Welcome to our weekly Language Blog Roundup, in which we bring you the highlights from our favorite language blogs and the latest in word news.
In non-word news, things were shaken up quite a bit this week with earthquakes in Colorado, Virginia, California, and Peru. Slate rounded up some jokes from news and media outlets, while xkcd gave its take on seismic waves and Twitter. Meanwhile, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo documented animals’ reactions prior to and during the quake (the red ruffed lemurs: hyper-aware, the giant pandas: not so much).
In other, if not earth-shattering but still saddening news, Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple. You can read his resignation letter here. We at Wordnik wish Steve all the best.
In endangered languages, the Collins Dictionary is compiling a list of nearly-extinct words, while some argue that old words never become extinct. Mexconnect wondered if the Aztecs’ Nahuatl literature was actually a Spanish invention, and a group of New Yorkers are striving to preserve Nahuatl by teaching it to others.
K International pointed out that there is majority support for the preservation of Gaelic in Scotland, and Miller-McCune argued that rescuing endangered languages is also about saving ideas. Meanwhile, in Slate, one writer recounted his summer speaking a dead language, while another wondered why some slang terms stick and some don’t.
Robert Lane Greene at Johnson explored the euphemism of a courtesy call; while at the Macmillan Dictionary blog, Michael Rundell posted part two of his piece on political correctness gone mad, and Stan Carey fought fire with “firefighter.” On his own blog, Mr. Carey discussed words with no letters, such as ♥, @, +1, and obscenicons.
At Language Log, Mark Liberman addressed why Americans don’t say “mate”; Geoff Nunberg gave Kathleen Parker at The Washington Post a dressing down for her implication that public swearing is all right as long as you have the right accent; and Victor Mair discussed the basketbrawl between the Georgetown Hoyas and the Bayi Rockets that was “mostly scrubbed from Chinese media.”
John McIntyre at You Don’t Day wrote about the ever-evolving standards of English grammar, and what he’d say to you if you were in his copyediting class (in short, leave now or suck it up). Erin McKean parsed robo– versus – bot while Fritinancy cited a notable word of the week, Kinsey gaffe, “a truthful statement told accidentally, usually by a politician” (as opposed to McKean’s inversion?); had some fun with eye dialect and comparing cap’n, captn, and capt’n; and explored twocation, which has nothing do with a vacation for two but with Twitter and location.
From Open Culture, we learned more about forensic linguistics (first introduced to us by Ben Zimmer last month). Book Bench, The New Yorker’s blog, discussed linguistic anachronisms in period dramas such as The Hour, Mad Men, and Deadwood, while The Huffington Post offered up several non-British actors doing “bad” British accents, including Anne Hathaway, also discussed at The Dialect Blog.
In addition, The Dialect Blog considered the Pacific-Northwest accent; the Falkland Islands accent; and what may be a very controversial topic. The Virtual Linguist tangled with tiger kidnapping, so-called because of “the predatory stalking that goes on before the actual crime is committed,” and torches of freedom (cigarettes to you and me).
Sesquiotica took a look at reticent versus reluctant; ajar; it is I versus it’s me; epic; and fail. Arnold Zwicky offered these quickies on Satanic fast food, bromance, and a dreamanteau. The Australians weighed in on irritating Americanisms; the Grammar Monkeys pointed out an unfortunate mistake on some Old Navy tees; and we learned that the 12th edition of the Chambers Dictionary will include “a new miscellany of linguaphile-pleasing lists,” such as one on insults (for additional insulting lists, try this one, this one, this one, or this one).
In things David-Foster-Wallace-related, we have an excellent essay from Maud Newton on his linguistic legacy, and from the Decemberists, an Infinite Jest-inspired song and video.
Like music? Here are some books you can dance to, and books with sound effects and soundtracks. Libraries more your thing? Then check out or this mini bookmobile, or these enviable home libraries of celebrities. Or perhaps it’s famous people’s letters you covet. Then these letters of note are right up your alley.
Or maybe you just want to know how alphabets came to be. Well then watch this video from “Dr James Clackson, senior lecturer in Classics at the University of Cambridge” who “explains about some of the people and places where writing was born.” While you’re at it, take a peek at this delightful “noisy alphabet” postcard.
That’s a wrap! Till next week, we’ll be on twocation – that is, we’ll tweeting from our desks.