Photograph courtesy of Kevin Alves
I’ve come across the expression on street corners, near pizzerias, outside grocery stores, always as a prohibition. The location is invariably in Latino neighborhoods. Needless to say, the expression isn’t registered in either the OED or in the DLE (Diccionario de la Lengua Española de la Real Academia), which doesn’t surprise me. Lexicons have been slow in incorporating Spanglishisms, even one as versatile as this one.
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 …
A long time ago in a university far, far away (which I will not name), the English Literature department added to its undergraduate handbook a page of grammar and usage advice. That page, still reprinted every year, contains a well-known list of “common errors” stated as self-violating maxims (with droll intent). I will not repeat all of these tongue-in-cheek ukases, but here are a dozen samples:
||Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
||Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.…
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…
This is not click bait! Miley Cyrus actually is relevant to this post!
Everybody seems to be writing open letters to Miley Cyrus, especially, it seems, pop musicians who aren’t nearly as successful as she is. The latest example is a one-time indie personage named Sufjan Stevens, who put this on his blog:
Dear Miley. I can’t stop listening to #GetItRight (great song, great message, great body), but maybe you need a quick grammar lesson. One particular line causes concern: “I been laying in th…
Today’s quiz: What’s the difference between a bag and a sack?
(Spoiler alert: Before you read further, what’s your answer to that question?)
All right, you have your answer? It’s not hard, after all.
I put the question to three dozen first-year students at a small Midwestern college. Here’s what some of them said:
—Bags have straps, sacks have handles.
—A bag has handles and is usually bigger.
—A sack can be plastic or paper, while a bag is cloth.
—A bag is brown paper and a sack is plastic.
Sometimes you wonder if that whole language thing might not have been the best idea. I’m referring not to when people say “Best. [Blank.] Ever.” or misuse sly/”>literally, but to when they use words to dissemble, bully, obfuscate, self-aggrandize, proudly display their ignorance,
or and/or snarf up airtime like an imperial power having its way with a virgin land. Other times, though, you really understand the whole concept. One of those occasions, for me, came last week, when I heard excerpts of…
Darryl Myers offers a rich and interesting comment on my Lingua Franca post last Thursday, observing that German is a interesting case to look at. It is indeed.
Splitters (those who incline toward maximizing the number of different languages posited) might point out that some of what we treat as varieties of German are separate languages by the familiar test of mutual intelligibility. A German speaker from Bonn or Berlin will not understand Swiss German dialects like the speech of the Zurich are…
I wrote recently from Bosnia and Herzegovina about the curious practice of taking a unitary language and trying to find ways of representing it as several different languages for political reasons, in order that each of several ethnic groups should be able to claim a tongue of its own. I wrote on the basis of my own experience in the country rather than delving into reference books about it. But after my return I checked the classic reference work on the languages of the world: the Ethnologue.
Each year at around this time, the folks at Beloit College put out the “Mindset List,” a half-serious, half-facetious accounting of what incoming first-year students do and do not know. It is ostensibly designed for professors, but it’s always picked up by news media and Web sites, not only because it’s often funny and eye-opening, but because August is usually a very slow news month.
As I write, this year’s edition hasn’t come out, but to give you the flavor, here’s a little of last year’s: