The 2019 Deadspin Name of the Year is down to the Elite Eight. Vote for your favorites in a field that includes Pope Thrower, Pretzel Monteclaro, and Jizyah Shorts. Yes, they’re all real names. (Deadspin) For background, see my 2018 Visual Thesaurus column about the tournament.
How great writing begins: an analysis of the opening paragraphs of “the 94 most compelling articles” in The Atlantic, Fast Company, and the New York Times op-ed section. (Better Humans)
In English, it’s “Once upon a time.” How do other cultures and languages begin their classic tales? (Chitra Soundar)
Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana—the youngest and gayest candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination (so far)—also has the coolest campaign logos. (Note: Not a political endorsement.) (Brand New)
It’s time to say good riddance to 2018 and to play #WOTY, the word-nerd’s favorite game. The score so far: Dictionary.com has chosen misinformation as its word of the year, with representation, self-made, and backlash) as runners-up; Oxford Dictionaries chose toxic (from a shortlist that included eight other words, one of them a former Fritinancy word of the week, gammon); Collins Dictionary selected single-use (runners-up: VAR, floss, and plogging); and Fresh Air language maven Geoff Nunberg picked nationalist. The Emmett Lee Dickinson Museum, an anonymous internet-based project, has been counting down the month of December with a daily WOTY; contenders so far have included thoughts and prayers, amorality, and, yes, flossing. (It’s a dance, in case you hadn’t known.) UPDATE: Mike Pope has posted his own very comprehensive list, which includes donugs, testilying, and TEDsplaining.
Here are my own candidates for #WOTY18, in alphabetical order.
I’m taking a breather from blogging while I catch up with some other projects. I expect I’ll return, but I’m not sure when. In the meantime, here are a few other pieces I’ve written recently. (The Visual Thesaurus columns have been released from their paywall.)
Full access to the column is restricted to subscribers; here’s an excerpt:
Nouns ending in -ery (or -erie, the French spelling) first appeared in English +around 1300 as imports from French; the oldest include bribery, sorcery, drapery (cloth or textile fabrics), venery (the practice of hunting animals), and nunnery (a convent, although in the 16th century it took on the slang meaning of brothel – that’s the meaning Shakespeare had in mind when he had Hamlet tell Ophelia, “Get thee to a nunnery”). A very few -ery nouns came from Latin, most notably mystery from mysterium.
The French originals were mostly nouns denoting a place of business – boucherie (butchery), brasserie (brewery) – or a type of action, such as tromperie (deceit) or robbery. But once -ery sailed across the Channel, it began combining in independent and very English ways. As early as 1393, English speakers attached -ery to the Old English verb cook and created cookery, “the art or practice of cooking,” a noun that still survives, although more commonly in British English than American. Another Old English verb, fish, yielded fishery, “the business or occupation of catching fish.” In the 18th century, a group of -ery nouns cropped up to describe places where animals live: piggery, rookery, swannery, cattery.
You’ve probably seen the emoticon, a stripped-down rendering of a half-smiling skeptic.
The symbol’s official name is shruggie (or, alternatively, smugshrug). In an appreciation published in The Awl in 2014, Kyle Chayka noted that it could be used to express nihilism or “bemused resignation,” and was even “a Zen-like tool to accept the chaos of universe.”
I’m seeing the shadow of a shruggie in a new generation of ads whose dominant feature is a copy-intensive combination of insolence and indifference. The ads are aimed at digital natives – people under 35 – yet appear in traditional non-digital media: print magazines, public transit. Their grim forerunner, now 18 months old, is the Fiverr campaign, which I wrote about last year, calling it “mean spirited”; the New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino went further and called it “dystopian.” The current crop is slightly less cynical but still snarky and smug with a hint of that existential shrug.
Those of you with long memories will recall that this is the second time feckless has been a Fritinancy word of the week. The first occasion wasin 2012, when U.S. Senator John McCain used feckless to describe President Obama’s foreign policy.
This time around, feckless found itself in hotter water.