Monthly Archives: December 2016

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Words for a Year of Fear

WOTYwordThis week Time magazine announced its Person of the Year, the person who made the most news in 2016. To nobody’s surprise, that was Donald Trump.

But what about the Word of the Year 2016? That’s a little harder.

Trump certainly inspired neologisms. Witness, for example, David Barnhart’s “Trumptionary” that I have excerpted in previous posts.

March 7:

“The Trumptionary”

March 17:

“The Trumptionary, Part 2″

October 31:

“Trumptionary 3: Barnhart’s Never-Finished Dictionary of Politics”

Barnhart’s N…

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For Want of an Oxford Comma

rickman

The minor yet highly controversial issue of the Oxford Comma (or serial comma) arises solely in one very restricted context: what is known in classical grammar as a monosyndetic multiple coordination, where there is just a single coordinator (a word like and or or) before the last of three or more coordinated items. Should you write You need celery, apples, walnuts, and grapes (which has the so-called Oxford comma), or alternatively You need celery, apples, walnuts and grapes?

In binary coordin…

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Researching ‘Research’

research program 1Some pronunciation shifts are squarely on my radar. For example, I feel like I am hearing more and more people pronounce the noun program with a schwa in the second syllable. For me, the second syllable sounds like “gram”; for these other speakers, it sounds like “grum.” Both the Merriam-Webster online dictionary and the online American Heritage Dictionary provide the schwa-ful “grum” pronunciation as a second variant for the word program, but the Oxford English Dictionary online has yet to incl…

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Who You Calling ‘Snowflake’?

After the presidential election, a Montclair, N.J., store owner invited some like-minded souls to paint a mural on the boarded-up windows of her shop: a multicolored heart and, under a rainbow, the words “Make America Love Again.” The next morning she found that some changes had been made:

Screen Shot 2016-12-03 at 3.02.13 PM

Photo credit: Hakika DuBose, BuzzFeed

In a November 14 article, The Des Moines Register reported:

One Iowa lawmaker has a message for any state university that spends taxpayer dollars on grief counseling for …

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Post-Truth and Chaos

latitude-north-star-5-degrees-above-horizon_8d32bb0c6f9cb1e2I don’t know when prefixes stopped meaning what we think they mean, but it was a long time ago. I’m just wrapping up a course in recent American prose, for instance, where the term postmodernism keeps coming up. The students initially thought, quite logically, that postmodernism was a movement that came after modernism — even though, since they look around at a world they consider to be modern, they had a hard time wrapping their minds around its post- period’s being in the recent past. We wor…