2001 - 2015 (Jan. 18)
I’ve posted about National Grammar Day before (1, 2), and I do so once again for the same good reason: because it has inspired a brilliant response, in thi...
“While #blacklivesmatter may not fit the traditional definition of a word, it demonstrates how powerfully a hashtag can convey a succinct social message... Language scholars are paying attention to the innovative linguistic force of hashtags, and #blacklivesmatter was certainly a forceful example of this in 2014.”Yes, yes, yes, crowning a hashtag WOTY certainly draws attention to the innovative linguistic force of hashtags (as does creating the category "hashtag of the year") and #blacklivesmatter was certainly one of the most relevant hashtags of the year, and yes, there are many linguists who won't make a conceptual distinction between words, phrases, and sentences (they are all "constructions"), but call me old school -- I like the idea of a word as a combination of form (sound, gesture, writing) and meaning (lexical or grammatical) that can combine with other words according to the rules of grammar to form a clause. Hashtags don't have that function, the word "hashtag," on the other hand (WOTY 2013) does.
- Harry Miller has a house --> Harry Miller's house
Final note: When the plural of a noun does not end on an -s (children), the genitive -s is added in the same manner as in the singular (the children's house). Oh, and while we're at it, the genitive interrogative pronoun is spelled whose, never who's (whose house). Who's is a contracted form (who is), not a genitive.
- The Miller family has a house (The Millers have a house) --> the Millers' house OR the Millers's house, NOT the Miller's house
The cause of most bad writing, Pinker thinks, is not laziness or sloppiness or overexposure to the Internet and video games, but what he calls the curse of knowledge: the writer’s inability to put himself in the reader’s shoes or to imagine that the reader might not know all that the writer knows — the jargon, the shorthand, the slang, the received wisdom.” (The New York Times)
In his hugely entertaining book.. Jurafsky explains that every increase of one letter in the average length of words describing a dish is associated with an increase of 69 cents (42p) in the price of that dish. In a study of 6,500 menus, Jurafsky found that the words "exotic" and "spices" also raise the price of a dish. But "linguistic fillers" like "mouth-watering", "sublime" and "crispy", tend to feature more often on cheap menus. "At the expensive restaurant, you're supposed to assume that the crispy food will be crispy," Jurafsky said in a telephone interview. "The cheaper restaurants are a little worried that you might not know. It's a kind of status anxiety." (The Independent)
The Dictionary of American Regional English, which for the last 30 years has been the authoritative source on American colloquialisms and local slang, is now online. As a result, you don’t need to consult the five-volume print edition to drop some fresh folk sayings at parties… The website features a map that lets you browse entries by state (Massachusetts’ page features ‘two-toilet Irish,’ ‘pinkletink’—a young frog on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket—and ‘joe flogger’) and original audio recordings, thick with twang and drawl, made during the initial round of data collection in the late 1960s.” (Boston Globe)If your parents live in Wisconsin, also get them this book, edited by three of my esteemed colleagues:
Beginning with a helpful crash course in linguistics terminology, this collection of essays explores Wisconsin-specific words, local linguistic quirks and the state's Hmong- and Spanish-language groups. (The Isthmus)
Eight years later, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics decided to revisit the question of "what is a planet?" On September 18th, we hosted a debate among three leading experts in planetary science, each of whom presented their case as to what a planet is or isn't. The goal: to find a definition that the eager public audience could agree on! Science historian Dr. Owen Gingerich, who chaired the IAU planet definition committee, presented the historical viewpoint. Dr. Gareth Williams, associate director of the Minor Planet Center, presented the IAU's viewpoint. And Dr. Dimitar Sasselov, director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, presented the exoplanet scientist's viewpoint. Gingerich argued that "a planet is a culturally defined word that changes over time," and that Pluto is a planet. Williams defended the IAU definition, which declares that Pluto is not a planet. And Sasselov defined a planet as "the smallest spherical lump of matter that formed around stars or stellar remnants," which means Pluto is a planet. After these experts made their best case, the audience got to vote on what a planet is or isn't and whether Pluto is in or out. The results are in, with no hanging chads in sight. According to the audience, Sasselov's definition won the day, and Pluto IS a planet.Alas, I have my doubts that a public vote will move the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to reconsider its decision that Pluto not be considered a planet. Their introducing the term "dwarf planet" (which is to be considered distinct from, not a subclass of "planet") doesn't exactly indicate that cultural awareness of linguistic terms is something they care about a lot.
Many parents believe it’s important to compliment the behavior, not the child — that way, the child learns to repeat the behavior. Indeed, I know one couple who are careful to say, “That was such a helpful thing to do,” instead of, “You’re a helpful person.” But is that the right approach? In a clever experiment, the researchers Joan E. Grusec and Erica Redler set out to investigate what happens when we commend generous behavior versus generous character. After 7- and 8-year-olds won marbles and donated some to poor children, the experimenter remarked, “Gee, you shared quite a bit.” The researchers randomly assigned the children to receive different types of praise. For some of the children, they praised the action: “It was good that you gave some of your marbles to those poor children. Yes, that was a nice and helpful thing to do.” For others, they praised the character behind the action: “I guess you’re the kind of person who likes to help others whenever you can. Yes, you are a very nice and helpful person.” A couple of weeks later, when faced with more opportunities to give and share, the children were much more generous after their character had been praised than after their actions had been. Praising their character helped them internalize it as part of their identities. The children learned who they were from observing their own actions: I am a helpful person. This dovetails with new research led by the psychologist Christopher J. Bryan, who finds that for moral behaviors, nouns work better than verbs. To get 3- to 6-year-olds to help with a task, rather than inviting them “to help,” it was 22 to 29 percent more effective to encourage them to “be a helper.” Cheating was cut in half when instead of, “Please don’t cheat,” participants were told, “Please don’t be a cheater.” When our actions become a reflection of our character, we lean more heavily toward the moral and generous choices. Over time it can become part of us.Modelling good behavior also helps. No verbs or nouns needed.
Children learn generosity not by listening to what their role models say, but by observing what they do.
"there is no question that I am thrilled by his antics, endearing personality, unconditional love (even when I yell no), and the many connections he’s fostered with both acquaintances and strangers."Not exactly news for dog owners, but perhaps helpful for those on the fence.
Expose someone's true identity, usually a name or address. It's one of the scummiest things someone can do on the internet. (Urban Dictionary)The article is about "OpAntiBully," a group of activists who consider themselves a resource for victims of bullying. Their activism reaches from offering informal counseling to victims to exposing the identity of the supposed perpetrators on the Internet. From the article:
This kind of outing, known as doxxing, involves scouring the Internet for personal data (or documents, the source of the word “doxx”) — like a person’s name, address, occupation, Twitter or Facebook profile — and then publicly linking that information to the perpetrator’s transgression. The process can be as simple as following a trail the target has left behind or it can involve tricking someone into revealing the password to a personal account or hacking into a website to obtain private information.Not every case of doxxing involves public shaming (for example, there was nothing particularly shameful about Michelle Obama's credit card statements, which got posted online), but the ones they do seem rather zeitgeisty to me.
“This past year, the very old word because exploded with new grammatical possibilities in informal online use,” Zimmer [=linguist Ben Zimmer, chair of the ADS New Words Committee] said. “No longer does because have to be followed by of or a full clause. Now one often sees tersely worded rationales like ‘because science’ or ‘because reasons.’ You might not go to a party ‘because tired.’ As one supporter put it, because should be Word of the Year ‘because useful!’”I'm feeling rather "meh" about this choice. On the one hand, I understand that linguists are excited about new constructions, especially those that seem to challenge linguistic norms, on the other hand, I think this choice is stretching the meaning of the word "word" (as in Word of the Year) quite far. I think I would rather have voted for "slash," as in "come and visit slash stay," because I think it's a great example of a linguistic innovation that started in written language and then found its way into spoken language (even if there isn't anything particularly 2013 about it). Also, new conjunctions don't exactly emerge every day (nor do new prepositions, granted, but "because" is not a new preposition, see below).
Personally, we think the nails, the ring, and the clutch are all a bit wrong for the dress, but they’re the pieces that take this from being a standard (albeit typically gorgeous) Oscar de la Renta look and turning it into a “Katy Perry in Oscar de la Renta” look. In other words, they wouldn’t have been our choices, but we can’t deny that they work for her.