Monthly Archives: August 2017

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Finaciously, More Regional Words for ‘DARE’

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DARE’s map represents population density when the words were collected, instead of land area.

Without an accident (as they used to say in the South), it’s time again to harvest a quarterly crop of regional words for the online Dictionary of American Regional English. As usual, the new update is available free on DARE’s website, though a subscription fee is required to get the whole six-volume 60,000-word dictionary online.

The dictionary was compiled in 1965-70 by researchers from the University…

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‘Up’ in Arms

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Early this year, the Merriam-Webster dictionary announced it had added more than 1,000 words or phrases, including fast fashion; first world problem; ginger; microaggression; mumblecore; safe spaceside-eye; wayback machine; woo-woo; and the verbs face-palm, ghost, photobomb, throw shade, and walk back. (Links go to my posts on the terms either here on Lingua Franca or my Not One-Off Britishisms blog.)

Another newly listed word — up-fake, defined as “a [basketball] fake in which a player makes…

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What’s He to Hecuba?

hecuba-statue-baseThe unveiling of the University of Southern California’s new expansion has given the Los Angeles campus an opportunity to add a new statue. She is Hecuba, Queen of the Trojans, deliberately selected as a subject to counterbalance USC’s testosterone-fueled Tommy Trojan (officially “the Trojan Shrine”), the bronze campus mascot erected in 1930.

The new statue is the work of Christopher Slatoff. “Queen Hecuba will serve as the new symbol of Troy,” said President C.L. Max Nikias, who emphasized that…

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Totality

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The word totally has grown so overused that I was struck, last week, by the power of its near cousin, totality, describing the two or three minutes, along the arc of the much-heralded solar eclipse, when the sun was blanked out except for its flaming (and dangerous to look at) corona. At first I thought the media had invented the term. But no, it has been in the astronomy lexicon for 185 years to indicate “the moment or duration of total obscuration of the sun or moon during an eclipse.”

When t…

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Bogus Advice for Op-Ed Authors

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Bret Stephens offers in The New York Times (August 25) a guide for beginning op-ed authors: “As a summertime service for readers of the editorial pages who may wish someday to write for them,” he says, “here’s a list of things I’ve learned over the years as an editor, op-ed writer, and columnist.”

And what does this experienced editor, writer, and columnist have to tell us about how to write? (You know how it usually goes: People who can write very nicely are hopeless at explaining how you coul…

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Not Everyone Calls It That?

ReynoldsWrap“Did you just use Reynolds Wrap as a generic?” my friend asked with surprise.

Like many American English speakers, I call facial tissues Kleenex, cotton swabs Q-tips, photocopying Xeroxing, adhesive tape Scotch tape, adhesive bandages Band-Aids, adhesive notes Post-Its, and searching the internet Googling. These terms are all still protected trademarks, but that hasn’t stopped American English speakers from using them generically in speech and unpublished writing.

This process of brand names com…

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DIY Digital Humanities

The digital humanities are known for major-infrastructure projects, such as data-crunching the contents of capacious corpora and charting the movement of vast numbers of people and ideas over space and time. An example picked from many is Martin Grandjean’s pleasingly meta visualization of digital-humanities Twitter users, below.

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Grandjean parses: “This graph consists of 1,434 nodes connected by 137,061 directed edges, each symbolizing a user ‘following’ another on Twitter.” The data, he says, …

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Plain Talk About Public Murder

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What is the point of classifying public mass murders as being (or not being) “terrorism” or “terror related,” as opposed to simply criminal? Why should some maniacs and assassins be accorded the honor of promotion to a higher grade of homicide? There is no generally accepted definition of terrorism, so why are such terminological distinctions even attempted when news about public slaughter is breaking?

The fashion for “lone wolf” low-tech killing sprees in public places came to the pleasant por…

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Sheetcaking: Seriously?

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Tina Fey [Image via YouTube]

 

This past Sunday afternoon, my wife took time to follow the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for “The Best Chocolate Sheet Cake. Ever.” The result was indeed the best chocolate sheetcake I’ve ever had.

But it wasn’t just a culinary event. It also fed our vocabulary — yet another political word for this turbulent year.

What does cake have to do with politics? The instigator, Tina Fey, explained it on the evening of Thursday, August 17, on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update.

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‘Alt’ Alternatives

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What a world of difference lies between adopting your own moniker and having one thrust upon you. I had never heard the term alt-left before the president used it in his third iteration of comments on the horrific events in Charlottesville, Va. Figuring out what he meant wasn’t exactly rocket science: Just as the alt-right is not really some alternative to right-wing positions but rather an extreme, purist force on the right, so the alt-left would be considered an extreme and purist form of lef…