It's in bad taste to make fun of your followers. It tends to discourage, you know, the following. Still, I can't resist gently heckling one of my recent Twitter followers who described herself as: "Newly married humom of the two cutest dogs in Twitterverse and beyond."
In this Sunday's "On Language" column in the New York Times Magazine
, I take a look at how the car brand Cadillac
remains an emblem of luxury, even though Cadillac itself is no longer really "the Cadillac of cars." In the health care debate on Capitol Hill, we frequently hear high-cost health insurance plans described as "Cadillac plans." And there's another area of American culture where Cadillac
continues to have outsized linguistic importance: baseball.
Do you know what it means to dogfood
a product? Have you ever taken part in a bug bash
? Mike Pope, a technical editor at Microsoft, takes us on a tour of some of the quirky jargon that has sprung up at the software giant.
Leave it to lexicographers to sneak a word like hypallage
into a press release. The occasion is the Word of the Year from Webster's New World Dictionary
(yes, it's Word of the Year season already). Webster's New World
chose distracted driving
as its Word of the Year for 2009, defined as "use of a cellphone or other portable electronic device while operating a motor vehicle." The press release notes that distracted driving
features a "linguistic catch" that is "frequently seen in poetry": hypallage
. Say what?
At a scenic dropoff near the Lounge, whereunder flows the mighty torrent of English, we have lookouts posted whose job is to spot trends. Recently they have reported back on instances of a certain class of words that are ready for a closeup: a handful of nouns formed by fusing the two parts of a phrasal verb. Such words are legion in English (setback
, etc.) but we lack a handy term to designate them: snaptos
? In any case, this month's Lounge is a rundown of our lookouts' pickups.
Exploring a topic discussed here back in April
, the British linguist John Wells considers how people are forming the past tense of the verb "to text" (often pronounced, like the present tense, as "text"). Read about it on Dr. Wells's phonetics blog here
For the second year in a row, the Visual Thesaurus helped out the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses with its annual Spelling Bee to support the work of independent literary publishers. Once again, the VT supplied the words that challenged some of the leading lights of the New York publishing world.