Archive for Words words words

Japan: crazy over portmanteaux

No matter where I go these days, I hear young people shouting to their friends, "I'm playing Pokémon Go", which they pronounce "pokey-mon go".  It would be an understatement to say that, for the past few weeks, Pokémon Go has been a veritable craze.  Yet most people who play the game probably do not realize that the name "Pokémon" is a Japanese portmanteau based on two English words:  poketto ポケット ("pocket") + monsutā モンスター ("monster"). 

"What's in a name — Pikachu, Beikaciu, Pikaqiu?" (5/31/16)

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Cutesy hairdresser names

I've heard it said that among the retail establishments most addicted to cutesy punning business names are hairdressing salons. I mean, you don't find law practices called Law 'n' Order to Go, do you? Or a hardware store called Get Hard? Or a butcher's called Meat and Greet? But with hairdressers… Well, I don't know all that many myself; just about 150 or so that I've personally seen the signs for…

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The extent of Melania's plagiarism

The Trump campaign officially maintains that there was no plagiarism in Melania Trump's speech at the Republican convention. Campaign chairman Paul Manafort was astonishingly disingenuous: "These were common words and values"; "To think that she'd be cribbing Michelle Obama's words is crazy"; "There's no cribbing. What she did was use words that are common words"; "Care and respect and passion, those are not extraordinary words"; "50 words, and that includes and’s and the’s and things like that." But it is not words we are talking about, is it? It's word sequences. And you do not need to look at many word sequences, even quite short ones, before you start finding phrases that have apparently never occurred before in the entire history of the world (if we can judge by the sample of it that the web knows about).

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Innocuous words that sound sexual

FLM writes:

A colleague (who has request anonymity) and I have developed a fondness for perfectly innocuous words which, to the linguistically unwashed masses, sound sexual. My colleague's example sentence is

Because her husband was intestate, she sought to dilate her fungible assets; despite cunctation for titivating, she managed to masticate and lucubrate far into the night.

A website of possible interest: Chuck Lorre Productions — words that confuse the CBS censor

I'd be curious to see how your Language Log aficionados might augment this body of knowledge.

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Humor among the Finns

According to The Economist (July 9, 2016, "Just visiting" [p.30 in UK edition]), a joke was "making the rounds" in Finland back in 2008 when Russia invaded part of Georgia (and Finns aren't laughing at it quite so much since the Ukraine conflict flared up):

Vladimir Putin lands at Helsinki airport and proceeds to passport control. "Name?" asks the border guard. "Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin," answers the Russian president. "Occupation?" asks the border guard. "No, just visiting," answers Mr Putin.

But wait a minute, I thought: that relies on a pun. In English the word for a militarily backed presence and control of governmental functions imposed by one state on the territory of another happens to be identical with one of the words for a person's regular paying job or profession. Are the two also, by pure accident, identical in Finnish (a non-Indo-European language)? That somehow feels implausible to me.

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Language games at The Economist

An ad that's been popping up for me on the web recently:

I expect that others have used asterisks in this particular way before, but web search engines seem generally to treat "**UK" as plain "UK" — perhaps someone else will have better luck finding precedents. (Of course, general taboo-avoidance via asterisks is common and has been discussed here many times.)

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Point of no Breturn

The portmanteaux just keep on coming — most recently in "Brexit's fallout: Adrift", The Economist 7/2/2016, we get a section heading "Point of no Breturn". See also (updated from the comments):

[link] Are You Brexhausted yet?
[link] Not “Brexit” but “Braccident”.
[link] Newspaper headlines: 'BoJo Brexecuted' on Tory 'Day of Treachery'
[link] #brexecution
[link] Is this the beginning of a Canary Wharf Brexodus?
[link] Are You A Brintrovert Or A Brextrovert?
[link] Brexit, Bremain or Brextraneous?
[link] GLUM BLOND Inside story of Tories’ Borexit: How BoJo’s career was left in tatters a week after he thought he’d be next PM
[link] Bregret? Regrexit? Don’t bet on it.
[link] #brexshit
[link] Brexistential crisis

So far, brexhortation, brextrinsic, and a few others seem to be open.

For previous forays into the  lEUxicon, see

"Grexicography", 6/22/2015
"OtherCountries_ExitFromTheEU: better portmanteaux", 6/23/2016
"You Brexit, you bought it", 6/25/2016

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"Among the New Words"

Ben Zimmer, Jane Solomon, and Charles Carson, "Among The New Words", American Speech May 2016:

In this installment we continue our consideration of items nominated at the American Dialect Society’s 2015 Word of the Year proceedings […]

The overall winner is considered here: they used as a singular third-person pronoun, a gender-neutral (or “epicene”) alternative to the binary of he and she. One might object that there is nothing particularly new about singular they, as the Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.) includes examples
back to the fourteenth century […]

What is genuinely new, however, is the use of they to refer to a known person in order to transcend the binary of he and she in the construction of a “non-binary” gender identity, such as transgender, gender-fluid, genderqueer, or agender.

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The ADJECTIVEs

The discussion about Donald Trump's exhortation to "Ask the gays" has focused on several linguistic dimensions: the definite article the,  the nounification gay, and the pluralization of gays.  This reminds me of (what I think is) a recent trend: the novel use of definite pluralized nounified adjectives, often in ironic contexts.

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The love organ of many names

British comedian Richard Herring is the author of a 2003 book entitled Talking Cock: A Celebration of Man and his Manhood, so he naturally seized upon the republicization opportunity provided by the recent story of the world's first successful penis transplant. He made it the topic of his weekly humor column in The Metro, the trashy free newspaper that I sometimes reluctantly peruse in my constant search for linguistic developments that might be of interest to Language Log readers.

In a bravura display of diversity of lexical choice, Herring contrived to use a different euphemism for the anatomical organ every time he could find an excuse for mentioning it, which, believe me, was a lot. And he left me pondering a serious lexicographical question: just how many euphemisms are there for the appendage in question?

[Unusually, this post is restricted to adult males. Please click "Read the rest of this entry" to confirm that you are male and over 18.]

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Dumpster fire

A few years ago, I noticed hosts and callers on sports talk radio using the phrase "dumpster fire" as a metaphor for chaotically bad situations. And recently the usage seems to have spread to other domains and become more popular:

Klaus Marre, "Sheldon Adelson’s Newspaper Is a Dumpster Fire", Who.What.Why 5/7/2016
Greg Wyshynski, "Dallas Stars goaltending exposed as smoldering dumpster fire; so now what?", Yahoo Sports 5/12/2016
Corey Hutchins, "Colorado’s ‘dumpster fire’ politics", The Colorado Independent 5/11/2016
David Rosenthal, "Why The Dodgers Can Never Win With That Dumpster Fire They Call A Bullpen", CBS Los Angeles 5/22/2016.
John Shazar, "Mike Corbat: Citigroup Not The Raging Dumpster Fire You Think It Is", Dealbreaker 6/3/2016

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Bora

Last Thursday, during LREC 2016, 16 participants from ELRA and LDC had a festive dinner at a restaurant named Na Burji. On the drive from Portorož, we had a discussion about what the restaurant's name means — our first guess, stimulated by the extreme switchbacks we traversed as the road climbed steeply from the coastal plain towards Nova Vas nad Dragonjo, was that "burji" is somehow cognate with berg.

But as the restaurant's website explains, it "earned its name due to exposure to famous Bora wind". This of course raises the question of where the word bora comes from.

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Needless words

I know I've been a long-time critic of everything in The Elements of Style, not least William Strunk's platitude that you should omit needless words. "Needless" is not defined even vaguely; nobody really writes in a way that sticks to the absolute minimum word count; and if neophyte writers could tell what was needless they wouldn't have to be handed this platitude (which they don't really know how to use anyway). But every now and then one really does see a case of a word that screams at you that it should have been left out. The University of Oxford has an official form on which this is the heading:

CLAIM FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF ALLOWABLE EXPENSES

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