Saturday, May 23, 2020

Into the Words

The smoking skeleton is metaphorical, somehow.

Your Kerb Enthusiasm

British English, homophones

Lynne Murphy at Separated by a Common Language — a blog devoted to highlighting and explaining (when possible) the differences between American and British English — realized this week that she’s never done a post about one of my favorite differences, kerb and curb. Now she has. The short version: Both languages have the verb to curb, but the American English noun curb (as in the edge of the roadway) is spelled kerb in British English.

The Opposite of Anti-Unpositive

antonyms, coinages

Separated by a Common Language isn’t Lynne Murphy’s only blog. She also keeps “a diary of antonyms, opposites, and contrasts” at Who Shall Remain Antonymous. This week, she dissected a word that, thanks to Stephen Colbert, appeared in The New York Times for the very first time: unnegative. Does it just mean positive? Maybe not.


idioms, word history

“It is amazing how often the Devil is invoked in English idioms,” writes Anatoly Liberman at the Oxford University Press blog. And then, of course, he takes us on a lexical tour of some of those expressions, including “the devil and his dam,” “pull devil, pull baker,” and “the devil overlooks Lincoln.”

Video of the Week

video, portmanteaux

This week I discovered Trevor Neal’s YouTube series AwkWords. Each episode is basically just a silly little minute-long video about a coined portmanteau, like friendurance (“a lasting ability to put up with annoying friends”), animassassination (“the contract killing of a popular cartoon character,” shown below), and speedoze (“a brief nap taken while wearing tight-fitting swim trunks”). You’ll also get some cute wordplay on company names and meet Professor Edward Wordward.

Not Ssssssmokin'!

idioms, advertising

Chantix is a pharmaceutical designed to help you quit smoking gradually, or as one of their ad campaigns explains, it helps you quit slow turkey, as opposed to cold turkey. Is slow turkey really a thing? No, writes Nancy Friedman at Fritinancy; Chantix’s ad writers made it up. But cold turkey has a long history, as she explains in her latest Word of the Week post.

Honey-baked Hamlet

word history, literary analysis

“To be or not to be, that is the question.” So begins what is perhaps the most famous of Will Shakespeare’s soliloquies. What makes these simple words so powerful, so meaningful, and maybe so wrong? Find out as James Harbeck takes these ten words apart one at a time at Sesquiotica. (It’s a long read, but worth it for both logophiles and Bardheads.)

Speller Door

etymology, word history, spelling, self-promotion

My In a Word post at The Saturday Evening Post this week "The French Lieutenant's Spelling," tackles a word that's easy to misspell: lieutenant. Not only do I give you an etymological breakdown, but I also give you the tools to never misspell it again.