Archive for August, 2013

X-iversaries everywhere

Here are two anniversarial tweets that appeared Friday evening. The first is from the Technology account, celebrating the anniversary of the release of the source code for We the People:

The second is from Chris Messina, a.k.a. the hashtag godfather, on the occasion of the sixth anniversary of his proposal of the hashtag convention on Twitter:

(Messina didn't actually coin hashtag on that fateful day in 2007 — that was done a few days later by Stowe Boyd, another early Twitter adopter. See the Spring 2013 installment of "Among the New Words" in American Speech [pdf], which I co-wrote with Charles Carson, as well as Boyd's own recent post on the subject.)

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"I feel like"

Katie J.M. Baker, "Ladies, What's Up With the 'I Feel Like' Verbal Tic?", Jezebel 8/23/2013

When I search my Gmail inbox for the phrase "I feel like," infinity results come up. "I feel like this particular story's very up your alley," a professional acquaintance wrote. "I feel like this might be the transitional stage to Federici's utopia," a woman in my book group joked. "I feel like I look too meek in my new profile pic," I worried to a friend. "I feel like I've done nothing of worth lately," another friend confided in me. "I feel like I'm being unhelpful." "I feel like it was important." "I feel like I have to reconcile my expectations."

We are feeling so many feelings, and we are very aware that we are feeling these feelings. But most young women I know are self-conscious about how often they qualify their emotions with "I feel like." If it's how we feel, do we need to drop an "I feel like" as a prelude to our feelings?

Here's what I don't like about "I feel like," a phrase I use constantly:

* It sounds a little indulgent, verging on narcissistic; when I say "I feel like" I feel like (ha) a touchy-feely liberal girl who learned to talk about her feelings in school.
* It evokes Carrie Bradshaw's pseudo-pensive "I couldn't help but wonder…"
* "I feel like" seems sheepish. I don't want to apologize for my feelings!

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Blocked on Weibo

This afternoon I received in the mail the following book:

Jason Q. Ng. Blocked on Weibo: What Gets Suppressed on China's Version of Twitter (and Why). New York and London: The New Press, 2013.

In this wonderful volume, Jason Q. Ng runs all the terms in the Chinese-language version of Wikpedia through the search function of Sina Weibo to discover which ones are censored. The results are mind-boggling in their ramifications.

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Today is the day

… that Grigory Rasputin predicted the world would end. This has not gotten much coverage in the U.S., despite links to zombiesmarijuana legalization and solar flares.

I've discovered a remarkable connection to linguistic theory, but have decided not to reveal it so as avoid unnecessary panic during our remaining hours.

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Manning's pronouns

Bradley Manning, just recently sentenced for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks, has released a statement announcing, "I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female." Manning also gave instructions on his-now-her preferred personal pronouns:

I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun (except in official mail to the confinement facility).

News organizations are struggling today with the pronominal quandary in reporting on Manning's new transgender identity. On Slate's XX Factor blog, Amanda Marcotte writes:

The transition is already awkward. Earlier today, the New York Times headline on a Reuters story on Manning's announcement danced around gender pronouns: "Manning Says Is Female and Wants to Live as a Woman." Clearing up the grammar for an updated headline just made the situation worse: "Manning Says He Is Female and Wants to Lives as a Woman." Well, if "he" is female, then isn't the word "she"? Manning has finally had a chance to express her gender preferences. Since most journalists had a notion this was coming, using confusion or surprise as an excuse for those headlines isn't an option.

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Questions and answers

Aaron Dinkin (formerly known as Dr. Whom) on Facebook:

Just got unexpectedly interviewed by Global News. Topic: Is social media ruining the English language? My answer: no.

He adds:

Just you watch, everyone, they'll edit it to take whatever I say out of context and make it sound like I'm buying into the premise.

And after the piece appeared:

Yep, that's what happened:

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Crispy curly noodle cakes

This morning, Jason Riggle and I were on Minnesota Public Radio's The Daily Circuit, discussing word aversion.

You can listen here:

After the show, the guy who set me up in the studio at WXPN confided that his personal horror is the word nourish. "And nourishment is just as bad", he added with a shudder.

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Journalistic quotation accuracy

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It doesn't get any better

Email from David Craig observes:

Usually this phrase is used to mean there's no room for improvement.  In this case it's quite the opposite.  52 seconds in to this recap of yesterday's Cubs Nationals game.

Here's the phrase, in a bit of context:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Five nothing Cubs, bottom five: It doesn't get any better for Jordan Zimmerman, as Dioner Navarro comes through with two men aboard.

Jordan Zimmerman is the pitcher for the Nationals, who has already given up several home runs, and at this point — the bottom of the fifth inning — gives one up to Navarro, the Cubs' catcher.

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Cantonese novels

In my estimation, there is far too little genuine topolectal literature in China.  Throughout history, nearly everything has been written either in one or another style of Literary Sinitic (Classical Chinese) or in the national koine / lingua franca vernacular (currently known as Pǔtōnghuà 普通话 [in Mainland China] / Guóyǔ 国语 [in Taiwan] / Huáyǔ 华语 [in Southeast Asian countries]), i.e., Mandarin.

I wish that there were vibrant, vital written forms for Hokkien, Shanghainese, Hakka, and many other varieties of Chinese, just as there are for Bengali, Gujarati, Oriya / Odiya, and so forth in India.  Considering the plethora of spoken languages in China, I believe that the development of corresponding written languages for at least the major varieties would lead to mutual enrichment and invigoration, including of the national language.  While there have been some sporadic efforts to write Taiwanese / Amoyese, a full-blown literary tradition has never developed for that language (see Sino-Platonic Papers #89, #92, and #172, as well as the works of Henning Klöter).  There have also been occasional efforts to incorporate a few words of the local language in so-called Shanghainese literature, but it usually amounts only to a sprinkling of Wu lexical items in what is basically a Mandarin matrix.  The situation for the other topolects is even less, with next to none or no written form at all.

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Man bites dog

Email from Michael Ramscar:

inspired by your last couple of langlog posts, i decided to pull together some things that look at frequency of mention versus social changes that can be quantified objectively. i made a few slides, that i've attached.

The slides are here, and I've also turned a slightly edited version into a guest post:

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Elmore Leonard, 1925-2013

Marilyn Stasio, "Elmore Leonard, Who Refined the Crime Thriller, Dies at 87", NYT 8/20/2013:

Elmore Leonard, the prolific crime novelist whose louche characters, deadpan dialogue and immaculate prose style in novels like “Get Shorty,” “Freaky Deaky” and “Glitz” established him as a modern master of American genre writing, died on Tuesday at his home in Bloomfield Village, Mich. He was 87. […]

To his admiring peers, Mr. Leonard did not merely validate the popular crime thriller; he stripped the form of its worn-out affectations, reinventing it for a new generation and elevating it to a higher literary shelf.

Reviewing “Riding the Rap” for The New York Times Book Review in 1995, Martin Amis cited Mr. Leonard’s “gifts — of ear and eye, of timing and phrasing — that even the most indolent and snobbish masters of the mainstream must vigorously covet.”

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