Today I can offer a twofer—my first sighting of a new word, and the opportunity to do good deeds that arises from it.
The new word is narcissism undone, “un” done if you will. Take the “selfie,” the photo you make of yourself and blatantly upload to Twitter or Facebook or Snapchat or Instagram or whatever. It’s the epitome of cute selfishness that supposedly characterizes the millennial generation. But then put “un” in front of it, and behold, you have the “unselfie,” or, with …
Louisville skyline, Wikimedia Commons
So how do you say the name of the biggest city in Kentucky, home of the Derby and Urban Bourbon?
The spelling is easy enough. All agree on Louis-ville, that is, the city of Louis XVI of France. The settlement at the falls of the Ohio was given that name in 1780, shortly after its founding, in gratitude for the Bourbon king’s support of the American revolution.
(As it happens, the town fared better than Louis did. When the French Revolution came, the monarch …
Solon of Ancient Greece
As the Kennedy retrospectives this week remind us, 50 years ago our legislators were solons. Especially U.S. senators.
That’s solon with a lowercase “s.” It comes from Solon with a capital “s,” a renowned Athenian legislator of some 2,600 years ago. Speaking to the American Newspaper Publishers Association in April 1961, President Kennedy invoked his principles:
“Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed—and no republic can surviv…
New Yorkers have been on line since before there was online—for nearly a century, at least.
They are so prominently on line, in fact, that those of us in the hinterland know it’s a way to identify New Yorkers by the way they talk. Not by their pronunciation, but by their words. If instead of waiting in line or standing in line, you wait or stand on line, you must be from New York—the city, that is, and neighboring New Jersey.
That fact is confirmed by the recent Dictionary of American Regional E…
Willie Mays, known as the Say Hey Kid
Hey, gentle reader. I have a little something for you today. No eureka moments, just an observation:
In the United States, “hey” is gradually taking the place of “hi” in friendly greetings—whether in person or online.
I don’t mean the “hey” of “Hey, you! Yes, you!” that we use to attract someone’s attention. We’ve always had that. This is the “hey” or “hi” we say when we recognize a friend or acquaintance coming to meet us, or when we s…
The other day I was just walking along when all of a sudden I stopped in my tracks. I was like, Eureka!
Why in the world would I do that?
Ah, it was a moment of enlightenment. I mean, I was like, At last! I know the answer!
I had hit upon the answer to a question that had been puzzling me for years. Why is it that so many of us nowadays say “like” (preceded by a form of “be”) to introduce something somebody said or thought?
Here’s a sample from Facebook:
“So I was talking to my friend the othe…
Back in 1883 “dude” would have been Word of the Year. No question.
How do we know? It’s thanks to Barry Popik and Gerald Cohen, in the latest issue of Comments on Etymology.
Comments on Etymology, edited and self-published by Cohen at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, has been characterized (by Cohen’s son) as “a blog before there were blogs.” It’s still like a blog, and it’s still not on the Internet.
Likewise, Popik, Cohen, Sam Clements, and a few other collaborators were goog…
As I said last week, the current leading candidate for the American Dialect Society’s choice of Word of the Year 2013 is surely “Obamacare,” a word whose very utterance (or avoidance) influences public attitudes toward the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Can’t argue with that. But I have a personal preference, a word that has come into its prime this year as a perfect expression of the actions and preoccupations of today’s youth, the so-called millennial generation. You can see t…
Image courtesy of Lit Reactor
As the year descends into the dark days ahead, it’s not too early to take a first look back at the language we have used in 2013 in order to find a Word of the Year.
That’s the designation, not always an honor, applied to a word or phrase selected from the verbiage of the year by the American Dialect Society.
The ADS WOTY, as we like to acronym it, is the Oscar of new-word choices, the one that matters most. That’s because it’s the alpha and omega—the first of…
So there are these two guys who want to be governor of Virginia. They had a TV debate about it last week, and darned if they didn’t each of them think he was the right man for the job.
Very nice guys, too. Terry McAuliffe, Democrat, and Ken Cuccinelli II, Republican. Dressed super-conservative in dark suits, white shirts, plain ties. If you missed the debate, you can catch it here, thoughtfully transcribed by someone from the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.
Not bein’ from Virginia myself, …