Archive for Words words words

The rise (and fall?) of shiesties

Last month I learned a new word, shiesty — which rhymes with feisty, as if it were written "sheisty" — because shiesties have been banned on the local transit system ("SEPTA"):

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Calling Benjamin Lee Whorf

What do a baker, a shepherd, and a drummer have in common?

You can add an orchestra conductor, Harry Potter, and a drill sergeant.

Hint: this is in French.

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A new kanji for tapioca

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Although Google now has "about 27,700 results" for seacuterie, this word doesn't seem to have made it into any of the standard dictionaries yet. But already in 2017, Fine Dining Lovers announced ("Seacuterie, When Salami Rhymes with 'Sea-lami'") that "today’s latest craze is 'seacuterie'", and went on to survey the gastronomical metaphors involved at greater length, e.g.

Markus Glocker's octupus [sic] pastrami at Bâtard in TriBeCa (New York) is unanimously decreed to be a masterpiece which, at first sight, looks like a soppressata, but in actual fact is much more involved. This leads us into deeper waters, where fish, shellfish and mollusc-based dishes are united under the banner of seacuterie which, more often than not, draws inspiration from cold cuts, such as ham, mortadella, sausages, soppressata, n’duja [sic], and cured fatback.

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Good bad

Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, known as Bad Bunny, has been big in the media recently, from the first-ever Spanish cover of Time Magazine, to headlining Coachella — against the background of literally millions of pages featuring his fashion choices and his sayings.

According to a 2019 All Things Considered piece ("How Bad Bunny Skipped Categories And Skyrocketed To Fame"), "A self-described class clown, Bad Bunny got his stage moniker from the time he was forced as a child to wear a bunny rabbit costume. He was pretty angry about it, but the name stuck."

From a linguistic perspective, there's a lot to be said about Bad Bunny's role in normalizing Spanish among English-dominant Americans. And the Puerto Rican features of his lyrics are also interesting.

But today, my topic is the "bad" part of his stage name.

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Curiously curious

Victoria Bisset, "What to know about Arcturus, a new coronavirus subvariant the WHO is tracking", WaPo 4/14/2023:

According to the WHO, Arcturus is similar to the prevalent XBB. 1.5 variant, but has “one additional mutational mutation in the spike protein, which in lab studies shows increased infectivity, as well as potential increased pathogenicity.”

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Combinatory Sound Alternations in Proto-, Pre-, and Real Tibetan

Sino-Platonic Papers is pleased to announce the publication of its three-hundred-and-thirty-first issue:

Bettina Zeisler, “Combinatory Sound Alternations in Proto-, Pre-, and Real Tibetan: The Case of the Word Family *Mra(o) ‘Speak,’ ‘Speaker,’ ‘Human,’ ‘Lord’” (free pdf), Sino-Platonic Papers, 331 (March, 2023), 1-165.

Among many other terms, discusses the Eurasian word for "horse" often mentioned on Language Log (see "Selected readings" below for examples).   Gets into IIr and (P)IE.


At least four sound alternations apply in Tibetan and its predecessor(s): regressive metathesis, alternation between nasals and oral stops, jotization, and vowel alternations. All except the first are attested widely among the Tibeto-Burman languages, without there being sound laws in the strict sense. This is a threat for any reconstruction of the proto-language. The first sound alternation also shows that reconstructions based on the complex Tibetan syllable structure are misleading, as this complexity is of only a secondary nature. In combination, the four sound alternations may yield large word families. A particular case is the word family centering on the words for speaking and human beings. It will be argued that these words ultimately go back to a loan from Eastern Iranian.

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-(((o)r)d)le of the month

In the wake of Wordle have come many other-dles and similar games — a sample in alphabetical order:

Absurdle, AntiwordleByrdle, CFBordle, Crosswordle, Dangle, Dordle, Framed, Gordle, Heardle, Hello Wordl, IYKYK, Leaderboardle, Lewdle, LookdleLordle of the RingsNerdle, Octordle, Peotl, Primel, Quordle, Searchdle, Sedecordle, Squirdle, Star Wordle,  Taylordle, Waffle, WARdle, Weddle, Wheredle, Word Hurdle, Worldle,  …

Now from Dallin Tucker and Benjamin Tucker comes Gramle, a Wordle-like game where the goal is an IPA transcription of a displayed spectrogram and waveform. According to the About page, "Gramle was created as a collaboration between DT and BVT. It was DT’s high school computer science final project".

It's wonderful that a bright high-school student can now create an impressive interactive web app like this. Further development might well turn this into a useful way to learn about analyzing spectrograms and waveforms — though I suspect that increasing its educational effectiveness might take it in a somewhat less Wordle-ish direction…

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Ask LLOG: "Noticed"?

From D.D.:

Interesting use of “noticed.” I guess it must be Congressional jargon.

[link] House Republicans had planned to hold a conference call to explain to the rank-and-file the prospective rules package deal that leadership wants to cut with McCarthy’s opponents. We laid out the outlines of this hoped-for agreement in the PM edition last night and the AM edition on Wednesday morning.

As of late last night, the call had not been noticed to the broader conference, so we’ll see whether it ultimately comes together.

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German wordcraziness rules

[This is a guest post by Martin Woesler in response to this post:  "German lexicographic richness" (10/11/21)]

Let me share the language feeling of a German with you. As you may have assumed, if a German explains feelings, he does it with a set of rules:

German wordcraziness rule # 1: Yes, there is a German word for everything. Simply because if there was none before, there is one the very moment you think of it or say it. And no, it does not mean that it is the same as listing many words one after the other in English. You can still list words one after the other in German and it has a different effect than creating a new longish word.

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Hurry hurry super scurry

No "lying flat" or "coiling up" for us!

Here are Japanese words (not characters) of the year for 2022.

No Time to Waste: “Taipa” Chosen as One of Japan’s Words of 2022  (12/16/22)

Quite a different set of attitudes from what young people in China are feeling nowadays.  You will note that extreme abbreviation of words and phrases is a feature of the favored words in the contemporary Japanese lexicon.  I would wager that this feature is a reflection of the tempo of Japanese life.

Taipa, an abbreviation of “time performance,” was selected by dictionary publisher Sanseidō as its word of the year for 2022, reflecting young people’s desire not to waste a second.

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Three-letter Initialisms

I spent last week at the ASA conference in Nashville. The "ASA", as members all call it, is the Acoustical Society of America — but is "American Students' Assistance", while is the "American Sailing Association", and Wikipedia offers 75 other options for the ASA initialism.

This is general problem. Another organization that I belong to is the LSA, as the members of the Linguistic Society of America call it — but is the "Louisiana Sheriffs' Association", and is apparently malware associated with Windows' Local Security Authority, so I won't link to it. The Linguistic Society of America, having been pre-empted by the Louisiana Sheriffs, used to be online at the URL, but is now Wikipedia offers 48 other options for LSA. They include "Latent Semantic Analysis", which is the earliest of the word-embeddings at the root of the tree whose recent fruits include ChatGPT — which recently evoked some confusion on this blog as to the meaning of the GPT initialism.

There are obviously 26^3 = 17576 three-letter initialisms, and nearly all of them are spoken for, multiple times over.

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Words: Too many? Too few?

In Dinosaur Comics for 10/17/2022, T-Rex seems to encounter a lexicographical problem:

Mouseover title: "i'll be communicating entirely through glances and MAYBE raised eyebrows from now on"

Archive description: "words were a mistake, an error, a blunder, a blooper, a fault, a folly, a gaffe, an oversight, a misjudgment, a slip-up, a mix-up, a trip-up, a series of errata,"

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