On Tuesday, Sarah Palin, wearing a hypnotically sparkly garment that sartorial conservatives might have impugned as inappropriate for a daytime event, delivered a 20-minute endorsement of real estate developer and former Democrat Donald J. Trump, who, as you may have heard, is running for president as a Republican in order to Make America Great Again. As the New York Timesput it, in an excess of understatement, “Ms. Palin has always been a singular force on the campaign trail. But in her her years away from politics, the former Alaska governor and Senator John McCain’s Republican vice-presidential pick in 2008 seems to have spawned a whole new series of idiosyncratic expressions and unusual locutions.”
I’ll say. Here are some of the responses Ms. Palin’s “expressions and locutions” have inspired.
With 8 percent of 2015 still in the mysterious future, the first Word of the Year (WOTY) nominations have already begun. Oxford Dictionaries made history, and stirred up some controversy, by selecting an emoji – “Face with Tears of Joy” – as its, um, lexical unit of the year. (Emoji was a Fritinancy Word of the Week in January 2012.)
And at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Lingua Franca blog, Allan Metcalf – he’s the executive secretary of the American Dialect Society – makes the case for basic: “the word this year to describe someone or something that fits a stereotype, especially the ‘basic white girl’.”
Canadian retailer Kit and Ace – see my post about the company name here – is adding coffee shops to its boutiques: The first Sorry Coffee opens tomorrow in Toronto. “Sorry” can mean “worthless” or “inferior,” but here it’s “an attempt to poke fun at Canadians — a winking nod to the quick-to-apologize stereotype,” co-founder J.J. Wilson toldthe Star. Be sure to pronounce it the Canadian way: SORE-ee.
How do you translate a colloquial, nonliteral expression like Trainwreck—the title of the new Amy Schumer feature film—into non-English languages? IMDb has a list of global akas; Mashable has helpfully re-translated some of them. (Not included in the Mashable list: Y de repente tú (“And suddenly you”), probably the most romantically inclined of the bunch. In France, by the way, the official title is Crazy Amy—yes, in English.
Translation of the French Canadian title, Cas désespéré.
Three guys were watching HBO’s “Silicon Valley” when it occurred to them to create a dictionary of jargon used on the show. The result is Silicon Valley Dictionary, where you’ll find definitions for terms like This changes everything (“Nothing has changed. Pure marketing”) and Awesome journey (“used when a startup has failed”).
“When Simon Tam dropped out of college in California and moved to Portland, Ore., to become a rock star, the last tangle he imagined falling into was a multiyear battle with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over his band’s name.” The trademark tussle over “The Slants,” which the USPTO has deemed “disparaging” and thus ineligible for protection. (For a more technical perspective, see this Brent Lorentz post at Duets Blog.)
The strange charm of cutthroat compounds like pickpocket, scarecrow, and, well, cutthroat: Stan Carey on these rare English words“that have a long, colourful history and constitute a very interesting category.” (I wonder how the newish fondleslab fits in?)
The 2014 Social Security Administration stats on baby names are out, and the Baby Name Wizard blog has discovered some interesting trends in the data. The biggest trend? What naming expert Laura Wattenberg calls “the great smoothing of American baby names”: goodbye “chunky” names (Jayden, Jessica), hello “silky,” vowel-rich names (Amanda, Mia, Noah, Liam).
Speaking of popular names, here’s a fun tool to discover what your “today baby name” would be, based on the ranking of your own name in the year you were born. The tools works backward too: If I’d been born in the 1890s, chances are I’d have been named Minnie. More than a time-waster, the tool can be a big help in character-naming. (May take a while for the tool to load.)
“She originally went by Flo White, then Lord of the Strings. She eventually settled on the Period Fairy. It was more straightforward.” A new ad from category-busing Hello Flo, which sells a Period Starter Kit to adolescent girls.
Cornell University, in addition to asking for the slow dance music proviso, forced an agency to include a clause which would prohibit the ork [orchestra] from smoking on the bandstand.
Bracketed definition supplied by the author.
Curious about the term, which was new to me, I emailed Ben Yagoda* and asked him whether it was a Billboard coinage. He replied that he thought it came from Variety, the daily paper, founded in 1905, that coined or popularized a lot of show-biz lingo, including B.O. (box office), cleffer (songwriter, from musical clef), and biopic (biographical picture). But when I did a little independent digging, I was unable to find a link between ork and Variety. Instead, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, ork first appeared in print not in an industry journal but in a New York scandal rag called Brevities;the magazine favored illustrations of what were probably called scantily clad cuties and headlines like “Fair Gals Grab Stiffs!” The OED’s earliest citation for ork is from the April 24, 1933, issue of Brevities: “Joe Haymes’ Nut Club ork..has been compelled to take on a few Noo Yawk musicians.” The other citations are from the American jazz magazine Down Beat (1935) and Billboard (1949), and from a couple of British sources: Colin MacInnes’s 1959 novel Absolute Beginners and a 1988 article in the UK jazz magazine Wire.
Ork is also, of course, the home planet of TV’s Mork, played by the late Robin Williams. And orc is either “any of various whales, such as the killer or grampus,” or “one of an imaginary race of evil goblins, esp in the fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien.”
The pluralized form of ork has a separate history in British slang. The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, published in 2005, gives orks as a truncation of orchestra stalls, rhyming slang for “balls” (testicles). (“Orchestra stalls,” often shortened to “stalls,” are what American theatergoers would call “orchestra seats”—that is, seats not in the mezzanine or balcony.)
If you know your botanical etymology, you’re probably thinking what I thought: Wait a minute, doesn’t orchid mean testes? (Yes, it does, from the Greek orkhis.) So couldn’t orks = balls have a Greek source? Well … maybe. The OED gives separate etymologies for orchestra (from orkheisthai, to dance) and orchid. But in A Garden of Words, published in 2005, Martha Barnette, co-host of public radio’s “A Way with Words,” notes that orkhis—or orchis—comes from the Indo-European root ERGH- (“to mount”), and that “some scholars link orchis and ERGH- to the Greek word orkhein, which means “to dance” … the orchestra in an ancient Greek theater being the area where the chorus danced.”
And that’s as far as I got – I never located those mysterious orchestra-orchid scholars.
“The tale of ‘scofflaw,’ born in Boston at a time when Prohibitionists were staging mock funerals of ‘John Barleycorn’ and fleets of Coast Guard rum-chasers patrolled Boston Harbor, shows that sometimes real words can actually be invented on demand. They just don’t always behave exactly the way their engineers hope they will.” (Boston Globe, via @ammonshea.) I wrote about “scofflaw” in a 2011 blog post. More on the language of Prohibition in this 2010 post.
[T]he project leader’s initial idea was straightforward: the Anti-Qassam, referring to the type of missiles most commonly fired by Hamas. When that was rejected as “problematic,” he and his wife came up with Golden Dome, an image that brings to mind the palaces of Kubla Khan or perhaps (closer to home) the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. That name was rejected as being too ostentatious, so under the pressure of time, gold was reduced to a lesser metal, and Iron Dome was born.