In the very beginning, it wasn’t clear that television – coined from Greek tele (far) and Latin-derived vision, and first used in 1907 to describe a purely hypothetical technology – would be the name of the new medium. The alternative telephote was proposed as far back as 1880, and televista in 1904. The American inventor Charles Francis Jenkins, who transmitted pictures of U.S. Secretary of Commerce (and later President) Herbert Hoover in 1923, called his system radiovision. Philo T. Farnsworth, who developed the first working electronic camera tube in 1927, called his invention an image dissector.
Purists like C.P. Scott, the British publisher and politician, sniffed at television’s hybrid origins. “Television? The word is half Latin and half Greek. No good can come of it,” Scott said in 1936.
Read the rest of “Television, in Other Words,” including an explanation of new TV terms such as OTT, cord-never, and household-addressable.
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.
My new column for the Visual Thesaurus looks at the shifting and varied meanings of special—a word that can mean particular, extraordinary, dear, and having an intellectual disability. I consider special delivery, BlueLight Special, Afterschool Special, and more.
By the time Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a sister of President John F. Kennedy, founded the Special Olympics in 1968, the association of “special” with “mentally challenged” was firmly established. If anything, it was the word “Olympics” that was controversial: the U.S. Olympic Committee holds a tight grip on the word, but in 1971 it granted official approval—a special dispensation, you might say—to the Special Olympics.
Special Olympics, special needs, and special education are just a few examples of the exceptional flexibility of special. Since it first crossed the English Channel from France in the 13th century, special has taken on multiple meanings—particular, remarkable, dear—and become part of dozens of idioms and expressions, from special relativity in physics to special magistrate, special pleading, and special prosecutor in law; from special effects in TV and movies (earliest usage: 1909) to special teams in US football. Its literal meaning, from Latin specialis, is “individual” or “particular,” as opposed to “general.” (Compare the related words species and genus.) But its extended meanings range far and wide.
The fourteenth Special Olympics begins July 25 in Los Angeles. Its theme song, “Fly,” was written and performed by Avril Lavigne, who has said “her struggle with Lyme disease inspired her to work on the project.” The singer was bedridden for five months. She does not, however, have any lingering mental or intellectual disabilities.
Blog bonus #2:
“Isn't that special”: Dana Carvey as Church Lady, “Saturday Night Live.”
The headline is inaccurate and inadequate— “words” don’t “become startups”—and I take issue with the snarky attitude, but this list of short “real” (dictionary) words used as names of startups is worth a look. And the way they’re organized is downright poetic. (Hat tip: Karen Wise.)
Speaking of poetic, the New Yorker’s Rebecca Mead consideredthe favorite words of some writers (mostly British and Irish)—Hilary Mantel loves nesh, Taiye Selasi celebrates the Ghanaian colloquialism chale—and added a favorite of her own.
Full access to the column is restricted to subscribers (just $19.95 a year for lots of great content!). Here’s an excerpt:
Pout was an English verb meaning “to puff out of the lips in displeasure” since at least the 1300s; the noun form (which is what I’m talking about here) emerged in the 1590s. The word’s origins are uncertain, although it may be imitative of the shape your lips make while saying the word. (French has a related verb, bouder, which gave us boudoir — literally, a room for sulking.)For most of its history pout had generally negative connotations: petulant toddlers pout, as do sulky teens. Then, in 2002, a London weekly, News of the World, turned its attention to a British TV actress, Leslie Ash, who’d had silicone injections in her lips. The newspaper coined the term “trout pout” to describe the unfortunate results, and the catchy if catty rhyme caught on. (The label isn’t quite scientifically accurate: trout don’t have especially prominent mouths. Some other fish do, however. There’s even a species, Trisopterus luscus, whose common name is “pouting.”) In 2008, Ms. Ash appeared in a TV documentary about botched cosmetic surgery and talked to newspapers about “my trout pout hell.”