Sunday, August 21, 2005

Things that entertain the language snobs among us

Yes, it's fun to mock celebrities at Go Fug Yourself, but you know what's even more fun sometimes? If you're a word geek? Language Log. Here are a few recent posts that amused me this evening.

First, I deplore inventive spelling. Spelling is spelling is spelling; getting jiggy with spelling is just plain wrong. All those future adults named Maddisen and Makayla and Jordyn—just wrong. Another case in point: The people who market that upright wheelie thing that George Bush fell off, the Segway. They took a perfectly good word, segue, and got jiggy with it. Now, increasing numbers of people seem to think the word that means transition is spelled "segway." Read more here, in "The birth of an eggcorn." (An eggcorn is a word or phrase that the listener/writer has gotten almost but not quite right: e.g., eggcorn instead of acorn, bear-faced lie, butt naked, cease the day, dashboard stomach. A longer list of eggcorns is available here.)

In this post, linguist Mark Liberman investigates the use of the Germanic-sounding verb onpass, as in "Unfortunately, those myths have been onpassed to current generations." The word seems to have become established in the finance arena. Liberman can't resist coining his own words in that vein, such as upturn, throughslip, uplook, and outcheck. Outcheck it! Start using these words yourself and upkick your language a notch.

This post relates the things people say when they learn someone is a linguist. "Oh, so William Safire must be the bigwig in your field, right?" Or when meeting a philosopher. "Oh! What are some of your sayings?" There's also a cute quote: "At this point in the conversation, I was presented with a dilemma. In social situations, I don't like to act like that guy—�you know, the guy who has to be right all the time and rubs your face in it? (Note that I say I don't want to 'act like' him, because I am in fact that guy, but I try to keep a lid on it.)" Can you relate to that? Just a little? C'mon, admit it.


JM said...

I _love_ Language Log. Unfortunately, I usually need to have a dictionary and/or my Linguistics 101 text sitting next to me whenever I read it, because I'm just not that smart.

Those folks really do a number on eggcorns. Good stuff, all around.

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

When I was a graduate student in philosophy, I regularly had lunch at this resturaunt where the waitress would always ask me to "say something deep." The first time, I tried to explain that it doesn't work like that. The second time, I just said "you can't step into the same river twice." The third time, I started going someplace else for lunch.

Psycho Kitty said...

The best for eggcorns was the Ex, being a non-native speaker. It was like when your kid learns to talk and can't say things right...I hated to correct him. My favorite was "happy as a clown". Well, hell--it makes more sense that way.