I’m hoping for another top-10 appearance, but like Miss Velma Kelly in Chicago, I simply cannot do it alone*. I would be very grateful if you (and your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, colleagues, children, and in-laws) voted for me. Here’s how, in one easy step: Click on the badge and select “Fritinancy” in the alphabetical list.
Yes, it’s just that easy!
I cannot tell a lie: The stakes in this contest are low, the financial rewards nonexistent. But my professional honor, and the honor of all name developers, is at stake. Why? Because the list of nominees is packed with translators, whereas Fritinancy represents exactly half of all the naming blogs in the running. (The other nominee is my esteemed colleague The Name Inspector. He’s very good, but my selflessness extends only so far.) Let’s win this one for the namers!
And just look at that handsome set of Lexiophiles badges over in the right rail! Wouldn’t a fourth one create a pleasing symmetry? Of course it would. So vote for Fritinancy!
These are not the resting-on sort of laurels: I’m supposed to nominate 15 other blogs and tell you seven interesting (or, according to some versions of the rules, “completely random”) things about myself.
Here are the interesting/random things about myself. As Grammar Girl put it, “This will be easier if we all pretend you care.”
I made my television debut at age four on the Los Angeles version of “Romper Room.”
I’m very good at American-style crosswords and word spirals, but hopeless at acrostics and cryptic crosswords.
A story I wrote for New West magazine about tampons and toxic shock syndrome was nominated for a National Magazine Award. In her bestseller The Coming Plague, science writer Laurie Garrett citedmy article as an “outstanding piece of investigative journalism.” That was better than winning the award.
I named a condom for Mayer Laboratories. (It’s not on their website, but you can read about it here, at least until I overhaul my website.)
I once wrote a sonnet in Spanish in the style of the Siglo de Oro poets.
I once wrote five original nursery rhymes for a company that made fancy furniture for children’s bedrooms.
I have swum from Alcatraz to San Francisco on two New Year’s Days—water temperature 50° F—and on many slightly warmer days as well. I don’t wear a wetsuit.
As for the 15 blogs, here are my choices. I also endorse the selections made by my predecessors in this chain (Wordnik, Grammar Monkeys, and Grammar Girl).
Word Routes. Ben Zimmer’s column for the Visual Thesaurus, “exploring the pathways of our lexicon.” Unlike my own VT columns, Word Routes doesn’t require a subscription (but you should subscribe anyway).
And because I’ve never met a rule I didn’t want to break, here’s a 16th nomination: Dustbury isn’t a language or branding blog, but it more than fits the “versatile” description. In a typical week, the sole author, C.G. Hill, might cover social media, automobile tires, basketball, My Little Pony, print magazines, transportation in Oklahoma, women’s shoes, and Zooey Deschanel—all with enviable literary skill and brio.
If the abovementioned nominees feel moved to play the game, here are the rules:
In a post on your blog, nominate 15 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award.
In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.
In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
In the same post, include this set of rules.
Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs. (Or tweeting.)
A few miscellaneous items for the first full day of (Northern Hemisphere) winter. Tomorrow: Festivus! I’ll present my annual Airing of Grievances.
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The Japanese word of the year, announced by the Japan Kanji Aptitude Testing Foundation on December 12, is kizuna. The word, which means “bonds between people,” was frequently used to express the solidarity and support shown by Japanese people in response to the disastrous earthquake and tsunami in March.
A little comic relief: You may recognize Christopher McDonald, David Koechner, Maria Bamford (the crazy Target Christmas lady), and Andre Royo (Bubbles from The Wire) in Funny or Die’s spot-on spoof of campaign commercials. Yes, let’s restore the dignity and the tradition of our Founding Santas!
Who knew that lexicographers had so much fun? Certainly not I. If only someone had told me, I’d have made a sharp detour away from journalism, my chosen (and doomed) profession, and headed straight for the great big tomes in the Reference section, which I actually enjoyed reading a lot more than city council reports and budget-negotiation recaps. With luck, I’d have ended up in a job like Kory Stamper’s: associate editor at Merriam-Webster.
Happily, there is now consolation in the form of Kory’s smart and funny new blog, which she describes as “a journeyman lexicographer’s look at the language as it grows and changes.”
You see, I love words. I love all of them, even the nasty bastardized ones—yes, I even have a love/hate thing for “irregardless.” Their histories, who they’ve been with, where they came from, where they are going. Reading is not just an escape or a hobby; it is a compulsion. I am that person you see on the subway who, upon finishing her newspaper or magazine, begins carefully reading all the ads and graffiti on the train and then moves on to the receipts in her pockets. If I run out of reading material, I start fidgeting like a coke fiend needing a line or ten. Do not come between me and my words.
Pre-Harmless Drudgery, Kory Stamper’s claim to fame(217,044 views!) was her two-minute video about the correct plural of “octopus.”
Here’s another example of the power of a small message—of what my colleague Christopher Johnson calls Microstyle. It’s the story of how a blog name has evolved over time.
Nancy Davis Kho is a journalist and blogger whom I got to know on Twitter last year and then—because we discovered that we live near each other in Oakland—in real life, too. At the time, her blog was called Nancy’s Notes—a default name, Nancy acknowledged, because she hadn’t thought of anything better. She’d started the blog in 2007 as “a catchall,” she told me in a recent email, “with posts related to the novel I was writing, my tech reporting, Oakland news ... whatevuh.” “Nancy’s Notes” had alliteration going for it but not much else: it was a blank slate that communicated none of Nancy’s wit, energy, and writing skill.
By the time we first met face to face last year, Nancy had decided to give the blog a single focus: humorous personal essays. She was still stumped for a name, so I sent her a list of 14 brainstorming suggestions. The names of personal blogs can be idiosyncratic, even quirky, and my suggestions took full advantage. A sampling: Repurpose the title of a blog post (“How to Wake Up Early” was one that sounded promising to me). Lift a phrase from one of the search-engine terms that brought someone to your blog. (I offered a search term from my own blog: “Another Word for Nom Nom.” Hey, it could work.) Adopt an “endangered” word from Save The Words. (That’s how Divinipotent Daily got its name.) Play with your surname. (Kho-Conspirator? Bi-Khostal?)
One of my suggestions centered on “normal,” which is how Nancy often described her life, wryly but not inaccurately. She does fit a certain picture of normality: husband, two kids, dog, satisfying work, happy childhood. That’s the suggestion that clicked with Nancy, and she turned it into her new blog name: Normalarkey. As she put it in a September 2010 post (“Normal? Malarkey!”):
[A] single definition of “normal” is just malarkey. Cell phone use in a symphony hall, pitching coaches for 8 year olds, someone getting laid off with no severance after 17 years with his employer…the new normal is the old nutty, to me. Thank goodness for friends who react by saying, “Are you and I the only ones who aren’t crazy?”
“Normalarkey” was playful and inventive, like Nancy herself. It was pronounceable—the portmanteau’s two elements meshed effortlessly—and appropriate. Nancy’s Notes was retired; Normalarkey was installed.
There was just one problem, as Nancy discovered over the months that followed: Normalarkey may have been appropriate and pronounceable, but it wasn’t memorable. Nornalarkey? Nonalarkey? Norma Larky? Malarkey? Nancy found herself doing way too much spelling and explaining.
So a few months ago Nancy did something brave: she changed the blog’s name again. And this time she scored an unequivocal win.
[T]his blog that I thought would be an ode to the absurd in everyday life (hence the amalgam of “normal” and “malarkey,” in case you wondered) has evolved into something more. It’s become a music blog, a parenting blog, a blog about working, a blog about modern life, a blog about my childhood family. In short, it’s a mixtape of what life looks like for a lot of us here at the midpoint, a blending of the demands of family, marriage, work, memories, with those things for which we’re still got some righteous passion – in my case, music in all its guises.
The meaning is right on target, but the name works for other reasons, too:
Alliteration. In the name and also in the blog’s subject headings: Motherhood, Music, Making a Living, Modern Life, Memories, and Miscellany.
Rhythm: “Midlife” and “mixtape” are both trochees (a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable).
Sonic balance: “Midlife” and “mixtape” both contain short /i/ vowels in their first syllables and long vowels in their second syllables.
Positive incongruity: Midlife suggests gray hair and backaches. A mixtape is a collection of pop songs. The combination is just quirky enough to make you smile and pay attention. (Mixtape is incongruous for another reason—it’s a slight anachronism, having been replaced by the more digital “playlist.”)
Take a look, too, at the blog’s subtitle, an apt and witty complement to Midlife Mixtape: “The next one is my favorite…”
And here, from Nancy herself, is the best thing about Midlife Mixtape:
Whenever I uttered it at BlogHer last week, everyone got it right away, no further explanation needed.
To vote for me—what, you thought I’d endorse some other language professional’s blog?—click the badge, find “Fritinancy” in the alphabetical list, and click the box next to the name. You can vote just once in each category; the other categories are Language Learning Blogs, Language Facebook Pages, and Language Twitterers. (I seem to have missed the memo to nominate myself in that last category. Wait till next year!) The complete lists of nominees are an excellent resource for linguists, translators, and word lovers of every stripe.
Thanks to you loyal readers, this blog was voted #4 in 2009 and #10 in 2010. If you enjoy what you read here, I’d appreciate your click of support in 2011!
The virtual polls close at 11:59 p.m., German time, on Sunday, May 29. Vote now!
I’ve added Ruth Wajnryb’s blog, Words Woman, to my blogroll, and I recommend that you bookmark it, too. Ms. Wajnryb is an Australian linguist who writes in an approachable and open-minded manner about new words, new meanings for old words, word play, and, yes, the addition of heart (v., tr.) to the OED. I first cited Ms. Wajnryb several years ago in a post about the migrating meaning of “erstwhile.”
More multiple meanings: Take the Language Log polysemy quiz. And read the rest of the post, in which author Geoffrey K. Pullum asserts, using boldface for emphasis: “Languages love multiple meanings. They lust after them. They roll around in them like a dog in fresh grass.”
What are blancmange, fish slice, pong, and skivers—all words from the British English lexicon—doing in So Much for That, a novel written by the American Lionel Shriver and set in the US? Jan Freeman explains. (P.S. So Much for Thatis one of the best novels I’ve read in the last five years.)
OK, we know that “Eskimos have a hundred words for snow” is a fallacy. But it turns out that English speakers have dozens of words for rain, from “ablaqueate” to “whisp.” Read them all in Ben Schott’s pluviovocabulary.
Got 10 minutes? Watch an episode of “The Beauty of Maps,” a BBC documentary that originally aired last year. The series is a guided tour through the British Library’s collection of 4 million (!) maps. (Via Swiss Miss.)
Speaking of maps, Muckety uses fascinating interactive maps to chart “the relationships of muckety-mucks”—i.e., people with power and influence, including Martha Stewart, LeBron James, and former Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter. Register at the site to create your own Muckety. Vocabulary bonus: “muckety” derives from “high-muck-a-muck,” a corruption of Chinook jargon “hayo makamak” (literally “plenty to eat”—by extension an important person). Chinook jargon was a Pacific Northwest trade language that was used well into the twentieth century.
How would a linguist translate “Dumber than a box of rocks” from the original Texan? Easy: “Dumber than a department of Sapir-Whorfians.” There’s a whole mess of useful conversions in “Texan for Linguists,” a possibly non-peer-reviewed article in Speculative Grammarian, “the premier scholarly journal featuring research in the neglected field of satirical linguistics.”
And speaking of flavorful Texas expressions, I’m partial to “Don’t just sit there looking like a tree full of owls,” from Maud Newton’s “Like We Say Back Home.” (Via Stan Carey.)
Over the last 12 months—and, let’s face it, even longer—I’ve taken many corporate and product names to task. In the waning hours of 2010 I’d like to balance the books and hand out some awards for Excellence in Naming.
In alphabetical order, here are ten (plus one) very nice names.