Archive for Words words words

O.K. is rude

Caity Weaver, "Typing These Two Letters Will Scare Your Young Co-Workers: Everything was O.K. until you wrote 'O.K.'", NYT 11/21/2019, starts with a note from someone in Queens:

I am a Gen X-er who generally speaks proper English and am a "digital native." (Hey, kids: We built these tools that you claim as your own.) When I respond to a text or email with "O.K.," I mean just that: O.K. As in: I hear you, I understand, I agree, I will do that. If I reply with "K," I'm just being more informal.

However, I have been informed by my Millennial and Gen Z co-workers that the new thing I'm supposed to type is "kk." To write "O.K." or "K," they tell me, is to be passive-aggressive or imply that I would like the recipient to drop dead. To which I am tempted to respond, "Believe me, if I want you to drop dead … you'll know."

I find "kk" loathsome. Are my co-workers being overly sensitive, or am I not acknowledging the nuance of modern communication? I would really like to settle this debate once and for all. O.K.?

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Word rage and word aversion on Subtitle

The latest episode of the new podcast Subtitle is about "Words we love to hate". Full disclosure: Kavita Pillay interviewed me for the program, and so you can hear my voice from time to time.

More later — I'm off to Washington DC for a workshop on "Digital Cognitive and Functional Biomarkers" organized by the Alzheimer's Association.

Meanwhile, you can find links to some Language Log posts on word aversion in "Word aversion science", 6/24/2015, and posts about word rage in "Annals of word rage", 5/2/2009.

 

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"Butt dial" still waiting for its M-W word induction ceremony

The compound butt-dial, used as a verb meaning to call someone accidentally on a cell phone, or as a noun referring to such a call, is now commonplace enough to be used in the media without any scare quotes: "The butt-dial heard round the world"; "Giuliani butt dial story inspires ridicule, envy on social media" ("'Butt dial me,' one journalist said to Giuliani"); "Giuliani talks about needing cash in butt-dial to NBC News reporter"; "Guiliani Butt-Dials Reporter Not Once, But Twice".

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The challenging importance of spacing in Korean

Fascinating article from BLARB (Blog // Los Angeles Review of Books:

"Our Language Battle: Korea's Surprisingly Addictive Game Show of Vocabulary, Expressions, and Proper Spacing", by Colin Marshall (9/1/19)

This is the second paragraph of the article:

Having found myself living in the genuinely foreign country of Korea, I've lately also found myself watching Our Language Battle (우리말 겨루기), a game show that has aired every Monday evening on KBS since 2003. Though it occasionally invites celebrities, and this past July even brought on members of the National Assembly, it usually pits four everyday Koreans (or four teams of two, usually family) against each other in a test of their knowledge of the Korean language. It begins simply enough, with the contestants buzzing in to guess the words or phrases that fill in a crossword-style board, but soon the challenges get dramatically harder: separating folk spellings and regional variations from the officially standard, filling in words missing from old television and newspaper clips, and — most difficult of all, even for contestants who otherwise dominate the game — properly re-spacing a text whose words all run together.

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What root cause analysis engineers do

They root cause events, issues, and other problems, of course. Graham Rapier, "Tesla solar panels also caught fire on an Amazon warehouse, the retail giant said in the wake of Walmart's lawsuit", Business Insider 8/26/2019 :

"All 11 Amazon sites with solar from Tesla are generating energy and are proactively monitored and maintained," a Tesla representative told Business Insider. "Last year, there was an isolated event that occurred in an inverter at one of the Amazon sites. Tesla worked collaboratively with Amazon to root cause the event and remediate."

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Saying the quiet part loud

Sam Dorman, "AOC says Trump 'relished' rally chant about Omar, doesn't want to be president anymore", Fox News 7/20/2019:

"Once you start telling American citizens to 'go back to your own countries,' this tells you that this President's policies are not about immigration, it's about ethnicity and racism," Ocasio-Cortez went on to applause from the town hall crowd. "And his biggest mistake is that he said the quiet part loud. That was his biggest mistake because we know that he's been thinking this the entire time."

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Ambiguous initialisms

Menachem Wecker, "One NRA fights for guns. One for restaurants. Yes, D.C. has abbreviation overload.", WaPo 7/15/2019:

It was the malapropism heard around certain corners of social media. When Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) asked Ben Carson recently about REOs — real estate owned properties — the housing and urban development secretary appeared to hear a reference to cookies, i.e., Oreos. While the incident quickly became a referendum on Carson's knowledge of housing policy — he would later dismiss the episode as gotcha politics, telling ABC News, "Give me a break," perhaps a subconscious Kit Kat allusion — it did point to a frequently overlooked hazard of life in Washington: Acronyms and other abbreviations, a second language for many wonks, can be confusing, problematic or simply embarrassing.

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Half == Partly

It's common to see half used to mean something much vaguer than "1/2" or "one of two equal parts", and as a result, things sometimes end up with three or more halves. A nice recent example (from Megan Twohey and Jacob Bernstein, "The 'Lady of the House' Who Was Long Entangled With Jeffrey Epstein", NYT 7/15/2019):

Shortly after Ghislaine Maxwell arrived in New York from England in the early 1990s, she was looking for a new start. She had just lost her father, a British media mogul, along with much of her family fortune and her social standing.

Soon she was on the rise with the help of her new boyfriend, Jeffrey Epstein, a rich financier. It was the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship. With Mr. Epstein, Ms. Maxwell was able to resurrect the lifestyle she coveted. […]

Euan Rellie, an investment banker who attended dinner parties that she and Mr. Epstein hosted in New York, said she "seemed to be half ex-girlfriend, half employee, half best friend, and fixer."

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Beyond within

Matt Wilstein, "Kathy Griffin Calls CNN's Jeff Zucker a 'Pussy' for Caving to Trump", Daily Beast 7/2/2019 [emphasis added]:

Griffin tells 'The Last Laugh' podcast that the CNN president tried to limit her to one Trump joke per hour during 2016's New Year's Eve special before firing her the next year. […]

They had such a good relationship at one point that Zucker even hired Griffin to roast him at an event where he was receiving an award. But as soon as President Trump tweeted that she should be "ashamed of herself" for posing with his mock-severed head, Zucker kicked her to the curb.

"I guess the part that sort of stuns me to this day is, number one, that photo, whether you like it or not, was absolutely beyond within the parameters of the First Amendment," Griffin says. "So people that think I broke the law are misinformed. Jeff knows that."

"And I know this is going to sound silly, but I kind of think Jeff owes me an apology," she continues. "Seriously, I didn't do anything wrong."

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Ask Language Log: matriculate meaning "move"

From Jeffrey Kallberg:

Has anybody tracked down the origins of the sports (mostly American football, afaik) usage of the word "matriculate" to mean something like "to move from one place to another" (either physically or in a descriptive sense)? I ran into a recent example of this in a recent NBC Sports column — "FMIA Guest: Rich Eisen On The NFL's Ultimate Course Correction On PI", 6/17/2019:

So when Riveron stepped to the mic at the NFL Network gathering last week and finally matriculated his way to the pass interference replay portion of his two-hour presentation to the group, it was like a large piece of filet mignon steak being plated for the whole room to consume.

A little googling suggests a possible origin in a malapropism uttered by Hank Stram during a Super Bowl, in a conversation inadvertently picked up by a microphone:

But the Urban Dictionary isn't necessarily decisive on such questions.

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Trump's "cocked and loaded": A tangled history

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Snakes in the grass, probably

On the UT Dallas campus:

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What's normal about "normal schools"?

Many U.S. institutions of higher education used to have the phrase "normal school" or "normal college" as part of their names, though I don't know whether any still do. When I was growing up, back in neolithic times, I somehow learned that normal meant "teacher training" in that context. And though I thought the usage was odd and even a little funny, I never really understood where it came from. The term came up in conversation a couple of days ago, so I looked into it a bit, thinking that this might be one of those cases involving an otherwise-lost meaning from medieval Latin or French. But apparently not so, or at least not exactly.

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