"

When you use the word ‘flummox,’ for instance, your tongue is rolling across the same territory of every person who has ever spoken that word. It carries every sentiment every person has ever meant when speaking that word, plus your own. They say that every third breath you breathe contains at least one of the same molecules Caesar exhaled as he was dying.

Muriel Rukeyser has said, ‘The world is made of stories, not atoms.’ Think of the words, then, the same words you breathe that have been inhaled and exhaled throughout history. If you’re looking for a link, there it is. They are only shapes and noises formed into meaning. How many shapes and noises have crossed the tongues of those who have come before? And this exact shape and noise has crossed centuries to come to you, fully formed … Words say simultaneously too much and too little. This is why they are perfect for communication, most people’s lives operating in the uncomfortable balance between too much and too little. Nothing more precise.

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— B.K. Loren, from “Word Hoard” in Parabola, v.28, no.3, August 2003 (via apoetreflects)

(via awritersruminations)

Tags: words

Are there any words that you just hate? Maybe it’s the way they  sound, or how often they’re said, or how everyone always uses them out  of context. My ears start turning red whenever someone describes a  situation with possible unintended consequences as a “slippery slope.”  “Irregardless” is an old pet-peeve. And don’t get me started on music  writers who use “psychedelic” to mean “weird” and “loud.”
That’s why I’m thankful for the faculty at Lake Superior State  University in Michigan, who collectively are one of the few vanguards of  the English language—not culture warriors, but cultured warriors. “37th-annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness,” a list that LSSU cheekily describes as “an amazing list that is bound to generate some blowback.”
Censorship is only fun when it’s well deserved …

Are there any words that you just hate? Maybe it’s the way they sound, or how often they’re said, or how everyone always uses them out of context. My ears start turning red whenever someone describes a situation with possible unintended consequences as a “slippery slope.” “Irregardless” is an old pet-peeve. And don’t get me started on music writers who use “psychedelic” to mean “weird” and “loud.”

That’s why I’m thankful for the faculty at Lake Superior State University in Michigan, who collectively are one of the few vanguards of the English language—not culture warriors, but cultured warriors. “37th-annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness,” a list that LSSU cheekily describes as “an amazing list that is bound to generate some blowback.”

Censorship is only fun when it’s well deserved …

"During my school years, my university implemented a new email filter.  It wasn’t a censor, per se, since you were able to send any message you  wished, regardless of swears or sexy words. However, it rated emails by  how “hot” they were and a racy message incited a pop-up asking  something to the effect of, “Are you sure you want to send this message  as is? Your recipient may find some of the language offensive.” A mild  message earned one chili pepper, a racier message earned two, and a  message with a big gun like the F-word earned three spicy peppers and a  more strongly worded caution against sending. It was a whole lot of fun  to see what words piqued the attention of the censor program, and we  spent hours testing the system with combinations of curses and  scandalous language. Vagina, we were outraged to learn, earned a couple of peppers, but penis didn’t set off any alarms. Occasionally it was mystifying to type an  ordinary message to a friend or colleague only to have the filter  message pop up: “Are you sure you want to send this message as is?”  You’d go back and read your email to find the mysterious naughty phrase  that had set off the alarm, like I cocked my head or the exam was harder than I thought.
"It looks like texters in Pakistan will have a similar hurdle to  jump through while composing their mobile phone messages. The Pakistan  Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has dreamt up 1,500 “obnoxious” words to ban, according to The Guardian. It must have been quite a brainstorming session coming up with all the no-no words: everything from quickie to deposit to love pistol to flogging the dolphin.”
Keep reading …

"During my school years, my university implemented a new email filter. It wasn’t a censor, per se, since you were able to send any message you wished, regardless of swears or sexy words. However, it rated emails by how “hot” they were and a racy message incited a pop-up asking something to the effect of, “Are you sure you want to send this message as is? Your recipient may find some of the language offensive.” A mild message earned one chili pepper, a racier message earned two, and a message with a big gun like the F-word earned three spicy peppers and a more strongly worded caution against sending. It was a whole lot of fun to see what words piqued the attention of the censor program, and we spent hours testing the system with combinations of curses and scandalous language. Vagina, we were outraged to learn, earned a couple of peppers, but penis didn’t set off any alarms. Occasionally it was mystifying to type an ordinary message to a friend or colleague only to have the filter message pop up: “Are you sure you want to send this message as is?” You’d go back and read your email to find the mysterious naughty phrase that had set off the alarm, like I cocked my head or the exam was harder than I thought.

"It looks like texters in Pakistan will have a similar hurdle to jump through while composing their mobile phone messages. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has dreamt up 1,500 “obnoxious” words to ban, according to The Guardian. It must have been quite a brainstorming session coming up with all the no-no words: everything from quickie to deposit to love pistol to flogging the dolphin.”

Keep reading …

(via New York Times Book Review)

At 2,700 pages and almost 14 pounds, Webster’s Third [New International Dictionary] was a literally weighty work, the product of over 700 editor-years of effort, the publisher boasted. But it was widely denounced for what critics viewed as a lax admissions policy: it opened its columns to parvenus like “litterbug” and “wise up,” declined to condemn “ain’t,” and illustrated its definitions with quotations from down-market sources like Ethel Merman and Betty Grable. That was reason enough for The Times to charge that Merriam had “surrendered to the permissive school” and that the dictionary’s “say as you go” approach would surely accelerate the deterioration already apparent in the language.

(via The Guardian)

"Aerodrome" and "charabanc" are among the words presumed to have become extinct in the past year, according to lexicographers.

Dr Ruth O’Donovan, asset development manager at Collins Language Division in Glasgow, said: “We track words using a very large database of language which is a very large collection of various texts from spoken and written language, including books, newspapers and magazines so we can track language change over time.

"We track new words but we can also track for the frequency of existing words and when they get below a certain threshold we see them as being obsolete, though they may be used in very specialist circumstances.

"Such words are in our largest dictionary but we’ve categorised them as obsolete, as although they go out of general use they are still of interest to historians so it’s useful to have them in the dictionary. But we would exclude them from our smaller dictionaries."