(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘lexicography

“Create your own visual style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others”*…

 

Before you see the latest animated feature from your barista’s favorite director, relive his meticulous works from the past that made you kind of happy, kind of sad, and kind of unsure – It’s Every Wes Anderson Movie!

* Orson Welles

###

As we celebrate symmetry, we might recall that it was on this date in 1839 the “OK” entered the English language when it was printed in The Boston Morning Post….

Meant as an abbreviation for “oll korrect,” a popular slang misspelling of “all correct” at the time, OK steadily made its way into the everyday speech of Americans.

During the late 1830s, it was a favorite practice among younger, educated circles to misspell words intentionally, then abbreviate them and use them as slang when talking to one another. Just as teenagers today have their own slang based on distortions of common words, such as “kewl” for “cool” or “DZ” for “these,” the “in crowd” of the 1830s had a whole host of slang terms they abbreviated. Popular abbreviations included “KY” for “No use” (“know yuse”), “KG” for “No go” (“Know go”), and “OW” for all right (“oll wright”). [Think LOLZ, OMG or NBD today…]

Of all the abbreviations used during that time, OK was propelled into the limelight when it was printed in the Boston Morning Post as part of a joke. Its popularity exploded when it was picked up by contemporary politicians. When the incumbent president Martin Van Buren was up for reelection, his Democratic supporters organized a band of thugs to influence voters. This group was formally called the “O.K. Club,” which referred both to Van Buren’s nickname “Old Kinderhook” (based on his hometown of Kinderhook, New York), and to the term recently made popular in the papers. At the same time, the opposing Whig Party made use of “OK” to denigrate Van Buren’s political mentor Andrew Jackson. According to the Whigs, Jackson invented the abbreviation “OK” to cover up his own misspelling of “all correct.”  [source]

 source

 

Written by LW

March 23, 2018 at 1:01 am

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language / And next year’s words await another voice”*…

 

A few of the words first used in the year of your correspondent’s birth…

Enter a year (in recorded history) and find the words first used then: Merriam-Webster’s Time Traveler.

* T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

###

As we root around for roots, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that the Beatles played their first evening gig at the Cavern Club in Liverpool.  One month earlier, fresh back from Hamburg, they had played a lunchtime set; the club, which had focused until then on jazz, was experimenting with rock.  The test was a success, so the club’s owner, Ray McFall, declared Tuesday nights “Blue Jean Guest Night,” and kicked off with Dale Roberts & The Jay Walkers, The Remo Four, and the Beatles.  The band swiftly became a regular fixture at the Cavern, attracting a loyal audience to over 290 performances until their final appearance on August 3, 1963.  It was, of course, at the Cavern Club that Brian Epstein first saw the Beatles.

The Beatles (with Pete Best on drums) at the Cavern Club. Best was replaced by Ringo the following year.

source

 

Written by LW

March 21, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work”*…

 

In 1699, an anonymous lexicographer known only as “B. E., Gent.” published the first comprehensive dictionary of non-standard English. Although shorter word lists and glossaries of slang terminology had been published previously, B.E.’s New Dictionary of the Canting Crew listed over 4000 words and phrases, and is credited with being the first such publication resembling a modern dictionary. As a result, it remained the standard reference work for English slang and jargon for almost another century…

“Addle-plot,” “ebb-water,” and 28 other examples of historic jargon at “30 Excellent Terms From a 17th Century Slang Dictionary.”

* Carl Sandburg

###

As we reach for the right phrase, we might send gritty birthday greetings to a man who was a master of the coinage of crime– Samuel Dashiell Hammett; he was born on this date in 1894.  Hammett worked as an agent of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency from 1915-1922, when– disillusioned by the organization’s role in strike-breaking– he left to become a writer, providing copy in an ad agency until his fiction earned enough to support him.  Hammett drew for his fiction on his experiences as a “Pinkerton Man,” and created an extraordinary series of characters– Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man), The Continental Op (Red Harvest and The Dain Curse)– on the way to becoming, as the New York Times called him, “the dean of the… ‘hard-boiled’ school of detective fiction.”

In his book The Simple Art of Murder, Raymond Chandler, considered by many to be Hammett’s successor, observed,

Hammett was the ace performer… He is said to have lacked heart; yet the story he himself thought the most of The Glass Key is the record of a man’s devotion to a friend. He was spare, frugal, hard-boiled, but he did over and over again what only the best writers can ever do at all. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before. 

 source

 

Written by LW

May 27, 2017 at 1:01 am

There’s (now) a word for that…

 

From Oxford Dictionaries, the OED Birthday Word Generator

Do you know which words entered the English language around the same time you entered the world? Use our OED birthday word generator to find out! We’ve scoured the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to find words with a first known usage for each year from 1900 to 2004. Simply select the relevant decade and click on your birth year to discover a word which entered the English language that year.

Please note that the dates given for these words refer to the current first known usage of the word. The OED team is continuously researching the histories of words (something you may be able to help with), and it’s therefore possible that we will find an earlier sense of the words during our research…

A full exploration of the words of one’s nativity year requires a subscription; but the graphic on the intro page (pictured above; accessible here) is live, and will generate the word-of-the-year for any year selected.  Your correspondent’s birthday word (or phrase, as it happens):  “big bang.”

###

As we marvel at how times flies, we might send dramatic birthday greetings to Jean-Baptiste Racine; he was born on this date in 1639.  One of the three great dramatists in France in the 17th century (with Molière and Corneille), Racine was primarily a tragedian, producing plays like Phèdre, Andromaque, and Athalie, considered neoclassical masterpieces.  Racine was a dramatic poet, writing in dodecasyllabic alexandrine; the linguisitic effects that he achieved have been considered essentially impossible to capture in translation– though many have tried:  Robert Lowell and Ted Hughes into English, and Friedrich Schiller into German.  (The quest continues: poet Geoffrey Argent won the American Book Award for his 2011 attempt to translate Racine’s plays into English.)

A strict observer of the dramatic unities, Racine frustrated Antonin Artaud, who wrote (in The Theater and Cruelty), “the misdeeds of the psychological theater descended from Racine have made us unaccustomed to that immediate and violent action which the theater should possess.”  Conversely, Proust developed an earlier love of Racine “whom he considered a brother and someone very much like himself…” (Marcel Proust: A Life, by Jean-Yves Tadié, 1996).

 source

 

Written by LW

December 22, 2013 at 1:01 am

Forgotten words…

 

From Studio Jubilee, a collection of forgotten words: Lexican…  e.g.,

More nostalgic nouns, verbs, and modifiers at Lexican.

###

As we appreciate history, we might recall that it was on this date in 1545 that François Rabelais received the permission of King François I to publish the Gargantua series– Gargantua and Pantagruel as we know it.  In fact, Rabelais’ wild mix of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, bawdy jokes, and songs had been circulating pseudonymously for years.

Rabelais wrote at a time of great ferment in the French language, and contributed mightily to it– both in coinage and in usage.  But his influence was even broader (Tristram Shandy, e.g., is full of quotes from Rabelais) and continues to this day via writers including Milan Kundera, Robertson Davies, and Kenzaburō Ōe.

 source

 

Written by LW

September 19, 2013 at 1:01 am

Warning: pinaciphobes avoid!…

 

We define a phobia as ‘an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.’ You are probably aware of the more common phobias, such as arachnophobia (fear of spiders), claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), and agoraphobia (fear of open places), but did you know there are also words which describe the fear of idleness, worms, and even body odour?…

Find them all at OUP’s “A list of phobias from ‘atelophobia’ to ‘zelotypophobia’” (an excerpt from which, above).

[“Pinaciphobia,” fear of lists; c.f. also: “katastichophobia”]

###

As we face our fears, we might recall that it was on this date in 1876 that George Bernard Shaw quit his job as a clerk in an estate office to devote himself full-time to writing.  Though his first success was as a music and literary critic, and he later co-founded the London School of Economics, he is best remembered as a dramatist, the author of over 60 plays.

It’s a measure of his gift for creating high literature that connected with mass audiences that he is the only person in history to have won both the Nobel Prize in Literature (1925) and the Oscar (in 1938, for his work on the film Pygmalion, an adaptation of his play by the same name).

 source

 

Written by LW

July 5, 2013 at 1:01 am

Coinage…

From our old friend Dante Shepherd, “Defining words that aren’t real. Yet.”  E.g…

Head-bashery (noun): like head-banging, but done by someone with no energy and rhythm; in effect, pathetic head-banging.

Juxtapolitician (noun): a political figure who automatically denounces the stance, proposal, beliefs, or achievements of his/her political opposite, just because he/she is the political opposite.

Meanderthal (noun): one who has failed the driver’s exam multiple times.

Lots more experimental lexicography at The Oxford English Fictionary

###

As we noodle new nouns, we might send consoling thoughts to Philo T. Farnsworth; he was born on this date in 1908.  As a Utah schoolboy, Farnsworth began to develop the design of the electronic system that became, in 1927, the world’s first all-electronic television system.  In 1931, RCA’s David Sarnoff tried to acquire Farnsworth’s patents, with the stipulation that the inventor join RCA as an employee.  When Farnsworth refused, Sarnoff backed a rival technology, sued Farnsworth, and used his considerable political clout to have the RCA system declared the standard.

 source

Written by LW

August 19, 2012 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: