Saturday, December 28, 2019

Saturday, December 21, 2019

For the Words — December 21, 2019

The words don't stop just because it gets freakin' cold outside and everybody crams all their unused time off into the same two weeks.


Saturday, December 14, 2019

Word Up! — December 14, 2019

The weekly writing of wrongs in word news
Gold, Frankenstein, and Myrrh


English Fails to Implode Once Again

descriptivism, language change, gender


Saturday, December 7, 2019

Words on Words — December 7, 2019

Our words on display for the week ending December 7, 2019.

 And You Thought Dildo Island Was Bad

onomastics, geography

When a town in southern Quebec came together around a bountiful mine in 1897, it made sense to name that burgeoning area after the mineral that allowed its work force to thrive. Unfortunately, though, they weren't pulling diamonds or gold, sapphires or opals out of the mine. Not even helium. It was asbestos.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Have You Word? November 23, 2019

The word news of the week.

A Climatic Moment

WOTY, dictionaries

Last week, I (very mildly) complained that the Collins Dictionary folks were jumping into Word of the Year season a bit too early. They weren't the only ones. Cambridge Dictionary, on November 4, announced that their Word of the Year is upcycling, and for the best of reasons (#sarcasm): "This word was chosen based on the Word of the Day that resonated most strongly with fans on the Cambridge Dictionary Instagram account."

And this week, we get a two-fer from the folks at Oxford. The Oxford University Press announced that its Children's Word of the Year is Brexit, "not only because of its significant increase in use (a total rise of 464% since 2018) but also because of the political and social awareness that children demonstrated in their stories and the variety of contexts in which it was mentioned by entrants." And Oxford Dictionaries declared that their, I guess, Grown-up Word of the Year is climate emergency. It hasn't gone unnoticed that our focus on and use of climate-related words is on the rise. “When we were looking through the evidence," says OED editor Katherine Connor Martin, "it was just clear that issues relating to the climate were running through all the different lexical items we were working with,” she said. “It reflects it was a real preoccupation of the English-speaking world in 2019.”


Lorem, Meet Etaoin. Etaoin, Meet Lorem.

printing, alphabet

"Chances are that you deal with Lorem Ipsum on a regular basis," writes Sara Rosinsky at Creative Pro. "But you’ve probably never met his second cousin, Etaoin Shrdlu." Turns out, Etaoin Shrdlu is practically the opposite of Lorem Ipsum — whereas the latter is intended to hold a place for text to be inserted, the former is an indication that a line of text should be deleted, and it's based entirely on the keyboard layout of the linotype machine. Rosinsky gives a brief and fascinating history if its use and, more entertainingly, its accidental inclusion in printed text.

While Etaoin Shrdlu isn't really a word per se, it's just crying out to become the name of a fictional scribe in some SFF story — if it hasn't happened already. (It has already been the name of a sentient linotype machine.)

Hwat in the Hworld?

pronunciation, history

Patricia O'Connor and Stewart Kellerman, proprietors of The Grammarphobia Blog, delve into the pronunciation (or not) of the H in, among others, the word whale. It's an interesting history of spelling and pronunciation that touches on walruses, Chaucer, and an Anglo-Saxon turtle-serpent hybrid that is so large that it can be mistaken for an island. Impressively, they somehow wrote a whole post about pronouncing the H in WH- words without a single reference to The Family Guy. I don't know how they did it. I certainly can't:




Mast Effect

etymology, agriculture

You've probably heard of a bumper crop, but have you ever heard of a mast year? I hadn't, even though we're in the midst of one right now. And as Merrill Perlman explains at the Columbia Journalism Review, neither term has anything to do with sailing ships or bumper cars.

Your Office Will Never Install Dodecahedricles

etymology, WOTD

Merriam-Webster has a new Word of the Day every ... well, every day. They aren't the only ones, of course; I get dueling WOTDs in my Instagram feed. I will rarely include them here because there are so many and because they serve a purpose different from mine. But one of this week's WOTDs from M-W came with a surprise. The word is cubicle, and the surprise was that it isn't etymologically related to the word cube, which describes the shape of the average cubicle.

Next they're gonna be telling us that penthouse has nothing to do with "five houses."

Tweet of the Week 

fact checking, proofreading

With a hat tip to Language Log:

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Logomania Weekly — November 16, 2019

A week's worth of word news.

It’s the Most Wordiful Time

dictionaries, word of the year

Is it just me, or is Word of the Year season coming a bit earlier every year? Collins Dictionary has chosen their 2019 WOTY already: climate strike, “a protest demanding action on climate change.” There’s a nice animated illustration of Greta Thunberg to go along with it.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Week of the Word — November 9, 2019

A weekly look at the latest word news. Eventually I'll land on a title I'd like to keep, right?


Thursday, November 7, 2019

Forever Me

Forever Me:

In Which the Author Chronicles His Ongoing Efforts to Achieve Immortality



November 7, 2019 — Day 16,436
So far so good!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Weekly Word News — November 2, 2019

A weekly newsletter-style post of the latest in word news


Shaming Shaming

pronunciation, spelling, social media, manners 

In the UK, Member of Parliament Peter Kyle accidentally tweeted the word boarder when he meant border. And, of course, people noticed and tweeted out their own responses. "Mostly it's kindly or humorous which is appreciated," Kyle tweeted. "Sometimes it's sneering or brutal." Some twitterers even suggested he should resign his position — because he misspelled a word.

Here's the thing: Peter Kyle has dyslexia.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

What's the Word? October 26, 2019

Of late I've been discontent with the trajectory of my life, both personally and professionally. I've been feeling like I need to get out there more, to do more, to make sure I'm still connecting with my people and contributing something to the world. (This is the personal bit; feel free to skip down to the actual content below the break.) And I've been racking my brain for what new project I might undertake and perhaps find some fulfillment.

What I really want to do a podcast, but I think that'll take a lot more than I can give to do right. And I'd want to do it right. Maybe someday. (And maybe some other word nerd out there is looking for a podcast partner/co-host? Hit me up.)

But I realized there was something I wish I had that, it turns out, I can actually create for others: a weekly newsletter focused solely on words. Not editing, not proofreading, not grammar — just words, talk about words, news about words, people figuring words out. You know, the good stuff.

But those newsletter services cost cash, and I ain't got none. Besides, I have no idea whether anyone would even be interested in receiving such a thing. Or if I could collect enough stories every week to fill one out. Or if I would even find the motivation to follow through every week on something like that. Because, after all, "Followthr-Oh-Look-A-Puppy" is my middle name.

So here is test case of the compromise between my desire and my wallet: A weekly blog post that collects the week's wordy goodnesses. Who knows; maybe this could turn in to something. (And I'll probably be trying on some different names for it, too. Just watch for it on the weekends.)

Anyway, enough blathering:

Sunday, June 23, 2019

5 Podcasts for Logophiles (and Then Some)

Only in the last year have I begun swimming in the warm, infinite ocean of podcasts. And in that time I've found a handful of wonderful islands of wordy goodness. Here are my five favorites, plus a few others I also enjoy. Every logophile should check them out.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Thursday, June 6, 2019

A Phenomena Phenomenon?

In the last week, I have heard two people who should know better misuse the word phenomena. I didn't think this was word that needed much explaining, but twice in a week? (At any rate, maybe these flubs will be the impetus that gets me blogging here more regularly again.)

Here's how it works:
  • Phenomenon is the singular form: The blinking purple light hovering over the White House remains an unexplained phenomenon.
  • Phenomena is the plural:  Three or four strange phenomena were occurring there every week, so the city banned food trucks in the clown cemetery.
Any time you find yourself saying or writing "a phenomena," pause and think. Unless you're using the word in some modifying phrase, like "a phenomena-explaining discovery," you want to use the word phenomenon instead.

I have generally been shying away from writing about words from a strictly prescriptivist point of view. I don't want to be the guy who tries to tell you how you must use your language. Rather, I'd like to be the guy who shows you how to do more with your language, and to use it to better effect.

But singular phenomena just won't float. Sure, a couple decades hence we might be having the same arguments we used to have about data being singular or plural, but we're not there yet. And besides, misuse of these two words might be more dangerous than data ever could be.

Legend has it that if you stare into a mirror and say "phenomena" three times in a row, a pair of eerie pink monsters will appear behind you.


Scarier still, if you say "phenomenon" three times, John Travolta will show up and try to recruit you to Scientology.
Although these phenomena are unproven, I advise you to use these words with care.