Posts Tagged ‘language’

Select-Language-iconThere is a movement at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, which I once visited, to “bring a collection of old school words back into the modern-day vernacular.” They are:

Caterwaul – A shrill howling or wailing noise.
Concinnity – The skillful and harmonious arrangement or fitting together of the different parts of something.
Flapdoodle – Nonsense.
Knavery – A roguish or mischievous act.
Melange – A mixture of different things.

Obambulate – To walk about.
Opsimath – A person who begins to learn or study only late in life.
Philistine – A person who is hostile or indifferent to culture and the arts, or who has no understanding of them.
Rapscallion – A mischievous person.
Subtopia – Monotonous urban sprawl of standardized buildings.

Caterwaul and philistine I use as often as possible, myself.

Arthur asked: “But who’s championing the case of the words we should lose?”
Read the rest of this entry »

magic8ballOccasionally I get the darnedest questions at work. Someone wanted information about the toy The Magic Eight Ball, which used for fortune-telling or seeking advice,. It is apparently manufactured in China, and someone wanted to know if the number eight was selected – instead of seven or nine – because the number eight is considered lucky in China.

I found no evidence of that. I assumed it was developed from a billiards reference, which it appears to be. But it was interesting to read about the derivation of the term behind the eight-ball:

…a common idiom meaning to be in trouble, stymied or thwarted, in an awkward position or out of luck. Read the rest of this entry »

I saw this handy list of pleonasms & redundant phrases. And what IS a pleonasm, you might very well ask?

Pleonasm (/ˈpliːənæzəm/, from Greek πλεονασμός pleonasmos from πλέον pleon “more, too much”) is the use of more words or parts of words than is necessary for clear expression: examples are black darkness, or burning fire. Such redundancy is, by traditional rhetorical criteria, a manifestation of tautology.

In this article, one can read George Carlin’s Department of Pleonasms and Redundancies.

But are all the words on the list that bad? I am going to make the case for keeping some of them, though NOT “three a.m. in the morning.” The inference, in most cases, is that by dropping one or more words in a phrase, the sentence would be equally clear.
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Sometimes, librarians get distracted by non-work-related stuff.

One of our librarians wanted to help a colleague who operates a trivia night competition periodically. He was working on a variation on a question he heard in a Trivial Pursuit edition, something along the lines of “Which two 1960s classic songs, released within a year of each other, both use the phrase ‘koo kook a choo'”.

Librarian that he is, he wanted to know how to “spell” the “koo koo”. Read the rest of this entry »

On Christmas Eve, I’m reading the Facebook feed of someone I sorta know – she interviewed me by phone and e-mail for an article about education – and I come to this story You Don’t Have the Right to Remain Silent, a story about the Supreme Court’s “terrible—and dangerous—ruling” on the Fifth Amendment, a decision I hate. The presumption is that a “person of interest” need be versed in the nuances of law. Here’s the ruling in Salinas v. Texas in which “you remain silent at your peril,” as the SCOTUS blog recaps this.

But it couldn’t have been decided on THAT Monday Read the rest of this entry »

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