Archive for Words words words

Don't tell les immortels

Avmeric Renou, "À VivaTech, la French Tech s’offre un nouveau coup de boost", Le Parisien 5/21/2024.

"la French Tech"? "un nouveau coup de boost"?

The obligatory screenshot:

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One more for the "passive voice" files

There have been many LLOG posts on misuse of the term "passive voice", going back to 2003. As far as I can tell, the most recent post was "'Is it the passive voice you don't like?'", 8/11/2021.

In "'Passive Voice' — 1397-2009 — R.I.P", I wrote that

the traditional sense of passive voice has died after a long illness. It has ceased to be; it's expired and gone to meet its maker, kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. It's an ex-grammatical term.

Its ghost walks in the linguistics literature and in the usage of a few exceptionally old-fashioned intellectuals. For everyone else, what passive voice now means is "construction that is vague as to agency".

Today, Ambarish Sridharanarayanan sent me a link to a piece of writing that illustrates the issue perfectly:

The press release makes heroic use of the passive voice to obscure the actors: “an unprecedented sequence of events whereby an inadvertent misconfiguration during provisioning of UniSuper’s Private Cloud services ultimately resulted in the deletion of UniSuper’s Private Cloud subscription.”


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Peevable words and phrases: journey

They mostly start out clever, cute, and catchy:  e.g., "curated".  The problem is that they soon go viral, and then just never go away, even after they have become banal and overused, as with "perfect storm":

I'm campaigning to have "perfect storm" added to peeve polls in the future. As in "at the end of the day it was a perfect storm." It's not unheard of for a book title to turn into a catch[22]phrase, and maybe perfect storm will become a permanent part of the language, but it smacks of fad to me. I feel like I hear it at least three times a week in NPR interviews.

[Comment by Dick Margulis to "'Annoying word' poll results: Whatever!" (10/9/09)]

That was 2009, but "perfect storm" is still with us, and so is "curated", which begins to appear with increasing frequency in the early 70s and really takes off in the 80s.

Now we're facing a veritable onslaught from "journey":

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Political bias in economics

Zubin Jelveh, Bruce Kogut, and Suresh Naidu, "Political language in economics", The Economic Journal:

Abstract: Does academic writing in economics reflect the political orientation of economists? We use machine learning to measure partisanship in academic economics articles. We predict observed political behavior of a subset of economists using the phrases from their academic articles, show good out-of-sample predictive accuracy, and then predict partisanship for all economists. We then use these predictions to examine patterns of political language in economics. We estimate journal-specific effects on predicted ideology, controlling for author and year fixed effects, that accord with existing survey-based measures. We show considerable sorting of economists into fields of research by predicted partisanship. We also show that partisanship is detectable even within fields, even across those estimating the same theoretical parameter. Using policy-relevant parameters collected from previous meta-analyses, we then show that imputed partisanship is correlated with estimated parameters, such that the implied policy prescription is consistent with partisan leaning. For example, we find that going from the most left-wing authored estimate of the taxable top income elasticity to the most right-wing authored estimate decreases the optimal tax rate from 84% to 58%.

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Ellen Gutoskey, "15 Fascinating Linguistics Terms You Didn't Learn in School", Mental Floss 5/10/2024:

Grade school English teachers do their best to send you off into the world with at least a cursory understanding of how language works. Maybe you can tell your dependent clauses from your independent ones and your transitive verbs from your intransitive ones. Maybe you’re even pretty savvy at distinguishing between basic rhetorical devices—hyperbole versus oxymoron, simile versus metaphor, and that sort of thing.

But unless you majored in linguistics in college or routinely spend your free time reading grammar blogs, there’s a whole world of words to describe language mechanics that you’re probably not aware of. Here are 15 of our favorites, from formal terms like amphiboly to colloquial ones like snowclone.

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Finnish words for snow

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Thou shalt be trespassed, as it were

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Japanese borrowings and reborrowings

Most Americans probably know a few Japanese loanwords, especially those who were alive in the two or three decades after WWII, when so many terms from Japan entered the English language — kamikaze, banzai, bonsai, origami, and so forth — with soldiers returning from the war in the Far East.

In the recent two or three decades, Japanese words, continued to enter English but from different avenues — anime, manga, sudoku, karaoke, etc.

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"The genes they inherited from their pirates"

Laura Baisas, “We were very wrong about birds”, Popular Science 4/1/2024:

Birds combine genes from a father and a mother into the next generation, but they first mix the genes they inherited from their pirates when creating sperm and eggs. This process is called recombination and it is also something that occurs in humans. Recombination maximizes a species’ genetic diversity by ensuring that no two siblings are exactly the same.

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A charlatanistic malapropism returns

In "At the rind of the debate" we noted an odd use of the word exegesis in the Charlatan  Magazine: "the foreign-born population has grown by 4.5 million under Biden's exegesis". Readers diagnosed this as a malapropism for aegis, and another example from a more recent issue of the same publication ("Nightingale", 3/17/2024) confirms the analysis:

While a woman's role within the home was written into the original 1937 constitution under the exegesis of the Catholic Church in Ireland, 2015's Gender Recognition Act and Marriage Act has re-imagined these roles within the once traditional home.

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At the rind of the debate

Here are a couple of puzzling word-choices from Charlatan Magazine, sent to me by someone who was somehow put on their mailing list.

This one is from "The Politics of Immigration", 3/3/2024 [emphasis added]:

While Biden patrols the Texas border (taking a wide berth around the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas) he assuages the American voter whose ire toward illegal immigrants under his presidency has doubled. “There were 49.5 million foreign-born residents in the United States (legal and illegal) in 2023,” according to the Center for Immigration Statistics, and the foreign-born population has grown by 4.5 million under Biden's exegesis.

My correspondent identified "exegesis" as a malapropism, but we couldn't figure out what it might be a substitution for. I guess the author might have meant something like "Biden's interpretation (of immigration policy)", though there's nothing else in the article to raise the question of alternative interpretations of such laws or policies.

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A Video Game Decoding Ancient Languages

Xinyi Ye, who sent this to me, thought the idea of multiple languages and the Tower of Babel in a game would be quite cliché, but this one is actually good.  You will be surprised at what you see and hear.

This is the official trailer:

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Lunar New Year's greetings, part 1

A bit belated, but better late than never.

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