Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 4:52:15 AM
Last Build Date: Thu, 23 Feb 2017 23:18:17 GMT
Thu, 23 Feb 2017 23:18:17 GMTTo start this week's words post on a personal note, I turned 60 this last weekend. People were curious if I was sad about this. Not at all, it turns out. I'm not sure exactly why I find this milestone so appealing. One thought is that instead of being an old middle-aged person, I am now the youngest old person I know. And on that note, on the to the words!
Fri, 17 Feb 2017 11:28:35 GMTFriday words! Here's an interesting milestone: this will be the last words post I make while I'm still in my 50s.
Tue, 14 Feb 2017 00:26:07 GMTApostrophes. People get 'em wrong all the time. Right? Some people feel that this is because writers just aren't applying the lessons they should have learned in school. (Can we say "lazy"?) For example, here's a comment that appeared recently on a Facebook thread:
Apostrophes aren't actually very hard at all. They are stand-ins for missing letters. If you can extend "they're" to "they are" then it gets an apostrophe. Plurals never get them. This is literally first grade punctuation.So I went back to first grade to refresh my memory about apostrophe rules. Here's what I learned!
Fri, 10 Feb 2017 19:06:28 GMTOf all the things that happened this week, waking up to 8 inches of snow on Monday was about the least expected. What with this being Seattle in February and all. On the other hand, what is expected is words on Friday.
Fri, 03 Feb 2017 07:43:19 GMTFriday words for the beginning of February. Or "Febuary", if you, like me, are a fan and practitioner of liquid dissimilation.
It refers to a method of growing crops, usually without soil or natural light, in beds stacked vertically inside a controlled-environment building.As it says, the plants aren't in soil; instead, the roots are sprayed with a nutritious and delicious liquid via fertigation (fertilize+irrigation), another term I learned from reading about all this.
Sat, 28 Jan 2017 08:49:01 GMTFriday words! Our last installment for an eventful January 2017.
The difference between GEICO’s costs and those of its competitors is a kind of moat that protects a valuable and much-sought-after business castle.As an aside, I'll note that Buffett is justly famous for the approachability of his writing about financial matters, and the Letters are surprisingly good reading.
Fri, 20 Jan 2017 11:25:22 GMTFriday! Meaning it's time again to share some words. For new(-to-me) words today I've got two that I harvested in 2016, but that might have some contemporary relevance, you decide.
… pretends to care passionately about certain causes but in fact thrives on regression, controversy or bad news because it gives them an excuse step into the limelight.This definition is courtesy of Ryan Holiday in The Observer, who has written multiple times about these related phenomena.
Sat, 14 Jan 2017 08:48:46 GMTI missed last week due to being at a linguistics conference, but while I was there I picked up another batch of language-related terms:
Sat, 31 Dec 2016 13:41:56 GMTFriday words! On Saturday! Another leap Friday, I guess. I should note also that I deliberately skipped last week, because it was Christmas and all the new-to-me words were just so bleak that I seemed like a downer. But things are looking up today.
Fri, 16 Dec 2016 06:08:10 GMTThings you might not know: December 16 is Beethoven's birthday. Things you probably do know: today is Friday, so it must be another day for words!
Fri, 09 Dec 2016 09:00:35 GMTI seem to have picked up the cold that's been slaying the ranks at work, bah. But the words must go on! Albeit with reduced energy.
Fri, 02 Dec 2016 16:19:34 GMTFriday words! Here we are in December, which etymology tells us is the tenth month. Ahem.
Fri, 25 Nov 2016 16:20:48 GMTBlack Friday! Be sure to take advantage of our door-busting specials on words!
Fri, 18 Nov 2016 13:51:49 GMTFriday words! I observe belatedly that I've passed the one-year mark on this little exercise. And apparently there are still words out there that are new to me.
Fri, 11 Nov 2016 17:17:43 GMTI just spent about a week in Austin, TX. I was hoping for some fun dialectical exposure, but it seems that most of the people I interacted with weren't actually from Texas. Still, there are always new words, aren't there.
Fri, 04 Nov 2016 09:45:25 GMTHappy Friday, words peeps. After last week's catch-up opus, I'm going to keep this one short (for me), even tho my collection keeps growing.
Sat, 29 Oct 2016 12:38:08 GMTBoy, it's been some kinda weeks—we're gearing up for the annual conference at work, plus my wife and I cleared and vacated the house for five days so the floors could be redone. The words keep coming, tho, even if they have to be squeezed in late. Hence a larger edition than normal today.
… like political correctness, but the right-wing version of that. Like if you say that there is no flood of immigrants coming across the border, well, that is just out of bounds. That's not something you say. You are not patriotically correct.The earliest reference to patriot correctness that I found was from 2011, in a piece where the author (Tim Wise) says "[something] that we might label 'patriot correctness.'" I would not be surprised if there are earlier cites. When I searched for this term, I found that it's also known as conservative correctness, which Michael Fauntroy says he coined in 2004.
Thu, 13 Oct 2016 23:55:45 GMTFriday words! We had a hiatus last week due to work, so much of it. But we're back, with extra wordy word fun.
Something funny happens when your computer or phone can’t display a font: A blank rectangular box pops up in place of the missing glyph. This little box is called .notdef, or “not defined,” in coder lingo, but everyone else just calls it tofu.Perhaps you've seen this. Here's an example in a jokey context:
Fri, 30 Sep 2016 08:32:22 GMTToday we have our final Friday words for September 2016. As if that were significant.
Sat, 24 Sep 2016 10:30:28 GMTEvery Friday, more or less, I add a post here that talks about a new word and an etymology. The new word is only warranted to be new to me; it's pretty rare that the word is new-new, and in fact it might be quite old. For the etymology, I focus on word origins that are surprising (to me) or delightful (to me).
|24 Feb 2017||trilemma||tire, whip (to mean car)|
|17 Feb 2017||shitgibbon compound||stereotype, cliché|
|10 Feb 2017||Brandolini's Law||bayonet|
Friday words, 2016-09-23
Fri, 23 Sep 2016 12:58:17 GMTBoy, Fridays seem to be coming at me with ever-greater velocity. Is it that summer is gone? Oh, well—it just means opportunities come around seemingly faster for contemplating words.
(image) The new-to-me word this week is striminal, a mashup of streaming and criminal. This term is attributed to Gabriella Mirabelli, who runs Anatomy Media, a marketing agency. Mirabelli was quoted in an article that reported that 61% of people aged 18 to 24 get streaming content from unauthorized sources—i.e., that they're not paying for it—and 63% of them use ad blockers. Mirabelli doesn't like this behavior.
I'm generally ok with people taking a stab at a new word, but I don’t love striminal. It fails the test of being "semantically transparent," which is one of the criteria proposed by an article in The Guardian about what makes a good portmanteau. To my mind, if you hear "striminal," you can guess that it's some sort of criminal, but it seems unlikely that you could work your way back to "streaming." Would stream-inal work? Maybe, but that word ain't no beauty queen either.
Bonus new-to-me word: A couple of weeks ago, one of John McIntyre's "In a Word" columns introduced me to the word hebdomadal, which is a pretty fancy way to way "weekly." This uses the stem heptá, which means "seven" in Greek and is related to Latin septem, as in September, and, well, seven in English.
Friday words, 2016-09-16
Fri, 16 Sep 2016 19:14:52 GMTHere we are on Mexican Independence Day. Sadly, although there are words a-plenty today, none of them relate to this important date being celebrated by friends and family. Still, let's proceed ...
Oh, by the way: Strong language this week.
I got the first term for this week from Virginia Hefferman's book Magic and Loss, an extended essay about the cultural impact of the internet. I'll just use a cite from the book to showcase the word and define it:
What we did at Yahoo! News, which the staff called "retroediting," would make the New Yorker staff blanch: we'd post something as soon as the sloppiest draft was ready and edit it after it was available to readers.(image) There are a couple of things I like about the word retroediting. One is that it describes a process that's very familiar to me, as anyone might guess from reading my blog entries or Facebook posts, ack. I've also worked in shops where this approach to editing has been flirted with. He said (im)passively. I also like the word because if someone had asked me to come up with a name for this editing protocol, I would have gotten stuck on post- or after-, and would probably never have stumbled on retro-. This prefix means "backwards," which to me is not an obvious way to describe this after-the-fact process. But I like it. As an aside, I also kind of like the image of the editors at a place like The New Yorker getting the vapors about this protocol.
The book also taught me another term: hyperlexia [more]
Friday words, 2016-09-09
Fri, 09 Sep 2016 13:43:11 GMTHere in Seattle, we made an extremely sudden transition from summer to fall (or autumn, for you Old World English speakers). But changes in the climate do not affect our interest in words!
The first new-to-me word for today is calligram, which refers to a piece of text in which the writing or typesetting creates an image that echoes the meaning of the word(s). The word is a mashup of calligraphy with -gram as we also see in telegram and diagram. I got this from an article that provided a gallery of 40+ calligrams by the designer Ji Lee. Here's an example so you get the idea, but you should check out the link to see the many excellent examples.
The word calligram is not new; it goes back at least to the 1930s. And as an art form, calligrams have been around a long time. For example, Islamic calligraphers have been doing beautiful calligrams for centuries using Arabic script to form pictures, as in this example:
On to more grounded things. I got the next new-to-me term from an interview with Seleta Reynolds, who's the general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. She was talking about bicycles and "vehicular cycling"—the idea that bicycles should be integrated with, and treated as, traffic alongside cars. In her discussion, she noted that this has ended up being embraced primarily by MAMILs [more]
Friday words, 2016-09-02
Fri, 02 Sep 2016 06:56:29 GMTWhen shopping for school supplies this week, don't forget to pick up a set of Friday words!
The new-to-me word this week is gongoozler, which through some mechanism I no longer recall I got from Joss Fong on Twitter. In its most general sense, this term refers to a spectator who stares at an activity. It also has a related sense of someone who "enjoys watching activity on the canals of the United Kingdom," this second definition from the infallible Wikipedia. (Whose article on this term includes the subheading "Aspects of gongoozling.") Compare trainspotting.
(image) I believe the connection here is that canal-watchers do a lot of staring. Indeed, the OED says that both gawn and gooze are dialectical terms in the UK for "staring vacantly." Satisfyingly, one of the examples in the OED (from 1986) refers to someone gongoozling at a giant outdoor screen, TV being a sort of obvious candidate for the use of this term. For what it's worth, the earliest recorded use seems to be from 1904.
One of the cites in the OED is this: "Pronounced slowly and with the proper emphasis, ‘gongoozler’ merits a very high place in the vocabulary of opprobrium." Again, one might compare how trainspotting is used. Even then, though, I speculate that someone whose activity is being gongoozled, and who is opprobriuming the gongoozler, might prefer that to the more active spectating implied by kibitzing.
Friday words, 2016-08-26
Fri, 26 Aug 2016 22:28:15 GMTIt's Friday again (kind of barely), meaning it's time for another batch o' words. I must note that I have been enjoying these later days of summer—not just because of the weather (that too, of course), but because we're seeing the last days before school buses and student-bearing minivans again clog the streets. However: words!
(image) The first new-to-me word this week is sickboating. This term refers to an attempt among certain politicians or partisan media commentators to suggest that Hillary Clinton is ill in some way—epilepsy, dementia, something. I got this term from an article in Esquire. Almost all of the references I can find point back to this article, although the article itself uses the term without quotation marks. The whole story started only a few weeks ago, so perhaps this really is a brand-new term.
Politics aside, the term is linguistically interesting in a couple of ways. It alludes to swiftboating, a term invented during the 2004 American presidential-election season to refer to the smear campaign mounted against John Kerry, who had served in the US Navy on a so-called Swift Boat, a fact he touted as part of his campaign. During the election season, Kerry was attacked via an orchestrated effort (supposedly by other Swift Boat veterans) that sought to discredit Kerry's service. This type of political smearing quickly became known as swiftboating.
In sickboating, we see boating breaking further away from its original sense of the actual boat and taking on more clearly the semantics of "smear campaign." This is reminiscent of the way that gate [more]