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Language archives

Entry no.: 1212

20 Feb 2011, 1:37 PM

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Language Okay: 23 March 1839

On 23 March 1839, OK was introduced to the world on the second page of the Boston Morning Post, in the midst of a long paragraph, as "o.k. (all correct)".

Read How 'OK' took over the world at BBC.

Via DF and Coudal.

Entry no.: 1084

4 May 2010, 4:54 PM

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Language Chinglish

Situation: Shanghai Is Trying to Untangle the Mangled English of Chinglish.

“Cash recycling,” “fried enema,” “Flagrant and Hot Marxism,” and “Urine District” — you'll get an idea watching A Sampling of Chinglish slideshow.

Entry no.: 1077

29 Apr 2010, 8:56 AM

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Language Off the record

The problem with the phrase "off the record" is that many people, reporters and the general public alike, misunderstand its precise meaning. These days many interviewees think "off the record" is largely synonymous with "on background" or "not for attribution."

—NYU Journalism Handbook for Students.

On the record, on background, not for attribution and off the record defined.

Entry no.: 1061

17 Apr 2010, 9:36 AM


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Language “Web site” to “website”

The AP Stylebook changes “Web site” to “website”. Language evolving.

Via DF.

Entry no.: 826

16 Sep 2009, 10:08 AM

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Language How Recession Affects Dictionaries

New Oxford American Dictionary:

stake 2 |steɪk| |steɪk|
noun (usu. stakes)
a sum of money or something else of value gambled on the outcome of a risky game or venture : playing dice for high stakes | figurative the mayor raised the stakes in the battle for power.
• a share or interest in a business, situation, or system : GM acquired a 50 percent stake in Saab.

Needs minor revision: sold instead of acquired.

Entry no.: 811

2 Sep 2009, 9:38 AM

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Language Wordtrepreneurship: Enterprising Neologisms

The chewy mouthful "-preneur" jobtitles — Webrepreneur, Ecopreneur, Philanthropreneur, Alterpreneur, Grantepreneur, Innerpreneur, Momtrepreneur, Pastorpreneur etc — are rising.

Meaning? Learn the Enterprising Language to find out.

Via @thatwhichmatter.

Entry no.: 802

26 Aug 2009, 1:10 PM

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Language Cum grano salis

"With a grain of salt is a translation of Latin cum grano salis. According to The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, the Roman historian Pliny the Elder wrote that General Pompey had discovered an antidote for poison that was to be taken cum grano salis. This was apparently to make it effective. That doesn’t quite explain the current meaning, though."

Quotes Uncovered: Who First Took Things With a Grain of Salt? .

Via @ThatWhichMatter.

Entry no.: 795

14 Aug 2009, 10:05 AM

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Language List of "-gate" Scandals

Add Tolontan's meaty Ridzigate to the -gate list.

Entry no.: 794

12 Aug 2009, 10:27 AM

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Language Fail, A New Kind Of Noun

"'Fail' was becoming a new kind of noun: not simply a synonym for failure but, rather, a derisive label to slap on a miscue that is eminently mockable in its stupidity or wrongheadedness."

How Fail Went From Verb to Interjection at NYTimes.

Entry no.: 793

11 Aug 2009, 10:27 AM

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Language Idiot, Idioms

"The definition of an idiom is a phrase whose meaning isn't clear from the words in it. What a bizarrely illogical way to communicate."

  • To reheat cabbage: to rekindle an old flame (Italian).
  • Cleaner than a frog's armpit: to be poor, broke (Spanish).
  • To think one is the last suck of the mango: to be conceited (South American Spanish).
  • Brew tea from dirt under another's fingernails: to learn a bitter lesson (Japanese).

The idiotic joys of idioms at The Guardian.

Via @thatwhichmatter.

Entry no.: 738

26 Mar 2009, 11:08 AM

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Language Vocab

A new weblog at The New York Times, Schott’s Vocab is “a miscellany of modern words and phrases” for those who enjoy watching the language evolve.

Along the same lines:

In Romanian:


Via DF.

Entry no.: 689

12 Jan 2009, 1:33 PM

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Language Coolmistry

At long last some chemistry that I can understand: The periodic table of awesoments.

Full disclosure: I epic-failed chemistry. Repeatedly.

Entry no.: 663

10 Dec 2008, 11:53 AM

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Language Ampersand in Russia

"It’s funny to see the ampersand creeping into the Russian usage... Apparently, it is being associated with things ‘Western’, ‘capitalist’, &c. And it looks so chic in the Cyrillic context. Some ad agencies just love it. Incidentally, the Russian for ‘and’ is the i (yes, that ‘inverted N’, U+0418 and U+0438), and the meaning of the ampersand (& = et) is completely lost on the Russians. But who cares? It is so cute."

Maxim Zhukov at Typophile.

Entry no.: 630

21 Nov 2008, 1:45 AM

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Language Commas and periods

"When type was handset, a period or comma outside of quotation marks at the end of a sentence tended to get knocked out of position, so the printers tucked the little devils inside the quotation marks to keep them safe and out of trouble. But apparently only American printers were more attached to convenience than logic, since British printers continued to risk the misalignment of their periods and commas."

Quotation Marks: Where Do the Commas and Periods Go--and Why??

Entry no.: 571

26 Sep 2008, 4:44 PM

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Language Interrobang‽

Yeah, interrobang — clueless, ha? Well, this platypus of a punctuation mark was redesigned.

Entry no.: 546

2 Sep 2008, 10:13 AM

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Language History of the Predictive Text Swearing

The impossibility to disable iPhone auto-correction for text input in unsupported languages is a royal, royal pain. It's like trying to swear every other word while the Predictive Text Swearing team is hard at work.

Via DF.

Entry no.: 382

11 Dec 2007, 6:32 PM

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Language Diacritical

Turkish 'ş' (s with cedilla) vs. Romanian 'ș' (s with comma below).

Using diacritics shows respect for the language but it usually turns into a maddening ordeal. is the only foreseeable easy way out: it painlessly adds diacritics to any given text, even though it prefers incorrect (Microsoft style) Turkish 'ş' and 'ţ' (s and t with cedilla) over correct Romanian 'ș' and 'ț' (s and t with comma below).

Entry no.: 346

17 Nov 2007, 1:46 PM

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Language X

"The 24th letter of the modern Latin alphabet is more flexible than its lex-lack suggests." It is. Via DO.

Entry no.: 332

8 Nov 2007, 12:18 AM

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Language Insult

Word of the day: Microsoftian. Used in contex: here.

Entry no.: 324

2 Nov 2007, 3:09 PM

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Language Armenian

"It clunks. It clangs. It has a strange barbaric grandeur"—Counting to ten.

Entry no.: 297

15 Oct 2007, 3:20 PM

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Language Fucking brilliant

The mystery of curse words and linguistic taboos. Witty! [Via DO.]