Word rage, discreet firearm edition

Oxford University Press has published the fourth edition of Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage. The name "Fowler" has been retained as a source of prestige, but this is really the work of editor Jeremy Butterfield (as the third edition was the work of Robert Burchfield). Butterfield has already been getting some press attention for some of his more curmudgeonly reactions to points of modern usage. From The Times (UK), "Modern language makes dictionary compiler see, like, red" (3/31/15):

Readers fretful about crumbling standards will be relieved, and possibly amused, that the compiler of the latest edition of Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage has admitted to being overcome by grumpiness at some of the 250 new entries.

Jeremy Butterfield said that he was unable to hide his disdain while writing entries such as "awesome", "challenging" and "issue" – all of which are classified as clichés. So annoyed was he by the use of "like" as verbal punctuation that he suggested violence may be an appropriate response.

Ooh, violence! Looks like it's the latest episode of word rage.

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Another SOS for DARE

Two years ago I sent out an "SOS for DARE," that is, a plea for the indispensable Dictionary of American Regional English, which had run into funding troubles. Though DARE was granted a temporary reprieve, the latest news is more dire than ever.

Marc Johnson laid out the situation in an article for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

The end may be near for one of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's most celebrated humanities projects, the half-century-old Dictionary of American Regional English. In a few months, the budget pool will drain to a puddle. Layoff notices have been sent, eulogies composed…

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Quantifier scope in the comics

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Creeping kanji

Ben Zimmer was recently in Pittsburgh, where he gave the keynote address at the American Copy Editors Society conference. He mentioned that one of the copy editors (Bill Walsh of the Washington Post) was confused by a sign for a new bar/lounge in Pittsburgh:

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Japlish t-shirt

Axel Schuessler's daughter is visiting Japan and saw in a store the shirt below:

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Lecture tomorrow at the Simons Foundation

Tomorrow afternoon, I'll be giving a talk at the Simons Foundation (160 5th Avenue, New York NY) with the title "Reproducible Research and the Common Task Method".

Despite the April 1 date, the topic is a serious one. For some background on why the concept of "Reproducible Research" is currently a hot topic, see Paul Voosen, "Amid a Sea of False Findings, the NIH Tries Reform", Chronicle of Higher Education, 3/16/2105:

While the public remains relatively unaware of the problem, it is now a truism in the scientific establishment that many preclinical biomedical studies, when subjected to additional scrutiny, turn out to be false. Many researchers believe that if scientists set out to reproduce preclinical work published over the past decade, a majority would fail. This, in short, is the reproducibility crisis.

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Miracles of Human Language

Below is a guest post by Marten van der Meulen, who is a teaching assistant for this course.


On March 30th, the Massive Open Online Course (or MOOC) Miracles of Human Language: an Introduction to Linguistics will start on Coursera. The course is facilitated by Leiden University, and is given by Marc van Oostendorp, professor at Leiden University and the Meertens Institute. Subscribing is still possible.

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LEXHUB

From Christie Versagli:

It's with enthusiasm that we at the World Well-Being Project (University of Pennsylvania) would like to share with you the launch of lexhub.org, a hub for data, tools, papers, and almost any resource in the growing field of language analysis for social science. 

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The evolutionary psychology of editing

Today's Non Sequitur:

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Wordy Bengal

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Zeugma of the week

SOLIDWORKS Education Edition:

We strongly reccomend [sic] that you do not purchase this software if you are not seeking a degree or a full time faculty member at a school, college or university.

 

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Man: reduced or not?

Ben Yagoda wrote to ask about the reduced or unreduced pronunciation of man ([mən] vs. [mæn]) in noun compounds: policeman, fireman, garbage man, mailman, gunman, lineman, etc.

I don't know of any scholarly treatments of this precise subject. For an extensive discussion of the textual history and distribution of man- compounds, you can read Kirsti Peitsara "MAN-Compounds in English", Selected Proceedings of the 2005 Symposium on New Approaches in English Historical Lexis. And for some background discussion on the relations among structure, sense, and stress in such phrases, see Mark Liberman & Richard Sproat, "The Stress and Structure of Modified Noun Phrases in English", in Sag & Szabolsci eds., Lexical Matters, 1992. But I don't know of any discussion of (for example) why the -man in policeman is reduced, while the -man in mailman isn't. (Those are my judgments, anyhow, and Merriam-Webster's agrees with me…)

So I'm throwing the floor open for contributions from readers.

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Geographic idiom chains

From James Kirchner, in response to "The directed graph of stereotypical incomprehensibility", 1/15/2009 (as featured on 3/25/2015 in the Washington Post):

I found years ago that in Stuttgart, Germany, people said, "Es ist mir ein böhmisches Dorf," meaning, "It's a Czech village to me," (literally a Bohemian village). Then I went to work in the Czech Republic, where, as you accurately noted, they say, "Je mi španělská vesnice," i.e., "It's a Spanish village to me." (The Czechs also say, "It's colder than a German girl outside.")

The thing that's been fascinating me the last few years is who people speaking various languages say "goes Dutch". This was triggered by an idiom lesson I was teaching to a very charming, very popular young Ford engineer stationed near Detroit from Mexico City. She ran across the idiom "go Dutch" on the sheet, her eyes popped out, and she asked me what the tradition was here. I told her that usually the man pays for everything on a date. This was a sudden revelation for her. She had been insulting her American suitors by insisting on paying for everything herself, because in Mexico "se paga a la gringa." So the Mexicans say people in the US do that, and people in the US say the Dutch do it. Now I wonder who does it.

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