The leaves of Citrus hystrix are used in many South and Southeast Asian cuisines; they’re sometimes called by their Thai name, makrut, but in many English-speaking countries they’ve long been called kaffir lime. That’s changing thanks to a protest “against the racial and religious slur of ‘kaffir’,” writes Tiffany Do in SF Weekly (“Citrus-Based Racism Leads Market to Change Product Names”). “Kaffir,” which comes from an Arabic word meaning “unbeliever,” was appropriated by English colonizers in South Africa, where it was used as a slur and a term of abuse against blacks. “What’s most surprising in this whole controversy is that the issue hasn't been addressed – and remedied – before now,” writes SF Weekly’s Do. Most markets are switching to the neutral “lime leaves.”
Photo via Flicker/robinejay
Who decides what makes a word “real”? Anne Curzan, a language historian and member of the American Heritage Dictionary’s usage panel, explains why she finds language change “not worrisome but fun and fascinating.” (TEDxUofM talk; video and transcript.)
What do speakers of Japanese, Spanish, and Finnish call “John Doe,” Mr. Anonymous Average Guy? Baby Name Wizard looks at the names of “nobodies” around the world. (For inanimate placeholder names, see my 2008 post on kadigan.)
Struggling with the best way to tell your corporate story? ThinkShift distills the narrative into five essential elements.
“The CIA is a prescriptivist scold, a believer in the serial comma, and a champion of ‘crisp and pungent’ language ‘devoid of jargon’”: Michael Silverberg, writing in Quartz about the recently declassified—and “ruthless”—CIA style manual. (Via @jessesheidlower.) By the way, since June 6 the CIA has had a public Twitter account.
We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.— CIA (@CIA) June 6, 2014
Another reason for style-guide fans to rejoice: the BBC News style guide is “now fully and freely available online,” writes Stan Carey in his Sentence First blog. I was particularly amused by the “Americanisms” section, which includes this starchy sentence:
We say: meet (not ‘meet with’),consult (not ‘consult with’), talk to (not ‘talk with’), protest against a decision (not ‘protest a decision’), appeal against a verdict (not ‘appeal a verdict’).
And, n.b., the BBC does not punctuate the abbreviations i.e. or e.g.
In the early to mid-1960s, Mad magazine carried on a “glorious” and “fearless” anti-smoking campaign through parody ads that “closely resembled the real ones that ran on television and in magazines,” writes David Margolick in the New Yorker’s Culture Desk blog. The ads attacked tobacco companies, ad agencies, and smokers with equal-opportunity opprobrium. Mad has always been ad-free, and—unusual for the 1960s—its offices were “largely smoke free” as well: the magazine’s publisher, William Gaines, “was fanatically opposed to the habit,” writes Margolick.
It’s not every day that a name developer has the chance to name a radically new technology. Anthony Shore had such a chance when the makers of a “cinematic virtual reality” device hired him. Read about how Jaunt got its name.
“Machines don't need names, but we feel the need to name them,” writes Adrienne LaFrance in The Atlantic (“Why People Give Human Names to Machines”). The urge has long been with us, or at least some of us: a siege engine was named “Domina Gunilda” (“Lady Gunild”) in an Anglo-Norman document of 1330-1.
Some of Facebook’s conference rooms are named after bad ideas (Sub-Prime Mortgages, Land War in Asia). The genetic-research company 23andMe names its computer servers after characters and plot points in “Arrested Development” (Gob, Annyong, Nevernude). These and many more lists of “clever names that companies have called their conference rooms, servers, etc.,” via Quora.
(My favorite submission comes from Erica Friedman, who once worked for an ad agency whose conference rooms were named Ideation, Creation, Dream, Coopetition [sic], and Resonate. “It was horrible and miserable and it still makes me shudder,” she writes. Erica and I are not related, but we are definitely soulmates.)
The CIA. So amusing, those spooks. Oh, my sides.
Meanwhile, I am surprised that suddenly kaffir is known to be an ugly, horrible word. Where were these people in 1986 when Kaffir Boy: The True Story of a Black Youth's Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa, by Mark Mathabane came out?
Posted by: tanita | July 17, 2014 at 11:56 AM