Saturday, January 18, 2020

Word-Brained — January 18, 2020

What words are we talking about this week?

Ecstatic Onomasticon Diurnal Course!

holidays, synonyms

Happy Thesaurus Day, everyone! To mark this most auspicious (propitious, felicitous, fortunate) anniversary of the birth of Peter Mark Roget, I bring you . . .

I’ve got nothing . . . nothing new anyway. Thesaurus Day totally snuck up on me this year.

But if you’re really looking for some fun with synonyms and antonyms, I can direct you to my post from last year, “7 Surprising Synonyms for Thesaurus Day,” or to my 2013 post on this here blog called “A Bit about Roget and Thesauruses on Thesaurus Day,” which includes a brief etymology of the word thesaurus as well as an outdated reference to Fiona Apple. No doubt other word lovers will be publishing their Thesaurus Day thoughts at the same time I’m publishing this, though, so go out and see what else awaits you.

After you’ve finished reading this post, of course.

Bowled Over

etymology, football

Have you ever wondered why college football teams play in bowl games? Wonder no more! Dave Wilton at gives us the complete story, all the way back to Ælfric’s Life of St. George, written in the 10th century.

St. George, as we all know, is the patron saint of chronic traumatic encephalopathy.



I saw a tweet the other day that included an embedded video that some people say contains evidence of skulduggery in a major league baseball game. I don’t follow baseball; what caught my attention, though, was that the tweeter said that he had zapruder’d the video snippet for a long time before he formed a conclusion. I liked that verb zapruder’d, with all its implications of conspiracy and cover-up wrapped in a historical reference that I actually understand.

Some people can get annoyed when others turn nouns into verbs like this, but not me, and not Stan Carey, author of the Sentence First blog. “Verb All the Things” he says in the title to a recent post, in which he writes, "Novel verbing can lend oomph to mundane moments.” I tend to agree.

Normally, instead of just mentioning a tweet, I would actually find and embed it here. But I didn’t mark it when I first saw it, and when I went back and searched for zapruder’d on Twitter, it returned a lot more results that I expected. There’s also the apostropheless zaprudered, which I prefer, and presumably the present-tense zapruder is out there as well, though it’s more difficult to search for. I’ll take ’em all.

De Do Do Do, De Dot Dot Dot

pronunciation, opera

I realize that few people in this world have the type of personal relationship that I do with the Puccini opera Turandot. (It’s a whole high school marching band thing.) Fewer still have reason to ever say the name Turandot out loud. And it’s a good thing, too, because no matter how you pronounce it, somebody will tell you you're doing it wrong. A tuxedoed James Harbeck of Sesquiotic has more:

From the Trenches

etymology, history

The term no man’s land became common during World War I, and, from what I can infer, it holds particular import in the new movie 1917. (I'll probably never know for sure; I don't get to the theater much anymore, and I'm not a big fan of war movies unless there are space aliens involved.) Ben Zimmer, writing for The Wall Street Journal (which means there’s a paywall), did a deep dive into this phrase and discovered — as always happens — that it’s a lot older than we might expect. No-man's land stretches back almost a millennium to William the Conqueror and the Domesday Book.

Zed’s Dead, Baby

alphabet, history

And we end this post with the end of the alphabet. At this week, in their Everything after Z section, we learn that Z was removed from the alphabet. What? You’re still using the old Zed-meister? Don’t worry: It happened more than two millennia ago, and we got it back a few centuries later.

Now — now — you can go google "Thesaurus Day" and see how other logophiles are marking the occasion.