December 19, 2013

Sometimes it seems right...

...to donate to a cause that really only one person -- and in some cases one dog -- will profit from.

11-year old guide dog Orlando saved the life of his owner, who had fallen on the subway tracks in NYC. Orlando will soon be too old to work, but his owner's insurance plan would not cover the expenses to keep him as a non-working dog, so he would have to be re-homed. Enter the Internet. Through crowdfunding, over $50000 were raised to enable Orlando's owner to keep his dog. (He will also get a new guide dog once Orlando retires.)

Read the whole story here.



Happy holidays!

December 02, 2013

dare.dictionary.com

The Dictionary of American Regional English went online today!

Go and visit! Or don't you want to know where people can have the mulligrubs?

mulligrubs
A condition of despondency or ill temper; a vague or imaginary unwellness.scattered, but esp SouthSee Map

November 25, 2013

Webster's Dictionary, clutch edition

Look at what Kate Perry carried to the AMA awards: It's a Webster's Dictionary clutch, for sale here (alas, it will set you back $2050).



Tom & Lorenzo's verdict:

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.

November 24, 2013

Selfie, revisited

So, Oxford Dictionaries opened the 2013 WOTY (Word of the Year) season. Their choice is "selfie," not exactly a new word, but a word that gained prominence in 2013 (which is why I wrote about it here, admittedly rather late in the game). They include this diagram:


The productivity of the word can also be seein in the innovations it undergoes. There's "helfie" (a picture of one's hair), not a word I was aware of, "welfie" (a picture of oneself working out), ditto, and "legsie," a picture of one's legs, really more of a cousin of "selfie." Other languages may borrow the concept, but not necessarily the word:


Other WOTY candidates were twerp (what about "twelfie?"), binge watch, and bitcoin. 

November 19, 2013

#TheoandBeau

Cuteness overflow: These pictures of puppy Theo and toddler Beau napping together are making the rounds on Twitter and Facebook. Justly so.



November 10, 2013

For people who know ...bakery

If that headline (the noun "bakery" used without an article) strikes you as odd, you probably don't live in Wisconsin.




In Wisconsin, "bakery" does not necessarily refer to the place where you buy bread and pastries, it can refer to the baked goods themselves. It seems that this regional meaning of the word -- well documented in the Dictionary of American Regional English (which, hooray, hooray, will soon be available online) --  is still alive and kicking... so much that you can find it in advertisements of a Midwest-based supermarket chain (Hy-Vee). Yay for regionalisms!

November 09, 2013

Gnome Chomsky

Meta-costume for linguists:

I first saw it posted on a linguistic website (as a Halloween costume for linguists), but when I did a Google search I found that there's a whole universe of "Gnome Chomskys" out there (a word play on "Noam Chomsky," who -- besides being a "polictical commentator and activist" happens to be one of the most famous linguists ever -- yes, THE Noam Chomsky). There are even pictures of Noam Chomksky holding a Gnome Chomsky.


So, I'm a little behind in Gnomology. Just how far behind is something I realized yesterday when I was reading the business section of the NY Times. Katia Beauchamp, founder of the beauty subscription service Birchbox, revealed that
Every month, an employee wins the gnome that we named Chomsky, and employees submit a “gnomination” for who they think deserves it most. The winner gets to have Chomsky on their desk for a month and they get $1,000. We read to the entire team why they deserve the award, which is tied into our four leadership principles.
If people who sell lip gloss are more into this Chomsky gnome thing than linguists, well, that just makes you feel very out of it. 

September 20, 2013

Metaphorical grammar makes me twitch.

When I came across the headline "When Tech Turns Nouns Into Verbs," I got mildly excited -- would there be examples beyond "to google" and "to text message?"

Turns out the article is talking about verbs in a metaphorical sense:
Think about the phone you carry. You talk with people on it, but you can also open apps and transform it into a camera or chess board. [...] Whatever this object is, it isn’t a phone in any conventional sense. And that may be a clue to a whole new way of thinking about the world around us. The phone is a little connected computer — a device whose uses and meaning we continually explore and modify. It is by no means a phone in the historical sense. It is still a physical object, of course, but it is really a vehicle for one or another software-enabled experience. In an important sense, it is made to be contingent, changing with every download and update. That focus on the needs-driven experience means it behaves less like a static noun and more like an active verb.

Two points:


  1. a. verb is an object of grammar with well-defined characteristics, none of which are shared by an object that you hold to your ear or on your lap
  2. Grammar 101: nouns needn't be static (think "celebration") and verbs needn't be "active" (think "be" or "seem"),  so this simple dichotomy is below School House Rock level

So, next time you want to write about some vague, imprecise notion of a verb being a metaphor for twitching around, please choose a headline that reflects your more ....creative approach to grammar. Metaphorical grammar makes me twitch.

September 10, 2013

Dogs of summer

So the Cambridges released new pictures of Prince George (a.k.a. "the little rascal," a noun related to the French word for 'common people,' "racaille") -- but the real star of the picture is Lupo, their dog.




There was a bit of a kerfuffle (from the verb "fuffle," 'to disorder') about the pictures being taken by the Prince's grandfather, Michael Middleton, who clearly is not a professional photographer. Eddie Mulholland, vice chairman of the British Press Photographers Association found that
they are lovely snaps for a grandfather to have taken, but in terms of the quality, they are not really what you want for such a historic picture. [...] The photograph with the dogs is the worst. One of the dogs in the corner looks like a furry rug, and part of the Duke’s head is wiped out by a patch of light coming through the trees. To get over that you would just have had to move the subjects until they were completely in the shade.
You mean like this?



Meanwhile, some miles further west, the Obamas introduce Sunny, their new family dog. And the press corps is smitten (participle of the verb "smite," 'to throw'). Justly so!




June 28, 2013

Selfies

What is a "selfie"? Any old self portrait taken with a camera or specifically a picture taken with a cell phone at arm's length with the purpose of posting it on social media? And what about newer cell phones, the ones with forward facing cameras?

This BBC News Magazine article recently addressed "the rise of the 'selfie'."

Selfie-ism is everywhere. The word "selfie" has been bandied about so much in the past six months it's currently being monitored for inclusion in the Oxford Dictionary Online.
Actually, the OED listed "selfie" as one of the "words on the radar" a year ago:
This colloquial term for a photographic self-portrait has thus far appeared primarily in social media contexts. In fact, we see more evidence for it on the Oxford Twitter Corpus than in the much larger Oxford English Corpus attracted mainstream notice when it appeared in US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's riposte to a humorous Tumblr dedicated to an image of her texting [=Texts from Hillary Clinton]. Many commentators doubted that she had penned the riposte ["Sup Adam. Nice Selfie Stace"], saying such a Facebook-generation word was unlikely to be in her vocabulary. 
Original image by Kevin Lamarque for Reuters.
Although "selfie" still sounds pretty juvenile to me, the word has still fared a lot better than other words put on the radar by the OED the same month. Or do you know the meaning of squoob (prominent cleavage that protudes from a tight bodice), geried (geriatric emergency department in a hospital), or Phablet (a touchscreen device that is larger than a cell phone and smaller than a tablet)?  

Oh, and Hillary Clinton? She just posted the first selfie of herself and daugther Chelsea on Twitter, carefully not positioning herself as running the world.

June 14, 2013

Poop alert via GPS

Did you ever hire a dog walker and wonder if he or she actually walked your dog? From the Times' City Room Blog

File it under Things It Never Occurred to You to Worry About if you like. But in 2003 New York magazine article about misbehaving dog walkers, a stockbroker named Joanne told how, made suspicious by her cocker spaniel’s desperate need for relief when Joanne arrived home from work, she draped the dog’s leash just so on the banister before leaving for work to see if it got moved. It didn’t. (Her neighbors who used the same walker, she said, set up a nanny cam and caught him entering the apartment, grabbing his money, and walking out without touching their dog.)

Well, with Swifto, a new, GPS-equipped dog-walking company in New York, you can "see the exact route, miles, and duration of the walk," including poop alerts, "a little white-on-brown icon of a squatting dog with, yes, a small pile beneath its tail, superimposed on a map of the walk fed by GPS data from the walker’s phone and updated every few seconds".

Comme ça.


What a relief.

June 12, 2013

Amazeballs!

Gwyneth Paltrow said it on Glee and now Usher and Adam Levine used the word to describe a performance by Danielle Bradberry on "The Voice." According to Urban Dictionary, the term has been made popular by blogger Perez Hilton, but in this article on Slate.com links it to fashion blogger Elizabeth Spiridakis, who, in an interview, said that she and her friends went through a phase where they put -balls on almost any adjective (tiballs for 'tired,' exhaustballs for 'exhausted,' you get the idea) and then Spiridakis put that on her blog. To say the least, it's not exactly perceived as a cool word. Perhaps its use by Usher and Levine will change the perception of the word as a "verbal irritant" and one of the worst words of the year in 2012:

You think it’s irritating that people overuse the word amazing, particularly when they pronounce it ah-mah-zing. But amazeballs makes you want to commit violence against your own eardrums. For realballs.

June 06, 2013

Ceci est un bagel.

Human language has a lot of built-in redundancy. For example, in English, we often mark that we are talking about an event that lies in the past by using past tense ("went" instead of "go") and temporal adverbs, such as "yesterday." We say "I went to the market yesterday," instead of just "I go to the market yesterday," which would be anchored in the past just through the adverb. It's not an option in standard English. So, we're used to a certain amount of redundancy and in many cases we hardly notice. In some cases we do. For example, when you're looking at a tray with a selection of donuts, what is the point of the sign that, yes, indeed, we are looking at "Assorted Donuts?" 




We try to construct the verbal message as relevant, but that means that it has to contribute something beyond what we already know. Does it?



It might. This is not just fruit salad, it's "fresh fruit salad." Let's grab some.


Fear of flying? Pet a dog!

At my university, therapy dogs often stop by in the College Library during exam week. Students sit down with them, pet them -- and get up with a big smile on their faces. Now LAX airport is taking this idea to stressed out travelers: PUPS (Pets unstressing passengers) is a new program that brings dogs to airport terminals:

Trained dogs and handlers will roam through the departures levels in the gate areas of each terminal, visiting passengers awaiting flights and providing comfort, as well as airport information.  The program also willeducate and inform passengers about the LAneXt Capital Improvement projects, and construction related traffic impacts.   
The dogs and handlers, in red vests with the PUP logo, will be an excellent addition to the customer service team.  Passengers will love seeing warm, wet noses and wagging tails that will create a friendly, positive experience at LAX!   

It would certainly work for me! I hope Chicago O'Hare will adopt the program soon. (They have the Beagle Brigade there, to sniff out hidden plants or meat, but that's not quite the same.)

June 05, 2013

What's in a name? What's in a letter?

I found it rather delightful that the winning word in the national Spelling Bee this year was a word from Yiddish that refers to an everyday item (rather than, say, hydrophyte, elucubrate, staphylococci or luccedaneum -- all winning words in previous years). Arvind V. Mahankali, 13 years old, from Queens, NY, grinned when he heard the word: This time, he was not going to be sent home after misspelling a word of Germanic origin. He spelled the Yiddish word for dumpling "k-n-a-i-d-e-l" and took home the trophy and $30000 in cash.




Alas, there is disagreement on whether or not the spelling listed in the bee's reference dictionary is actually "correct." Webster spells the Yiddish word for dumpling "knaidel," but the YIVO Institute for Jewish Resarch spells it "kneydl". Who is right? (As far as the rules of the competition are concerned, there is no dispute: It is the spelling in the reference dictionary that counts.)

From The Times:
While most languages were formalized by national governments and their sanctioned language academies, Yiddish had no country and so relied on organizations like YIVO, which is the Yiddish acronym for Yiddish Scientific Institute and was based before World War II in what is now Vilnius, Lithuania. Experts like YIVO’s Max Weinreich and his son, Uriel, who compiled a Yiddish-English dictionary, set clear guidelines about how the language should be transliterated into English — though in that famously disputatious Jewish world those instructions were not always appreciated or obeyed.
For instance, rather than the “ch” in words like chutzpah and challah, the YIVO wordsmiths preferred “kh” because the “ch” could lead someone to a softer pronunciation, as in choice or chicken. YIVO uses the “kh” in words like khutspe (chutzpah), but most Yiddish speakers prefer the more popular variants.
“The argument is whether we make things comprehensible to the public or insist on the purity of the language,” said Anita Norich, a professor of English and Judaic studies at the University of Michigan [...]
For the purpose of the spelling bee, however, there is really no conflict: What counts is the spelling in Merriam-Webster. Peter Sokolowski, Editor-at-Large for Merriam Webster used Google's n-gram viewer to show that Webster's spelling is in line with how the word is spelled in published English prose. (Alas, the graph doesn't tell us how many tokens of the word they actually collected and it may not exactly be the kind of word one would expect to occur most frequently in published genres.)



So, congratulations, Arvind! I hope you enjoyed your first matzo ball soup after your big win.

May 02, 2013

One mouse, two meeces

Quickly, what's the plural of "mouse", you know, the one you use with a computer? Is it "mice"? "Mouses"? I just came across another possibility: "meeces" (seen in a review of a Timbuk2 laptop backpack).
Alas, the review also uses the verb "lay" intransitively ("things kinda ...lay on the side"), where "lie" would be appropriate. So here's the deal: "lie" is an intransitive verb, one lies down, one lies in a bed, one may lie on one's stomach. The past tense of this verb is "lay" -- one lay down, one lay in a bed, one lay on one's stomach.  "Lay," on the other hand, is a transitive verb, i.e. it is followed by a direct object. One might lay a book on the table, lay one's heart open, lay the book down. The past tense of this verb is "laid" -- I laid the book on the table, laid my heart open, laid the book down.

As Urban Dictionary informs, the word is may be taken from the song "Scrooge" in "The Muppet Christmas Carol" ("No cheeses for us meeces.")

April 01, 2013

Marylebone Man Skirt

Sick of those bermudas? What about the Marylebone (pronounced "Mar-lee-bone") man skirt?



Happy April 1st! Thank you, Boden, for the laugh.

March 29, 2013

"Let's start with you, Miss Elise"

If you are on Facebook and have a thing for science-related topics, you will not doubt have come across the page "I fucking love science," which has over 4 million fans. Last week, the biggest news item on the page was not about neuroscience, microbes, or strange-looking bugs, it was the identify of the creator of the page:  Elise Andrew posted a picture of herself, linking to her Twitter profile, and, yes, she's a woman. (This wasn't exactly a secret, but so far, she had never posted a picture of herself on the IFLS Facebook page.)



Suddenly, all hell broke loose. Andrew: "EVERY COMMENT on that thread is how shocking it is that I'm a woman! Is this really 2013?"

I also wondered if this is really 2013 when I listened to Gayle King interviewing Andrew on CBS: "Let's start with you, Miss Elise." Yes, ma'm.

"In Spanish, I should totally have paid attention"

...said Usher, one of the new coaches on the popular talent show "The Voice." Why did he say that? Because new judge and native speaker of Spanish, Shakira, managed to recruit singer -- and native Spanish speaker -- Cáthia -- for her team. Cáthia, who sang in Spanish, felt that Shakira would get her in a way other coaches would not.



It wasn't the only time knowledge of Spanish was showcased on the show. Tongue-in-cheek folk duo "Midas Whale" ('might as well') from Idaho impressed Shakira --and the audience-- with carrying a conversation in Spanish. (All four judges turned for them, but in the end, they picked Adam Levine, who so far clearly has assembled the strongest team, at times relying on interesting math, for example when he told Sarah Simmons, one of the most contested singers,  that she could win the show "150%".)

Edited to add:

The trend continues, but Shakira fails to take advantage of it. Contestant Karina Iglesias ("no relation") vows the judges with her powerful performance of "I'm the only one." All judges turn around -- except Shakira. When she discovers that Karina is Latina, she expresses her regret for not having pushed her button ("I want to die.")  Well, it wasn't so hard, as Karina pointed out herself: She sang parts of the song in Spanish. 

It seems that Adam Levine brushed up on his Spanish. He told Shakira to shut up -- in Spanish ("cállate"). In the end, which judge did Iglesias decide to go with? Adam Levine.


March 19, 2013

Shamrock Day

Once again, all eyes were on the Duchess of Cambridge at the St. Patrick's parade and on what had changed or not changed about her appearance. One thing that hasn't changed: Regimental mascot Conmael, the six-year old Irish Wolfhound, who also received a sprig of shamrock (unsuprisingly, shamrock is of Gaelic origin, expressing the diminutive of "seamar," 'clover').

2012 St. Patrick's Day



2013 St. Patrick's Day

February 02, 2013

R.I.P. Barney Bush

You remember former First Dog Barney, the black mischievous Scottish Terrier who was the star of Barney Cam, straight from the White House?

He died at the age of 12.

As with other White House pets, his main job was to humanize the image of his master. And he did a terrific job. No PR agency, no press secretary could hold a candle to Barney when it came to portraying President Bush as a man who cared. (Take note, Mitt Romney.)





R.I.P., Barney Bush.



January 21, 2013

He said "gay"


Like many, I gasped at the use of the word "gay" in the President's Inaugural Speech.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. 

I can't say it better than Frank Bruni, so let me just quote from his column in the Times: 
 “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall," the president said, taking a rapt country on a riveting trip to key theaters in the struggle for liberty and justice for all.
Seneca Falls is a New York town where, in 1848, the women’s suffrage movement gathered momentum. Selma is an Alabama city where, in 1965, marchers amassed, blood was shed and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood his ground against the unconscionable oppression of black Americans. And Stonewall? This was the surprise inclusion, separating Obama’s oratory and presidency from his predecessors’ diction and deeds. It alludes to a gay bar in Manhattan that, in 1969, was raided by police, who subjected patrons to a bullying they knew too well. After the raid came riots, and after the riots came a more determined quest by L.G.B.T. Americans for the dignity they had long been denied.
He went on, seconds later, to explicitly mention “gay” Americans, saying a word never before uttered in inaugural remarks. What shocked me most about that was how un-shocking it was. Four years ago we lived in a country in which citizens of various states had consistently voted against the legalization of same-sex marriage. But on Nov. 6, the citizens of all three states that had the opportunity to legalize gay marriage at the ballot box did so, with clear majorities in Maryland, Maine and Washington endorsing it. Four years ago the inaugural invocation was given by a pastor with a record of antigay positions and remarks. This year, a similar assignment was withdrawn from a pastor with a comparable record, once it came to light. What’s more, an openly gay man was chosen to be the inaugural poet, and in news coverage of his biography, his parents’ exile from Cuba drew more attention than his sexual orientation. That’s how far we’ve come.

One reason the President has come this far is that, unexpectedly, Vice President Biden made him accelerate his stride. A year ago, the President's views on marriage equality were still officially "evolving", when Vice President Biden declared in an interview that he was "absolutely comfortable" with gay marriage. What could the President do but announce his support as well?

The word "gay" has come a long way itself. According to the OED, it was first used as a praise for women (14th century), it was then used more generally, always with positive connotations. Its second meaning, "bright or lively looking," developed in parallel and was often applied to someone's appearance. "Gay people" dedicated themselves to social pleasure. Poetry was referred to as "the gay science" in the 17th century. Its current meaning, "homosexual," developed in the 20th century in the US. As a first reference, the OED lists a text by Gertrude Stein. It took on the additional meaning "lame" or "foolish" in the 1980s. Will we see an excerpt from the Inauguration Speech added to the entry for "gay" in the OED soon?

January 20, 2013

If the President uses "impact" as a verb, may I?

In today's NY Times, Jodi Kantor assures the reader that "after 4 years, friends see shifts in the Obamas." They are "more confident but more scarred." Not only are they "less hesitant about directing staff members," they have learned that Mr. Obama's presidency will also be shaped by "locusts," unanticipated events that swarm without warning. And they use more political jargon. In particular, "one former aide was startled to hear Mr. Obama use 'impact' as a verb, a particular tendency in the capital." 

Perhaps the aide would be suprised to learn that the OED lists the verb (with the meaning "to press closely into or in something" as older than the noun. However, all of the early examples involve the past participle impacted, which, upon closer inspection, may really rather be adjectival (it is combined with copular verbs like "become").
1601   The seed of this hearbe remooveth the tough humours bedded in the stomacke, how hard impacted soever they be.1677   Ideas or notions impacted on the mind.
1712    These Pyramids, which receive the Hairs, are impacted in the Cutis.
1791   Impact fire into iron, by hammering it when red hot.
1897    A stone-like mass..which had become impacted in the lower ilium.
The newer use, "to have a (pronounced) effect on" emerged in the 20th century, in the language of science (not politics), as in "Experimental results for the efficiency of jets in impacting particles are correlated " (1945). The noun "impact" also has is origin in dynamics. The more figurative use emerged  a century later, especially in the phrase "make an impact (on)."
1781   The same rule, by which common velocity of hard or non-elastic bodies after their impact..is calculated.
1817   In any given perception there is a something which has been communicated to it [the mind] by an impact, or an impression ab extra.
The diagram below is a Google n-gram of impact as a verb (blue graph) and as a noun (red graph). The verb only accounts for a small portion of the occurrences, which is why it still has a ring of novelty about it. This particular chart is silent on whether or not the verb is typical of policital speech.

Interestingly, the OED records the verb (with the meaning "to press closely into or in something" as the older word . However, all of the early examples involve the past participle impacted, which, upon closer inspection, may really rather be adjectival (it is combined with copular verbs like "become").

January 18, 2013

Like a catfish dancin' on the end of my line*



It seems that I missed the 2010 documentary "Catfish," which dealt with a man's (Nev) online relationship with a woman (Megan) that begins on Facebook and with his attempts to find out whether or not this woman was real (she wasn't, an acquaintance of Nev's, Angela, had made her up). The title refers to a remark in the film about the behavior of catfish and cod in captivity: Cod tend not to move around a lot, which results in their flesh being less tasty. However, if catfish are added to their tanks, the cod move around a lot more. People like Angela are described as "catfish" -- they make other people move around.

At the time, there was some discussion of "Catfish" itself being a hoax (etymology: probably from "hocus"), but in general the film was well-received.

And it has received more attention now that another case of "catfishing" -- yes, it's now a verb -- is being discussed in the news. College football player Manti Te'o from Notre Dame was much admired for his resolve after living through the death of his grandmother and his girlfriend in 2012. Alas, the girlfriend never existed. It's still a bit unclear why Te'o would make up a girlfriend (and her death), but Te'o himself claims that he was the victim of a hoax and that it had had been an online relationship. Very strange! But so is a catfish.


*The title of this blog post is a line from "The Rising" by Bruce Springsteen.




January 06, 2013

"Hashtag" -- really?

How very disappointing. The American Dialect Society crowned "hashtag," another technoogy-related term, Word of the Year. It's not even a word that is used all that often (the process of hashtagging is, but not the word itself). What a boring pick, following in the footsteps of "app" (2010), "tweet" (2009), and "web" (word of the decade). Gone are the more playful days of "truthiness" (2005) and "to be plutoed" (2006). Other contesters don't really sound all that interesting either:
YOLO: acronym for “You Only Live Once,” often used sarcastically or self-deprecatingly fiscal cliff: threat of spending cuts and tax increases looming over end-of-year budget negotiations 
Gangnam style: the trendy style of Seoul’s Gangnam district, as used in the Korean pop song of the same namemarriage equality: legal recognition of same-sex marriage47 percent: portion of the population that [supposedly] does not pay federal income tax
My favorite category is usually that of the "most creative" new word. But I can't say I find the nominated words very inspiring either:
mansplaining: a man’s condescending explanation to a female audience  alpacalypse: the Mayan apocalypse predicted for Dec. 21, 2012 gate lice: airline passengers who crowd around a gate waiting to boarddancelexia: inability to pull off dance moves (such as misspelling “YMCA”) 
I fully agree with the "most outrageous" label for the expression "legitimate rape", used by Missouri Senate candiate Todd Akin. (He was not elected.) Mitt Romney's expression "binders full of women" might also have been nominated in this category. (He was not elected either.)
In the category "most likely to succeed", we find "fiscal cliff" (which is ubiquitous already), "superstorm" (which I would't even have recognized as a new word), "marriage equality," and "big data" ("large collections of digital information used for revealing behavioral insights." 

It seems that having big linguistic data at our disposal doesn't exactly make the whole Word of the Year thing more interesting. The most interesting thing about it is that, according to Ben Zimmer, the chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society, "hashtag" wasn't even on the original list of nominated words. More about the nomination and voting process can be read here.

January 03, 2013

Lunking still not allowed


One of the most popular posts on this blog is the one I wrote about "lunking," "Lunking is bad for your gym membership" -- 6 years ago. At the time, I didn't really thinka word describing someone as "runting, dropping weights loudly and being judgmental" in a gym would have much staying power, but, alas, "Planet Fitness," the gym chain described in the article cited, seems to be quite popular, according to this article in today's Times.

Planet Fitness describes itself as "the little girl's gym," which, apparently, involves pizza on Mondays and bagels on Tuesdays. And no lunking. In fact, lunkers are subject to public shaming: Managers can sound actual loud "lunk alarms" in the facility. Which seems to be a teensy-weensy bit contradictory to their slogan "no gymtimidation."

WOTY: Merriam-Webster

Remember, Merriam-Webster's "word of the year" is the most-looked up word in their online dictionary. This year, an interesting pair emerged: Socialism and capitalism!
Traffic for the unlikely pair on the company's website about doubled this year from the year before as the health care debate heated up and discussion intensified over "American capitalism" versus "European socialism," said the editor at large, Peter Sokolowski.
Other words in the top ten included democracy, globalization, marriage and bigot. Interesting how one can weave a story with just those four words! (And in case you're wondering, the definition for "marriage" given by M-W is 
the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage.)

Happy new year!



Here's to keeping warm, alert, and stylish, like this little guy from Chicago!