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.

The Week Link

podcast, WOTY

So it looks like the flurry of Words of the Year won’t end until the actual year does. (Even then, I think the American Dialect Society doesn’t have their final vote until January.) This week’s Talk the Talk podcast swirled out its own little year-end flurry this week with its “Word of the Week of the Year” episode.

The podcast has a “Word of the Week” segment in practically every episode, and last month they posted all the greatest of those words and let listeners vote on which they liked best, the highest vote-getter being crowned “Word of the Week of the Year.” This episode takes you through the top 10, which include cancel culture, hold my beer (as a verb), and fursona. (I voted for shadow work.) Listen to the whole episode to find out which word won and to keep up with what the kids are doing with language these days.

On Dunder and Blixem!

etymology, Christmas, self-promotion

This week at In a Word, my own weekly column at The Saturday Evening Post, I published “Eight, er, Nine Tiny Reindeer,” a look at the real and potential meanings behind the names given to Santa’s reindeer and how they have changed. That’s right: They’ve changed!

On a personal note, if you read this article — or ever dip into my column — and would like to see it continue, I’d love and appreciate it if you’d leave a comment there.

I Could Karen Less

onomastics, memes

Namerology, a website all about “the art and science of names,” has chosen Karen as Name of the Year. In memes and Twitter snipes, Karen has become shorthand for a middle-aged (read Gen X), racist, privileged white woman who always “wants to see the manager,” joining the Susans and Beckys of previous years.

My sincere apologies to the hundreds of thousands of actual Karens out there.

Namerology points out how inaccurate this choice actually is to describe a woman from Generation X; Karen as a baby name spiked during the Baby Boom and saw a precipitous drop while Generation X was being born, so if anything, Karen should be shorthand for "OK, boomer." Memes, sadly, are not subject to fact-checking.

A Round of Drinks

etymology, history

At the Oxford University Press blog, Anatoly Liberman continues to look at the etymologies of some of our most basic verbs. This week, he offers an in-depth and somewhat technical exploration of the possible derivations of the word drink. Liberman also takes a brief stroll through a garden of questionable etymologies offered by Jan de Vries. This guy keeps coming up in my researches, so I probably ought to learn more about De Vries — a Dutch scholar in German mythology and linguistics, as well as a Nazi — if only to dunk on him from half a century after his death.

And Meow for Something Completely Different

etymology, neologisms, poetry

The Cats movie hit theaters this week, so James Harbeck of Sesquiotica went out and saw … a staging of the musical. Not the movie. Nonetheless, this week he took a closer look at the word Jellicle and where it came from. Yes, it came from the mind of T.S. Eliot, but, as Harbeck explains, it had a foundation in actual speech.

As a bonus, Harbeck shares a poem he wrote about a cat named Cassandra. I can only assume he’s angling for a writing credit on the inevitable movie sequel 2 Cats 2 Curious.

And as a bonus two-fer, find out what happened when Harbeck asked the Twitterverse to name the words they love irrationally much. (For one, he discovered there was a daily limit to how many times he could retweet.)