Archive for Words words words

"Founded shooting"

The University of Pennsylvania has an "Emergency Notification System", to which I subscribe, that "enables the University to quickly notify the Penn and surrounding Philadelphia community of critical information during significant emergencies or dangerous situations involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or employees occurring on campus". Early this morning I got a couple of messages from this system. The first one:

Police Activity in the area of 38 & spruce. Police have secured the scene. Please avoid the area.

And an update:

38th street continues to remain closed as Penn and Philadelphia Police continue to investigate a founded shooting in the area.

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"The P Word"

Josh Dickey, "Donald Trump Called Mike Pence ‘The P-Word’ and a ‘Wimp’ for Refusing to Block 2020 Election", 6/16/2020:

Donald Trump called Mike Pence “the P-word” and “a wimp” during a phone call in which the president was trying to convince the vice president to take the unprecedented – and almost certainly illegal – step of singlehandedly refusing to certify the 2020 election, according to testimony Thursday on Capitol Hill.

In a brief clip of video testimony at the Jan. 6 committee hearings, Julie Radford, Ivanka Trump’s chief of staff at the White House, said her boss told her “that her dad had just had an upsetting conversation with the VP.”

She was asked by the questioning attorney whether she remembered what name Trump called Pence.

“The P-word,” she said.

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New frontiers in acronymity

Recently I've been learning a lot of new letterisms — which I propose as a useful term covering both acronyms and initialisms, as well as some other cases within the general category of abbreviations. Sure, ACLU is pronounced as a sequence of four letter names, while NATO is pronounced as two syllables with no letter names involved. But there's variation: the School of Arts and Sciences at Penn is SAS, sometimes called "S A S" and sometimes "sass"; the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is sometimes "S E A S" and sometimes "sees". And there are mixed cases. In Penn's residential system, for example, HMOD is a designated role, standing for "Housing Manager On Duty",  and pronounced /ˈeʧˌmɐd/, i.e. the letter "H" followed by the syllable "mod".

And for examples learned though reading, it can be unclear what the pronunciation should be. I know that ACLU is not "a clue" because I've heard it pronounced many times — but what about SLIFE = "Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education", a letterism that I learned a few days ago? (It's new enough that the Acronym Finder page doesn't know about it yet…) Is SLIFE a single syllable rhyming with knife? or is it the letter S followed by "life"? or is it the sequence of five letter names "S L I F E"? I'm guessing that it's one of the first two, but I could be wrong.

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Algospeak

Taylor Lorenz, "Internet ‘algospeak’ is changing our language in real time, from ‘nip nops’ to ‘le dollar bean’", WaPo 4/8/2022:

“Algospeak” is becoming increasingly common across the Internet as people seek to bypass content moderation filters on social media platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Twitch.

Algospeak refers to code words or turns of phrase users have adopted in an effort to create a brand-safe lexicon that will avoid getting their posts removed or down-ranked by content moderation systems. For instance, in many online videos, it’s common to say “unalive” rather than “dead,” “SA” instead of “sexual assault,” or “spicy eggplant” instead of “vibrator.”

As the pandemic pushed more people to communicate and express themselves online, algorithmic content moderation systems have had an unprecedented impact on the words we choose, particularly on TikTok, and given rise to a new form of internet-driven Aesopian language.

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What3words again

A friend's note:

https://what3words.com/

is an app that assigns a three-word combination to every 3-meter square in the world.

My dad's living room is at acid.tribe.dwell …. ;-)

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Register + Registration had a word-baby

Yesterday I got an email from the Voice Foundation with this header:

The body of the email started this way:

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Lexical demonetization

The OED's gloss for demonetization is "The action of demonetizing a type of coin, note, currency, or precious metal; (also) the condition of being demonetized", where the verb demonetize is glossed as "To deprive (a type of coin, note, currency, or precious metal) of its status as money; to withdraw from use as legal tender."

For those of us who retain a similar idea of what those words mean, this tweet may take a minute to figure out:

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Mind your PPs and QQs

Photograph of a menu board outside a Chinese restaurant:


(From an anonymous contributor)

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"Yeet"

Today I learned that yeet means (among other things) "To discard an item at a high velocity". I didn't learn this from the not-very-reliable Urban Dictionary, but from Umar Shakir, "Tom Brady says the next sideline Surface he yeets will cost him: Microsoft’s star tablet may finally be safe on the sideline", The Verge 12/29/2021:

On the Sunday Night Football stage, December 19th, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers were swept for the second consecutive regular season against the Saints — a frustrating shut-out loss that had Brady spiking a poor Microsoft Surface tablet on the sideline.

Now, per Brady on his Let’s Go podcast that aired Monday, the NFL is not going to let the Surface abuse continue. Should the seven-time Super Bowl champion throw the tablet again, he will be fined. “I did get warned from the NFL about that so… I won’t throw another Surface.” Brady said.

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Болельщик, fan, fancy, Phans, …

Slava Malamud goes on to explain the Russian relationship between fandom and pain:

The word "bolel'shchik" tells you all you need to know about the Russian approach. We did adopt the English word (in the form of "fanaty"), but it describes soccer hooligans exclusively.
"Bolel'shchik" is ours. Oh so very, very ours.
The root word is "bol", which means "pain"

"Bolet" is a verb derived from it. Its meaning is "to be ill." Therefore, "bolel'shchik" is someone who feels constant pain and/or is very sick. However, the word applies exclusively to sports supporters. A regular ill person is "bol'noi."
How Dostoyevskian is this shit?

The prevailing emotion of a Russian football fan (and this is where the word originated) is, of course, pain. Constant, unyielding feelings of sickness and discomfort that can only be understood if you ever sat on a wooden bench to watch a 0-0 slog in half-frozen mud in Saratov.

To support a sports team, in Russian culture, primarily means to experience pain, to be emotionally unwell, to subject one's mental health to voluntary mistreatment. To be unhealthily addicted to something bad.
Don't ever ask me why I root for the Buffalo Bills and Sabres again.

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Brew

Making coffee this morning made me think about brewing — not the process, but the English verb brew and its semantic evolution. In particular, it made me wonder again about nativist versions of semantic atomism, which hold that word meanings are (perhaps structured) collections of innate atomic features. Versions of these ideas go back thousands of years, but their most prominent recent exponent was Jerry Fodor.

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy's article puts it this way:

Fodor was also a staunch defender of nativism about the structure and contents of the human mind, arguing against a variety of empiricist theories and famously arguing that all lexical concepts are innate. Fodor vigorously argued against all versions of conceptual role semantics in philosophy and psychology, and articulated an alternative view he calls “informational atomism,” according to which lexical concepts are unstructured “atoms” that have their content in virtue of standing in certain external, “informational” relations to entities in the environment.

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"Just another day"

Andrew Gelman sent a link to blog post (with a rather long title): "Just another day at the sausage factory . . . It’s just funny how regression discontinuity analyses routinely produce these ridiculous graphs and the authors and journals don’t even seem to notice", with the note "You might enjoy the statistics content in the main post, but I'm sending to you because of the phrase-origin discussion".

That discussion happened in a comment asking about the origins of the phrase "another day at the sausage factory", and Andrew's response was

I have no idea where the phrase comes from! I didn’t even know it was a phrase, at least I don’t think so. It derives from the saying that you don’t want to see sausage or legislation being made . . . ummm, let’s google *sausage legislation* . . . here’s Quote Investigator which is always my favorite source for this sort of thing. They cite Fred Shapiro who dug up the earliest known version: “The Daily Cleveland Herald, March 29, 1869, quoted lawyer-poet John Godfrey Saxe that ‘Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made,’ and this may be the true origin of the saying.”

As to the exact phrase, “Just another day at the sausage factory”: maybe I read it somewhere and it lodged in my unconscious? A quick google turns it up in various places, for example this news article by Steve Lopez in the Los Angeles Times. So my guess is that it’s just a natural formulation that has been independently coined many times, derived from the well known saying about sausage and legislation.

I don't have anything to add to Quote Investigator's story about sausages, but there's more to be said about "Just another day".

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Kleptogenesis?

Lorraine Boissoneault, "Genetic Mystery: The all-female salamanders of the Great Lakes", Great Lakes Now 11/2/2021:

Looking at them, you wouldn’t guess that the unisexual Ambystoma salamanders are any different than the other members of what was once considered their group.

These interlopers were previously grouped with five other mole salamander species: the tiger salamanders with yellow stripes; the blue-spotted salamander, marked as its name suggests; the brownish smallmouth salamander and Jefferson salamander; and the pale streamside salamander. All five species have lithe, wet bodies, bulbous eyes, and cutely smiling faces.

What sets the mysterious unnamed Ambystoma species apart is something that can only be seen by looking at their genetics. They’re an all-female lineage—and they steal genetic material from all five other species of salamander in their region, a feat that would seem impossible if not for the fact that these lady salamanders have been around for more than 5 million years.

“We often get asked, ‘What is the species name for these organisms?’ And the answer is that we don’t have one because they don’t play by the rules of what we would typically call a species,” said Rob Denton, professor of biology at Marian University.

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