I haven’t recommended a book in a while, so this month I’m recommending two, both of them new, both of them about language. (And each one blurbed by the author of the other one, which must be a coincidence, right?)
English has many well-known colloquial synonyms for “untrustworthy”: fishy*, sketchy, shifty, shady, dodgy, dicey. (My thanks to Ben Yagoda for illuminating the last two.) But it wasn’t until recently that I learned about their close cousin sheisty, which isn’t a new word, just new to me. Blame my limited exposure to rap music, sheisty’s source.
If you’re new to the earworm-y maritime-song craze that’s taken over TikTok and other social-media platforms, I invite you to read my new post for Amateur Music Network, “Why We’re Singing Sea Shanties in 2021.” If you have linguistic questions about the trend, rather than musical ones, stick around and I’ll do my best to answer them here.
To get in the mood, please enjoy the TikTok that started the trend in late December, “Soon May the Wellerman Come,” sung by Nathan Evans, a Scottish postman. Or check out one of the many Wellerman remixes. Or listen to something different: “Rollin’ Down to Old Maui,” sung by Matt Young on #shantytok.
2020 has been a sad year, a scary year, an angry year, a lonely year, a grieving year. Above all, though, it’s been a weird year. Very, very, very weird—from the personal (sheltering in place, in some cases for months on end) to the social (no funerals, no parties, no breaching the six-foot contact boundary) to the cultural (no movies, no theater, no concerts, no schools, no restaurants, no sports) to the political (do I need to repeat all the counterfactuals?).
How’s everyone doing? Self-quarantining? Social distancing? Catching up on podcasts/the New Yorker/housecleaning? Drinking quarantinis and coronaritas while awaiting the #Coronapocalypse?
One option for a quarantini, via Marilyn Starkloff. Coronarita recipes using Corona brand beer have been around for several years; the 2020 pandemic version is here. This Podcast Will Kill Youtweeted about quarantini and placeborita cocktails even earlier, on February 4.
Me? I’m fine; thanks for asking. I’m happy to live in California, where we have a mensch for a governor. (Compare and contrast.) And I’m cheered by the inventive linguistic responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, examples of which I bring you today.
(Thanks to Ben Zimmer for coining #coronacoinages. I’m winging it with some of the definitions; I welcome refinements and additions in the comments.)