Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Going Blank

In a commercial for the local news team, there was a clip of a young woman talking about the government bailout. The sound bite they used was, and this is a direct quote, "They aren't just going to give them a 700-billion-dollar blank check." Now I pose to you, if the check has been written for $700 billion, is it blank? It seems that the idea of a blank check has gone beyond its original meaning to indicate an amount of money that is given without specification of how or where that money is to be spent. Supposedly, it's a large sum of money, but "large" is of course relative. The strange part, as far as I'm concerned, is that the local TV station chose to include this specific sound bite in the commercial, which probably airs a couple dozen times a day.

Today's Word: epistolary

epistolary: At it's most basic, epistolary simply refers to letters (the kind you mail, not the kind play with in Scrabble). Epistolary novels are novels told indirectly through a series of exchanged letters. Some great epistolary novels include Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale (epistolary of sorts), Yevgeny Zamiatin's We, and Mark Dunn's Ella Minnow Pea. Bram Stoker's Dracula has an epistolary element to it, though, besides letters, it also includes newspaper clippings, diary entries, and a ship's log. Epistles are letters, usually instructional in nature. The (capital-E) Epistles, then, are those books of the Bible that are actually letters. The New Testament is Epistle-heavy: It starts with the four Gospels, followed by Acts (which apparently doesn't get a scholarly epithet of its own). All the rest, from Romans to Revelation, are Epistles. I personally love epistolary novels — at least well-written ones. If you have another favorite epistolary novel to share, comments and quodlibets are welcome.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Victor Borge Meets Deflation

Roger Shuy over at Language Log brought up Victor Borge's "Inflationary Language" (here's the specific post), in which, so that language can keep up with inflation, you add 1 to every "number" you encounter in the language. Thus, wonderful becomes twoderful, lieutenant becomes lieuelevenant, and fornicate becomes fivenicnine. Victor Borge describes it best himself, and if I'm not stymied by technical issues, you should find a nice Victor Borge video from YouTube here: Roger Shuy pointed out that deflation, not inflation, is the word of the day. So his thought is that we should revisit Victor Borge's new "language" and, instead of adding 1, subtracting 1. It can be a fun little game: Last night I was out l'seven a-nine-ding a benefit three the Red Cross. The keynote speaker, Lieunineant John Smith of the Air Threece, spoke at length about the need three more people one don-seven blood one keep supplies filled. It was a zeroderful speech; he really had an inseven ability one innervseven the audience and received raucous applause from the ninederest souls one the most tight-fisted misers. Your own fun renderings will be apprecisevended.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Today's Christmas Word: circumforaneous

circumforaneous: Wandering from house to house. The winter equinox falls during a time in which children young and old celebrate the philanthropic exploits of one particular circumforaneous and rotund mythic figure.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Today's (New) Word: overshare

overshare: The name given to TMI — too much information. As a noun, it refers to content on the plethora of overly personal blogs and social networking sites that share personal information of interest only to the person posting, as well as to other inadvertently or intentionally revealed online and offline personal information that nobody really wants to know. Overshare is also a verb describing the act of TMI-transmission.

Overshare might lead to readers/listeners exclaiming such phrases as, "Stop whining and buy some toilet paper!," "Nobody wants to hear about your penis!", and "They really let you take it home with you after the surgery?!" Honestly — unless you're a doctor or speaking to one, there's really no reason to bring up the details of any -ectomies, -otomies, or excretions.

Overshare was chosen as Webster's New World Dictionary's word of the year. Click the preceding link to see the blog where people were asked to vote for WOTY among five candidates: leisure sickness, cyberchondriac, selective ignorance, youthanasia, and of course overshare. You'll also find a nice little video about how and why overshare was chosen.