It's the biggest literary sensation since Harry Potter
: Stephenie Meyer's
saga is coming to an end with the fourth and final installment in her best-selling series of vampire romance novels. Breaking Dawn
goes on sale a minute after midnight on August 2, and bookstores across the country are holding Twilight
parties for fans who want to buy the book as soon as it's available. The only question is: what to call this fervent fan base? Some want to be called twilighters
and some prefer twi-hards
. It's an indication of just how enthusiastic the fans are that this terminological issue has become a point of contention.
Ever wonder how work is done at the Oxford English Dictionary
, the world's largest and most prestigious English-language dictionary project? We got the inside story from none other than Jesse Sheidlower
, OED editor at large, who works on North American materials out of the dictionary's New York office. In the first installment of our three-part interview, Jesse explains how the OED's North American Reading Program
operates. (Note the firmly American spelling of "Program"!) The reading programs (or programmes) have been radically transformed by the digital revolution, but at the same time they still follow the traditions set down 150 years ago by James Murray, the dictionary's first editor. As Jesse explains, the OED relied on "the wisdom of crowds" for the gathering of historical evidence long before the age of Wikipedia.
Last week we featured a debate over contemporary usage of whom
, with Baltimore Sun copy editor John McIntyre
squaring off against Stanford linguist Arnold Zwicky
. To be honest, the exchange was a bit too civil and reasonable to live up to its billing as a "usage showdown" — at least based on the Visual Thesaurus definition of showdown
as "a hostile disagreement face-to-face." I was amused to see that on his copy-editing blog, "You Don't Say
," John McIntyre facetiously referred to the debate with an even more inappropriate term: smackdown
, which most people (in the U.S. at least) would associate with professional wrestling
. Other violent confrontations ending in -down
. And where do hoedowns
fit into all of this?
we presented the first part in our usage showdown on "whom," from Baltimore Sun copy editor John E. McIntyre, a self-professed "moderate prescriptivist." Today we present the descriptivist side of the debate, from Arnold M. Zwicky
, Professor of Linguistics at Stanford University, who frequently writes about matters of English usage on the group weblog Language Log
. Let us know in the comments section which perspective you find more convincing, or sound off with your own opinion!
Last month on the VT, a commenter
complained about the use of the word "who" in a sentence beginning, "Joshua Kendall, who we interview this week..." This wasn't the first time
that one of our readers objected to the use of "who" instead of "whom." Since this is such a contentious point of English usage, we thought we'd offer two different perspectives on the great "whom" debate. Today we present the viewpoint of John E. McIntyre, assistant managing editor for the copy desk at The Baltimore Sun, who runs an entertaining blog on copyediting, You Don't Say
. Tomorrow we'll hear from a descriptive linguist, Arnold Zwicky of Stanford University. Let the showdown begin!
It's hard to keep up with techie terms these days. Last week, Apple Inc. announced
it would no longer use the word push
to describe the way that its new online MobileMe
service communicates to personal computers and electronic devices like the iPhone. Turns out the service wasn't always "pushing" data to "the cloud" as quickly as users were expecting. To which non-technophiles would probably say, "Huh?"
For today's installment of Mailbag Friday, our question comes from VT subscriber Barry Francolino in Romania. (One of our many far-flung correspondents!) Barry writes, "Just interested to know where the word/phrase/idea pipe dream
comes from." The definition given by the Visual Thesaurus, "a fantastic but vain hope (from fantasies induced by the opium pipe)," gives a whiff of its origin.