Olympic Diver Tom Daley Comes Out in Favor of Singular They
When British Olympic diving star Tom Daley decided to come out as bisexual, he made a statement with a charmingly clever use of singular they:
"In spring this year my life changed massively when I met someone, and they make me feel so happy, so safe and everything just feels great," Daley said. "That someone is a guy."
Watch Surfers and Valley Girls Explain the Latest Slang in This 1980s Documentary
Slang has to start somewhere. And according to this late '80s video report, the kids were picking it up from California, that "breeding ground for every new kind of lifestyle, every fresh form of religious practice or cult of self-improvement, the state that thrives on defense contracts and flower children." More specifically though, they were getting it from the surfers, the most California subculture of them all.
What's the Point of Baby Talk?
Do you know what I'd like to know? Do you? Dooo you? Yes! Yeeeesss! Yes, you dooo! Don't you?
Well, if you don't, I'll tell you. What I'd like to know is: What's the point of baby talk?
This is a bit of a disingenuous question, because I'm going to give you some possible answers. But I'm not entirely sure which, if any, of them is right. Linguists don't agree on this. Seriously: You can take courses from different professors who will tell you directly contradictory things with equal certainty.
No, a Drunken Australian Man Did Not Coin the Word Selfie
It's been another whirlwind week in the dictionary world. A few months ago, you might recall, Oxford Dictionaries announced that it was adding twerk in its latest quarterly update. The announcement came amid the uproar over Miley Cyrus twerking at MTV’s Video Music Awards, creating what I called a "perfect lexicographical storm." Suddenly, everyone was weighing in on how the inclusion of twerk in a dictionary—from Oxford, no less!—signaled nothing less than the disintegration of the social fabric.
The Germans Have a Word for It: Reißverschlusssystem
Earlier this year, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute released its "Urban Mobility Report, 2012," or, more apt in the case of Washington D.C., its immobility report. Those of us living in or outside the District—rated the most traffic congested metro area in America with a population of 3 million or more—are delayed an average of 67 hours annually in our cars. Which translates to 32 gallons of gas, or $110, burned out of our wallets and into the atmosphere.
Why Is the Word the So Difficult to Define?
It's the most frequent word in the English language, accounting for around four percent of all the words we write or speak. It's everywhere, all the time, so clearly it must be doing something important. Words have meaning. That's fundamental, isn't it? So what does "the," a word that seems to be supporting a significant portion of the entire weight of our language, mean? It must mean something, right?
Shitschturm: The Controversial Rise of Denglisch
The word "shitstorm" was institutionalized in the latest edition of Duden, the most-respected German-language dictionary, which was published in July. The English profanity had previously spread through the ranks of German society, even working its way into German Chancellor Angela Merkel's vocabulary. She employed the word in a public meeting—Germanized in pronunciation to "shitschturm"—to describe the eurozone crisis.
Batman bin Suparman Arrested on Drug Charges. Here's How He Got His Name.
According to Reuters, a 23-year-old man in Singapore was sentenced to two years and nine months of prison time for a variety of charges, including stealing money from his brother and taking heroin. This rather sad story made international news for precisely one reason: the man's name is Batman bin Suparman.
Batman bin Suparman first achieved Internet fame back in 2008, when a scanned image of his identity card made the rounds on Gizmodo and elsewhere. So does this young Javanese-Singaporean really have two superheroes in one name? Well, one superhero and one Javanese name that's coincidentally similar to another superhero. Let's take a look.
Watch This 1925 Silent Film About the Creation, Literally, of the OED
Long before digitization threatened print, mechanization enabled it. The Oxford University Press archive has unearthed this wonderful silent film, made in 1925 by the Federation of British Industry, showing the step-by-step creation of a book. The movie employs title cards, clever camerawork, and even animation to bring the viewer into the process—from casting type by hand to stitching together the binding to pressing on gold leaf.
Mystery Solved: The Etymology of Dude
For some time now, we have known the basic outline of the story of "dude." The word was first used in the late 1800s as a term of mockery for young men who were overly concerned with keeping up with the latest fashions. It later came to stand for clueless city folk (who go to dude ranches) before it morphed into our all-purpose laid-back label for a guy. What we didn't know was why the word dude was chosen in the first place.