Archive for the ‘Innovations’ Category

Invention

May 1, 2015

Two things came together. One, in response to a query from a reader, I’ve been struggling to compile some sort of list of my terminological innovations, only to discover that a fair number of these seem to have been invented independently by others. Two, a friend wrote (to me, as a card-carrying linguist) to ask for credit for her invention of thirstrated, a portmanteau of thirsty and frustrated (parallel to hangry, a portmanteau of hungry and angry) — only to be disappointed when I told her that Urban Dictionary already had an entry for thirstrated in this sense, though I reassured her that independent innovations happen all the time.

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presentee

December 30, 2014

Briefly noted. On the NYT op-ed page today, Daniel Engber counseling “Quit Whining About Your Sick Colleague”, with this along the way:

Those who whine about their ailing colleagues sometimes cite another field of research, that of business economics. It’s said that sick people in the workplace — so-called presentees, not to be confused with sick absentees, who don’t come in to the office — cost the economy at least $60 billion every year.

Presentee in this sense (‘(sick) people who come to work’) was (I think) new to me. But in discussions of staffing it’s obviously useful.

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natural person

September 13, 2014

In the NYT on 9/11, an editorial “An Amendment to Cut Political Cash”, with the now-familiar retronym natural person:

There are 48 Democratic senators sponsoring a constitutional amendment to restore congressional control to campaign spending that is expected to come up for a vote later this week. They are not under the illusion that it will become the 28th Amendment soon, if ever. But their willingness to undertake a long and difficult effort shows the importance they attach to restoring fairness to American politics by reducing the influence of big money.

… Addressing the Citizens United decision, [the amendment] says that governments can “distinguish between natural persons and corporations” in setting those regulations, thus allowing restrictions on corporate or union spending that would not necessarily apply to individuals.

Ordinary people would simply make a distinction between persons and corporations, but once corporations are treated as persons for certain legal purposes, the ‘human being’ sense of person needs to be distinguished from these legal entities — and so we get the retronym natural person ‘human being’.

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Three from New Scientist

September 4, 2014

From the 8/30/14 New Scientist, three stories: one with a piece of technical terminology I hadn’t heard before, and two perfectly straightforward stories (on the mapping of Antarctic Ocean life and on the mating customs of the giraffe weevil) with some language play that’s characteristic of much science writing.

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Austenian humblebragging?

August 20, 2014

Another quotation from Jane Austen (once again via Chris Ambidge), this time from a letter of 11 December 1815 to James Stanier Clarke, about Austen’s novel Emma.

Surely this is false modesty — and couched as a boast, so that it looks like what we’d now call humblebragging.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 …’


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