The Compulsive Copyeditor

June 11, 2010

Love the Tweeter, Hate the Tweet?

Filed under: language degenerating,language evolving,slang,vocabulary — amba12 @ 12:33 pm

Here’s your chance to do something about it.

Right from the start I felt ridiculous “tweeting” (not so much “twittering,” oddly) and felt it was infantilizing for adults to accept this lingo:  tweeps, twibbons, twibes . . . it’s as if we’ve all become a gene-spliced, lisping cartoon chimera of Elmer Fudd and Tweetie Bird.  According to the piece at the link, many people feel the same way about Facebook’s Botoxed “like” — forcing you to react with the verbal equivalent of a smiley face to, say, a powerfully despairing piece on the oil spill.  (It can be no coincidence that both Tweetie and the smiley face are my least favorite color, yellow.  And why do I hate yellow?  I’ll be Jewish and answer a question with a question*:  why was yellow the color the Nazis chose for the star of David they made the Jews wear?  Huh?)

However, these coinages have a despicable tenacity, like cockroaches in cracks.  They multiply and become ineradicable.  As Ann Althouse once admonished me when I bridled at accepting the word “vlog,” which sounded to me like a Soviet torture.

“Blog,” on the other hand, I adore.  Some people hate it.

The only hope is to coin better ones to begin with.  And in that respect, we’ll win some and lose some.

* Disciple:  Why does a Jew always answer a question with a question?

Rabbi:  And why should a Jew not answer a question with a question?

June 10, 2010

How Catastrophe Marks Language

Filed under: language evolving,vocabulary — amba12 @ 1:56 am

Mark Morford writes a playful but ultimately mordant post about the new words gushing into our language from BP’s broken pipe.

What other examples can you think of?  Often events become metaphors, from Waterloo to Watergate.  There’s the silly suffix “-gate” to signify any corruption scandal (as silly as “-burger” to denote any patty of ground meat; “Hamburger” originally means something or someone from Hamburg!).  There’s “Ground Zero,” passing from Hiroshima to Lower Manhattan by way of the eerie misuse “go back to ground zero,” which apparently precedes even square one.  There’s “Obama’s Katrina.”  There’s “a tsunami of” this or that.  Some events are irreducible to metaphors.  D-day is only and always itself.  V-J Day never became vajayay-day.  So “the Holocaust,” although that word, literally “all burned,”  originally meant “a sacrifice consumed by fire” and then any catastrophic blaze.

Other, better examples of marks left on the language by great catastrophes or crises, from Pompeii to Teapot Dome?  Do these words stay, or do they eventually date and fade away?

June 5, 2010

Usage Find of the Day

Filed under: language degenerating,Usage Find of the Day — amba12 @ 12:28 am

And from an editor, no less!

Mr. Line as a personality was not always easy to live with. “He would trod the toes of other senior staff members,” Mr. Graham said.

That’s “Frank Graham Jr., field editor of Audubon and one of its longest-serving contributors,” quoted in an obituary of the magazine’s one-time editor, Les Line.

Generations would trod, would trod, would trod . . .

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