Archive for the ‘Usage’ Category

A tartan for my ilk

August 29, 2017

Alerted recently by Beth Linker to an announcement on August 25th from the Scottish Register of Tartans (a UK government agency) that the Pride of LGBT tartan (category: Fashion) has been registered: reference #11871, recorded 7/31/17:

(#1) Pride of LGBT tartan

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Annals of NomConjObj: Miss Adelaide

August 24, 2017

Yesterday from Ben Zimmer, e-mail saying that he’d recently seen a performance of the musical “Guys and Dolls” and thought I’d appreciate an exchange in the song “Marry the Man Today” (one of the songs that was cut for the movie adaptation), a duet for the characters Adelaide (Miss Adelaide of the Hot Box girls) and Sarah (Sister Sarah Brown in a Salvation Army band):

Adelaide: At Wanamaker’s and Saks and Klein’s
A lesson I’ve been taught
You can’t get alterations on a dress you haven’t bought.
Sarah: At any vegetable market from Borneo to Nome
You mustn’t squeeze a melon till you get the melon home.
Adelaide: You’ve simply got to gamble.
Sarah: You get no guarantee.
Adelaide: Now doesn’t that kind of apply to you and I?
Sarah: You and me.

(referring to Adelaide and Nathan Detroit, who runs a crap game; and Sarah and Sky Masterson, a high-rolling gambler)

You can listen to the song, in the original cast album, here.

A NomConjObj (nominative conjoined object) from Adelaide, corrected by Sarah. The first instance of NomConjObj in my life that I actually noticed — surely not the first that came past me, but the first I was conscious of, and tried to locate in its social world (working-class NYC low-lifes, in the show) — also part of my first experience of a live performance of a musical, in the original Broadway production, which opened in 1950. I was 10, and it was stunning.

(#1) Playbill from the original production

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Verbal magic in the workplace

June 2, 2017

Today’s Dilbert:

Your people are distressed about the cell-like connotations of cubicle? Easy solution: change the term, to something that sounds more substantial. Yes, they’ll still be working in cell-like spaces, but they might feel better about it. Apparently, the magic of euphemistic, elevating jargon can sometimes work even if the audience knows that it’s jargonistic invention.

The Jargon Matrix

April 12, 2017

Yesterday’s Dilbert takes us into a dark world of language, the Jargon Matrix:

(#1)

The Matrix, but with jargon from the world of technology businesses.

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Name play in Basingstoke

June 12, 2016

From my English correspondent RJP, this tradeperson’s van, photographed on the street:

(#1)

Flat Boy Skim is a bit of complex name play on Fatboy Slim. Well, you have to know who Fatboy Slim is, something many people do not. And then: what might Flat Boy Skim have to do with plastering? For that, you have to know something about the technical jargon of plastering (which I did not, until I looked it up; well, I correctly noted that a good plastering job should be flat — smooth — and I assumed that boy was just there for the name play, but skim was a mystery).

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Two Dilberts

December 21, 2015

From the 8th, featuring Alice:

  (#1)

and from the 20th, featuring Wally and the pointy-haired boss:

  (#2)

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Confessions of a Comma Queen

May 11, 2015

Back on April 4th, I posted about two language-related pieces in the New Yorker, the first a reminiscence by Mary Norris about jobs she had held, tracing her route to the copydesk at that magazine and her career as a “comma queen”. About that time the expansion of this essay into a book appeared: Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (W. W. Norton). And now some reviews, including one by Patricia O’Conner in the NYT Book Review on April 19th, beginning:

Copy editors are a peculiar species (I’ve been one myself, and at the very publication you are now reading). But those at The New Yorker are something else entirely, a species nova that mutated into existence in 1925 and would hurl itself off a cliff rather than forsake the dieresis in “coöperate.”

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Tech talk

February 21, 2015

Today’s Dilbert, in which the pointy-headed boss asks for investment advice:

The boss is fine with colorful figurative jargon in the investment world, but balks at the term diversification because of the spelling challenges it presents.

Employee qualities

January 17, 2015

Back in November, Business Insider posted a piece, “A Leaked Internal Uber Presentation Shows What The Company Really Values In Its Employees”:

One page of the document defined which qualities all Uber employees are expected to possess. Those qualities, or “Uber Competencies,” are: Vision, Quality Obsession, Innovation, Fierceness, Execution, Scale, Communication, Super Pumpedness

Business Insider picked out two of these, super pumpedness and fierceness, as especially worthy of mockery. And now Scott Adams’s comic Dilbert has exploited these in two strips, from yesterday and today.

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Ask AMZ

November 24, 2014

Two usage queries came to me recently: one on uses of a noun doxy; one on two informal idioms (the whole shooting match and wham, bam, thank you ma’am (with some variant versions)): Max Vasilatos reported coming across two Californian young men, one of whom didn’t understand the first, the other of whom didn’t understand the second.

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