Anything worth talking about, is worth blogging about

Posts tagged ‘English language’

Words of 2016

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

  • Political word of the year was “post-truth”, an era when opinion matters more than facts and reality.
  • Digital word of the year was “@”, to use the @ symbol to respond on Twitter.
  • Slang word of the year was “woke”, “socially aware or enlightened”.
  • Most useful/most likely to succeed (combined categories from last year) was “gaslight”, subtly psychologically manipulating a person in a manner to make them question their sanity.
  • Most creative was “laissez-fairydust”, using pure laissez faire economics as an economic cure-all and panacea.
  • Euphemism of the year was “locker room banter”, crude, vulgar misogynist talk that harasses women.
  • WTF word of the year was “Bigly”, in a notable way or important manner.
  • Hashtag of the year was “#NoDAPL”, used to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  • Emoji of the year was the fire, essentially meaning important or hot.

And the Word of the Year is “Dumpster fire”, meaning a fast-progressing omnishambles that is a major disaster.

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


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.

Word of the year 2014

The American Dialect Society has chosen its Words of the Year 2014:

  • Most Useful was “even” in the sense of handling a tough situation.
  • Most Creative was “columbusing” a kind of cultural appropriation, especially when a majority group “discovers” something already known by a minority.
  • Most Unnecessary was “baeless” meaning without a romantic partner.
  • Most Outrageous was “second-amendment” meaning to kill someone.
  • Most Euphemistic was “EIT”,  for enhanced interrogation techniques.
  • Most Likely to Succeed was “salty” meaning exceptionally upset.
  • Least Likely to Succeed was “platisher” meaning a webmedia that is an output for creative works.
  • Most Notable Hashtag was “#blacklivesmatter” protests over Black people killed by police.

“#blacklivesmatter” was also Word of the Year.

The ADS’s sibling organization, the American Name Society, chose “Ferguson” as its name of the year.

Word of the year 2013 are chosen because reasons!

The American Dialect Society has chosen its words of the year for 2013. First the other categories:

  • Most Useful was “because” when used to introduce another word, like in the title of this post.
  • Most Creative was “catfish”, when you misrepresent yourself online in the pursuit of romance.
  • Most Unnecessary was “sharknado”, a tornado full of sharks that came out of a movie.
  • Most Outrageous was “underbutt”, the underside of people’s buttocks, made visible by certain clothings.
  • Most Euphemistic was “least untruthful”, the smallest amount of lying.
  • Most Likely to Succeed was “binge–watch”, which is to television shows what binge–eating is to food.
  • Least Likely to Succeed was “Thanksgivukkah”, having Hanukkah start on (US) Thanksgiving.
  • Most Productive was “–shaming”, a form of public humiliation.

As an aside, I am surprised there were no “economy words” like shutdown, sequester, debt ceiling, etc. If this is due to them being common than I really don’t like the implications of that.

And the Word of the Year? Because… because reasons! Because useful! Because everywhere!

In a companion vote, the ADS sibling organization, the American Name Society, chose Francis (after the pope) as its Name of the Year.

Word of the Year 2012

The American Dialect Society has chosen its word of the year. This year, the winner was “hashtag”, “a word or phrase preceded by a hash symbol (#), used on Twitter to mark a topic or make a commentary”. In other categories:

  • Most Useful was “-(po)calypse, -(ma)geddon”, suffixes used to describe various (nearly) catastrophic events.
  • Most Creative was “gate lice”, a crowd of airline travellers congregating near a gate so they can board the plane.
  • Most Unnecessary was “legitimate rape”, that term used by a misogynist who I’m fucking glad isn’t a US Senator.
  • Most Outrageous was “legitimate rape” (looks like we have a double winner).
  • Most Euphemistic was “self–deportation”, the act of encouraging undocumented immigrants to return home.
  • Most Likely to Succeed was “marriage equality”, namely same–sex marriage. As I and others have been using this term for years, I’d say that it’s already well on its way to success.
  • Least Like to Succeed was “phablet”, an electronic device midway between a phone and tablet in size.
  • Election Words was “binders (full of women)”, as used by Mitt Romney to describe the resumes of women he considered hiring when he ran Massachusetts.

In a companion vote, the American Name Society (the ADS’s sibling organization) chose “Sandy” (after the hurricane) as its Name of the Year.

Worst punctuation complaint ever

I just found this ridiculous rant concerning punctuation. The guts of that post is that English punctuation is illogical because we don’t use Spanish–style inverted question marks to begin questions (and, mutatis mutandis, inverted exclamation points). By reading his rant you’ll notice that the writer seems not to know the difference between a tag question and a tag itself. The reason for his belief is that it is confusing to rely on context to determine when a question begins. The fact that he makes such a claim shows why he has no clue what he’s talking about.

Heres why.

What happens when you ask a question in the English language? In almost all cases, either you invert the subject and an auxiliary verb (if there’s no auxiliary, add one), or you do the preceding and also begin with one of the wh–words. The main difference between the two question forms is that the former is a yes–no (or polar) question, while the latter is a wh (or non–polar) question. The other form is a tag question. Tag questions are a semantically a subtype of yes–no questions. Let’s look at examples:

  • (Declarative): You went to the store.
  • (Polar) Did you go to the store?
  • (Wh) Where did you go?
  • (Tag) You went to the store, didn’t you?

What do wh– and yes–no questions have in common? The first word(s) (or implicitly, the word order) in either of them indicate that the following sentence is a question. In other words, the beginning of these sentences indicates that what follows is a question. Hence, there is no need for a beginning of sentence question–marking punctuation mark because the words and word order already do that. Tag questions are rare enough that they won’t need special punctuation rules. Indeed, in speech, tag questions have no “marker” at the beginning that tells us a question is coming, but this in no way hinders our ability to make ourselves understood. The same applies to writing.

This post has been edited for clarity.

Words of the year and decade

The American Dialect Society has chosen its words of the year and word of the decade.

  • The word of the decade was “google”, meaning to search the internet.
  • The word of the year was “tweet”, meaning a short message sent through Twitter, or the act of so doing.
  • Most Useful was “fail”, as in “FAIL”.
  • Most Creative was “Dracula sneeze”, the act of sneezing into your elbow.
  • Most Unnecessary was “sea kittens”, PETA’s euphemism for fish.
  • Most Outrageous was “death panel”, those non–existent committees of doctors that will euthanize your grandma (thank you Sarah).
  • Most Euphemistic was “hike the Appalachian Trail”, to have sex with a secret lover.
  • Most Likely to Succeed was “twenty–ten”, the name of the year 2010.
  • Least Likely to Succeed was any term used to refer to the last decade.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: