Browsing Month January, 2006

Prescriptivist ESP

Astonishing what extrasensory knowledge Charles Harrington Elster must have of the vast files at Merriam-Webster in order to speak so self-authoritatively about what’s standard, common, or normal for American English speakers. It’s a good demonstration of the difference between an opinion based on wishful thinking or anecdotal evidence, and an opinion based on data. The more…

Blogging in 1999

This is what it was like to be a blogger in early 1999 when you could still fit all the bloggers in New York City around a couple of tables. You’d need Madison Square Garden now.


Maybe this is the answer to all the emails I get from people claiming to have created a previously unknown word. Most of the time they’re wrong—they didn’t invent a unique word, but merely re-coined it (see this post on what “to coin” can now mean: not to invent a word, but merely to say more…

Edwina Booth, star of Trader Horn (MGM, 1931)

For the past couple of weeks in the Provo, Utah, Daily Herald, D. Robert Carter has been laying out the highly entertaining life of Edwina Booth, a Provo-born actress who found stardom in the 1931 movie Trader Horn. Part one: Hollywood star began her life in still-standing Provo house, including mysterious divinations by a gypsy more…

KPBS “A Way With Words” Episodes

I’ve received a flood of nearly two emails asking for the episodes of the KBPS radio program A Way With Words that I co-hosted earlier in January. Go crazy: Jan. 7 episode (23MB MP3), Jan. 14 episode (23MB MP3). Special thanks to Mrs. Trellis of North Wales.

Holy crap! People are communicating with abbreviations, acronyms, and rebus!

Another lame-ass article, one of a gafuckillion, on texting. We already know it’s here. It’s been here for decades. When is anyone going to have something more to say about it than, “hey, look at this—it’s wacky!!!!!!!!”?


Already in OED, so no point in recording it as a cite, but worth pointing out: chitting ‘sprouting, germination; spec. the process of allowing potatoes, etc., to sprout.’ In the gerund/noun form, it dates to 1727. The verb to chit ‘of seed: to sprout, germinate’ dates to 1601.


“When he walks, his knees hit the skin that’s literally hanging down to his knees.” That’s what happens when you lose 650 pounds: it leaves as much as 100 pounds of excess skin and tissue that used to hold in the fat. A panniculus is “a sheet or layer of tissue.”

Whopping cough

“…an outbreak of pertussis, commonly called whopping cough…” The New Oxford American Dictionary includes as a run-on definition of whopping ‘the regular pulsing sound of a helicopter rotor’ which makes a whopping cough the perfect ailment for a foley artist working on a Vietnam War movie.

Suing for dictionary errors

If all dictionary publishers were sued for errors of lexicography, then there’d be no dictionaries left. Of course, this fellow in China is suing the bookstore where he bought his copy of the Xinhua Dictionary and not the publisher. “It is too troublesome for me to file a lawsuit in Beijing where the press is more…