This Week’s Language Blog Roundup: Boston, Shakespeare, ‘slash’ as slang



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.

Ben Zimmer took a look at a surreal week in Boston; Lucy Ferriss examined the phrase, first responder; and Jen Doll discussed the words we use when we talk about terrorists. Republicans are watching their language in debates about undocumented immigrants, and teens in Baltimore have created their own gender neutral pronoun.

In language news, the National Digital Public Library was launched; the holy grail of rare books could fetch $30 million; and a Charlotte Bronte poem manuscript went for 90,000 pounds. John Simpson, the retiring chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, spoke with Time about his career.

In Rwanda, roadside typists fear losing their jobs to the increasing accessibility of computers, and in Vietnam, schools experiment with teaching children of ethnic minorities in their mother tongues.

Earlier this week was Talk Like Shakespeare Day, and Mental Floss celebrated with 20 words we owe to Bard while we rounded up a short dictionary of Shakespearean insults.

At Johnson, Robert Lane Greene, inspired by Ben Yagoda’s post on the historical present, discussed tenses in jokes of different languages. At Lingua Franca, Allan Metcalf time traveled through the English language, and Anne Curzan considered the slash (not Slash) as slang.

At Language Log, Ben Zimmer dissected the anatomy of the spambot, and Mark Liberman explained the difference between Chechnya and the Czech Republic. At Macmillan Dictionary blog, Michael Rundell delved into DNA as metaphor; Miles Craven and Karen Richardson told the stories of the words stroke and dandelion; and Stan Carey gave us some inspiring etymology.

James Harbeck looked into where English got all those words other languages borrowed, and analyzed nine famous quotes that are technically grammatically incorrect. Arika Okrent rounded up the pig Latins of 11 other languages as well as nine pretentious Latin and Greek plurals.

Some BuzzFeed bunnies helped us remember 10 word mix-ups to avoid; Tom Chatfield listed the 10 best words the internet has given us; and Brain Pickings gave us some astronaut lingo. The Dialect Blog dialogued on race and “voice quality” and the Cork accent.

Fritinancy’s words of the week were swatting, “calling 9-1-1 and faking an emergency that draws a response from law enforcement,” and Zajonc effect, “the tendency of people, after repeated exposure to an unfamiliar thing, to reverse their initial feelings of dislike or distaste and like the thing more over time.”

Erin McKean’s verbacious choices included white money, “money that is legitimately earned, and fully reported for tax purposes”; lob, a long bob; and smart pig, a robotic device which detects flaws in oil pipelines. Word Spy noted nanofacture, “to manufacture something at the molecular level using nanotechnology,” and organ recital, “a long-winded recitation of one’s ailments.”

This week we also learned that illuminated manuscripts had no shortage of fart jokes and how difficult it can be to name a band. We loved this roundup of Great Gatsby covers, and are excited about the movie version of Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes. We would like an adult-sized version of this TARDIS tent please. Finally, we forgive Stephen Fried for inventing the word fashionista 20 years ago, but just barely.

That’s it for this week!

[Picture: “Slash,” CC BY 2.0 by Rodrigo Amorim]