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?

 Image by Robert Fludd, from The Public Domain Review.

Boo Who?

etymology, history

"Halloween is over, but echoes of boo are still reverberating throughout the land, most notably when the current occupant of the White House ventures out of his safe spaces and into the unfiltered public domain." I hadn't set out to feature Nancy Friedman's blog two weeks in a row, but her exploration into the history of boo — not just in the jeering and ghost-haunting sense, but as a noun to mean a dollar, a boyfriend, and even testicles — is too full of wordy goodness to pass up. Jump over to the Fritinancy Word of the Week to check it out.

A New World in Words

podcast, forensic linguistics

I came to podcasts a bit late — about a year ago, actually. And in my first explorations of the medium, I discovered the wonderful podcast The World in Words . . . just in time for it to disappear. So I was excited this week when I learned, thanks to a Language Log post, that WiW's producer, Patrick Cox, has taken his concept over to Hub and Spoke with co-host Kavita Pillay. The podcast is now called Subtitle, and the latest episode (the first episode, really) isw called "Not So Anonymous." Starting with the forthcoming book A Warning, written by an anonymous White House insider, Patrick and Kavita tie together the word lodestar, Sha Na Na, Swahili, and the Unabomber in a short exploration of forensic linguistics.

And I still say Patrick Cox sounds identical to Neil Gaiman.

Sign of the Week

misspelling, spellcheck cannot save you 

From freelance copywriter and editor Sarah Townsend:

They Are In

pronouns, inclusivity, APA style

"Respectful and inclusive language is important. And it’s part of APA Style." The American Psychological Association has announced that it will recommend the use of singular they in its forthcoming seventh edition of its publication manual. (This happened last week, but I didn't catch it until the weekend.) This post from Chelsea Lee gives a quick overview of what singular they is all about and how to use it.

When I first read through the post, I, as a middle-aged editor, was a bit wary. Not because I thought singular they is ungrammatical — I've been a strong supporter of singular they for years — but because of the implication that using he or she was "wrong." Of course he or she is still grammatically correct, I thought.

But then I remembered the thing that all good copy editors know: There's more to good writing than just grammar. While he or she is absolutely grammatically correct, in many instances (and especially, I would think, in psychological studies) it is culturally incorrect. And there are a number of other words that could be substituted in for culturally.

So good on the APA for supporting inclusivity. Granted, I haven't written anything using APA style for more than two decades, but still.

Guy Jinks

self-promotion, etymology

This week in my In a Word column at The Saturday Evening Post, I dove dived delved into the history of the innocuous word guy. Tuesday was Guy Fawkes Day, so the choice seemed pertinent. "Read Bad Guys and Good Guys" to find out why.

A Bright Light in D.C.

museums, education

The Washington Post reported this week (and on my birthday, no less!) that Planet Word, a D.C. museum devoted to words and language, has set a date for its grand opening: May 31, 2020. The Post article can give you some background on how the whole thing is coming together, but the museum's website is already up and running, so don't forget to check it out, too. (I, for one, will be keeping an eye on their job postings.)

If you saw a great word-related story from a source you think I might have missed, please let me know in the comments. Otherwise, let us know about a word that you only recently discovered.