Sunday, March 15, 2020

Out of This Word

Learn about your language while you're stuck in quarantine.

Going Viral

onomastics, xenophobia

There’s a reason the WHO took six weeks to come up with COVID-19 as the name of the disease caused by the unique strain of coronavirus. And there is another reason — and some deeper implications — why some anti-immigration types have been calling it the Wuhan virus, the Chinese coronavirus, or the foreign virus. And this week, we got two points of view (though they’re largely the same perspective) about what people are calling the cause of the current pandemic: For Medium, Nancy Friedman wrote “Does It Matter What we Call a Disease?” and for The Atlantic, Ben Zimmer offers “Why Trump Intentionally Misnames the Coronavirus.”

Englishing Good

zombie rules, grammar

Can or may? Well or good? Who or whom? You might not really know, writes Michelle Sheehan in “Five Things People Think They Know about English Grammar That Make Absolutely No Sense” for The Conversation. Most copy editors — myself included — could probably triple this list if lexical foibles. What weird, stupid grammatical rule did you learn in school and then have to unlearn as an adult?

E, C, and Me

podcast, self-promotion, spelling, pronunciation

This week’s Grammar Girl podcast, “Whisky or Whiskey,” posted on St. Patrick’s Day, comes with an Irish theme. Apart from the mystery of the errant E, Mignon Fogarty talks about the pronunciation of Celtic, which is pronounced exactly like you think, and also not. But most importantly (at least from one blogger’s point of view), she reads my winning quatrain from this year’s National Grammar Day poetry contest.

Lex and the City

onomastics, maps

Ever dream of taking a vacation in Black Pool, Smoky Bay, or Meadow of the Gods? I bet you have! According to a new post from The Language Nerds, “Extraordinary Map Shows the Literal Meanings of City Names,” these are the “true” meanings of Dublin, Reykjavik, and Oslo. And there are lots more city names to explore the world over.

Top-Shelf Herb

word history, cooking

In a post on Thursday, James Harbeck of Sesquiotica explored the pronunciation, etymology, religiosity, culinary uses, and practically everything else about basil — the word, the herb, and the name.

Featured image from Public Domain Review.