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  • feedwordpress 08:01:44 on 2018/11/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , new words, , , words   

    “The language mint is more than a mint; it is a great manufacturing center, where all sorts of productive activities go on unceasingly”*… 

     

    Words

    Language is, famously, a living thing.  Just how alive is powerfully demonstrated by Merriam-Webster’s Time Traveler: enter a date; see the words and phrases that “officially” entered the language that year.

    Your correspondent entered the distant year of his birth… and got a list that ran from anti-matter and carpal tunnel syndrome through federal case and Maoism to sweat equity and tank top.

    Try it for yourself.

    * Mario Pei

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    As we contemplate coinage, we might recall that it was on this date in 1604 that Shakespeare’s Othello was performed for the first time, and on this date in 1611 that The Tempest premiered (both at the Whitehall Palace).

    Shakespeare was a prodigious coiner of words and phrases, creating over 1,700 across his works, several hundred of which are still in common use.

    blog_Shakespeare.words_-240x300 source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:00 on 2018/10/27 Permalink
    Tags: A Time for Choosing, , , political speeches, , resentment, , , words   

    “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”*… 

     

    victor

    One of dozens of definitions, from acrimony to wrath, that make up the language of resentment– “Glossary: Rivalry & Feud.”

    * Carrie Fisher

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    As we slog through the swamp, we might recall that it was on this date in 1964 that Ronald Reagan delivered what is still considered one of the most effective political speeches ever made on behalf of a candidate, “A Time For Choosing,” an endorsement of Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign.  While Goldwater was roundly defeated the following month, the speech launched the political career of Reagan, who was, soon after, asked to run for Governor of California… and who carried the tag “the Great Communicator” for the rest of his life.

    A_Time_for_Choosing_by_Ronald_Reagan.ogv source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:31 on 2018/03/21 Permalink
    Tags: , Brian Epstein, , , , , , usage, word origin, words   

    “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language / And next year’s words await another voice”*… 

     

    A few of the words first used in the year of your correspondent’s birth…

    Enter a year (in recorded history) and find the words first used then: Merriam-Webster’s Time Traveler.

    * T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

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    As we root around for roots, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that the Beatles played their first evening gig at the Cavern Club in Liverpool.  One month earlier, fresh back from Hamburg, they had played a lunchtime set; the club, which had focused until then on jazz, was experimenting with rock.  The test was a success, so the club’s owner, Ray McFall, declared Tuesday nights “Blue Jean Guest Night,” and kicked off with Dale Roberts & The Jay Walkers, The Remo Four, and the Beatles.  The band swiftly became a regular fixture at the Cavern, attracting a loyal audience to over 290 performances until their final appearance on August 3, 1963.  It was, of course, at the Cavern Club that Brian Epstein first saw the Beatles.

    The Beatles (with Pete Best on drums) at the Cavern Club. Best was replaced by Ringo the following year.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:16 on 2016/10/10 Permalink
    Tags: clothing, , , obscenity, Ofcom, Pierre Lorillard, profanity, Tuxedo, , words   

    “Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer”*… 

     

    Ofcom, the government regulator of communications in the U.K., recently commissioned research into the relative offensiveness of 150 obscene words and gestures, as a basis for its regulations on content.

    The “Quick Reference Guide” is here; the full report, here.  As the cover of each notes: “Warning: this guide contains a wide range of words which may cause offence.”

    * Mark Twain

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    As we titter, we might recall that it was on this date in 1886 that the “tuxedo” made it’s debut, at a formal ball at the then-new Tuxedo Park Club, just outside of New York City.

    Earlier that year, Tuxedo Park resident James Brown Potter and his wife were vacationing in England, where they were invited to dinner by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII).  Unprepared to dress for such an occasion, Potter asked the Prince for advice, and was sent to the the Prince’s tailor, Henry Poole & Co., where he was fitted with a short black jacket and black tie– not the then-standard white tie and tails.

    Potter brought the ensemble back to Tuxedo Park, where he showed it to Pierre Lorillard IV, the scion of a wealthy tobacco family, who had just opened the Tuxedo Park Club– and whose passion was designing clothes.  Lorillard revised the design to include the crepe lapels, covered buttons, and other now-standard details, and unveiled his creation at the Autumn Ball.

    The prospect of liberation from tails proved irresistible– and the “tuxedo” steadily replaced traditional “evening wear” as the American formal standard.  (Edward continued to wear “black tie,” so the fashion caught on in England too– as the “dinner jacket”– but remained a less formal option…)

    Lorillard (in his jacket, but with a white tie)

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:21 on 2016/05/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , words   

    “Anyone who can only think of one way to spell a word obviously lacks imagination”*… 

     

    “share-en-shnit-uh,” from the German, meaning “the art of cutting paper into decorative designs”

    Last Wednesday,285 participants 15 years old and younger took the stage in National Harbor, Maryland to recite words they’ve probably never used in conversation; the finals were held the following evening.  For the third year in a row, the result was a tie; the title was shared by  Nihar Janga, 11, of Austin, Texas, and Jairam Hathwar, 13, of Painted Post, N.Y., who were declared co-champions after fighting to a draw during 39 rounds of competition.  Jairam’s final word in the competition was “Feldenkrais” (a trademark that refers to a system of aided body movements); Nihar’s, “gesellschaft,” (a type of social relationship).

     “A lot of it is luck, to be totally honest,” says 2006 winner Kerry Close, now a 23-year-old reporter at Money Magazine. “There’s maybe a dozen, maybe more, kids who have a realistic shot of winning,” says Close. “Who actually wins comes down to pretty much who’s asked the right word.”

    Ten of the final words from previous Scripps bees, and the reason why spelling them is such a feat: “Why these winning words from US National Spelling bees are so hard to spell.”

    * Mark Twain

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    As we ask that it be used in a sentence, we might recall that it was on this date in 1593 that poet and playwright (Shakespeare’s nearest rival) Christopher Marlowe was killed in a tavern brawl.  Marlowe reputedly supplemented his income as a spy; in any case, he ran afoul of Queen Elizabeth’s government when, earlier in the month, his roommate, fellow playwright Thomas Kyd, was grilled by authorities.  Kyd insisted that the “heretical” papers found in his room belonged to Marlowe, who was subsequently arrested, but was able to use his connections to arrange bail.  While out Marlowe became involved in a fight– ostensibly over a tavern bill, but believed by many to have been a set-up– and was stabbed to death.

    The 1585 portrait discovered at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 1953, believed to be of the 21-year-old Christopher Marlowe.  The inscribed motto is “QVOD ME NVTRIT ME DESTRVIT,” “that which nourishes me destroys me.”  Indeed.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:07 on 2016/04/25 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Greg Borenstein, Herriman, , , , , vocabulary, words   

    “If you do not know the words, you can hardly know the thing”*… 

     

    … one of hundreds of evocative entries in Greg Borenstein‘s wonderful Dictionary of Fantastic Vocabulary.

    * Henry Hazlitt

    ###

    As we contemplate coinage, we might spare a thought for George Joseph Herriman; he died on this date in 1944. A cartoonist best remembered for Krazy Kat, which ran from 1913 until his death, he was never a commercial success; his strip survived via the admiration (and support) of his publisher, William Randolph Hearst.  But Herriman was enormously influential, a primary influence on cartoonists like Will Eisner, Charles M. Schulz, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Bill Watterson, and Chris Ware… and no mean wrangler of language himself.

    1922 self-portrait

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:53 on 2016/02/29 Permalink
    Tags: birds, , , , , , Rare Disease Day, , Wordbirds, words   

    “I don’t want just words”*… 

     

    ZAGATTITUDE  (N.) za-‘gat-i-tood  Mindset of one who always has a firm, vocal opinion on where, what and how to eat—informed by Zagats, Chowhound, and other foodie bibles. Usage: They all just wanted pizza, but Blake, flexing his Zagattitude, insisted they go to a pricey new tapas place he’d read about.

    Just one of the “Wordbirds“: an illustrated lexicon of neologisms for the 21st century…

    F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned

    ###

    As we match plumage with coinage, we might recall that this leap-day (like every “last day in February”) is Rare Disease Day— an occasion devoted to raising awareness of and encouraging action on the too-often horrifying ailments that fall outside the spotlight, but that cumulatively are all-too-common.  It’s a great day to adopt an orphan (disease).

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:53 on 2015/08/24 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , publication date, , , , words   

    “Some people have a way with words, and other people…oh, uh, not have way”*… 

     

    A few times each decade, the number of acceptable Scrabble words grows. Some sixty-five hundred new words—“lolz,” “shizzle,” and “blech” among them—will officially enter one of the two major competitive Scrabble lexicons on September 1st of this year. The grumbling that results when a word list lengthens is not so much about the inclusion of obscene or offensive words—though a cleaned-up list was controversially published in 1996, after someone protested the inclusion of “jew” as a verb. Instead, it is more about the growing divide between two Scrabble communities: North America and everywhere else…

    The history of everyone’s favorite word game– and an explanation of the controversy roiling it today– at “The battle over Scrabble’s dictionaries.”

    * Steve Martin

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    As we reach for a triple-letter double-word combo, we might recall that, while February 23rd, 1455 is the traditionally-given date of the publication of the Gutenberg Bible, the first Western book printed from movable type, the first evidence-based date is this date in 1456: the copy in the Bibliothèque nationale de France contains a note from the binder establishing the time of its publication.

    (The Jikji— the world’s oldest known extant movable metal type printed book– was published in Korea in 1377.  Bi Sheng created the first known moveable type– out of wood– in China in 1040.)

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:51 on 2015/07/29 Permalink
    Tags: American Mercury, , , , , , , , , words   

    “It is a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word”*… 

     

    The 9-15-year-olds who compete in the annual Scripps Spelling Bee tend to delight in words like “flibbertigibbet,” “onomatopoeia,” “schadenfreude,” “syzygy,” “tchotchke” and “triskaidekaphobia.”  We normal humans are forced to seek help with much simpler words like “grey,” “cancelled” and “Hanukkah.”  Vocativ used Google Trends data to learn which words were most frequently spellchecked in each state; along the way, they detected some interesting patterns, for instance:

    Out of all the states, Idaho turned to Google for spelling assistance most often, and when it did, the state’s most Googled spelling was “antelope.” Idahoans struggled with “cevilian” [sic] and stumbled over “tongue”. On the bottom of the list of spellchecking states, the confident writers and readers of Oregon resorted to Google least often, only using it for spellchecks 28% as frequently as Idaho residents, according to Google data.

    Here’s their summary chart:

    Read more (and see a larger version) at “These Words Would Knock Your State Out Of the National Spelling Bee.”

    * Andrew Jackson

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    As we spell “spell,” we might send acerbic birthday greetings to journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, and critic Henry Louis “H. L.” Mencken; he was born on this date in 1880.  Mencken is the author of the philological work The American Language, and is remembered for his journalism (e.g., his coverage of the Scopes Trial) and for his cultural criticism (and editorship of American Mercury— published by Alfred Knopf, also born on this date, but 12 years after Mencken ) in which he championed such writers as D.H. Lawrence, Ford Madox Ford, and Sherwood Anderson.  But “H.L.” is probably most famous for the profusion of pointed one-liners and adages that leavened his work…

    The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.

    Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

    I believe in only one thing and that thing is human liberty. If ever a man is to achieve anything like dignity, it can happen only if superior men are given absolute freedom to think what they want to think and say what they want to say. I am against any man and any organization which seeks to limit or deny that freedom. . . [and] the superior man can be sure of freedom only if it is given to all men.

    Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

    Truth would quickly cease to be stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it.

    And on spelling:

    “Correct” spelling, indeed, is one of the arts that are far more esteemed by schoolma’ams than by practical men, neck-deep in the heat and agony of the world.

    H.L. Mencken, photograph by Carl Van Vechten

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:30 on 2015/05/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , monstrous carbuncle, , Sainsbury Wing, , words   

    “I like good strong words that mean something”*… 

     

    From Word Journal, “a journal of interesting and infrequently encountered words.”

    Many more wonderful words there, and at its frequent source, the remarkable Ragbag.

    * Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

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    As we luxuriate in language, we might recall that it was on this date in 1984 that noted slinger of mots Prince Charles threw a wrench into plans to build an addition onto England’s National Gallery.  The museum had held a competition for designs, and tentatively settled on plans drawn by Ahrends, Burton and Koralek (with elements from the high-tech scheme of Richard Rogers).  The Prince, on reviewing the drawings, pronounced them a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend.”  His pronouncement sparked spirited dialogue, both on the proper role of the Royal Family and on the state of modern architecture.  Indeed, “monstrous carbuncle” has become a common descriptor for a modern building that clashes with its surroundings.

    The ABK plans were withdrawn, and the Gallery went back to the drawing board.  In 1991 they opened The Sainsbury Wing, designed by the architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.

    The Sainsbury Wing, as built, seen from Trafalgar Square

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