Fun and helpful blog on homophones is coming out as a book

The blog Homophones, Weakly helps young learners and iffy spellers master English homophones with fun and simple graphic mnemonics. Now, it's coming out as a book. Read the rest

"My hovercraft is full of eels" in many languages

The famously mistranslated phrase featured in Monty Python's Flying Circus; here it is in many languages. [via]

Afrikaans    My skeertuig is vol palings Albanian (Gheg)    Anija jêm ãsht plot mê ngjala Albanian (Tosk)    Automjeti im është plot me ngjala Aleut    Baluunax̂ liidax̂ ayx̂aasim hnin Alsatian    Mini Aéroglisseur esch voll von Ààle

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The most common words in movie titles

AC-- on Reddit used IMDB's dataset to create a good old-fashined word cloud of the most common words in movie titles. The inevitable Vader movie should clearly be titled "One Big Black Love: Sex and Blood on the Death Star" [via] Read the rest

Artist creates curly wire sculptures that spell words with their shadows

Sculptor Fred Eerdekens created aluminum and copper works that look like abstract squiggles until lit from the right angle. When lit just right, each spells out a word. Read the rest

Learn when a word was first used in print with Merriam-Webster's Time Traveler feature

While looking something else up, I came across Merriam-Webster's new online "Time Traveler" feature today. It allows you to browse to see what words were first used in print for a particular year.

For example:

"Idiot box" was first used in 1955, "granola" in 1970, and "cyberpunk" in 1983. "Bloodletting" was used before the 12th century and "bootleg" first appeared in 1634.

It's a lot of fun to play with but, according to Merriam-Webster, there are the factors to keep in mind when using it:

The date may not represent the very oldest sense of the word. Many obsolete, archaic, and uncommon senses have been excluded from this dictionary, and such senses have not been taken into consideration in determining the date.

The date most often does not mark the very first time that the word was used in English. Many words were in spoken use for decades or even longer before they passed into the written language. The date is for the earliest written or printed use that the editors have been able to discover.

The date is subject to change. Many of the dates provided will undoubtedly be updated as evidence of still earlier use emerges.

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A place to memorialize the domain names you let lapse

goodbye.domains is an obituary column for the domain names that you, after years of squatting, now accept will never be put to use and which are, furthermore, worthless.

I just let neverie.com lapse. "Neverie" was the title of the first novel I wrote as a teen, in the genre of trash fantasy. I'd imagined that I might one day edit and publish it, hence the domain. But I won't. Goodbye, neverie.com.

Goodbye Domains [via Dean Putney, who retired deansli.st] Read the rest

"Whatever" tops list of annoying words

The Associated Press reports that the classic "whatever" was the most annoying word of 2017, though "fake news" gave it a run for its money. Whatever.

The recent addition "fake news" was slightly ahead of "no offense, but" for second place, 23 percent to 20 percent. About one in 10 found "literally" to be most grating, as did a similar number for "you know what I mean."

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The most common swear words on Reddit

Data wizard Gregor0410 crunched the numbers and figured out what the most common swear words on Reddit are. The top two, running almost neck and neck, are "fuck" and "shit." An order of magnitude behind are "dick" and "bullshit", with "cunt" and "cock" putting in respectable totals each similar in size to other swear words combined. [via] Read the rest

Some folks call green peppers "mangoes" for a centuries-old reason

In some parts of America's hinterlands, older folks call green peppers "mangoes." Turns out it goes back to a recipe substitution from the 1700s. Read the rest

Boomers are news-illiterate couch vegetables stuck in front of their yelling, ad-saturated TVs

A Pew Research study found that "younger adults are more likely than their elders to read the news," but there are other ways of seeing the data.

Overall, more Americans prefer to watch their news (46%) than to read it (35%) or listen to it (17%), a Pew Research Center survey found earlier this year. But that varies dramatically by age. Those ages 50 and older are far more likely to prefer watching news over any other method: About half (52%) of 50- to 64-year-olds and 58% of those 65 and older would rather watch the news, while roughly three-in-ten (29% and 27%, respectively) prefer to read it. ... our research also reveals that, in the digital realm, [younger adults] often get news at equal or higher rates than older Americans, whether intentionally or not.

The most literate and literary people in human history. Read the rest

Nominative Determinism

Nominative determinism: "the hypothesis that people tend to gravitate towards areas of work that fit their names."

Exhibit A.

Police are confident that 59-year-old John Burns has a connection to at least 19 arsons on Sharon’s west side. All of those fires have happened since the beginning of this year.

At this point, he is only charged with one count of attempted arson and one count of causing or risking catastrophe. ... Over the past two years, the total number of fires in Sharon is estimated to be near 30.

Exhibit B. Read the rest

Broflake defined

Perhaps you are tired of the terminology of online trashtalk, where words (such as snowflake and bro) form billowing epicycles of sincerity, appropriation and reclamation. Me too! Yet there is such a pure beauty to this morning's surprisingly viral portmanteau, Broflake.

From the Urban Dictionary:

Broflake: Straight white male offended by any feminist or ethnic activity which is not directly designed for him.

Kyle: "How come there's no Straight Pride parade"?

Me: OMG you're such a delicate little broflake.

If anything, this definition is too precise, as the word perfectly captures the broader dynamic wherein a person adopts a posture of devil-may-care principled insensitivity to offense, only to collapse in a puddle of outrage and/or legal threats when they are offended.

(For example, the NRA's Dana Loesch is an excellent candidate for Broflake of the Day for Friday, June 30, 2017. After pitching an insanely totalitarian NRA recruitment ad whose anti-violence fig leaf only drew attention to its naked thirst for bloodshed, she was apparently up all night shrieking legal threats on Twitter at random anonymous interlocutors, insisting that their mockery is not free speech.)

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Review: Afterliff, the new dictionary of things there should be words for

Douglas Adams and John Lloyd's 1983 The Meaning of Liff (expanded in 1993 as The Deeper Meaning of Liff) is one of my favorite books and a seminal part of my education. So I was delighted and surprised to see I'd completely missed the 2013 publication of Afterliff, a sequel by Lloyd and Jon Canter. Read the rest

Here’s why people hate the word “moist”

Mashable explains why so many people can’t stand the word “moist.” It turns out it has to do with both word association and the bandwagon effect. Read the rest

What's the story with "gross?"

Linguist Arika Okrent, author of On the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language, explores the etymology of the word "Gross." Art by Sean O'Neill.

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The word "sheeple" is now in the dictionary, with Apple fans as example

Merriam-Webster added "sheeple" to their dictionary. It's defined as "people who are docile, compliant, or easily influenced : people likened to sheep." Here's one of the two usage examples they include:

Apple's debuted a battery case for the juice-sucking iPhone—an ungainly lumpy case the sheeple will happily shell out $99 for.

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Gendered verbs charted over 100,000 stories

Data scientist David Robinson tracked the proximity of verbs to gender across 100,000 stories. She screams, cries and rejects. He kidnaps, rescues and beats.

I think this paints a somewhat dark picture of gender roles within typical story plots. Women are more likely to be in the role of victims- “she screams”, “she cries”, or “she pleads.” Men tend to be the aggressor: “he kidnaps” or “he beats”. Not all male-oriented terms are negative- many, like “he saves”/”he rescues” are distinctly positive- but almost all are active rather than receptive.

The chart on which types of violence are associated with men and women is predictable stuff: poison from the ladies, beatings from the gentlemen.

It follows on from Julia Silge's look at gender roles and text mining. See also an attempt to do likewise with plot arcs. Read the rest

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