The week in words

Angela Tung
The Week

From the language of guns to the difference between U.S. and U.K. crosswords, the highlights from our favorite language blogs and the latest in word news and culture

Did you watch the Academy Awards last Sunday? We did and enjoyed this analysis of Oscar speeches far more. Meanwhile, Ben Yagoda enjoyed the luscious language of Lincoln; Ben Schmidt pointed out the anachronisms in Best Picture winner, Argo; and Geoff Nunberg wondered if historical accuracy of language really matters.

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In politics, NPR discussed how language shapes the gun debate; we met the man who edits the speeches of North Korean leader Kim Jung Un; and we were glad to learn the Associated Press changed their style guidelines in regards to the language around same-sex marriage.

While last week Allan Metcalf explained the grammar of newspaper headlines, this week he told us about the poetry of it. At Macmillan Dictionary blog, Gill Francis assured us you can’t go wrong with a hyphen, and Lars Trap-Jensen gave us a view from Denmark regarding the dominance of English. The OxfordWords blog discussed the language of crime, and Stan Carey translated some wonderful Dublin phrases.

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Fritinancy’s word of the week was behindativeness, "the exaggerated rear shape created by a large dress bustle." The Word Spy spotted goalodicy, "the continued pursuit of a goal despite evidence that the goal cannot be achieved," and demitarian, "a person who cuts his or her meat consumption in half."

The Dialect Blog shared a great find, the NBC Handbook of Pronunciation, as well as some thoughts on the language in Game of ThronesLynneguist explained the difference between British and American crosswordsSesquiotica gave us a taste of moxibustion and glides, and as his alter ego James Harbeck, rounded up nine confusing ways to pluralize words.

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Jesse Sheidlower spoke to Time Out about sex in the dictionary, while Christine Ammer discussed the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms with NPR. Megan Garber of The Atlantic showed us the Kindle of the 16th century. BBC News discussed SaypU, a proposed universal phonetic alphabet, while Victor Mair at Language Log had his doubts. Akira Okrent at Mental Floss wondered how many languages it’s possible to know. Meanwhile, a quirky dialect in northern California is dying out.

In author news, 50 unseen Rudyard Kipling poems have been discovered, and Jane Austen stamps are being issued for 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice. Based on these syllabi, we’d take a class with any of these famous authors, and would also consider taking these performance enhancing substances if the literary competition called for it, such as these medieval word puzzles.

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We loved these illustrations from Edward Gorey for The War of the Worlds and these from Charles Addams for Mother Goose. We learned the fun meanings of some ancient words; the origins of 10 great insults; the linguistic history behind the phrase rainbows and unicorns; and new ways to sit in the office thanks to smartphones and tablets.

We found out what a space roar is and the possible new names of Pluto’s smallest moons. In other naming news, certain surnames in the UK are dying out and apparently Chicken McNugget shapes have official names. Finally, we were saddened to learn that there’s a real life thing called Brogurt (we hope Burt from Raising Hope gets a cut).

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That’s it for this week! Next week we’ll be at the AWP Bookfair. Come to booth 2907 and say hello!

More from Wordnik...

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* The words of Downton Abbey, season 3

* 11 words from Charles Dickens

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* Whimsical words coined by Lewis Carroll


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