"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.

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The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has officially changed the definition of "racism."

On Thursday, June 4, 2020, a 22-year-old activist named Kennedy Mitchum reached out to the publishers of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to express her frustration with their definition of the word "racist:"

A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

Mitchum felt this was inadequate to fully cover the scope of systemic issues and unconscious biases that affect race relations in America. Growing up in Florissant, Missouri — just a few miles away from Ferguson — she'd grown tired of trying to explain to people that racism can come in different forms than cross burning in white hoods. It's not always a conscious, intentional, or deliberate attitude of hateful violence; it's often something more insidious. As she explained to CNN, "That definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world. The way that racism occurs in real life is not just prejudice it's the systemic racism that is happening for a lot of black Americans."

Mitchum didn't expect to hear anything back from Merriam-Webster. But to her surprise, they responded the very next day — and after a brief back-and-forth, they were sufficiently convinced of Mitchum's point, and agreed to update the entry. "This revision would not have been made without your persistence in contacting us about this problem," wrote Editor Alex Chambers in an email. "We sincerely thank you for repeatedly writing in and apologize for the harm and offense we have caused in failing to address this issue sooner." 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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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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The word "robot" originated in this 1921 Czech play

In 1920, Czech writer Karel Čapek penned a play titled R.U.R., a cautionary tale about technology's potential to dehumanize. Read the rest

Dictionary considers adding "Fursona"

Merriam-Webster welcomes the furries to its candidate list.

Not all furries manifest their fursonas in the same way. Some see being a furry as a pastime and may only engage their fursona in online role play or chat, or they may participate in furry meet-ups or conventions wearing only a badge depicting their fursona, and maybe other representative accessories—such as a mask, animal ears, and a tail. Others embrace being a furry as a lifestyle and act out their fursonas in full costume—that is, in their customized fursuit.

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OK, here's a great explainer on the origins of the word "OK"

Because of its ubiquity, the landscape is littered with proposed etymologies of the term "OK." This nice explainer clarifies the murky origins of one of the most widely spoken words in the world. Read the rest

Smoke some shoes? The DEA's list of slang terms for cannabis

The US Drug Enforcement Agency has released its latest edition of "Slang Terms and Code Words: A Reference for Law Enforcement Personnel." Predictably, some of the terms are rather questionable. From Reason:

A few of the terms, like "terpenes" and "MMJ" (short for medical marijuana), are not actually slang terms. Other names on the list, like "shoe," appear to be completely made up. Worse, "Devil's Lettuce" is italicized in the report, revealing that the relatively old term was only added in this year.

Meanwhile, "blunts," "good," and "gas" were apparently not important enough to make the cut.

This whole thing reminds me of the great "grunge speak" prank pulled on the New York Times in 1992 by Megan Jasper, then Sub Pop's receptionist and now the label's CEO. Anyway, here is the DEA's complete list of current slang words for marijuana:

420; A-Bomb (marijuana mixed with heroin); Acapulco Gold; Acapulco Red; Ace; African Black; African Bush; Airplane; Alfalfa; Alfombra; Alice B Toklas; All-Star; Almohada; Angola; Animal Cookies (hydroponic); Arizona; Ashes; Aunt Mary; AZ; Baby; Bale; Bambalachacha; Barbara Jean; Bareta; Bash; Bazooka (marijuana mixed with cocaine paste); BC Budd; Bernie; Bhang; Big Pillows; Biggy; Bionic (marijuana mixed with PCP); Black Bart; Black Gold; Black Maria; Blondie; Blue Cheese; Blue Crush; Blue Dream; Blue Jeans; Blue Sage; Blueberry; Bobo Bush; Boo; Boom; Branches; Broccoli; Bud; Budda; Burritos Verdes; Bush; Cabbage; Café; Cajita; Cali; Camara; Canadian Black; Catnip; Cheeba; Chernobyl; Cheese; Chicago Black; Chicago Green; Chippie; Chistosa; Christmas Tree; Chronic; Churro; Cigars; Citrol; Cola; Colorado Cocktail; Cookie (hydroponic); Cotorritos; Crazy Weed; Creeper Bud; Crippy; Crying Weed; Culican; Dank; Devils’s Lettuce; Dew; Diesel; Dimba; Dinkie Dow; Diosa Verde; Dirt Grass; Ditch Weed; Dizz; Djamba; Dody; Dojo; Domestic; Donna Juana; Doobie; Downtown Brown; Drag Weed; Dro (hydroponic); Droski (hydroponic); Dry High; Elefante Pata; Endo; Escoba; Fattie; Fine Stuff; Fire; Flower; Flower Tops; Fluffy; Fuzzy Lady; Gallina; Gallito; Garden; Garifa; Gauge; Gangster; Ganja; Gash; Gato; Ghana; Gigi (hydroponic); Giggle Smoke; Giggle Weed; Girl Scout Cookies (hydroponic); Gloria; Gold; Gold Leaf; Gold Star; Gong; Good Giggles; Gorilla; Gorilla Glue; Grand Daddy Purp; Grass; Grasshopper; Green; Green Crack; Green-Eyed Girl; Green Eyes; Green Goblin; Green Goddess; Green Mercedes Benz; Green Paint; Green Skunk; Greenhouse; Grenuda; Greta; Guardada; Gummy Bears; Gunga; Hairy Ones; Hash; Hawaiian; Hay; Hemp; Herb; Hierba; Holy Grail; Homegrown; Hooch; Hoja; Humo; Hydro; Indian Boy; Indian Hay; Jamaican Gold; Jamaican Red; Jane; Jive; Jolly Green; Jon-Jem; Joy Smoke; Juan Valdez; Juanita; Jungle Juice; Kaff; Kali; Kaya; KB; Kentucky Blue; KGB; Khalifa; Kiff; Killa; Kilter; King Louie; Kona Gold; Kumba; Kush; Laughing Grass; Laughing Weed; Leaf; Lechuga; Lemon-Lime; Leña; Liamba; Lime Pillows; Little Green Friends; Little Smoke; Llesca; Loaf; Lobo; Loco Weed; Loud; Love Nuggets; Love Weed; Lucas; M.J.;

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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

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