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?

February 17, 2010

The Genius of Slang

Filed under: etymology,language evolving,slang — amba12 @ 9:26 am

This post is a showcase for brilliant examples of the wit and wisdom of the vernacular.

It was inspired by finding this one, never before heard:

“I’ll be 75 Oct. 6,” Willie says. “And still getting me some unda-yonda.”

That could be the best term for sex ever invented.  What else captures in a breath the way it’s at once low down and far out, humiliating and transcendent?  “Genius” is not an overstatement.

(Sex and its associated anatomy are of course among the greatest inspirers of these coinages.  Nookie is another goodie.)

The anonymous folk poets who coin these things are among my foremost culture heroes.  They salt and season the language, that bubbling Irish stew anyone can throw a little something into, that ever-evolving collective cuisine we all take into our mouths every day.

Please contribute your own examples.  Please live up to the high standard set by this one.

There are basically two categories:  new terms you’ve just discovered, and clichés reappreciated.  Every cliché is a fossil coinage that was so apt that it got swallowed by the language.  My kickoff example for that category is over the hill.  You don’t know how apt that one is until you get over said hill.  Only then do you realize how hill-like life is — an energetic, engrossing climb with your next steps in front of your nose and the summit in your sights, followed by an unanticipated and precipitous toboggan ride.

There may even be a third category for word-origin sleuths:  what were probably once lively slang expressions entombed in etymology.  Like the grandly dismissive Latinate  preposterous, which essentially means “ass-backwards” (which actually means “ass-forwards”).

Have at it.

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