I’ve read more books about Trump, Trumpism, and What It All Means than is probably healthy for me, but until I read Thank You for Your Servitude, by Mark Leibovich (Penguin Random House, 2022), I’d never laughed my way through a Trump book. Leibovich, a veteran Washington correspondent (New York Times, The Atlantic), focuses not on “your favorite president” but on the lickspittles and soul-sellers who sought relevance through their obeisance to him, most notably Senators Rubio (R-FL), Cruz (R-TX), and Graham (R-SC), all of whom had been loudly contemptuous about TFG before he became the nominee and they made the bread-butter connection. Leibovich is the rare insider with an outsider’s sense of irony, and he’s a master of the snappy sentence. Here’s one example, about former Republican National Committee Reince Priebus, who became 45’s much-put-upon first chief of staff: “No matter how much Trump had roiled the Republican water, it remained Priebus’s job to carry it.”
New writing from me! In “How the Bay Area Got Hooked on Fish Tacos,” I dive into the history of the multicultural dish and celebrate the 30th anniversary of Baja Taqueria, the quirky little Oakland restaurant that brought fish tacos to the region. (EatDrinkFilms)
“Long overlooked, Oregon’s Swastika Mountain may have a new name soon.” (NPR)
All of the “Squaw” place names in the US that have been renamed. (US Geological Survey). Related: my September 2021 story about the renaming of Squaw Valley, in California.
“How many countries do you want to offend simultaneously?”— てぃむ/Tim (@tim_language) August 28, 2022
“Can anyone translate the name of a new Israeli political party?” Its Hebrew name is Ha-Maḥaneh ha-Mamlakhti, but its English equivalent isn’t clear. (Philologos for Mosaic Magazine)
Encycolorpedia (nice name!) is a comprehensive resource for hex codes, paint matching, and color selection. I, of course, went immediately to the “named colors” section, which is organized alphabetically.
Who knew there were so many “American” colors?
Why do we mock the names we mock? The article focuses on baby names like Kayleigh and Kourtlynn (and, in Germany and France, Kevin) that are deemed “tragic,” but a bias against “made-up” names also prevails in the realm of product and company names. “Perhaps the ‘tragedy’ is that parents would give their child a name that sounds ‘poor’ or ‘silly,’ without realizing it,” writes author Kathryn Jezer-Morton. (The Cut) Related: my story about why we hate new brand names (until we don’t).
The flip side: On overcoming fear of creativity in naming and branding. (ZinZin)
The weirdness of traditional musical-note names. (Language Log)
For the Strong Language blog, trademark lawyer Anne Gilson LaLonde delivers the latest news about swear-word trademarks: “USPTO Still Refuses to Give a FUCK” and “The USPTO’s Sweary Trademark Stockpile.”
Everything you ever wanted to know about Clippy—full name: “Clippit”—the reviled and/or revered anthropomorphized-paper-clip Microsoft office assistant. My favorite bit: “An erotic short story, ‘Conquered by Clippy,’ reveals perhaps the wildest level of obsession (‘assist me deeper’).” (SeattleNet)
OK, a little more about Clippy: “[W]hile Clippy was the default character, there was also a red ball, a robot, a cat, a dog, an Albert Einstein lookalike and several more.” (BBC)
Clippy redux: the emoji version for Windows 11. For a list of other Office Assistants see this Wikipedia article.
Harry Cheadle on Style Guide Liberalism, “a fixation on terms and language that is well-intentioned but inevitably creates a murky layer of jargon between speaker and listener, writer and reader”:
However egalitarian its aims, it inevitably results in an in-group and out-group. By avoiding ‘choice,’ advocates may be pushing the reproductive rights movement in a less individualistic, more equitable direction. Unavoidably, though, when you say “decision” instead, you are also signaling to everyone that you are plugged-in enough to know that we’re not saying “choice” anymore.
Corporations, Cheadle writes, “love Style Guide Liberalism”:
They love it for the same reason wealthy white liberals love it: It costs them nothing to use the “right” words. So you get Microsoft doing a land acknowledgment at the company’s 2021 Ignite conference. Or you get Starbucks a few years back encouraging its workers (whom it calls “partners”) to talk to customers (“guests”) about race. Or hundreds of corporate in-house content teams churning out articles about how they are celebrating the months that honor AAPI heritage, Hispanic heritage, LGBTQ heritage, etc.
Related: My post about the first time I heard a land acknowledgment (now common in the Bay Area); my post about “choice” vs. “decision.”
And speaking of corporate style guides, here’s an excerpt from Google’s guide for developers, published without comment. I especially like the note about PLEASE: “Using please is overdoing the politeness.” (Harper’s)
Anatoly Lieberman on sound symbolism and “the human aspect of etymology. (OUP blog)
Michael Dunn posted on LinkedIn about a well-executed ad for Harley Davidson. The headline reads: “Somewhere on an airplane a man is trying to rip open a small bag of peanuts.”
Writing a headline like this is not a problem.
Selling a headline like this is a much bigger problem now.
Somewhere, in a good creative agency, a man, or woman, is trying to write ads as beautifully observed as this...
And many clients would say, “What the hell does eating peanuts have to do with motorcycles? I wanna talk torque."
Or handling. Or efficiency. Or (insert list of product features here)...
- And what do lemons have to do with Volkswagens, my dear client?
But they sure sold a ton of them...
And somewhere in an agency, a writer is trying to write a headline that will score high SEO...
This ad just makes me smile.
(VW/lemons reference clarified here.)
Posts like this one are why I haven’t yet given up on LinkedIn.
I’m about to go dark again for about a month—I’m traveling to New York and points east, and I’m hoping to make it a true vacation from blogging. I’ll publish a word of the week on October 3, and if I’m feeling ambitious I’ll resurrect and republish some archival material. While I’m gone I’ll post occasionally on Instagram and Twitter, if you want to follow my adventures there.