Posts Tagged: On Language

The 'Trigger Warning' Chronicles

"Some version of the term began appearing on feminist message boards in discussions of sexual assault in the late '90s. Andi Zeisler, the co-founder and editorial/creative director of the feminist publication Bitch magazine, said the phrase often popped up on a community forum on Ms. Magazine’s website. 'The first time I saw trigger warnings used was on Ms. Magazine’s bulletin board in the late '90s and early '00s,' she said. 'It might have been on other feminist sites, but I only remember seeing it on Ms.'" —Consider this [...]


Also Included In The Teaches Of Peaches Is This Music Documentary

If you've ever wanted to know how a nice Jewish girl like Merrill Nisker became Peaches, the new feature film slash documentary "Peaches Does Herself" won't exactly connect the dots for you.

If you'd like to see Peaches and her Fatherfucker Dancers reenact her rise to fame—complete with a giant bed that looks like a vulva, dancers in pink zentai that are orgiastically unzipped, and a surgery gone awry, then Peaches Does Herself offers all of that and more. Besides Peaches and her dancers, "Peaches Does Herself" stars Sandy Kane, of New York City public access fame—she's a former stripper in her sixties who wields a dildo [...]


Metaphor Unsuitable

"Is a steak sandwich bad for your health? Absolutely. Does caramel ice cream taste so good that it induces cravings in some people? You bet. Do sweet, fatty foods like Crack Pie light up the same pleasure centers of the brain that are activated by addictive drugs? Sure—in rats, at least. And yet food is not like crack in several significant ways."


People Talk With Their Hands

"To Italians, gesturing comes naturally. 'You mean Americans don’t gesture? They talk like this?' asked Pasquale Guarrancino, a Roman taxi driver, freezing up and placing his arms flat against his sides. He had been sitting in his cab talking with a friend outside, each moving his hands in elaborate choreography. Asked to describe his favorite gesture, he said it was not fit for print. In Italy, children and adolescents gesture. The elderly gesture. Some Italians joke that gesturing may even begin before birth. 'In the ultrasound, I think the baby is saying, "Doctor, what do you want from me?"' said Laura Offeddu, a Roman and an elaborate gesticulator, as [...]


Digital Dictionary Finds You Hackneyed, Superficial, Incapable Of Maintaining Interest

"With the spread of digital technologies, dictionaries have become a two-way mirror, a record not just of words' meanings but of what we want to know. Digital dictionaries read us."


The Thing EVERYONE Is Talking About

"'You can't do anything without hearing about it,' Ms. Viorst said, recalling how it invaded a recent Hanukkah visit to friends. 'It weaves its way into your lexicon,' she said." Guess what it is! Guess GUESS GUESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!


Oh No, It's The Big Female Kitten!

As Mafia nicknames go, "The Big Female Kitten" does not seem particularly intimidating. But maybe it sounds better in Italian.


What Should We Call People Who Enjoy A Drink?

"Everybody thinks they know what an 'alcoholic' is, but what about those who drink too much but fall short of the common definitions of alcoholism? Should there be a word that bridges the gap between alcoholic and non-alcoholic?" —Yes! How about "pal," "buddy," "friend," "fun person," "bon vivant," "life enjoyer" or "someone other people want to be around"? I think all of those work!

Photo by Kzenon, via Shutterstock


British People Talk Funny

What's plaguing Britain now? Yes, yes, knives. It is an island awash in blades where even a quick run to the corner shop is an obstacle course of drink-sozzled louts in hooded sweatshirts whose twisted desire for the feeling of power brought about by inflicting misery can only be sated by thrusting their sharpened steel into the pliant human flesh of random passersby etc. We already know this is what Britain is all about. But now: With her ear glued to her mobile phone, my 11-year-old daughter, Millie, was deep in conversation, her brow furrowed as she discussed [...]


"Blogs": What Were They?

Have we reached consensus on the most important question of the age? Maybe we have! Maybe we have.


Sure, Let's Study The Beckhams For Linguistic Cues

"Researchers reveal the Beckhams have changed their accents to sound less working class"


Fit Of Pique

If you are previewing something or getting an early glimpse, you are taking a PEEK. If you're at the summit of the mountain, you're at the PEAK. Please make a note of it.


Words Bad

Here are some of the terrible words in the English language from the past year. This list is British, but much of it is universal. At least for those who speak English. And really, who doesn't? Not anyone I'd want to know.


The Question Of Pants

Pants vs. trousers: where do you stand?


Things Get Worse

"We all speak like Valley girls now"


"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 [...]


iPads Make Kids Not Have So Much Of The Words

"The iPad generation will learn fewer words, experts fear, as using text messages, emails and computers to learn could be stunting children’s vocabulary."


Blame English For Your Lack Of Self-Control

"Different languages have different ways of talking about the future. Some languages, such as English, Korean, and Russian, require their speakers to refer to the future explicitly. Every time English-speakers talk about the future, they have to use future markers such as 'will' or 'going to.' In other languages, such as Mandarin, Japanese, and German, future markers are not obligatory…. Languages such as English constantly remind their speakers that future events are distant. For speakers of languages such as Mandarin future feels closer. As a consequence, [...]


Because Monophthongs

"Why don’t ‘gain’ and ‘again’ rhyme?"


How We Got So "Comfortable With That"

"Comfortable" is a flexible term. Any one person’s threshold for comfort can differ from another’s. For the individual, comfort is relative: a heat wave in Edmonton, Canada, say, no longer agonizes after one has endured a heat wave in New York. When a person says "comfortable," they often mean "pleasant." Other times "comfortable" translates to just "bearable" or "satisfactory." While the word "comfortable" doesn’t change, a person’s definition of it can, and usually does, with time—that is, with age and experience. It might happen gradually, incrementally, with constant comparisons between then and now. Comfort itself is relative, its meaning elastic.

The word "comfortable" has been thrown around since the Middle [...]