Archive for Words words words

"Paranoiac"

Heather Murphy ("Scaramucci Did Not Invent the Word 'Paranoiac'", NYT 7/28/2017) quotes some tweets in which paranoiac "faced charges of being not being real" [sic], and comes to its defense with a link to a very interesting paper about a use of the word (but in Russian!) in 1927 — J. Kesselring, "Vladimir Mikhailovic Bekhterev (1857–1927): Strange Circumstances Surrounding the Death of the Great Russian Neurologist", European Neurology 2011.

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Becoming a modifier

In an update to his post "Becoming an adjective", Geoff Pullum notes that the existence of name-derived adjectives like Shakespearean and Kafkaesque might have been what "Jane Jacobs … is an adjective" was meant to mean. But he doesn't also note that there are at least two semantic domains where it's long been common to use people's names as modifiers: streets and mathematical concepts.

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Priming the pump

"Transcript: Interview with Donald Trump", The Economist 5/11/2017:

That all goes into tax reduction. Tremendous savings.

But beyond that it’s OK if the tax plan increases the deficit?

It is OK, because it won’t increase it for long. You may have two years where you’ll…you understand the expression “prime the pump”?

Yes.

We have to prime the pump.

It’s very Keynesian.

We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world. Have you heard that expression before, for this particular type of an event?

Priming the pump?

Yeah, have you heard it? Yes. Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just…I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.

It’s…

Yeah, what you have to do is you have to put something in before you can get something out.

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What is a vamp, and how do you re- one?

Or maybe, "What is vamping, and how could the Trump administration redo it?"  Perhaps because I was very tired, that was my reaction to this story by Nia-Malika Henderson, "April Ryan asked the most important question of the Trump presidency", CNN 3/30/2017:

After a contentious — and some said condescending, sexist and racist — back-and-forth with White House reporter April Ryan at a press briefing Tuesday, Sean Spicer tried to get over the dust-up at the Wednesday briefing.

He called on the American Urban Radio Networks correspondent first, and the two exchanged forced pleasantries. Moving on, folks, was the clear message. Nothing to see here. We are professionals and combat happens.

But, lost amid that Tuesday exchange was the actual substance of Ryan's question. It was an important one, which goes to the heart of where President Donald Trump finds himself — the Gallup daily tracking poll has Trump at 35%, a new low.

Ryan asked: How does this administration try to revamp its image?

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All Trumped Up

Adam Wren, "'I'm Still All Trumped Up'", Politico Magazine 2/13/2017:

On the first Saturday of Donald Trump’s presidency, as protesters and marchers stormed the nation’s capital and cities around the country, Dick and Jane Ames threw a party. […]

“Oh, Trump—I’m still all Trumped up,” Jane, a retired insurance broker, told me, reveling in the memory of that night […]. Across the table, her husband Dick, 73, a former air traffic controller, smiled and nodded. 

I've assumed that it was the strong positive sense of trump as in "trump card" that led Donald Trump's ancestor to change his name from Drumpf to Trump, and the "trump card" sense clearly bolsters the branding value of the name. So why, I wondered, is "trumped up" normally a bad thing to be?

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Flaunting party discipline, or flouting it, whatever

I'm afraid the flaunt/flout distinction may be a lost cause. Yesterday in the UK parliament three Labour Party whips voted against the instructions they were supposed to be enforcing on behalf of the leader of their party, and three times already this morning (the radio has been on since 5:30) I have heard a parliamentary report on the BBC's flagship Radio 4 program Today in which a reporter referred to party whips "who were supposed to impose party discipline, rather than flaunt it."

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Tracing lexical trends in Google searches

Google has released a fun data visualization tool that shows changes in search interest over time for a variety of trending words, particularly new slang terms. In "The Year in Language 2016," you can see how frequently people searched for the definitions of words, in queries such as "selfie definition" or "define selfie." By this metric, the top 10 words for 2016 are: triggered, shook, juju, broccoli, woke, holosexual, shill, gaslighting, bigly, and SJW. You can also plot the search interest for more than 50 words from 2013 to 2016.

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'Dumpster fire' is 2016 American Dialect Society word of the year

The press release is here:

In its 27th annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted for dumpster fire as the Word of the Year for 2016. Defined as “an exceedingly disastrous or chaotic situation,” the term dumpster fire was selected as best representing the public discourse and preoccupations of the past year.  

Presiding at the Jan. 6 voting session were ADS Executive Secretary Allan Metcalf of MacMurray College and Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society. Zimmer is also the language columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

LLOG covered "Dumpster fire" a little more than six months ago. Can we repeat-predict the 2017 WOTY? Stay tuned …

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EU English again

A.S. sent in a link to the 2016 edition of Misused English words and expressions in EU publications, from the European Court of Auditors:

Over the years, the European institutions have developed a vocabulary that differs from that of any recognised form of English. It includes words that do not exist or are relatively unknown to native English speakers outside the EU institutions and often even to standard spellcheckers/grammar checkers (‘planification’, ‘to precise’ or ‘telematics’ for example) and words that are used with a meaning, often derived from other languages, that is not usually found in English dictionaries (‘coherent’ being a case in point). Some words are used with more or less the correct meaning, but in contexts where they would not be used by native speakers (‘homogenise’, for example). Finally, there is a group of words, many relating to modern technology, where users (including many native speakers) ‘prefer’ a local term (often an English word or acronym) to the one normally used in English-speaking countries, which they may not actually know, even passively (‘GPS’ or ‘navigator’ for ‘satnav’, ‘SMS’ for ‘text’, ‘to send an SMS to’ for ‘to text’, ‘GSM’ or even ‘Handy’ for ‘mobile’ or ‘cell phone’, internet key’, ‘pen’ or ‘stick’ for ‘dongle’, ‘recharge’ for ‘top-up/top up’, ‘beamer’ for projector etc.). The words in this last list have not been included because they belong mostly to the spoken language.

In fact we covered the 2013 edition of this document  ("In case of pigs and poultry…", 5/12/2013).But it's worth citing it again, for those who are might be in need of a little lexicological cheer this New Year's Eve.

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TFW

J.S. writes to ask

I have long wondered whether there is a word for a concept without a word. I feel like I once found this word, but have since forgotten, and now I am struggling to find it again.  

For example, maybe I have the concept for a feeling. It is a feeling I can describe but does not have a corresponding word in English (schadenfreude, for example). Is there a word for these types of concepts?

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Long Johns

From Faith Jones:

I recently had the need to buy my elderly mother some long johns as she is finding even our wimpy, West Coast winters hard to take. In a thank you email she refused to call the tops "long johns," as to her that is only for the pants, but didn't know another term for them and asked what they are called.  To me, they are called "long john tops." This got me thinking about the slipperiness of this term and I asked Facebook which gave me many, many different answers.

The replies come from all over the US and Canada, with a few Brits, and I see no consensus. A significant number of people, perhaps a plurality, think long johns are pants only, but otherwise I see no pattern.

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Ask Language Log: Obsolete expressions

From a reader:

I just noticed this headline in our local news (which I read on line…):

"Seahawks QB Russell Wilson pens letter on behalf of Sonics arena project."

Does anyone pen a letter these days, or dial a phone number?  I am sure this raises issues that have come up in your blog. Maybe though there is still room to explore how obsolete expressions continue to be used.

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2016 Oxford Dictionaries WOTY: Post-Truth

The Oxford Dictionaries 2016 Word Of The Year is post-truth, which they define as "relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief". Here's their graph of its recent rise in frequency over the past seven months:


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