Archive for Words words words

Scots words for snow

Several people have sent this in: "Scots 'have 421 words' for snow", BBC News 9/23/2015:

Academics have officially logged 421 terms – including "snaw" (snow), "sneesl" (to begin to rain or snow) and "skelf" (a large snowflake).

The study by the University of Glasgow is part of a project to compile the first Historical Thesaurus of Scots, which is being published online.

The research team have also appealed for people to send in their own words.

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New discovery in English historical lexicography

A retired lecturer in medieval history, Dr Paul Booth, has discovered a reference in a 1310 court record to a man named Roger Fuckebythenavele, and he believes it really does mean that the man was known as Roger Fuck-By-The-Navel, the surname (possibly a nickname given by enemies) actually meaning "fuck via the belly button", so this may be the earliest known use of the verb fuck in its sexual sense.

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In a couple of weeks, Pope Francis will be visiting Philadelphia, and the associated security precautions are basically shutting down the city and the region around it.

Major area roads and bridges will be closed, and a "traffic box" will exclude all incoming vehicles in the central part of the city, with on-street parking banned for up to a week in advance. Most regional rail stations will be closed, and "ONLY customers traveling with either a Special One Day Regional Rail Pass or Special One Day Regional Rail Reduced Fare Pass, with the name of the station stamped on the back, will be eligible to travel" from those stations that are open. Many subway and trolley stations will be closed, and because these will include all of the stations in the central city area, transfer between the major east-west and north-south lines will be impossible.

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His hemp-devoted head

So I was reading about the Alien Friends Act, and in James Morton Smith, "The Enforcement of the Alien Friends Act of 1798", The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 1954, I stumbled on a quotation from "The Political Green-House, for the year 1798", which with a bit of extra context runs like this:

Lo! now too dismal forms* draw nigh,
And cloud the Jacobinic sky,
While awful Justice lours around,
And Law's loud thunders rock the ground.
Each factious alien shrinks with dread,
And hides his hemp-devoted head;
While Slander's foul seditious crew,
With gnashing teeth retire from view.

* The Alien, and Sedition Law.

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In the online newspaper, Politico, Jules Johnston has an article about new German words coined by youth:

"In the words of young Germans, just ‘merkeln’ " (8/3/15)

The German dictionary manufacturer Langenscheidt came up with the idea seven years ago to create a list of new words and expressions invented by teens by selecting the “Jugendwort” (Youth Word of the Year). And since then, young Germans have been invited to submit terms to an online board.

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Softy Calais goes ballistic…

Calais in north-western France, and Kent in south-eastern England, have been experiencing weeks of extraordinary chaos. Thousands of desperate migrants from Africa and the Middle East are fighting to get into the Eurotunnel depot where they think they might be able to stow away on trucks that will make the train journey through the tunnel to the immensely desirable destination of Great Britain. The British think the Calais local authorities and the French government have been making only desultory efforts to prevent the migrants from clogging the approach roads, breaching the security fences, delaying train departures, and causing side effects like 24-hour traffic jams on the M20 freeway in Kent. So the headline writers at The Sun went to work, with feghoot based on a song from Mary Poppins:

Softy Calais goes ballistic… Frenchies are atrocious!

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Stepping stones

From Jerry Clough:

Apropos of nothing in particular I noted that the Wikipedia article on what I call "stepping stones" is called "step-stone bridge".  

I assumed that this was yet another Americanism, but I can't find it in dictionaries here, or any uses of this and related terms using Google ngrams. The useful reference on the Wikipedia article is a glossary of trail terms and only contains "stepping stones".  

I wondered if you, or perhaps Language Log readers, could shed any light on what to me looks suspiciously like a neologism.

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The OED has not yet held a Word Induction Ceremony for derp, nor has that word risen above the noise floor in the Google Books ngram viewer. But the current Google News index estimates 36,200 results for derp, and only a few of them are references to the California Independent System Operators' Distributed Energy Resource Provider (DERP) initiative.

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"Salacious but iffy?"

In the Washington Post recently, Michael Miller covered the life and death of James Jeffrey Bradstreet, a doctor with controversial ideas about causes and treatments of autism ("Anti-vaccine doctor behind ‘dangerous’ autism therapy found dead. Family cries foul.". 6/29/2015). The treatments Bradstreet favored included intravenous secretin, "intravenous immunogloblin" [sic],  chelation therapy, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, and stem cell therapy.

The reader who sent me the link noticed a strange word choice in the article:

But as the National Enquirer coverage suggests, some of these treatments were salacious but scientifically iffy.

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Filtering information

Ben Zimmer "Donald Trump and Others With ‘No Filter’", WSJ 6/26/2015:

When Donald Trump gave a speech announcing his candidacy for president last week, he seemed to utter whatever thoughts popped into his uniquely coiffed head. […]

The “filter” metaphor evokes the image of a straining mechanism functioning on a person’s thoughts and feelings, testing the appropriateness of those inner mental states before they can be verbalized to the world. […]

The earliest example of a “filterless” celebrity that I was able to track down appeared in a 1986 Newsweek cover story on Robin Williams. Larry Brezner, a partner in the talent agency that then managed the comedian, said, “There’s no filter between his brain and his mouth.”

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Linguist reads the paper: First sentence in Friedman's column begins "Let’s see, America is prepositioning battle tanks …" and before I got to the battle tanks I was surprised and wondering how 'preposition' could be used as a verb and what it could mean. (I'm of course seeing the word that starts with 'prep', had to be garden-pathed before I backtracked and saw the verb pre-position.)

I won't be surprised if readers of this blog had a similar first parse of my header –  its occurrence in this blog will probably make that even more likely.

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Lift Trappings: a locally-emergent collocation?

One of the benefits of travel is exposure to new ways of expressing things. Sometimes it's different metaphors — the French connect parallel-parking slots and appointment times with battlements, for example — but often it's just apparently-arbitrary differences in word choices.

On Thursday and Friday I was in London, and was therefore reminded of familiar trans-Atlantic vocabulary differences like lift vs. elevator. But on this visit, I noticed a collocational difference — perhaps an emergent one — that I hadn't seen before. One of the elevators that I rode in had a sign on the wall offering advice about what to do in case of a "lift trapping incident".

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The Inspiration-o-meter

Molly Fitzpatrick, "Know. Here. More. The top 100 words used in 2015 commencement speeches are oddly inspiring, even out of context", Fusion 5/21/2015:

Is there a formula for inspiration? If so it involves these words: know, here, more, life. They top the list of the 100 most common words used in commencement speeches this year. 

We analyzed the transcripts of 30 high-profile commencement addresses delivered this spring. […]

Commencement speakers talk more about the students they’re addressing than themselves, but only barely. We found that the second-person pronouns “you,” “your,” and “yours” were used just 4.7% more than the first-person pronouns “I,” “me,” “my,” and “mine.” […]

Here are the top 100 words in order, ranked by the number of times they were used across all 30 speeches. Prepare your graduation ceremony bingo cards accordingly:

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