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Words of the Year 2015

In its annual vote, the American Dialect Society has chosen its Words of the Year:

  • Most Useful was “they”, an animate singular gender–neutral pronoun.
  • Most Creative was “ammosexual”, a gun nut who identifies weaponry with manliness.
  • Most Unnecessary was “manbun”, using a bun as a men’s hairstyle.
  • Most Outrageous was “fuckboy”/”fuckboi”, an objectionably–behaving man.
  • Most Euphemistic was “Netflix and chill”, a sexual advance disguised as a proposal to relax while watching Netflix.
  • Most Likely to Succeed was “Ghost”, to abruptly end a relationship by ceasing all contact.
  • Least Likely to Succeed was “Sitbit”, anything that rewards for not being active.
  • Most Notable Hashtag was “#SayHerName”, used to bring attention to the serious problem of violence against women.
  • Most Notable Emoji was the eggplant, used for sexual implications

And the Word of the Year is the singular they.

Let me take this opportunity for another demonstration of why prescriptivism is bullshit. The example in this is objecting to using “they” as a singular pronoun. The nonsense objections seem to boil down to variations of the following:

  • Singular they violates number agreement. Essentially, if an antecedent is singular, so is its pronoun, and “they” is plural. This includes the singular aspects of distributives. It seems rather strange for number agreement to be so important that it cannot be violated, while at the same time natural gender (or, alternatively, animacy) agreement to be so unimportant that it can be abandoned
  • Singular they, by using plural verbs for singular antecedents confuses people. We use plural verbs in the second person, even when the context makes it clear that singular meaning is intended. Clearly, verbs being ambiguous with respect to number is no barrier to understanding. For example, we get by just fine without number agreement most contexts, such as the past perfective.
  • Singular they is a newfangled construction that is ruining the English language. The singular they is found in Shakespeare and Chaucer, for example. The earliest prescriptive complaints about it appear to date to the nineteenth century. Essentially, then, the singular they is centuries older than the earliest known  complaints about it.

In a companion vote, the ADS’s sibling organization, the American Name Society, chose “Caitlin Jenner” as its Name of the Year.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, everyone.

Late last night, there was an earthquake here in BC. This morning, everybody at work was talking about it.

Per news reports, the epicentre was off the coast of Saanich, on the Island.

As for what I felt, it woke me up. I heard a rumbling noise, and there was light shaking for about several seconds.

Election Day Today

Election day is today.

Make sure you vote.

Yesterday, as everyone knows by now, marriage equality is now the law of the land everywhere in the United States. The final decision was a 5–4 ruling.

Hooray for the future and equal rights!

The short answer is “too big”.

I found this report (via Political Irony), from, of all places, the International Monetary Fund, discussing the size of the gravy train subsidies given to fossil fuel industries. Among its findings:

  • Almost $5 trillion is spent in such subsidies. This is about 6.5% of global gross domestic product.
  • Coal gets the most subsidies. This finding is new to me. It is also the most disturbing, as coal is one of the worst fossil fuels in terms of pollution and global warming.
  • A substantial part of these subsidies are indirect, as in not properly charging for externalities.
  • Eliminating these subsidies would have enormous benefits, including increased government revenue, less pollution, and millions of fewer deaths
  • Global coordination is not necessary, as a country “going it alone” by eliminating subsidies will still reap benefits.

With the above benefits, it is obviously a great idea to end these subsidies now. Energy companies do not need these subsidies. Indeed, the same way those who are doing just fine don’t need an unpaid cheer squad, those who are doing just fine don’t need coddling from the government either.

USA wins it

The United States has won the Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship. They beat Canada 7–5 in the gold medal game. Finland won bronze, and Germany finished in eighth place and was relegated.

The final rankings are:

  1. United States
  2. Canada
  3. Finland
  4. Russia
  5. Sweden
  6. Switzerland
  7. Japan
  8. Germany – relegated to Division I A

Barring a change in format, these will be the pools for the 2016 tournament in Kamloops BC:

Pool A Pool B
Canada Japan
Finland Sweden
Russia Switzerland
United States Winner of Division I A

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