Archive for the ‘Lexicography’ Category

Dictionary Day

October 16, 2014

The folks at Mental Floss tell me that today, October 16th, Noah Webster’s birthday, is Dictionary Day, described on the Days of the Year site as follows:

A day for lexicographers everywhere, Dictionary Day was founded to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Noah Webster – the father of the modern dictionary. Why not take the opportunity to learn some new words?

Several things to annoy the careful reader here, starting with the narrow American focus and going on to the ideas that we’d all be improved by learning some new words and that the primary job of lexicographers is giving us a great big list of words.



September 27, 2013

From a friend yesterday:

Recently the word “selfie” has been showing up, referring to images taken of oneself, usually with a cell phone.

I was wondering how long it takes for a word such as this to become accepted and recognized by you authorities on words.

Two matters here: the word selfie; and acceptance and recognition by authorities on words.


Annals of lexicography

September 11, 2013

From Cabinet magazine, issue 49 (Spring 2013), in “Leftovers / Cephalophoric Reason” by Eigil zu Tage-Ravn, about French folklorist Émile Nourry’s

exhaustive “Les saints céphalophores,” seventy-three closely researched pages documenting, in old French and Latin sources, more than 120 instances of saints engaging in “cephalophory” – i.e., carrying their own severed heads.

Cephalaphory. Transparent, I guess, if you know enough Greek (though even then you’d only get ‘head-carrying, head-bearing’, not specifically ‘carrying one’s own severed head’). Not a word most of us would have a use for, but arresting and entertaining.

Crisis talk

July 29, 2013

In the NYT on the 26th, the story “A Continent Mired in Crisis Coins a Language of Economic Pain” by Raphael Minder, which begins:

MADRID — The Portuguese have a new word, “grandolar,” which grew out of the euro crisis and means “to subject a government minister to a singing protest using a revolutionary hymn.” But now, after three years of austerity, even Portuguese children “grandolate” their parents if they do not want to take a bath.

Well, not a whole language, but a vocabulary in the economic domain.


The gay old days

July 16, 2013

A book cover found by Chris Ambidge and posted on Facebook:


Let’s dance!

Clearly from a time when gay predominantly meant ‘lighthearted, carefree, cheery’ and had not yet come into widespread use meaning ‘homosexual’.


Crowdsourced lexicography

June 8, 2013

In the NYT on May 21st, a front-page story by Leslie Kaufman, “For the Word on the Street, Courts Call Up an Online Witness”, beginning:

The wheels of justice move slowly sometimes, but not, apparently, as slowly as Webster’s New World Dictionary.

Slang has always been a challenge for the courts in cases that involve vulgar or insulting language. Conventional dictionaries lag the spoken word by design. That has lawyers and judges turning to a more fluid source of definitions: Urban Dictionary, a crowdsourced collection of slang words on the Internet.

The online site, created by a college freshman in 1999, has found itself in the thick of cases involving everything from sexual harassment to armed robbery to requests for personalized license plates, as courts look to discern meaning and intent in the modern lexicon.


Ed Fisher cartoons

July 9, 2012

Passed on from the Archaeosoup site (via Facebook), this New Yorker cartoon (1/26/63) by Ed Fisher:

This tickles archaeologists’ funny bones. And epigraphers’, of course.


Slexicographic notes: sploshing

June 21, 2012

Caught in a rerun yesterday, a 2009 episode (season 6, episode 9) of CSI: NY with the investigators checking out underground “sploshing parties”. Sploshing has been around for some time, and has been mentioned by sex columnist Dan Savage, but somehow I wasn’t paying attention.


Surfer lingo

June 1, 2012

Today’s Zippy:

Earlier strips had God playing Parcheesi and wrestling alligators. Now he’s/she’s out on the boards, wielding surfer lingo: the intensive scubetublar, the Surf Weasels (“a legendary underground surf rock instrumental band” from Portland OR), the surfing move shredding, the gnarl (challenging conditions, like a large wave), hang ten, garshed ‘tired, beat’, noodled ‘stoned, intoxicated’, throwing buckets (making huge amounts of spray), the green room (the inside of a barrel produced by a wave), grindage ‘food’. Totally gnarly, dudes and dudettes!

Lexical gap filled!

May 30, 2012

Question: Given that an event that is depicted in a movie (or television show) is said to have happened on-screen, how do you refer to an event that is depicted in a comic strip?



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