Welcome to our weekly language blog roundup, in which we give the highlights from our favorite language blogs and the latest in word news and culture.
We were saddened this week by the passing of Steve Jobs. The Onion paid tribute in their own way, while xkcd suggested this subtle memorial.
Back in language news, Ben Zimmer discussed the new language of Facebook, while Erin McKean explored when words leave the dictionary. This week in words at The Wall Street Journal, Erin spotted stingray, a cell phone tracking device, and stall speed, “the speed below which an airplane can’t create enough lift to stay aloft,” among others. Humanities Magazine profiled the Dictionary of Regional American English (DARE), the fifth and final edition of which will be published in March 2012. [Disclosure: Erin is on the Board of Advisors for DARE.]
There was controversy in politics this week over the name of a certain hunting camp. Robert Lane Greene at Johnson wrote about The New York Times’ handling of it while The Daily Show tackled “the amazing racism” and other troubling geographical names.
At Language Log, Mark Liberman took a look at others’ takes on Rick Perry’s “talking Texan.” Mr. Liberman also posted about elephants’ alarm call for bees; putting the X in the AXB; and someone and me versus me and someone. Victor Mair learned about fake foreigners in Chinese.
Over at Lingua Franca, Geoffrey Pullum assured us that using the passive voice is perfectly fine in some circumstances, and even preferred, with which John McIntyre at You Don’t Say wholeheartedly agrees. This week Mr. McIntyre also wrote about the language assertionist, who goes beyond prescriptivism and “will not be persuaded by evidence; neither will he be persuaded by the arguments of authorities who contradict what he asserts.”
At Macmillan Dictionary blog, Stan Carey dissected why people hate the word blog. At Separated By a Common Language, Lynneguist offered up an untranslatable British English word, punter. Fritinancy’s Prohibition-esque word of the week was scofflaw, “a person who habitually violates or flouts the law”; asked if the phrase reach out made us retch (it does); and critiqued a New Yorker piece on brand names.
The Virtual Linguist mused on the origins of Indian summer and Greenwich Mean Time. Sesquiotica had a quick dip with a dabchick, a kind of grebe and also “a nickname for residents of Aldbourne, Wiltshire, England.” The Word Spy spotted underdecided, “unenthusiastic or unsure about a decision, particularly when choosing a candidate in an election”; dejab, “to stop wearing a hijab”; and quiet car, “a train or subway car where riders cannot have cellphone conversations or use noisy devices” (someone should have informed this lady of the definition).
Also from the Word Spy, aka Paul McFedries, is a piece on the language of online life. Are you a pancake person, someone who reads broadly but without depth? Ever encounter a nontroversy, “a false or nonexistent controversy”? And what would you if met your Googleganger, “the online equivalent of your doppelgänger”?
Motivated Grammar considered David Foster Wallace and misplaced modifiers. The Dialect Blog explored the use of son in African American English; American ash; and the rise of be like.” K International took a look at a man who dealt with his dyslexia by learning Klingon.
Down at Occupy Wall Street, protesters have set up a library. Flavorwire offered up this literary baby name dictionary; 10 children’s books that are also great for adults; and South Korean photographer Chan-Hyo Bae’s amazing fairy tale photos. The Poetry Foundation ranked poets by beard weight, and the Rumpus let us know that martial arts star Bruce Lee also wrote poetry. Biblioklept gave us this fictional map of L.A., and Arnold Zwicky made us laugh with this comma, comma, comma, comma chameleon.
That’s it for this week!