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.
This month also marks the anniversary of Ms., “the delightful, one-size-fits-all female honorific that was invented 110 years ago this month.” Alex Beam of The Boston Globe wrote that the title was ignored for 70 years till Gloria Steinem launched Ms. Magazine in 1971.
In other important news, Kim Kardashian got divorced after 72 days of marriage. Salman Rushdie wrote a limerick about it, while Weird Al Yankovic made up a funny new word (“72 Days is now an official unit of time known as a Kardash”).
Rick Perry made up a word, too, but it was already a word. Then he got drunk (apparently), and Robert Lane Greene at Johnson questioned the claim that Perry is a “doer not a talker,” saying that “the American presidency is a talky one,” and the president must “use the bully pulpit effectively to rouse political support for his plans” and “handle the sceptical media in press conferences.”
Meanwhile Ralph “Voldemort” Fiennes blamed Twitter for the dumbing down of the English language. Alex Knapp at Forbes assured us that Twitter isn’t ruining English at all, and in fact “the 140 character restraint not only forces efficiency,” but “also lends itself to some really, really fun wordplay.” (Mark Liberman at Language Log gets a shout-out in Knapp’s piece too.) Ben Zimmer went as far as to say that “Twitterology” is a new science, and that Twitter is “a gold mine for scholars in fields like linguistics, sociology and psychology who are looking for real-time language data to analyze.” Take that, Noam Chomsky!
Mr. Zimmer also wrote about the changing meaning of ridiculous; interviewed playwright David Henry Hwang about his new play, Chinglish; and at Language Log, took a look at a crash blossom; another milestone in eggcorn history; and censorship of the word occupy in China. Meanwhile, Victor Mair explored Chinese characters in the iPhone dictionary app.
The Economist blog Johnson discussed the often welcome British invasion into American English, and some differences between British and American English. In last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Erin McKean spotted unidoor, craveability, hopium, and moneybomb. She also did some owling, planking, and catbearding.
The New York Times rounded up some typos, while Jan Freeman said that some misspellings are not that big of a deal (though this one probably is). Fritinancy considered the lucky number eight in Chinese culture; what artisan actually means (Grub Street NY charted the word’s downfall); and Yiddish-accented reduplication (reduplication, re-schmuplication!). Her words of the week were kettling, “the corralling of demonstrators by police into a limited area, where they are contained as if in a kettle,” and claque, “a group of people hired to applaud at a performance.”
It’s Subcultural English Month at Macmillan Dictionary blog, and they celebrated with posts on theatre speak; the language of rap; musical subcultures; and a roundup of the weirdest subcultural English words. Meanwhile, Stan Carey was caught in a webinar, and was impacted by the word impact.
The Virtual Linguist wondered if language influences one’s financial behavior; explored the language of girl gangs; discussed Samhain, “a less common word for the Feast of All Hallows”; and spotted gazelle, a small company that is “exceptionally fast-growing over a number of years.”
Dialect Blog examined accents of the Pacific northwest; the Mississippi accent of 1893; the Irish “strut”; and questioned if Southerners really do speak more slowly. K International let us know about a Braille keyboard for touchscreens; a sanitation worker who won a grant to study Gaelic in Ireland; that a second language may delay Alzheimer’s disease; and that if you’re a Siri-user with a Scottish accent, you’re shite out of luck.
In punctuation land, Henry Hitchings wrote about the future of punctuation, and Buzzfeed listed 13 punctuation marks you never knew existed. Meanwhile, Mighty Red Pen gave us some lesser-known editing and proofreading marks.
Like Shakespeare? Learn to insult like him. While you’re at it, clear up 12 misunderstood and misquoted Shakespearean expressions.
In book news, The Phantom Tollbooth turned 50; St. Mark’s bookshop in New York City was saved by a rent reduction; and language expert Mark Forsyth gave us The Dictionary of Odd Phrases. The Guardian presented The Hobbit as JRR Tolkien imagined it, and wondered if reading on the loo is unhealthy. Slate revealed how gruesome the original Pinocchio was, while Full Stop sorted the American presidents into Hogwarts houses. In non-book news, Flavorwire rounded up the most ridiculous Ikea product names and what they mean.
That’s it for this week! Don’t forget, next Wednesday will be the bi-weekly installment of our new series, Word Soup, in which we bring you the strange, obscure, unbelievable (and sometimes NSFW) words from TV. If you see a word you think is Word Soup worthy, let us know on Twitter with the tag #wordsoup.