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: