Archive for the ‘linguistics’ tag
The FIFA World Cup’s going on now, and I learned something I didn’t know as a result:
“From this point onwards the two versions of football were distinguished by reference to their longer titles, Rugby Football and Association Football (named after the Football Association),” Szymanski writes. “The rugby football game was shortened to ‘rugger,’” while “the association football game was, plausibly, shortened to ‘soccer.’”
Both sports fragmented yet again as they spread around the world. The colloquialism “soccer” caught on in the United States in the first decade of the twentieth century, in part to distinguish the game from American football, a hybrid of Association Football and Rugby Football. (Countries that tend to use the word “soccer” nowadays—Australia, for example—usually have another sport called “football.”)
This little essay about the word’s every worker in a corporate business environment loves to hate is a bit breezy and probably simplified, but it’s a pleasant tour of some of the terms people use so much they loath:
For example, consultants are responsible for a lot of the veiled language used by today’s HR departments. “The consulting industry came up with a whole slew of euphemisms for firing people that has become universal,” said Matthew Stewart, the author of The Management Myth. “There’s a whole body of kind of Orwellian speak about developing human capital and managing people and all that.” Streamline, restructure, let go, create operational efficiencies: All of these are roundabout ways of saying that people are about to lose their jobs.
A fun little depiction of the insanity that can occur in America’s legal system. Because of a policy change in how an Ohio county recorder’s office made records available to the public — they were going to change $2 per photocopied page rather letting bulk requests be distributed digitally — a case came about in which the best tactic was to refuse to answer a seemly simple question about a the term “photocopy machine” — the New York Times has a new series in which they have dramatized the whole exchange.
Threre’s a lot encoded in Merlin Mann’s Tumblr post about the verbal tick “So,” but I don’t think I should unpack it too much. I point to it because this observation is so apt:
In a nut, Karl Van Hœt [a super-charged-pedant character Mann plays regularly], like so many others, knows that “So” is the most efficient way to say what you want to say in a way that brilliantly turbos you one or more levels above the actual context of the actual conversation.
Essentially, “So…” is the universal shorthand for, “I’ve given this a lot more thought than you have and will now proceed to refocus the conversation in a way that interests me and highlights my personal file card on this particular topic.”
I’m a bit worried about believing etymologies on BuzzFeed, but they’re definitely interesting. Here’s the first, for “back to square one:”
Meaning back to the beginning, the phrase originated in the 1930s when the first radio broadcasts of football matches were made by the BBC.
To help listeners keep track of the game, The Radio Times devised a numbered grid system which they published in the magazine, enabling commentators to indicate to listeners exactly where the ball was on the pitch.
“Square One” was the goalkeeper’s area, and whenever the ball was passed back to him, play was referred to as being ‘back to square one’.
It’s a bit too breezy to really give you a sense of the accents in full, but ease and speed with which Andrew Jack switches among the accents it fun:
Nothing I didn’t really expect here, but I’d been caught on the term in the Bitcoin revelations of last week the piece mentions, I think she captures the odd morality of the term “doxing” well. What’s doxing?
It refers to the fact that, often, it is documents (public or not) that lead to a formerly anonymous person’s identity being revealed.
Neat little chart — maybe even a map — of how the European language relate to each other. It’s a pity it’s a bit cryptic with many getting only two letter abbreviations, but the gist is quite good.
It includes some interesting notes about English:
English is a member of the Germanic group (blue) within the Indo-European family. But thanks to 1066, William of Normandy, and all that, about 75% of the modern English vocabulary comes from French and Latin (ie the Romance languages, in orange) rather than Germanic sources. As a result, English (a Germanic language) and French (a Romance language) are actually closer to each other in lexical terms than Romanian (a Romance language) and French.
This is a pretty fun little game, and can help train you to recognize languages, which is a skill I’ve always been vaguely interested in.
Compare this brilliant, heartfelt, vicious, deeply personal Grantland piece about performance-enhancing drugs with, well, anything ever published by the Sports section of the New York Times. Can you even imagine the Gray Lady ever publishing anything so profane, so offensive, so informal, so full of questions without answers? Hell no you can’t; in part because you can’t imagine the NYT publishing something so vibrant, so scattershot, so alive — in other words, something not written in Clinical Standard Written English.