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

Last week at Phys.Org, Rachel B. Levin at USC took a look at a few of the ways young people are talking and writing these days. Her conclusion — no surprise to this audience, I hope — is in the title: “Cringing at How Teens Talk? Surprise: Language Changes.” Though Levin’s conclusion is foregone, the particular change that opens the story is worth noting: El Centro Chicano, an organization created in 1972 as a resource center for Mexican American students, recently changed its name to the Latinx Chicanx Center for Advocacy and Student Affairs, or La CASA for short. (Well done on the acronym!)

If you read my newsletter from Thanksgiving weekend, wherein I link to a post by Arturo Hernandez, then you already understand the potential problem with having Latinx in the new name. Presumably Chicanx está en el mismo barco.

From a Tiny Eggcorn Grows Them Eighty Oak

homophones, eggcorns

When you’re a copy editor or proofreader, finding an eggcorn is shoe-in for the highlight of your work day — unless it’s in something you yourself have written. Finding and correcting an eggcorn reinforces your self-confidence, justifies your worth as an employee, and, when all is set and done, gives you something to tweet about.

If you don’t know what an eggcorn is, Merrill Perlman explains them in lame-man’s terms at the Columbia Journalism Review. And if you already know all about eggcorns, don’t be coal-hearted; go read it anyway. We should all be reminded of eggcorns at least once a year just to keep us on the straight and arrow.

And if all this really peaks your interest in malaprops and bad homophones, spend some time digging through the Eggcorn Database.

And never — ever — take your editors or proofreaders for granite again.

Jewel Pay for That

podcast, jargon

There are a lot of words you can use to describe a diamond: sparkly, brilliant, expensive. Also: blood-stained, lab-grown, and green. This second trio of words comes from the highly regulated world of diamond sellers — and I don’t mean that the diamond selling is regulated, though it is. In the latest episode of Subtitle, “The Language of Diamonds,” Patrick Cox and Alina Simone take you to 47th street, “the least woke place in New York City,” to explore the language that jewelers are allowed to use to describe their carbon-based gems. That language is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission and watched over by a group called the Jeweler’s Vigilance Committee.

Yule Pay for That

etymology, Christmas

At the Wall Street Journal, linguist and lexicographer Benjamin Zimmer delves into the pagan history of Yule and Yuletide. I assume it’s well-written and meticulously researched, considering the quality of Zimmer’s other work, but it's behind a pay wall. Somebody let me know how it goes.

Nonbinary Star

WOTY, dictionaries

If this type of weekly word round-up is your bag, then you probably already know all about Merriam-Webster choosing nonbinary they as Word of the Year. But did you catch the video of Peter Sokolowski explaining how the choice was made, as well as the other words that were in contention?

Tweet of the Week

errors, headlines

From one of my local TV news teams. Hat tip to Kevin Marshall for catching this one and sharing it on Facebook.
Pregnant woman recovering after being on the east side of Indianapolis

The Jerry Is Still Out

etymology, confusables

Grammarphobia this week took on the etymological knot created by the simultaneous existence of jury-rigged, jerry-built, and jerry-rigged. We’ve probably all heard about the link between German soldiers and jerry-built, but that, at least, turns out to be entirely wrong. Research finds this sort of jerry in use back into the 1800s. This may be an instance in which an eggcorn gained so much popularity that it became standard, or at least not objectionable.

Sacre Bleu, Motherf***ers!

swearing, prescriptivism

When I was in high school — a millennium ago — one of the most exciting pieces of contraband to discreetly pass around French class was a little book called Wicked French. Who cared about how the proper conjugation of enfocer when you could be learning how to invite some unsuspecting Parisian to perform lewd acts upon himself, and in his native tongue!

Well the publishers of the Wicked series — and the many, many, many similar titles — might need to start planning a new edition. Last month, the Academie Française, that organization founded in 1634 by the villain from The Three Musketeers as the official gatekeepers of the French language, released new guidelines on how to swear correctly in French.

Acceptable responses to this news are practically endless, and I leave the fun to you.