Zoolander pose?) while Language Log took a look at the difference between “comprised of” and “composed of” and the dangers of picking the wrong synonym.
Finally, you probably heard that the Collins Scrabble dictionary (used primarily in the UK) has added nearly 3,000 new words and terms into its approved Scrabble list. Newly included are non-English words (qin, aloo, and fiqh); slang (thang, innit, blingy); and technology terms (Facebook, MySpace, webzine).
This prompted much discussion among logophiles, including questioning whether or not “mispronunciation constitutes a genuine neologism” (short answer: yes). This sparked another debate over at the Language Log: what is the true origin of American spelling? What caused the change from “British” spelling (-our, -ise) to “American” (-or, -ize). Did Noah Webster single-handedly nationalize American spelling, or was he simply documenting an already on-going trend?
Whatever the reason, Scrabble lovers now have two new Q words that don’t require u’s. (We here at Wordnik expect our Scrabble scores to rise accordingly.)