I’m supporting these worthy endeavors and encourage you to join me:
1. Schwa Fire is a new digital publication “that will marry language geekery with long-form journalism,” according to its founder, the journalist, linguist, and author Michael Erard. (I wrote about Michael’s first book, Um…, in 2007.) Here’s how he describes the project:
I’ve been saying that Schwa Fire is going to be like This American Life, but for language. We’ll look at life through a linguistic lens, and look at lives and circumstances in the language world.
Stories will be relevant to the times and accountable to the facts, and you won’t have to become a linguist to understand them. We don’t profess; we inquire. We’ll commission pieces from people who know both story-telling and language because they've been involved in both for years. This expertise will allow them to dive into the language-related implications of a story while keeping readers asking “What happened next?”
Yes, Schwa Fire will pay its contributors! Hurrah!
Michael is raising money for the first issues via Kickstarter, and he’s off to a promising start. You can learn more and chip in as much as you’d like on the Kickstarter page.
Why “Schwa Fire”? Michael Erard explains: “Because everybody likes to say ‘schwa’ (which, by the way, is the name of a mid-central vowel that’s usually not stressed in English)” and because “if you’re reading Schwa Fire, it’s because you love all aspects of speech, language, and communication. ‘Fire’ points to passion and enthusiasm.”
2. Word Detective is one of the longest running (since 1995!) and most enjoyable online sources of information about words and language. Check out, for example, this recent post about Formica, a brand name that has nothing to do with ants or Ender’s Game. Evan Morris, the sole author of Word Detective (and author of an excellent little book about brand names, From Altoids to Zima), has kept up his monthly publication schedule despite being diagnosed about seven years ago with primary progressive multiple sclerosis ... and despite the loss of revenue from newspapers and magazines that no longer pay their contributors. (Unlike Schwa Fire!)
Long story short: If you value solid research and witty writing about words and language, how about subscribing or donating to Word Detective? It’ll help a lot, and it’s the right thing to do.
3. GoldieBlox is an Oakland toy company with a twist: Its founder and CEO, Debbie Sterling, is an engineer who wants more girls to get excited about math and engineering. So she set about “disrupting the pink aisle”—all those princess dolls and costumes in the toy store—with her clever and appealing construction sets for girls. “We don’t have a national shortage of princesses,” Debbie Sterling points out, “but we do have a national shortage of engineers.”
Here’s the best part: GoldieBlox is one of four finalists in Intuit’s “Small Business Big Game” contest, which will award a free ad during the 2014 Super Bowl* broadcast (worth something like $4 million) to the winner. The other contenders—a Minnesota egg business, a North Carolina dog-treat company, and a business in Idaho that makes “natural dairy compost”—are all worthy in their own ways, I’m sure. But GoldieBlox gets my vote because it’s local, it’s educational, and it supports girls. Not for nothing, I love the GoldieBlox name.
You can vote once a day through midnight (PST) December 1. Go GoldieBlox!