Archive for Words words words

Subtle weavings

Rachel Frazin, "Trump: I told Republicans to vote for 'transparency' in releasing Mueller report", The Hill 3/16/2019   [warning — annoying autoplay video clip]:

President Trump said Saturday that he told Republican leadership to vote in favor of releasing special counsel Robert Mueller's highly anticipated report, saying that transparency "makes us all look good." […]

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump ally, blocked the resolution in the Senate later Thursday, after it passed the House.

Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, objected to the resolution after Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) refused to add a provision to the measure asking the Department of Justice to appoint a special counsel to investigate DOJ misconduct in the probe of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's email use and the Carter Page Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications.

Schumer accused Graham of using a "pre-text" to block the resolution.

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Unexpected "English Word of the Day"

On February 19, I received this notice from Oxford Dictionaries:

English Word of the Day from
Oxford Dictionaries

Your word for today is:

li

a Chinese unit of distance, equal to about 0.5 km (0.3 mile)

Click on the word to see its full entry, including example sentences and audio pronunciation.

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"Dear subscribed"

This morning's email brought a notice from Le Monde, to which I apparently subscribe:

Two things struck me about the salutation "Chère abonnée, cher abonné". The more obvious and less interesting one is that Le Monde is obviously not on board with "Écriture inclusive". The second, less topical thing: the English word "subscriber" implies that subscribing to a periodical is something that you do, while the French word "abonné(e)" implies that subscribing to a periodical is something that's done to you.

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Corpora and the Second Amendment: “arms”

An introduction and guide to my series of posts "Corpora and the Second Amendment" is available here. The corpus data that is discussed can be downloaded here. That link will take you to a shared folder in Dropbox. Important: Use the "Download" button at the top right of the screen.

This post on what arms means will follow the pattern of my post on bear. I’ll start by reviewing what the Supreme Court said about the topic in District of Columbia v. Heller. I’ll then turn to the Oxford English Dictionary for a look at how arms was used over the history of English up through the end of the 18th century, when the Second Amendment was proposed and ratified.. And finally, I’ll discuss the corpus data.

Justice Scalia’s majority opinion had this to say about what arms meant:

The 18th-century meaning [of arms] is no different from the meaning today. The 1773 edition of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary defined ‘‘arms’’ as ‘‘[w]eapons of offence, or armour of defence.’’ Timothy Cunningham’s important 1771 legal dictionary defined ‘‘arms’’ as ‘‘any thing that a man wears for his defence, or takes into his hands, or useth in wrath to cast at or strike another.’’ [citations omitted]

As was true of what Scalia said about the meaning of bear, this summary was basically correct as far as it went, but was also a major oversimplification.

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Too few words to describe emotions

At about 22:45 of the BBC discussion program The Moral MazeNatasha Devon  asserts

Well it- I- again, one of the problems is language, actually, because in English, we have a very limited emotional vocabulary. When you look at other languages, they- they have a much broader amount of words that they can use to describe their emotions and their mental health. So, if I say to you ‘I’m feeling anxious’, that could be anything from common or garden anxiety right through to an anxiety disorder. And one is a medical issue and the other is not.

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A corpus-linguistic take on "emolument(s)" (updated)

From the Washington Post:

The study is a corpus analysis performed by Jesse Egbert, a corpus linguist at Northern Arizona University and Clark Cunningham, a law professor who did work in law and linguistics from the late 1980s through the mid-1990s (link, link, link, link), including co-authoring an article with Chuck Fillmore that was what really opened my eyes to the power of linguistics in analyzing issues of word meaning.

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Technical analysis

Today's xkcd:

Mouseover title: "I [suspect] that we are throwing more and more of our resources, including the cream of our youth, into financial activities remote from the production of goods and services, into activities that generate high private rewards disproportionate to their social productivity. I suspect that the immense power of the computer is being harnessed to this 'paper economy', not to do the same transactions more economically but to balloon the quantity and variety of financial exchanges." –James Tobin, July 1984

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Listen up

My most vivid memory of being inducted into the U.S. Army in 1969 is learning a new expression. After we were sworn in, an NCO stepped out in front of us and said "Listen up!"  It was obvious what he meant — "attend to instructions from a superior" — and I heard that same phrase a thousand times over the next few months, but I'm pretty sure that I had never heard it in my life before that moment.

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"Spooked up"

Jack Shafer, "Week 86: FBI’s Blockbuster Probe of Trump’s Loyalty Revealed", Politico 1/12/2018:

Thanks to a redaction error made in a legal filing by convicted felon Paul Manafort’s lawyers, we learned that special counsel Mueller believes that former Trump campaign director Paul Manafort lied about passing, in spring 2016, political polling data to two Russia-aligned Ukrainian oligarchs he had previously worked for. Using his right-hand man— suspected Russian intelligence asset Konstantin Kilimnik as his go-between—the Manafort pass-through splinters Donald Trump’s protestations that his campaign was free of connections to the Russians. […]

Manafort’s partner in crime, confessed felon Rick Gates, told an associate that “Person A” (now widely known to be Kilimnik) “was a former Russian Intelligence Officer with the GRU” (the Russian military intelligence agency) according to a March 2018 Mueller filing. The filing later states that Kilimnik still had his Russian intelligence ties in 2016.  […]

If Gates knew Kilimnik was spooked up with the Russians, it stands to reason that Manafort did, too.

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Fanciful etymologies on an “ancient history” site

"Lost in Translation? Understandings and Misunderstandings about the Ancient Practice of 'Sacred Prostitution'",  Ancient Origins:

Ishtar was sometimes called the Goddess Har since she was the mother of the harlots. These “harlots” were not prostitutes as we know them, but priestesses and healers. These harlots were holy virgins serving goddesses such as Ishtar, Asherah, or Aphrodite.

The Hebrew word hor means “a cave” or “dark hole” and the Spanish word for “whore”, puta, derives from the Latin term for “a well”. In turn, the Latin term for “grave” is puticuli, which means “womb of rebirth”. The root of the word came from an early Sanskrit language where puta is defined as pure and holy. The cave, the hole and the bottomless black lake were metaphors for the Great Goddess— the primordial darkness from which all life is born.

The Ancient Origins "about-us" page says that

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives

But the etymology in those two paragraphs is not just out-of-the-box, it's out-of-its-mind.

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Corpora and the Second Amendment: “bear”

An introduction and guide to my series of posts "Corpora and the Second Amendment" is available here. The corpus data that is discussed can be downloaded here. That link will take you to a shared folder in Dropbox. Important: Use the "Download" button at the top right of the screen.

Starting with this post, I’m (finally) getting to the meat of what I’ve called “the coming corpus-based reexamination of the Second Amendment.” The plan, as I’ve said before, is to more or less mirror the structure of the Supreme Court’s analysis of keep and bear arms. This post will focus on bear, and subsequent posts will focus separately on arms, bear arms, and keep and bear arms; I won’t be separately discussing keep arms because I have nothing to say about it. [Update: If you're confused about why I'm following this approach, as one of the commenters was, I've offered an explanation at the end of the post.]

In discussing the meaning of the verb bear, Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller said, “At the time of the founding, as now, to ‘bear’ meant to ‘carry.’’’ That statement was backed up by citations to distinguished lexicographic authority—Samuel Johnson, Noah Webster, Thomas Sheridan, and the OED—but evidence that was not readily available when Heller was decided shows that Scalia’s statement was very much an oversimplification. Although bear was sometimes used in the way that Scalia described, it was not synonymous with carry and its overall pattern of use was quite different.

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"Biomarkers": Language as a substance?

For the past few years, I've been involved in some research on clinical applications of linguistic analysis. And as a result, I've done a lot of reading in the associated inter-, trans-, or meta-disciplinary literature (see e.g. the reading list for a seminar I taught last spring).  This involves assimilating some inter-, trans-, or meta-disciplinary terminology, of which one interesting example is the word biomarker.

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Japanese buzzwords

The buzzwords of the year (Shingo/Ryūkōgo Taishō 新語・流行語大賞) have been announced.  As Nathan Hopson, who called the results to my attention, puts it:

With the caveat that this is a contest run by a private company that publishes an annual collection of new and important words, and that there's a lot of peripheral annoyance around the biases this seems to create, there are always a few interesting terms.

This year's winner was "sodane〜 そだね〜" ("that's right〜" ), the kawaii (the culture of cuteness) shortened form of sōdesune そうですね ("I agree; that's right; that's so, isn't it; hmm"), one of my favorite Japanese expressions, popularized during the Pyeongchang Olympics broadcasts of the Japanese women's curling team.

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