How Weed Became the Hippest Slang Term for Marijuana
In a piece the other day about Ronan Farrow's new MSNBC chat show, Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times noted that Farrow "made an effort to seem hip. He referred to marijuana as 'weed' and made an aside about the Ukrainian opposition leader, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, who was recently freed from prison, saying that she 'also has amazing hair.'"
Eighty-One Cantonese Proverbs in One Super-Cool Illustration
Ah To, a graphic designer and part-time cartoonist who is concerned about the survival of Cantonese, recently published a comic called "The Great Canton and Hong Kong Proverbs" on Passion Times, an independent media site in Hong Kong.
Spike Lee's Gentrification Rant Sends People to the Dictionary
Lookups of the word gentrification spiked in late February after film director Spike Lee, in honor of African American History Month, gave a talk at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. Lee denounced the economic and cultural consequences of more and more white people moving into predominantly black neighborhoods, such as Harlem and Fort Greene, and later received the following comment from an audience member:
Blitspostn, Vebzaytlekh, Veblogs: The Rise of Yiddish Online
For all its global pretensions, the Internet barely knows from languages. Only five percent of the world's 7,000-plus languages have a robust presence online, according to a recent study, and digital communication remains overwhelmingly in English, Chinese, Spanish, and just a few other languages. Those with far fewer speakers, and especially those without official status, may lack even the tools to type a sentence, let alone build a website.
The Oxford English Dictionary Wants YOU!
Who coined the term shell shock? When, and where, were artillery shells called streetcars? And who first described sausage and mash as Zepps in a cloud? These are just some of the questions that the Oxford English Dictionary is asking as it updates its coverage of First World War vocabulary.
Do You Say on the Weekend or at the Weekend?
Recently over dinner, several Americans and a Canadian got into a discussion with an Irishman and an Australian about weekends. Since all of the participants were linguists, the conversation centered on prepositions: Were we having dinner on a weekend in February or at a weekend in February? The North Americans voted for on, a choice that the Irishman found preposterous. "A weekend," he observed, "is not a surface."
Ted Nugent Calls Obama a “Subhuman Mongrel,” Issues Non-Apology
Lookups of the word mongrel spiked recently after word spread that 70s rocker and present-day conservative activist Ted Nugent referred to President Obama as a "subhuman mongrel" in an interview he did last month with Guns.com. Nugent is known for his inflammatory remarks, but this one gained attention as he campaigns for Republicans in Texas.
Confused by All the New Facebook Genders? Here's What They Mean.
This month, Facebook started allowing users to self-identify as something other than male or female. Good. There may be some cynical ad-targeting motive at work, but as Facebook spokesman Will Hodges explains, "While to many this change may not mean much, for those it affects it means a great deal."
This Pronoun Will Make You Irresistible to Women
Earlier this month, Wired magazine published "How to Create the Perfect Online Dating Profile, in 25 Infographics," a large-scale statistical study of which words and phrases correlate with high numbers of responses to online dating ads. For example, mentioning "yoga" or "surfing" in your ad was found to have a positive influence on the number of contacts that will result. For men, it is much better to refer to a woman using the word "woman," but a woman's ad will do better if she refers to herself as a "girl." Most interesting to me, however, was that men who use "whom" get 31% more contacts from opposite-sex respondents.
Is Masters of Sex as Anachronistic as The New Yorker Says? No Way.
Hendrik Hertzberg has made a series of claims recently on the New Yorker website ("Nobody Said That Then!") about the ostensible inaccuracy of the language used in the television show Masters of Sex. His main contention is that many of the characters' utterances are improbable, asserting that certain words and phrases were not in use at the time that the show takes place (the mid-1950s). One of the problems with making bold and declarative statements about the origins of specific words is that these words have a nasty habit of first appearing much earlier or later than memory or intuition would attest.