Archive for the ‘Innovations’ Category

goldilocksian

June 10, 2014

Several correspondents have written to compliment me on the content and organization of the “About (academic)” page on my website (here). One went so far as to refer to the goldilocksian mean — not too small, not too big, and (though this isn’t in the Goldilocks fairy tale) “everything easily discoverable”.

These nice comments inspired me to spend yesterday adding to the “Handouts for conference papers” section of the page, adding links to handouts from four Stanford Semantics Festivals.

And then there’s the nice derivational formation goldilocksian ‘just right’, a useful (and, given that you know the fairy tale, easily comprehensible) innovative adjective, moderately frequent (on the order of 6k ghits, dupes removed) but not in the OED.

(more…)

Party of five

May 10, 2014

Five cartoons from recent days. Not one of them seems to have anything to do with (US) Mothers Day (but maybe tomorrow, on the day itself, Mom will surface). A daydreaming Jeremy in Zits; a Calvin and Hobbes on following rules; a Rhymes With Orange with a groan-inducing (but learnèd) pun; and a Bizarro and a Zippy on different aspects of modern communication.

(more…)

Who Made That?

January 20, 2014

In the NYT Magazine (on Sunday the 19th), a “Who Made That?” piece by Daniel Engber on the captcha. Some weeks ago, another one of these pieces on laugh tracks on television.

(more…)

Sunday Book Review language and sex

October 9, 2013

Two items from the NYT Sunday Book Review (the sex issue): the etymology of buddy and the grammaticality of zipless.

(more…)

Innovations

June 14, 2013

The June 9th NYT Magazine was an “Innovations Issue”, with pieces on the histories of devices (the Brannock Device, for measuring shoe size, the Cuisinart, the digital camera, keys, the salad spinner), products (the Band-Aid, diet soda, Liquid Paper), and sociocultural practices (brunch, the dog park, gay marriage, the nose job, prom, timeouts for children, 12-step programs) — plus a few linguistic items, notably the metaphorical idiom glass ceiling and the tv formula previously on …

In most cases of innovations (of devices, products, or sociocultural practices), there’s a substantive innovation, plus a linguistic innovation, the choice of a name or label for it: the device for washing and drying salad greens plus the synthetic compound label salad spinner; the product that covers up typing errors plus the metaphorical brand name Liquid Paper; the practice of offering and eating a late-morning meal that combines characteristics of breakfast and lunch plus the portmanteau name brunch.

On occasion, however, the referent has been around for some time but then achieves prominence when someone provides a label for it, as was apparently the case for glass ceiling.

And in still other cases, the innovation is itself linguistic, as for formulaic expressions like previously on … ‘in earlier episodes of …’

Explorations in derivational morphology

June 6, 2013

Two finds in the 6/5 article “Mad Professors: The adjuncts are at the barricades” by Rebecca Burns in In These Times (about unions for adjunct faculty), with the crucial words boldfaced:

(1) That so many advanced degree-holders are toiling in poverty conditions flies in the face of the assumption that higher education is a path to prosperity. But low wages and precarity represent the new norm for what some adjuncts have termed “academia’s version of apartheid.”

(2) Reeling from state budget cuts, universities have turned increasingly to the cheap teaching labor provided by non-tenure track faculty. But the adjunctification of higher education also coincides with its bureaucratization.

In (1), we have the Latinate derivative precarity rather than the native English precariousness; in (2), a noun adjunctification, incorporating the verb-forming suffix -ify (on the base adjunct). Both are innovations, not in the OED or other dictionaries I’ve consulted.

(more…)

louden

May 28, 2013

From the Falcon Studios description of the gay porn flick The Guys Next Door:

The grunts and groans [of sex] louden, calling Marcus [Mojo] and Johnny [Torque] back to the scene [an orgy in progress].

That’s inchoative louden ‘become loud, become louder’. It struck me as unidiomatic; despite the parallel with soften, I would have written got loud(er). But it turns out that virtually every dictionary I looked at has it. The OED has the intransitive — inchoative — use from the mid-19th century on, but only one cite (from 1898) for the transitive — causative — use, which it marks as rare.

The inchoative or causative suffix -en is in fact extremely restricted in English — not productive, and limited to only a few sorts of base words: monosyllables ending in obstruents, from the Anglo-Saxon (rather than Latinate) stratum of the vocabulary. Even then, not all eligible bases allow derivatives in this -en; hotten is not attested (heat (up) serves this purpose), and colden is attested but marked by the OED as rare (cool and chill serve this purpose, or better, get cold(er)), and modern speakers reject it. For me, louden is like colden.

(more…)

spacefaring

May 27, 2013

Caught in the NYT Science Times of 4/30/13 (p. 2), in a note by Jennifer A. Kingston on “Animals Aloft”:

One alluring detail: NASA scientists will be studying sperm motiity in the spacefaring mice to try to figure out if humans could successfully procreate on a long space voyage.

It’s the adjective spacefaring: instantly understandable (based on seafaring — another case of terminology from sea travel extended metaphorically to air or space travel), but not a usage I recall having seen before. However, there’s a Wikipedia article on it, and the OED tells me that it’s been around about as long as I have.

(more…)

Three penultimate comments

May 20, 2013

Comments on my posting on penultimate (in penultimate Frisbee) took three directions: a comic association with antepenultimate; complaints about a relatively recent non-standard use of penultimate (to mean ‘absolutely final, absolutely the best’); and complaints about using ultimate and unique and other so-called “non-gradable” adjectives as gradables (modifiable by degree adverbials).

(more…)

Syntax on the move

April 28, 2013

Jon Lighter on ADS-L comments on my usage:

Arnold’s unremarkable syntax from the “Chicano” thread: “the first OED2 cite, from 1947 Arizona, is somewhat disparaging in tone.”

In case some young folks don’t realize it, this journalistic use of a year-date as an adjective [well, prenominal modifier] is pretty “new” …

The usage is so natural to me that I thought nothing of it, nor did I recognize it as a relatively recent innovation or associate it with journalists.

(more…)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 235 other followers