Saturday, February 1, 2020

Laugh, and the Word Laughs With You...

...cry, and maybe you should've hired a copy editor after all.

The Glowers That Be

etymology, word history

Just because Rudolph’s nose glows doesn’t mean he glowers (though sometimes he does, I’m sure). If you give someone a glowing review, you aren’t glowering. But why the heck not? James Harbeck of Sesquiotica this week offers a brief, illuminating look at how the words glow and glower are related, even while they have such opposite meanings.

When Were Was Be

grammar, subjunctive

Patricia O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman of The Grammarphobia Blog were asked about a specific construction in the King James Bible: “if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law.” What’s up with that be? As they elucidate more comprehensively and authoritatively than I could, in “But If the Husband Be Dead...,” that be indicates the subjunctive mood in a construction that is less commonly used today than it was during the early 17th century, when the KJV was penned.

Warning: Here there be grammar. (Which is not in the subjunctive mood and is a different grammatical animal entirely.)

It’s Not a “Long Field Goal”

abbreviations, profanity

Initialisms and acronyms get coined, tossed, and lost down the sewer grate every day, so it takes a little something extra for one to become newsworthy. Like, maybe, being adopted for a presidential campaign.

Elizabeth Warren has adopted the unofficial slogan “You and Me LFG,” borrowing a TLA from soccer superstar Megan Rapinoe. You can get it on a campaign T-shirt, sticker, or button.

Don’t know what LFG means? Here's a hint: The middle word starts with F, and Nancy Friedman wrote about it at Strong Language.

Missed Aches

spelling, just for fun

We all make mistakes, especially as children just learning the quirky, inconsistent idiosyncrasies of English morphology. That leaves plenty of opportunities for comedy, like the “23 Children’s Hilariously Inappropriate Spelling Mistakes” collected by The Language Nerds.

Be warned: This is the least offensive of the twenty-three.

Return of the Pod Squad


Many of my favorite word-focused podcasts took time off during “the holidays,” which apparently extend all the way through Thesaurus Day. But now they’re now coming back with new episodes!
  • A Way with Words came back with a new episode on January 20 called “Tiger Tail,” in which they touch on boondocks, yipka, potpie, bubbler, being so king wet, and more. 
  • The Allusionist came back on January 24 with “Zaltzology.” Though it’s a pared-down version of an interview she did with Alie Ward for the Ologies podcast, it’s still fun.
  • And my favorite podcast, Talk the Talk, dropped a new episode January 28 that’s all about the various words of the year — but especially the American Dialect Society’s voting.
  • Aaaaaand I just discovered that Subtitle started reposting at the beginning of the month, but my podcast player apparently hasn’t been updating that one. (Technology: Can’t live with it, can’t guilt trip it into working the way it ought to.) So this weekend, I’ll be spending my time listening to “Why Mormons Are So Good at Language” and “Is a Polyglot’s Brain Different” — and probably downloading a new podcast player.

Get Your Irish Up

Irish English, word history

In “Are You Codding Me with All This Stravaging,” Stan Carey of Sentence First picked two interesting bits of Irish English from Brian Moore’s novel The Feast of Lupercal to explore more deeply. See if you can guess what they are just from the title of his post.

Codding (which also gives us to cod and codology, but not codswallop) means "joking" or "fooling." Stravaging, which doesn’t rhyme with ravaging, means "to wander about." That -vaging part is a relative of vagrancy and vagabond. Click over to learn more and add these two useful words to your vocabulary.

Avocational Equine

word history

Neil Steinberg, on his sacrilegiously named blog Every Goddamn Day, takes us on a quick trip through some of the trivia that caught his eye online recently. While homing in on the fact that the word hobby comes from hobby horse and not the other way around, he alights on the interesting history of canary and the relative widths of Australia and the moon.

With Puns Blazing

participation, puns

When I started this weekly newsletter-type thingy, I hadn’t landed on a name that I really liked for it. I thought I would try out a few in the wild — especially punny ones — and maybe I would eventually land on one that just clicked.

But what clicked was the constant punning. So I’ve decided not to settle on one name, but to put as many word-related puns as I can on this blog, week after week. The good ones are running out fast, though, which means that it won’t be long before I hit the groan-inducing puns, followed immediately by the long stretches to get there.

Wanna help? What other punny titles could I use for this weekly word round-up? Leave them in the comments below. (And if I use them, of course I’ll acknowledge your contribution and my gratitude.)

Featured image from The Public Domain Review.