Posts Tagged: Language

Cool Words Properly Historicized

Even the seemingly up-to-the-minute “bae,” a word that means babe or baby and is so new that most of its written use is in personal communications, has a print trail back to the early 2000s, and is probably a descendant of the reduplicative nickname Bae Bae, a rendering of “baby,” which shows up in print in the 1990s. In some cases, bae is older than the people using it. (It also has its own spurious acronymic etymology, “before anyone else.”)

I am convinced that the favorite pastime of linguists, who are, by definition, Olds, is showing up to point out that they knew about words like "bae" before [...]


Robopoetics: The Complete Operator's Manual

Here’s a game: which of these poems was written by a human, and which by a computer?

A wounded deer leaps highest, I've heard the daffodil I've heard the flag to-day I've heard the hunter tell; 'Tis but the ecstasy of death, And then the brake is almost done, And sunrise grows so near sunrise grows so near That we can touch the despair and frenzied hope of all the ages.


Red flags the reason for pretty flags. And ribbons. Ribbons of flags And wearing material Reason for wearing material. Give pleasure. Can you give me the regions. The regions and the land. The regions and wheels. All [...]

Stupid-Ass Kids Doing Good Job Degrading The Culture

“Damn, hell, shit, and fuck are not what an anthropologist observing us would classify as ‘taboo,’ ” says linguist John McWhorter, author of What Language Is: And What It Isn’t and What It Could Be, among other books. “We all say them all the time. Those words are not profane in what our modern culture is—they are, rather, salty. That’s all. Anyone who objects would be surprised to go back 50 years and try to use those words as casually as we do now and ever be asked again to parties.”

Good news for the stupid fucking kids: all that swearing on your Twitter won't keep you from [...]


There's A Special Place In Hell…

For witches.1 For vampires once they're staked or burned.2 For the Halloween spoilers.3 For puppeteers like Paxton.4

For the systems integrators.5

For a number of Federal court judges, As I am sure there will be for Members of Congress.6 For non-disabled drivers who sport a handicapped placard on the dash And park free all day at a downtown metered spot.7


Literally The Worst Word On The Planet

I have always thought of the word 'literally' as someone else's problem. Then, suddenly, it arrived: My summer of Literally. A recent family vacation revealed my brother as one of the worst offenders. He likes to couple ‘literally’ with the phrase… 'on the planet,' as in, “You are literally the best sister on the planet.” (Or rather, you were.) Other literally fans (is it the heat?): my lesbian best friend, my rich best friend, my yoga best friend—she’s the one it seems rudest to complain about since last weekend we went to Wanderlust together, and I spent half the time in a sobbing rage and the other half crawling around [...]


Thank Goodness, There's a Vicious Language Usage Catfight!

"If you didn’t already know that euphonious dichotomies are usually phony dichotomies, you need only check out the latest round in the supposed clash between 'prescriptivist' and 'descriptivist' theories of language. This pseudo-controversy, a staple of literary magazines for decades, was ginned up again this month by The New Yorker, which has something of a history with the bogus battle."


A Joyful & Malicious History Of 'Schadenfreude'

In an interview with Martha Stewart shortly before her 2003 indictment, Jeffrey Toobin asked the visibly exhausted celebrity if she felt herself the victim of “schadenfreude.” He didn't expand upon the Germanism, and Stewart certainly didn't need it defined.

Schadenfreude? I asked. “That's the word,” she said. “I hear that, like, every day.” And she added, in her precise way, “Do you know how to spell it?”

While spelling the thing might be an issue, writers assume nowadays that when they say “schadenfreude,” readers know exactly what they mean. It’s defined as the “malicious enjoyment of the misfortunes of others” in the OED, which first included the word [...]


Word Disrupted

It's way too late to suggest getting rid of "disrupt," so all that's left now is to figure out what it's supposed to mean. We are stuck with it, and it will be used; it is stuck with us, and it will suffer many shapes. Jenji Kohan created Weeds, then moved to Netflix to make a show about women in prison: Fairly disruptive. "I'm easy to work with, unless you piss me off," she says in a cover quote: Neither disruptive nor non-disruptive.


Why Are We So Terrible At Contacting Aliens?

In Stanislaw Lem's 1968 novel His Master's Voice, a message bubbles up from an underground fringe community that comes to be regarded as a message from an alien civilization.

A group of scientists are secretly assembled by the United States government to crack the message. For the most part, they fail. They run through some math, come up with a genome, use it to pop out a useless goop that can sort of kind of teleport things with absolutely no precision, and continue to search for meaning in the message. They fail.

The book served as a sort of treatise on the problem of communication with an extraterrestrial society. Such [...]


Really Good Thing We Do All Our Business In The "Common Tongue"

I dig sports, so I was watching "Game of Thrones" on Home Box the other night and there was this part where a dude was being super-rude to a lady, but he was doing it in a Foreign Language from errbody else, so he thought he was slick. However, the person he was being rude to was the chick who has the fire-breathing dragons, and she came up hard, and she does not play. Spoiler alert. Aiieeee!

All the people on "Game of Thrones" pretty much speak the "Common Tongue" or whatever they call it on the show (if they call it anything) and nobody gets bent outta shape if [...]


How Men Use the Phrase "From the Sidelines"

You know what no one says on his death bed? "If only I could have snarked more from the sidelines."

— Chris Jones (@MySecondEmpire) June 6, 2012

"From the sidelines" is a sports term. "Cheering from the sidelines" can be a nice phrase. It means "I am rooting you on while watching you play." If we are not clothed in rags and eating from dumpsters on Sunday, we will be cheering on New York Marathon runners from the "sidelines," perhaps as they hop downed power lines along the shore after they cross the Verrazano.

But sometimes the "game" in question is a metaphor. And if you [...]


Like The Man Says…

If you try to use booze to solve a problem, 
 One day you're gonna discover that you have two problems.1 It's one hell of a double act.2

People talk about the joy of sex, 
 But it don't last nothin' like shootin' anvils.3 When they lay you on the table, better keep your business clean.4 
If it’s out there, it’s in here.5

Show me a love story and I'll show you a tragedy.6 Eternal vigilance is where it’s at.7


What We Talk About When We Talk About…

Hitler 1 Kony 2 Anne Frank 3 Michele Bachmann 4 Ralph Sampson 5 "This Jeremy Lin Nigga" 6

Health care costs 7 Reproductive rights 8 Governance 9 SOPA 10 The rule of law 11 Dick 12


What Kind Of Speller Are You?

"Bad spellers are a breed apart from good ones. A writer with a mind that doesn’t register how words are spelled tends to see through the words he encounters — straight to the things, characters, ideas, images and emotions they conjure. A good speller, by contrast — the kind who never fails to clock the idiosyncratic orthography of 'algorithm' or 'Albert Pujols' — tends to see language as a system. Good spellers are often drawn to poetry and wordplay, while bad spellers, for whom language is a conduit and not an end in itself, can excel at representation and reportage."


The Life and Times of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

When Caroline Eisenmann, a young assistant at a New York literary agency, decided to rename her OkCupid profile, she wanted something that would make her stand out—a name that wouldn’t get lost amongst the omnipresent references to indie bands and cute animals, something that was “flippant” but with “a bit of a melancholic undertone” that would attract a suitably urbane mate, Eisenmann told me. Fingers poised over the keyboard, she wrote:


OkCupid rejected it. That it wouldn't accept the lopsided, grinning face with upturned palms is almost strange: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ is, and was, part of the language of the internet, and it has been popping up more than [...]


"Sit On My Face"

He ordered. 1 He implored, barely audible. 2

Nina's expression doesn't change. 3 Would that turn you on, boob momma? 4 Because I am one horny motherfucker! 5

For another couple of minutes. 6 If you pay me enough. 7 And tell me that you love me. 8 For a bit. 9

Perfectly, he said. 10 Yeah. 11 By accident. 12

Stevie Nicks! 13 “HELL NO!” 14 “Man.” 15 Chorused a third. 16

ANY TIME. 17 Anytime. 18

1. Letters To Penthouse XXVII: The First Time Is the Hottest [source]

2. Pleasures of the Flesh, John Patrick [source]

3. The Way the [...]


You Can Help Save the 'Dictionary of American Regional English'

The Dictionary of American Regional English is on hard times, and is asking for your support.


Yes, Virginia

There is a gender wage gap.1 There is a real world.2 There is poop in your well.3

There is hope.4 There is a G-Spot.5 There is a Bob Hope.6

Regular folks can be taught to code.7 Black love still exists.8 Macy’s stock is a good value Even near highs.9


You Are Not a Curator, You Are Actually Just a Filthy Blogger

"Curation is replacing creation as a mode of self-expression." – Jonathan Harris @jjhnumber27 #creativemornings

— Tina Roth Eisenberg (@swissmiss) June 1, 2012

As a former actual curator, of like, actual art and whatnot, I think I'm fairly well positioned to say that you folks with your blog and your Tumblr and your whatever are not actually engaged in a practice of curation. Call it what you like: aggregating? Blogging? Choosing? Copyright infringing sometimes? But it's not actually curation, or anything like it. Your faux TED talk is not going well for you if you are making some point about "curation" replacing "creation" because, well, for [...]


Local Twitter Slang, And All That Jawn

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Would people stop calling me uneducated it offends my muthafuckin alma mater Hunter College.Thu Oct 20 00:21:55 via Twitter for iPadEllen BarkinEllenBarkin

Profanity is alive and well on Twitter, except in Utah, apparently. You'd expect heathen citydwellers to swear, and we do not disappoint, but the Bible belt is pretty foul-mouthed too (no word whether language there trended cleaner on Sundays). Thanks to tweets, blog comments and unlocked Facebook feeds, we know more than ever before about the way regular people—in New York, Detroit, Miami, Los Angeles, and [...]