Archive for Words words words

"Moron" considered dangerous

In all of the foofaraw about Rex Tillerson calling Donald Trump a "fucking moron", no one seems to have picked up on the fact the Mr. Tillerson may have endangered his immortal soul. (And not on account of the expletive.)

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The vocabulary of sharp implements in Xinjiang

Public notification posted in villages of Makit County (Màigàití xiàn 麦盖提县; Mәkit nah̡iyisi / Мәкит наһийиси مەكىت ناھىيىسى) near Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR):


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See Ben Zimmer's jawn etymology interview, and also "Vaina == Jawn?", 8/12/2016.

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Jeffrey Lewis, "Donald Trump Threatened North Korea After Completely Imaginary Negotiations", Foreign Policy 10/3/2017:

Over the weekend, a story emerged that the United States was in some sort of talks with North Korea, followed in quick succession by a series of tweets from U.S. President Donald Trump rejecting any sort of diplomatic engagement with North Korea.

One small problem: There never were any such talks.

This particular episode in the months-long twitzkrieg between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump is a parable about how bad reporting can create its own facts, leading gullible readers to act out of false information or contrived narratives. And if one of those gullible readers happens to be the president of the United States, watch out.

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That's a word that was completely unknown to me until I received this note from my sister, Heidi:

Glamping is big and getting bigger all of the time. Especially as the boomers retire daily. There are even 3 sites in PA and four in Ohio… and 9 in Texas.

And it is related to the off the grid and tiny house movement… also inspired by Burning Man subculture. As you can see, it was added to the Oxford Dictionary last year.

There are glamping supplies, tents, and destinations. See the official web site.

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Of dotards and DOLtards

[A guest post by Jichang Lulu.]

After all the brouhaha over Kim Jong Un's 'dotard' philippic, I was reminded of some other Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) invective: those sexist insults against Park Geun-hye, the racist insults against Obama, and specifically those aimed at Michael Kirby, the Australian judge who led a UN inquiry on North Korean human rights. The NK leadership didn't appreciate the scrutiny, and responded by calling Kirby, who is openly gay, a DOL (Disgusting Old Lecher). I was wondering what the Korean for that would be, so I looked for the original piece.

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In recent weeks, President Trump has delivered a number of fiery speeches and incendiary tweets about what will happen to North Korea if Kim Jong-un launches nuclear missiles over Japan and toward Guam and the United States.

Naturally, the feisty dictator replied with some choice words of his own:

"North Korean leader responds to Trump: ‘I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire'", bThe Washington Post (9/21/17).

The Washington Post seems to have changed the title of the article, so I can no longer provide a direct link, but there are plentiful records of it on the internet.  In any event, countless other media outlets quoted the same odd word, "dotard".

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Samuel Johnson's birthday

One of yesterday's Google Doodles commemorates Samuel Johnson's 308th birthday:

A partially-transcribed digital edition can be found here. The lexicographer entry is here (transcribed) and here (page scan):

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Hurricane naming policy change

I think it's becoming clear that alternating male and female personal names to individuate Atlantic tropical cyclones is not a good idea. These storms are becoming far too nasty. Calling a storm "Harvey" makes it sound like your friendly uncle who always comes over on the Fourth of July and flirts with your mom. And "Irma" sounds like a dancer that he once knew when he was in Berlin. Science tells us that these devastating meteorological events are probably going to get worse in coming years. (Ann Coulter says that as a potential cause of increased violence in hurricanes, climate change is less plausible than God's anger at Houston for having elected a lesbian mayor; but let's face it, Ann Coulter is a few bricks short of a full intellectual hod.) Hurricanes need uglier names. You can't get Miami to evacuate by telling people that "Irma" is coming.

Accordingly, next year the National Hurricane Center is planning to name tropical cyclonic storms and hurricanes after unpleasant diseases and medical conditions. Think about it. The state governor tells you a hurricane named Dracunculiasis is coming down on you, you're gonna start packing the station wagon. So as the season progresses, the following will be the named storms in 2018.

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Dispatch with, dispense from, dispel with, …

The Washington Post's digital front page a little while ago told us that Donald Trump has given in to those who wanted him to "dispatch with" Stephen Bannon:

Earlier today, Mitt Romney's Facebook post explained that he would "dispense from" discussion of certain aspects of Trump's comments on the Charlottesville events:

And in February of 2016, Marco Rubio urged us to "dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing".

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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”?


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.


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

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