Posts Tagged: words
At the Atlantic, Megan Garber proposes a new word to describe words and phrases that have come to mean their opposite, like “honestly,” “no offense,” and “literally”:
So here’s one proposal: Let’s call these words “smarmonyms.” Because they’re the words that exist because we English-speakers can be, at times, awkward and passive-aggressive and jerky and, yes, a little bit smarmy.
Oxford University Press has concluded that “hashtag” is the UK children’s word of the year, with kids using the term to connote emphasis and emotions. The press analyzed more than 120,000 short story entries from British children under thirteen to better understand how they use the English language....more
You might say that our blog offers curated literary articles. That might sound pretentious, but not nearly as pretentious as a curated salad, a curated college application, or a curated wine list. The Guardian takes a look at the use, overuse, and history of curation:
The idea of the contemporary curator originates with the conceptual art movement of the 1960s.
Writers often overuse a few unique words, creating a linguistic fingerprint. Vocabulary words are also exchanged between social groups. Some people contribute new words, while others adopt them. The process is not entirely random, though:
Diana Boxer, a professor at the University of Florida who specializes in sociolinguistics, says that when we find ourselves in a situation where someone uses language differently than we do, or words we’re unfamiliar with, we usually respond in one of two ways.
The act of creating new words helps make language more precise. George Orwell once proposed a ministry responsible for inventing new words for precisely that reason, explains The Airship Daily. However, the shortcomings of language and the new words created for precision is the reliance on interpretation:
However, coining new words won’t change the fact that these spirits, these significant chunks of human existence, remain trapped inside our skulls, inaccessible fully to anyone but ourselves.
How much do an author’s most-used words reveal about his or her thought process?
Quite a lot, according to this New Yorker essay on pet words both common and uncommon, both consciously selected and inadvertent. One of many deeply interesting examples:
Even if we’d never read Milton, we might surmise something of his vast, magisterial temperament on being told that “law” emerges some fifty times in his complete poems.
Did you know that, like aglets for the end of a shoelace or tittle for the dot atop an i, there’s a whole delightful host of terms for the visual cues used in comic strips?
Invented chiefly by cartoonist Mort Walker in a half-joking illustrated mini-dictionary called The Lexicon of Comicana, they include plewds (the big drops of sweat that spring off the foreheads of anxious characters), spurls (the woozy spirals above a characters who’s had too much to drink), and nittles (any star-shaped symbol that subs in for real letters when a character cusses)....more
Mental Floss’s brief history of the term “OK” is more than just all right.
Using Allan Metcalf’s OK: The Improbably Story of America’s Greatest Word as a source, it covers not only the term’s birth, but also how it went the 19th-century version of viral and attained an almost miraculous staying power....more
My obsession with Pluto began when my six-year-old daughter asked how many planets there were. Nine. Nine! Nine? There had always been nine, and I couldn’t bring myself to say “eight.”...more
The lists of obscure vocabulary passed around among word nerds can get kind of repetitive (we all know what “schadenfreude” means by now, thanks very much), but this one from Death and Taxes is great the whole way through.
It catalogs “18 obsolete words which should never have gone out of style,” and each one is a serious linguistic loss....more
Vervet monkeys use different words (or, at least, “different alarm calls to refer to different types of predators, such as snakes and leopards”) but don’t arrange them into diverse kinds of sentences. Songbirds, meanwhile, create elaborate sentences with a variety of notes, but the notes don’t act as words the way the monkey alarm calls do....more