Happy Friday before Fourth of July! It’s time again for another Language Blog Roundup, in which we bring you the highlights from our favorite language blogs and the latest in word news.
There was much hubbub in the Twitterverse this week over the loss of the Oxford comma, as stated in the University of Oxford’s style guide. However, it was soon determined that the Oxford comma wasn’t dead after all, and that the “only explicit permission to dispense with the Oxford comma. . .was in a guide for university staff on writing press releases and internal communications.” Whew! We’re calm, cool, and collected now.
In Shakespeare news, a group of scientists got the green light from the Church of England to exhume “the Bard of Avon’s remains to determine the cause of his death and, among other things, if the playwright had traces of pot pumping through his system.” Meanwhile in politics, Vanity Fair desconstructed Michele Bachmann’s favorite metaphor, the three-legged stool.
Erin Gloria Ryan over at Jezebel wrote about her love affair with peppering her speech with “like” while Mark Liberman at Language Log questioned Ryan’s proposal that women may use “like” more often than men, and jokingly devised a possible solution, the iPeeve, an imaginary app that is “a speech recognizer with a style checker [that] will make [your smartphone] vibrate (or beep, or flash) whenever you indulge in any of the verbal tics that you’ve asked it to watch out for.”
In neologism news, The Economist’s language blog, Johnson, noticed incent, the verb form of incentive, while Stan Carey mused over preloved euphemisms. Word Spy spotted omega male, “the man who is least likely to take on a dominant role in a social or professional situation”; teacup, “a college student with a fragile, easily shattered psyche”; and filter bubble, “search results, recommendations, and other online data that have been filtered to match your interests, thus preventing you from seeing data outside of those interests.”
But the unmapped word of the week, in our humble opinion, was humblebrag (brought to our attention by @mcintyrekm), a “type of bragging which masks the brag in a faux-humble guise.”
The Virtual Linguist took a look at “once every preston guild,” a Lancashire expression meaning “very rarely”; down, meaning “an area of high land”; a now-troubling word that once simply meant a “bundle of sticks”; and The Daily Mail’s taking Kate Middleton to task for using ‘till instead of ‘til in her wedding thank you cards. The Dialect Blog discussed the ever elusive English schwa; David Marsh at The Guardian demanded the termination of “railspeak”; and LeVar Burton is apparently “actively plotting” a “Rainbow Reading flashmob.” Empirical Zeal blogged about dissecting the language of songbirds, while Buzzfeed cited a very British headline that is positively for the birds.
In library news, the Internet Archive announced that their eBook lending program has expanded to 1,000 libraries in six countries. Congrats! Meanwhile, George Mason University is busy archiving the world’s English accents.
The Book Haven at Stanford University profiled the exiled Chinese poet, Bei Dao, who stated that “each language keeps the secret code of a culture,” which may be just another reason to preserve endangered and disappearing languages such as Calo, “spoken by Romani people, sometimes referred to as Gypsies, in Spain”; Ayapanec, “which is thought to have descended from a language spoken by the Olmecs, a pre-Columbian civilization”; Eyak, “once spoken by a native tribe in Alaska”; and Kapampangan, a regional language in the Philippines, which may be preserved by “teenagers [who] think it’s ‘cool’ to send mobile phone text messages” in that language.
In videos of the week, check out this one from the Getty Museum about the structure of a medieval manuscript, and this thoroughly entertaining 10-minute history of the English language from Open University, brought to our attention by @MisterVerb via @Fritinancy. Don’t have 10 minutes? Then at least check out chapter 7, the Age of the Dictionary.
Finally, happy Canada Day to our friends north of the border! One Canadian living in Wales grieved the loss of her Canadian English, while our list of the day celebrates Canadianisms, and this one and this one honor Canadian places.
Till (or til?) next week, stay wordy my friends!