"Master bedroom" and "Master bath" won't be used in Houston's real estate listings anymore

The Houston Association of Realtors is eliminating the phrases "master bedroom” and “master bathroom” from its real estate listings because of the slavery connotations of the word "master." Agents are still free to use the terms in their own marketing materials and descriptions but the Multiple Listings Services (MLS) will refer to "primary bedrooms" and "primary bathrooms." From Click2Houston:

“It was not a new suggestion to review the terminology,” according to the statement HAR sent its members. “The overarching message was that some members were concerned about how the terms might be perceived by some other agents and consumers. The consensus was that Primary describes the rooms equally as well as Master while avoiding any possible misperceptions.”

Related, the New York Times reports that the Court of Master Sommeliers will no longer refer to sommeliers who have passed the master's exam with the word "Master" before their surname.

image: Amazon Read the rest

AI-generated English words

The English language being short of words, Thomas Dimson created an AI-powered word generator. This word does not exist

nephromatosis an infectious bacterial infection of the lymphatic system in primary prevention of infection in animals, caused by a nematode parasite or by an enterovirus "nephromatosis is a serious and fatal form of typhoid fever"

haholus an effeminate child, especially a boy

monstrut a fixed upright figure "a sculpted octagon and monstrut"

Really delightful, and far ahead of "traditional" generative word-makers. Even if sometimes it's clear the machine has no real insight, it touches upon the greatness of Douglas Adams and John Lloyd's Deeper Meaning of Liff. I'll be putting pebblepenny (of a person, old-fashioned and rather vain, e.g. "a pebblepenny politician") to use soon. Read the rest

A fascinating map of the most spoken languages in every US state besides English and Spanish

The United States has never had a single "official" language. While English is broadly accepted accepted as the common tongue and typically used in schooling as well as government documents, it doesn't necessarily have to be that way. Spanish is also used frequently across the country — but there are a lot more languages than that at play throughout the States.

Andy Kiersz and Ivan De Luce at Business Insider crunched some data based on the individual-level responses from the 2017 American Community Survey  assembled and published by the Minnesota Population Center's Integrated Public Use Microdata Series program, to find out what other languages are most commonly used in the United States.

There are a lot of thought-provoking takeaways from the data as presented here. Some things may seem obvious — there's a lot of French, of course, particularly in Louisiana and the states that border eastern Canada. While I didn't know that Tagalog was as popular in California and Nevada until now, I can't say I'm surprised. The abundance of Haitian Creole in Florida makes sense, too, but its presence in Delaware is much more interesting. As someone with an interest in indigenous tongues after colonization, it's somewhat comforting to see that Ilocano, Aleut-Eskimo, and Dakota/Lakota/Nakota/Sioux languages are all still hanging on. Read the rest

Glossary: Chinese futurist military jargon

Via Bruce Sterling, the Chinese characters for "specific ethnic genetic attacks," "combat brain," "winning without fighting" and more. Read the rest

Codifying "Boomerspeak" and debating the ethics of poking fun at it

Gretchen McCulloch is the internet's favorite linguist, whose outstanding 2019 book Because Internet explores how statistical methods can, for the first time, be applied to large amounts of informal communications, because for the first time, a huge volume of those communications are a) written and b) digital. Read the rest

The Merriam-Webster dictionary's word of the year is...

The Merriam-Webster dictionary's word of the year is... "They." According to Merriam-Webster, online dictionary look-ups for the word "they" increased by 313% this year. Others top look-ups include "quid pro quo," "impeach," and "egregious. Makes sense. And it's great that more people are learning that the word "they" is sometimes "used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary," according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition. From Merriam-Webster:

English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like everyone or someone, and as a consequence they has been used for this purpose for over 600 years.

More recently, though, they has also been used to refer to one person whose gender identity is nonbinary, a sense that is increasingly common in published, edited text, as well as social media and in daily personal interactions between English speakers.

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Native English speakers try to guess Japanese words

Language learning brand Busuu took to the streets of London to see if native English speakers could translate the Japanese words thrown at them. They did better than I would have!

Just like the English language has borrowed words from Japanese, like karaoke or sushi, modern Japanese uses a fair amount of vocabulary borrowed from English. These words are called gairaigo.

(Neatorama) Read the rest

UK Apostrophe Protection Society surrender's, saying "ignorance and lazines's have won"

Retired journalist John Richard's founded the Apostrophe Protection Society in 2001, its mission to convince people that apostrophe's denote missing letter's and possession, but never plurals. Read the rest

In defamation case, Elon Musk will testify that "pedo guy" is a common South African phrase and not an accusation of pedophilia

Vernon Unsworth is one of the rescue divers who helped free the children who'd been stuck in a cave in Thailand; Unsworth made some pointed remarks about the disutility of Elon Musk's proposal to bring the children out in a miniature sub, to which Musk replied by publicly calling Unsworth "pedo guy" and "child rapist" and then daring Unworth to sue him. Read the rest

The Yiddish roots of "glitch"

I had no idea that the word "glitch" comes from Yiddish, the language spoken by Ashkenazi Jews that gave us words like "klutz," "nosh," and "shlep." From Air & Space:

Glitch is derived from glitsh, Yiddish for slippery place, and from glitshn, meaning to slide, or glide. Glitch was in use in the 1940s by radio announcers to indicate an on-air mistake. By the 1950s, the term had migrated to television, where engineers used glitch to refer to technical problems...

In Into Orbit, a 1962 book by the Mercury Seven, John Glenn mused about the word, which he evidently hadn’t used before joining the space program. “Another term we adopted to describe some of our problems was ‘glitch.’ Literally, a glitch is a spike or change in voltage in an electrical circuit….”

image: glitch art by Michael Betancourt (CC BY-SA 3.0) Read the rest

Fun interactive way to see what words were first used in print in a particular year

Visit Merriam-Webster's "Time Traveler" and select a year from the drop-down menu. Instantly you'll see the English words that were first used in print that year! More specifically, "the date is for the earliest written or printed use that the (dictionary) editors have been able to discover."

Above are the words first used in print in 1989, the year of the very first bOING bOING print 'zine! Cybernaut! Nanobot! Cyberporn! Those sure were the good ol' daze...

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How to speak chimpanzee

Evolutionary psychologist Katja Liebal literally wrote the book on Primate Communication. A professor of developmental psychology at the Freie Universität Berlin, Liebal's research focuses "on the cognitive and communicative skills that might be uniquely human and those shared with other primate species." According to BBC Earth, Liebal observes chimps in "hopes to compile the world's first chimpanzee dictionary."

I think learning chimpanzee should be an educational requirement beginning in elementary school to prepare our children for when, y'know, they take over.

(via The Kid Should See This) Read the rest

AP's how-to-use-hyphens-wisely guide causes consternation among pedants

English is a glorious syncretic mess of a language, what you get when you blend together a bunch of mispronounced German, French and Latin words and then salt with the vernacular of a hundred other languages, without having to heed stern pronouncements from an official language academy. Read the rest

Jeopardy!'s Alex Trebek saying "genre" over and over and over

A: This clip is an example of a certain genre of Internet video.

Q: What is a supercut?

Bonus video below, the time Boing Boing was part of a clue on Jeopardy!

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Open archive of 240,000 hours' worth of talk radio, including 2.8 billion words of machine-transcription

A group of MIT Media Lab researchers have published Radiotalk, a massive corpus of talk radio audio with machine-generated transcriptions, with a total of 240,000 hours' worth of speech, marked up with machine-readable metadata. Read the rest

Scite: a tool to find out if a scientific paper has been supported or contradicted since its publication

The Scite project has a corpus of millions of scientific articles that it has analyzed with deep learning tools to determine whether any given paper has been supported or contradicted by subsequent publications; you can check Scite via the website, or install a browser plugin version (Firefox, Chrome). (Thanks, Josh!) Read the rest

Because Internet: the new linguistics of informal English

Conversational language is not the same as formal language: chatter over the dinner table does not follow the same rules as a speech from a podium. Informal language follows its own fluid, fast-moving rules, and most of what we know about historic informal language has been gleaned from written fragments, like old letters and diaries -- but now, the internet has produced a wealth of linguistic data on informal language, which is explored in Canadian linguist Gretchen McCulloch's new book, Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language. Read the rest

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