Posts Tagged: language

Spellbound

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Unaccustomed, vicious, onomatopoeia… We all have that one word we can never spell correctly. Paris Review blogger Sadie Stein’s was “Wednesday.” “It’s like a mental block,” she writes, “or maybe, an increased reliance on technology.” Read the rest of the mini-essay here.

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An Agnostic, Chortling Freelance Space-Yahoo

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Amid all the meanings and uses that give a word its weight, it’s easy to forget that language is ultimately a system of arbitrary signs. Lexicographer Paul Dickson’s new book “Authorisms—Words Wrought by Writers” chronicles some of the most dynamic moments in a language’s history: those instances when writers endeavored not just to create with words but to create the words themselves.

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Literature Is Not Medicine

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In The World Exchange, Alena Graedon’s debut novel, language is in danger, and reading becomes a means of salvation. Over at the New Yorker, bibliophile Peter C. Baker explains the problem with the idea that reading could be a panacea. In his words, “practical urgency and literature have little business mixing.” Baker believes that reading “cuts against the grain of the everyday,” helping us to escape “the jobs we have to work” and “the bills we have to pay.” Reading is not about fixing the world around us, but about finding a way to escape it.

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Like, Considering the Other Side

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Critics might believe that “like” has infiltrated and degraded American English, but John McWhorter argues just the contrary. McWhorter claims that “like” is not a marker of the downfall of spoken language, but instead, a sign of its “growing sophistication.” He explains that “like” is not necessarily a sign of hesitation and indecision; it can be used to signify consideration.

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We’d Rather Be Looking at Pictures of Kittens, or How We Learned to Love TL;DR

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We’ve probably all found ourselves in the middle of reading a long internet post only to conclude we’d rather spend our time looking at pictures of kittens. Anobium examines the rise of the “Too Long; Didn’t Read” culture pervasive on the Internet:

The problem is that there are seven billion people on the planet, more than ever before, and a few billion on the Internet, all sharing the same public sphere.

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“Don’t Let Them Call You Anything Else”

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Tasbeeh Herwees has a fantastic essay up at the Toast about her Libyan mother’s insistence that Americans use her given name rather than an anglicized nickname, confusing though they may find it to pronounce.

And apparently most Americans aren’t willing to remedy that confusion, a fact which used to weigh heavily on Herwees.

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Nabokov vs. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

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“When Nabokov started translating [his English-language memoir] into Russian, he recalled a lot of things that he did not remember when he was writing it in English, and so in essence it became a somewhat different book,” Pavlenko says.

At NPR’s health blog, Shots, Alan Yu explores the controversial linguistic idea that the language(s) we speak helps shape how we perceive the world.

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“Pop,” “Soda,” or “Heaven Bubbles”?

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You’ve probably seen this regional-dialect quiz from the New York Times making the rounds on your social networks. You answer questions about your vocabulary and pronunciation, and it tries to determine where in the United States you’re from.

But the New Yorker‘s Shouts & Murmurs blog is really upping the ante with their own dialect quiz, which asks questions like “What do you call sweetened carbonated beverages?” Do you use “soda,” “pop,” or “Coke”?

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When Language Fails

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2013 has become the year of the emoji as the pictographs have made their way into iMessages, poem translations, and recently, an art exhibition. Betsy Morais’ article called “Do You Speak Emoji?” refers to emojis as “a new form of language that is, by turns, keenly expressive and cheerfully cryptic.”

The reasons for using images of shooting stars, thumbs up, and hearts instead of words to convey meaning might be difficult to understand at first, but as Morais writes, “when language poses a risk, employ a playful image whose interpretation may be negotiated upon receipt.”

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“Because” Has New Meaning, Because Grammar

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Like it or not, the meanings and uses of words are constantly shifting, because language.

At the Atlantic, Megan Garber writes about how the word “because,” normally a subordinating conjunction, is increasingly being used as a preposition, with examples and possible linguistic explanations:

However it originated, though, the usage of “because-noun” (and of “because-adjective” and “because-gerund”) is one of those distinctly of-the-Internet, by-the-Internet movements of language.

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When Good Grammar Is Actually Bad

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Adverbs acting as manner adjuncts “do not occur between whether and infinitival to,” you guys. Duh.

Or, in other words, you can’t say, “…decide whether unconditionally to attend the Geneva talks.” Instead, you should say, “…decide whether to unconditionally attend the Geneva talks,” because that “rule” about split infinitives doesn’t actually exist.

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