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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: texting, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Babies and Toddlers and Txtng, O My!


              :)  TXTNG  :(

Did you know
that long ago
the Greeks gave us our vowels –
our A and E and I and O
and Y (that sometimes) howls?
Yay! :)

But…
OMG!
How :( I M
2 c what txtng’s wrought!
When now I tweet
words short n sweet
I X the vowels Greeks brought!

                   * * * * *
How nice 2 B 2day’s TeachingAuthors contributor  to Poetry Friday.
10 Q April Halprin Wayland and CarmelaMartino and Jill Esbaum, our group blog’s “usual” Poetry Friday posters, for allowing me to take this Friday slot and thus continue the celebration of Sleeping Bear Press’ release of my new baby board book soon to arrive in stores everywhere, TXTNG MAMA TXTNG BABY.

FYI: Our week-long celebration includes a Book Giveaway of TWO signed copies of this perfect baby gift of a book.  Click HERE for the details and be sure to enter by next Tuesday, August 13.

I wrote in Monday’s post how my grandson inspired TXTNG MAMA TXTNG BABY whilst he was in utero.  My Baby Antennae had been (understandably) working overtime.  All I saw – everywhere I looked – were Mamas thumbing their hand-held devices and nearby, babies finger-swiping the same.
                                                    
     Texting Mamas…
     Texting Babies…
     What’s up with THAT? I wondered.

To answer the above question, and the millions that followed, I spent a whole lot of time (cer10ly longer than my grandson’s gestation!) researching Texting and Technology as well as their impact on Babies and Toddlers.

I needed to know:  just what is text?”
There were definitions aplenty but linguist David Crystal’s TXTNGThe Gr8 Db8 (Oxford University, 2009) allowed the writer in me to understand this language – and – its features, several of which I shared in my Wednesday Writing Workout.
And is texting really killing writing?
There were opinions aplenty.
Fortunately, I came upon Columbia University linguist Dr. John McWhorter’s TED Talk – “Txtng is killing language. JK!!”
McWhorter considers texting “a whole new way of writing,” fingered speech that allows us to write the way we speak, an expansion of a young person’s linguistic repertoire.
Noting texting’s loose structure, McWhorter remarks, “No one thinks about capital letters or punctuation when one texts, but then again, do you think about those things when you talk?”
Click HERE to listen to Dr. McWhorter's TED Talk. Enjoy and learn!

I needed to explore and experience 2day’s Babies’ and Toddlers’ Techy-Techy World, the Digital World in which these smallest of humans live and breath and laugh and learn, not to mention, swipe and tap and thumb.
Every day brought A New Something with A New Action, A New Opportunity, a New Possibility for digital natives, both parent and child.
Hanna Rosin’s comprehensive article “The Touch-Screen Generation” in the April 2013 issue of THE ATLANTIC magazine grounded, informed and enlightened me. 
Click HERE to check it out for yourself, making sure you leave time for the Readers Comments.

Finally, I needed to read and understand the research.

Dr. Marie Donovan and Dr. Roxanne Owen of DePaul University’s College of Education connected me to the Fred Rogers Center for early learning and media at St. Vincent College.
I explored the website, read the studies and findings
and understood instantly the requisite human touch Touch Technology demands when it comes to babies and toddlers and technology.
Click HERE to read their newest posting on imaginary play with technology.

I M still on the hunt for anything and everything that is remotely related to babies, toddlers, texting and technology.
I clip, I cut-and-paste, I purchase, I stockpile.
Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune brought news of smart watches.
Later that afternoon, I discovered the BabyBook Onesie at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Zen and Now Gift Shop.

Who knows WHAT might juice my Writer’s Muse next week, next month, next year?

4 now, I M Byond :) I was able 2 use this newest of languages 2 cr8 TXTNG MAMA TXTNG BABY and bring my grandson’s Digital World to the ultimate hand-held device: the baby board book.

10 Q for letting me share.

 And Happy Poetry Friday!

 Esther Hershenhorn
 


7 Comments on Babies and Toddlers and Txtng, O My!, last added: 8/10/2013
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2. A-txtng U Shall Go! - a Wednesday Writing Workout

Welcome 2 2day’s Wednesday Writing Workout, a Txtng Mini-lesson of sorts– and – our continuing TeachingAuthor celebration of my new baby board book soon to arrive in stores  everywhere, TXTNG MAMA TXTNG BABY.

Remember: our celebration includes a Book Giveaway of TWO signed copies of this perfect baby gift of a book, so click HERE for the details and be sure to enter by next Tuesday, August 13.
As I wrote in Monday’s post, it is a Techy-Techy World for 2day’s Babies.
But while researching Texting’s history and the gazillion pros and cons that surround this newest means of expression, I was surprised to learn from linguist David Crystal, author of TXTNG The gr8 db8  (Oxford University, 2009) that

(1) texting’s been around a mighty long time and
(2) most popular beliefs about texting are incorrect, or at least, debatable.
“Its graphic distinctiveness is not a totally new phenomenon,” Crystal writes.  “Nor is its use restricted to the young generation.  There is increasing evidence that it helps rather than hinders literacy.  And only a very tiny part of the language uses its distinctive orthography.”

According to Crystal, “Texting has added a new dimension to language use, indeed, but its long-term impact on the already existing varieties of language is likely to be negligible.  It is not a bad thing.”

Crystal identifies several distinctive features of texting, many of which suggest novelty but children’s literature proves otherwise.

For instance, logograms, which use “single letters, numerals and typographic symbols to represent words, parts of words, or even – as in the case of x and z – noises associated with actions.”
Think b, 2, @, x for kiss.
And William Steig’s C D B, first published by Simon & Schuster in 1968!


And Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s WUMBERS (Chronicle Books, 2012).
I especially Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s and illustrator Tom Lichtenheld’s dedication:
“We dedic8 this book 2 William Steig, the cr8or of CDB! (cer10ly the inspiration for this book) and so many other cla6.”

In logograms, the pronunciation is what matters, not the visual shape.
Think  : )    (smile)
Think :  (    (frown)

An initialism is “the reduction of words to their initial letters.
Think NATO and BBC.  (They are often called acronyms.)
But also think BFF, OMG, GF.
And Lauren Myracle’s ttfn.

 
Other features include omitted letters (bunsn brnr, txtng, msg), nonstandard spellings (cuz, thanx, ya), shortenings (doc, gov, mob) and genuine novelties (IMHO/in my humble opinion).

What gr8 fn I had imagining Mama’s n Baby’s conversation, using a variety of text features 2 cr8 a book which seems to have some very nice (language) company.  The teacher in me also liked learning the names of Texting's features. 
 
I hope you did too!
 
Esther Hershenhorn

 

 
 
              A-txtng U shall go!

Choose any 2 characters – real, imagined, animal, human, and get them talking, or rather, TXTNG (!) on their smart phones and/or tablets.

What’s the situation?
What’s the problem?
What’s the setting?

What’s the time?

Are the 2 characters Happy? Sad? Confused? Angry? Hopeful?  Plotting? Nasty? Kind?
Are they young or old or middle-aged?

How does each come at his or her hand-held device?
Word choice, expressions, phrasing, rhythms - and this case, spellings - connote VOICE!

Think about your beginning – the inciting incident of sorts that gets the conversation rolling, your middle, your end. 

Remember what dialogue does for a story: i.e.
(1)   informs the reader
(2)  advances the story
(3)  reveals character

And don’t forget to use a variety of text features!

1 Comments on A-txtng U Shall Go! - a Wednesday Writing Workout, last added: 8/7/2013
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3. Fusenews: Hotsy Totsy, Ducky, Spiffy, Etc.

When I first became interested in children’s literature I decided that it would be a good idea to teach myself about all the old greats of the picture book world.  A good idea, but self-teaching is inherently limited.  As such, I’ve missed a lot of folks. For example, until now “Saul Bass” meant nothing to me.  Yet after reading the Ward Jenkins post on the Rizzoli reprint of Henri’s Walk to Paris, that is one book I would love to get my sticky digits on.  Just gorgeous stuff.

I’ve noticed a couple of folks around the country working to make literary loving hip in the mind of the average consumer with varying degrees of success.  One project that has interested me, though, is this Litpunch idea the Twin Cities are engaged in.  Basically you get a card, you attend fun free literary events, and if you get your card punched twelve times you get a $15 gift card to a bookstore.  I do wish the libraries were involved in some manner but it’s a great notion.  Imagine if they did the same thing with children’s literature!  I await that happening someday.

  • This is impressive!  Want a fabulous list of in-print books set on every continent of the world?  And would you like such a list to also include activities and recipes and the like?  Then I think it’s time to take a trip to Read Around the World.  It’ll do your old heart good.  Promise.
  • Speaking of recipes, you know that fabulous book Press Here by Herve Tullet?  Well, would you fancy trying a mess of Press Here cookies?  Children’s Books for Grown-Ups has got the goods.  It’s part of a regular “Bookish Bites” series.  I’m seriously looking forward to how Natasha will tackle that upcoming Moomin birthday cake.  There but for the grace of parental challenges go I . . .
  • Once in a while at Hark, A Vagrant, Ms. Kate Beaton will reinterpret various Edward Gorey covers.  Here’s one she may have missed.  It appeared recently on the 50 Watt blog and features a Gorey spider.  Have you ever seen a Gorey spider?  Did you know that you were missing out?  That your life contained a gigantic Gorey-spider shaped void?

Well now you know.

  • Is texting “an ideal sp

    6 Comments on Fusenews: Hotsy Totsy, Ducky, Spiffy, Etc., last added: 9/12/2011
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4. Texts and Teen Writing Skills

Google texts and teen writing skills and you will get many articles on how texting negatively effects teen’s formal writing skills, all loaded with quotes from teachers about how they have seen the negative impact texting has on these skills.
The most interesting article I found was in the New York Times www.nytimes.com/2002/09/19/technology/circuits/19MESS.html?ex=1178164800&en=be7c73c909e0a0a1&ei=5070, printed in 2002 . The arguments made almost ten years ago are still the sames ones you will read about over and over in any article/blog/web forum today. Basically, that the shorthand teens use in text messaging is detrimental to their writing and can be found in written assignments, much to the frustration of their teachers.

But, if you dig a little deeper and read the whole article, you’ll find a different viewpoint about teens and texting. This is the viewpoint I would like to represent. You can find short little blog posts like this, http://edoptions.com/blog/?p=23, that point out that teachers have been complaining about informal language seeping its way into formal language for a very long time. Remember how upset people where when email became a primary source of communication as opposed to letter writing. Teachers and elders thought this was an abomination and that teens would never learn how to write properly.

Who remembers ebonics? (That’s right, I was a teen in the 90′s;-) OMG (had to throw it in) I thought people where going to come to fist fights over that issue- should it become an official language or not? If you’re too young to remember this debate look it up in wikipedia.

Speaking of, isn’t wikipedia itself a current debate in the formal writing process? I tell patrons, adults, teens and college students, that wikipedia is a great jumping point for starting research. I explain that anyone can go on and post something on a wikipedia entry, so this is not a good source to use in a research paper, but that it is an excellent place to start research. I bet some of you are cringing and some of you are nodding your heads.

In my humble opinion, I think teens are reading and writing WAY more than I ever did as a teen. Even though the writing in texts are not essay worthy, hardly any of the writing I do is essay worthy. I mean, come on, I wouldn’t dare turn this post in for a class, but I could easily turn the ideas into a very nice research paper. I put :) and the occassional ;-) in professional emails on a daily basis. I was taught, in grad school, that this are used to display your tone in writing (this was taught especially in regards to online reference services). I believe that getting teens reading and writing in any way possible is a good thing. How many of you used formal English in the notes you passed back and forth in class in grade school? How many of you made up coded language or words, so that if your note was intercepted it would be hard to decipher?

I believe that this is a current debate and in years to come someone will be telling their younger colleagues to look it up in wikipedia (whatever the current source will be).

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5. Waiting by the Box

I got a pingback on yesterday’s post and it got me to thinking about another item between family members and friends.

Dreams flow well in letters, don’t they? I think we’ve lost part of that connection, especially because of the internet. No anticipation flutters our heartbeat when we think of getting an email. That sensation came when we waited for real mail, on paper, with ink covering the page like so much ivy growing out toward us, carrying dreams, images, and speculations. Secrets huddled within the lines of word leaves, providing us with tiny thrills and mysteries.

These were the reasons we wrote to cousins, best friends on vacation, or pen pals. Most of that is gone now with the arrival of internet. That loss is what I regret, for now, instead of picking up fountain pen and paper, I reach for a keyboard, and the thought and care that would had gone into writing to a love one has dissipated into a mist of remembered pleasure.

Can you imagine how much of our world’s history, knowledge, and philosophy would not exist if it weren’t for written letters?

Much of the ancient world would be a mystery to use without those letters between philosophers and historians. The treatise is a simple extension of the letter. Those documents formed the very foundation of what we know as literature, scientific notation, constitutions, etc.

Family members wrote to one another, knowing that they might never get a response from the one who’d moved so far away, or the one who’d stayed in the old neighborhood/country. Hope clung to fragile ink-covered pages, written with love, despair, anticipation, disgust, and all the rest of human emotion. Did those pioneers recognize the tradition they followed from a thousand years before?

As we move further into a new world that disdains the tangible personal letter, we need to look back for a moment to imprint in our minds what we’re giving up. Physical remains of letters have survived for thousands of years. One badly timed lightning strike can wipe out years of work or correspondence.

Mother Nature doesn’t care about electrons that floated around or are stored in the ether around us. A scrambled atmosphere can do as much damage in the long run as a flood. All communication is vulnerable to disaster, computer driven no less than the Pony Express.

At the end of the day, though, we choose to use our time to communicate with dreams, aspirations, and secrets from one person to another, or merely to open a channel and punch keys.

The individual decides. Quick and dirty or thoughtful and fulsome? When is the last time letters arrived in your mailbox?


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6. Does Techspeak Harm Our Writing Skills?

In a survey, 64 percent of teens confessed that they used “techspeak” from texting or online communication in writing assignments at school.

Will text messaging and social networking harm our writing skills? Social Times has more in a detailed infographic:

A recent study suggests that the more kids text, the less they learn about proper grammar. Widespread use of social media sites and text messaging tools has given rise to a hybrid language called “techspeak” that’s riddled with acronyms and abbreviations instead of words and numbers instead of letters. This, we knew. But because students between the ages of 13 and 17 send twice as many messages as people in any other age group, “techspeak” is more likely to creep into their school assignments and give others the wrong impression about their communication skills.

continued…

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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7. Texting & Tweeting Do Not Ruin Job Prospects

Today's Ypulse Youth Advisory Board post comes from media analyst Libby Issendorf who was spurred into defending her fellow Millennials after catching a BlackBook article we recently cited in Essentials. Remember, you can communicate directly with... Read the rest of this post

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8. The txt message you should never send to your husband

My bad. I sent hubby a txt message yesterday to ask if he wanted to meet Mx and I for dinner and I notice my last txt message to him: Where's our plunger? I kid you not. Now, I know when you need a plunger, you need a plunger. And I realize that when you move, things get lost like keys, tax forms, dogs, kids and, well, plungers. But, don't ever send that txt to your hubby. I believe I have txt regret. I don't think Bella would ever txt Edward with such a question. And I certainly think that Becall would have refrained, had she the technology available, from sending such a txt [asking for a match is somewhat sexier]. Romancefail. Which leads to today's question.

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9. For The "Texting" Challenged Generation(s)

I've been somewhat distracted of late what school getting out, summer coming on and preparations for the National Scout Jamboree (we're down to under 20 days to departure). But with a few days breathing space in the schedule, I'm getting back to my blog after a month-long absence.

Today's entry is a little something for those of you who may feel challenged by texting and are wondering if there's any hope. For those over age 40 who can figure it out, congratulations. For the rest of you who consider texting some kind of torture that ought to be banned as cruel and unusual punishment, bless your hearts. I'm stuck right in the middle of all of you. My thumbs are too big, my nails are too short and I can't see much of anything on those itty-bitty cell phone screens. But not to worry. An English translation is provided below.

OK. So, I admit to I outwardly professing my intent to one day become a texter. I suppose it could happen. But truth be told, I am secretly waiting for someone to invent a cell phone with a circular dial so I can hear the "skrrridge-tick, tick, tick, tick...." sound of the yesteryear telephone dial coming out of my cell phone.

Realizing the likelihood of that happening any time in the near or distant future is slim to none, I herewith offer this short piece in homage to all those under age sixteen apparently born with texting intuition and thumb nails pre-filed to small points. Remember to show a little sympathy for the rest of us who are happy just to grip our cell phones with what may soon be our vestigial opposable thumbs.

Enjoy...


cllN plnz
by bil krk

my dad bawt me a cel ph.
its realy wA 2 QL.
u wont bleev w@ it cn do—
il shO u aftr skool.

it ltz me d/l muzc;
snd pix, gmes n stuf.
it evn hlps me do my math,
n f thts nt nuf,

It hs a dxNre;
n evry countrys map—
jst ask me whr a rivA s.
il fnd it ina snap!

thers O 1 sml prob—
its nm @ ll.
bt sumday mayB I shd lern
to actuly mak a cll.

wrd count: 86

Translation:

Calling Plans
By Bill Kirk

My Dad bought me a cell phone.
It’s really way too cool.
You won’t believe what it can do—
I’ll show you after school.

It lets me download music;
Send pictures, games and stuff.
It even helps me do my Math,
And if that’s not enough,

It has a dictionary;
And every country’s map—
Just ask me where a river is.
I’ll find it in a snap!

There’s only one small problem—
It’s nothing much at all.
But someday maybe I should learn
To actually make a call.

Word Count: 88

2 Comments on For The "Texting" Challenged Generation(s), last added: 7/3/2010
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10. Ypulse Research Roundup: What Matters To Millennial Women, New Ypulse Report & More

Today we bring you another installment of the latest youth research available for sale or download. Remember if your company has comprehensive research for sale that focuses on youth between the ages of 8 and 24, email us to be included in the... Read the rest of this post

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11. Passing Notes

Delivery from Etsy

Image by cowbite via Flickr

Did you ever get in trouble for passing notes in class?


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12. (1) New Message: Your Crush Officially 'Likes' You

Teen romance is less "Romeo and Juliet" and more "Weird Science" these days — declarations of love come via computer instead of in person (and you can forget about moonlit balconies). It's not all bad, though, says Youth Advisory Board member... Read the rest of this post

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13. What The...? Did You Just Spill Your Milk?

At the risk of giving someone an audience they don't deserve, I feel compelled to comment about the latest wolf in sheep's clothing: A clever money-maker (if only because some will actually think it's funny enough to buy) which may end up creating a whole new genre of adult bedtime picture books.

Now before you get your panties in a wad, arguing that adult bedtime picture books have already been done, I'm not talking about the kind of books with pictures that adults may use at bedtime from time to time. Yes, you are right. Those "self-help" books have been out since shortly after Guttenburg figured out how to mass produce the printed page.

But no. This latest creation is what otherwise would appear to be a children's picture book both on its cover and inside. But that's where the resemblance ends. Instead the book purports to be written for new parents to somehow help them deal with the frustrations of being a parent trying to get their new baby or toddler to sleep. What new parent couldn't identify with that?

No doubt the book will get a few chuckles. Likewise, I have little doubt it will sell, although probably not nearly so well were it not formatted as a children's picture book---kind of a formatting double entendre, if you will. And apparently many of you out there indeed will.

After all, the colorful children's illustrations are simple yet engaging. And what new parent could resist a bedtime story to help lull their little kiddo to sleep? But forgive my lack of excitement. To the author---and to Nightline for running the feature---I say GMAB! (which is now far and away my new favorite texting abbreviation).

For those of you scratching your heads wondering "What the... is he talking about?" I can say that sadly you won't have any trouble searching for or finding the hot new release online. This book has done what most authors can only dream about. It has "gone viral" with so much free promotion (including, I suppose, this blog post) that the author may be able to retire in before Labor Day. After all, it's a #1 best seller on Amazon---maybe even in a couple different categories.

And who knows? It may spawn any number of other books covering such parental challenges as long road trips ("Shut The F--- Up, We're Not There Yet!"), potty training ("Sit The F--- Down And Poop!"), arguing in the car with sibblings ("Don't Make Me Pull The F--- Over!"), food consumption ("Eat Your F---ing Vegetables!") and dinner time accidents ("What The F---? Did You Just Spill Your Milk?").

OK. So, perhaps I'm being unfair. After all, I'm still quivering after last month's sale of four copies of my books online. I suddenly found myself propelled up to a sub-500,000 sales ranking in children's books on Amazon. I gotta admit, having only half a million books ahead of mine in the rankings is pretty heady stuff.

Just think what might have happened if I had added an "F-bomb" (or its abbreviation) to a few of my published titles. The Nightline producers would probably have me on speed dial!

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14. How do we spend our time: Around the World in One Day

I have been thinking about how people spend their time.  About what we do when heat overtakes us, or horrific news erupts, or dreams are crushed, or people disappoint us.  About how we show those we love that we do love them.  About how we make time's passing matter.  The other evening, while at dinner, my son was explaining what matters to him when choosing friends.  "I don't want to spend that much time with people who spend too much time judging other people," he said, naming a top criteria.  I thought about me:  Do I spend enough of my own time not judging?

During this past week of both celebrating birthdays and escaping heat, I have found myself at more restaurants than usual, watching those at neighboring tables spend the great portion of their time interacting alone with their own jewel-encrusted phones.  Three teen sisters never once spoke to one another.  They texted, the three of them alone on their phones, through the lemonade, the salads, and the shared dessert.

How do people spend their time? 

How is a day delivered and consumed by a gardener, say, in Dubai, or by a man who is in radiant love?  Yesterday, I read a story I encourage you to read about the making of a documentary film based entirely on YouTube footage.  The story, which appears in the July 24, 2011 New York Times Magazine, was written by Adam Sternbergh and is subtitled "How more than 80,000 videos and 4,500 hours of raw footage turned into one unexpectedly emotional 95-minute movie."  The film, produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, was edited by Joe Walker.  From the story:
"I noticed fairly early on that a lot of men with very good cameras were taking beautiful pictures of their very beautiful girlfriends backlit in parks," Walker says. So they tagged all those clips "My Beautiful Girlfriend" and built a montage out of them.  Other tags included "Ablutions" and "Footwork." "So many people shot their own feet walking, we could have made a continuous 12-hour film out of people walking," he said. "We could have made a film out of watermelons. We could have made a film entirely shot by women named Linda...."
Read the whole story.  Watch a few of the clips here.  And ask yourself what film you'd make about the life that you are living.

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15. Things that scare me...



Texting develops literacy? Um, I really hope my elementary school children don't have cell phones. I think that would scare me even more. 

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16. Email Is Not Dead For Young Adults

Earlier this school year, I sat in a class listening to the professor talk about how she no longer emails students because "young adults don't read emails anymore." Uh, we don't? As obnoxious as it is to be told what... Read the rest of this post

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17. Ypulse Essentials: HSM Sing-A-Long, Burger King Clothes, How Not To Lose Youth Trust

MTV loses their touch (and hopes original programming can get it back) (Wired) -Rally is right! (At last count 1,508,004 had joined Facebook's Election Rally. Check out my earlier post on donated statuses. Plus youth who were 'text blasted' by... Read the rest of this post

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18. Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup East: Tech Panel Highlights

In the true spirit of a Mashup, the crowd that gathered in Boston last week was a diverse intersection of marketing, media and educational professionals (Check out the Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup East site to see who attended in the Who's Coming... Read the rest of this post

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19. Ypulse Essentials: 'Twilight' On The Horizon, The Winter Blog Blast Tour, Motrin Moms

Exactly just how big will Twilight's opening weekend be? (So far 500 midnight shows have sold out and advance ticket sales have already outpaced HSM 3. Plus hundreds of teen "fanpires" flock to the premiere in LA. Thanks, Derek!) (Variety) (US... Read the rest of this post

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20. Monthly Gleanings: January 2009: Part 2

By Anatoly Liberman

The Internet and language change. The question I received can be summarized in two points. 1) Will texting and the now prevalent habit of abbreviating whole phrases (the most-often cited example is LOL “laugh out loud”) affect language development in a serious way? 2) Will the unprecedented exposure to multiple dialects and cultures that the Internet provides result in some sort of universal language? Linguistic futurology is a thankless enterprise, but my inclination is to answer no to both questions. Every message is functional. Texting, like slang and all kinds of jargon, knows its place and will hardly escape from its cell-phone cage. Some abbreviations may become words, and a statement like she lol’ed when I asked her whether she would go out with me is not unimaginable. Countless acronyms like Texaco, BS, UNO, and snafu clutter our speech; if necessary, English will survive a few more. It is the collapse of reading habits and the general degradation of culture that threaten to reduce our vocabulary to lol’able basics. As to the second part of the question, I would like to point out that the Internet is only one component of globalization. It ignores borders, but new Compuranto, destined to replace our native languages, is not yet in the offing.

Disappearing words. The question runs as follows: “For years I’ve wondered if spell-check is responsible for the disappearance of the word pled (as in he pled guilty vs. the current he pleaded guilty) and similar words that were in common usage until about twenty or so years ago. Other words that seem to have disappeared are knelt, sunk, etc.” I wonder what our readers will say. As far as I can judge, all those words are still around. In student newspapers, which reflect the poorly edited and unbuttoned-up usage of the young, I see almost only pled guilty. If anything, it is pleaded that gave way to pled in the legal phrase, probably under the influence of bled and fled. (I am not sure how many people have gone over to we pled with her but in vain). In American English, sunk seems to be the most common past tense of sink, and once, when I used sank in this blog, I was taken to task and then forgiven, when it turned out that the OED “allows” the principal parts sinksanksunk, like shrinkshrankshrunk. Knelt seems to be the preferred form in British English. In any case, it is felt to be more elevated, though the OED gives both forms (knelt and kneeled) without comment. In a few other cases, American English has also chosen regular weak preterits: thus, burned, learned, spelled rather than burnt, learnt, spelt. Whatever the cause of the variation, it is clearly not the spell-check.

A family name. What is the origin of the family name Witthaus? Both witt- and haus are common elements of German family names. Strangely, Witthaus did not turn up in the most detailed dictionaries of German family names or of American last names of German descent. However, I will venture an etymology. Haus is clear (”house”). Witt- can have several sources, but, most likely, in this name it means “white” (if so, the form is northern German, Dutch, or Frisian). The European ancestors of the Witthaus family must have lived in or near a house painted white.

The origin of separate words. Handicapped. I am copying the information from The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, which offers a curtailed version of what can be found in the OED. The word appeared in English texts in the middle of the 17th century and meant a lottery in which one person challenged an article belonging to another, for which he offered something in exchange, an umpire being chosen to decree the respective values. In the 18th century, the phrases handicap match and handicap race surfaced. They designated a match between two horses, in which the umpire decided the extra weight to be carried by the superior horse. Hence applied to the extra weight itself, and so to any disability in a contest. Presumably, from the phrase hand i’ (in) cap, the two parties and the umpire in the original game all depositing forfeit money in a cap or hat. Shampoo. From a Hindi verb meaning “press!” (The original reference was to massage). Meltdown. Amusingly, the earliest recorded form in the OED refers to ice-cream (1937). The word acquired its ominous meaning in connection with accidents in nuclear reactors and spread to other areas; hence the meltdown of the stock market. As our correspondent notes, it has become a buzzword (and therefore should be avoided, except when reactors are meant). Hoi polloi. From Greek. It means “all people, masses.” Sun dog. Judging by the earliest citations in the OED, in the thirties of the 17th century the word was already widely known. However, its origin is said to be “obscure.” I can offer a mildly intelligent guess. Considering the superstitions attending celestial phenomena, two false suns sometimes visible on both sides of the real one could have been thought of as dogs pursuing it. The idea of two wolves following the sun and the moon, both of which try to escape their enemies and constantly move on, occurred to the medieval Scandinavians. Even the names of the wolves, Skoll (Anglicized spelling) and Hati, have come down to us. When the world comes to an end (a situation described in great detail in Scandinavian myths), the wolves catch up with and swallow their prey. As regards sundog, the missing link would be a theological or astronomical treatise that introduced and justified the use of the word. In their absence all guesses are hot air. If it is any consolation, I can say that the origin of dog days and hot dog is not obscure. The etymology of hot dog required years of painstaking research.

A few Americanisms. Conniption. Everybody seems to be in agreement that it is a “fanciful formation.” However, this phrase simply means “an individual coinage.” The question is who coined conniption and under what circumstances. I wonder whether a search for some short-lived popular song or cartoon will yield any results. Such words often come from popular culture. At the moment, we can only say that despite its classical look, conniption, which does not trace to Latin or any Romance language, must have been modeled on such nouns as conscription, constriction, conviction, and so forth. Whether a conniption fit, that is, a fit of rage or hysteria, is “related” to nip is anybody’s guess. Jaywalk. This is an equally opaque word. The verb jaywalk is a back formation on the noun jaywalker, because no other model of derivation produces English compounds made up of a noun followed by a verb. In similar fashion, kidnap is not a sum of kid and nap, but a back formation on kidnapper, another Americanism (from kid and napper “thief”), a cant word, stressed originally, like the verb, on the second element; the reference is to the people, not necessarily children, decoyed and snatched from their homes to work as servants or slaves in the colonies; such servants were often called kids: compare boy in colonial English, busboy, and cowboy, as well as the title of Robert L. Stevenson’s novel Kidnapped). It is also clear that the reference in jaywalker cannot be to the bird. Crows do not fly in a straight line, “kiddies” do not cut corners (kiddy-corner ~ cater-corner), and jays do not walk. Jay is one of the many words for a country bumpkin, along with hick, hillbilly, hayseed, redneck, and others. It has been suggested that people from rural areas (jays) came to town and, ignorant of street lights, crossed busy streets in an erratic way. Those were allegedly jaywalkers. The foundation of this etymology is shaky, since jay has never been a widespread word for a rustic. Other suggestions are even worse, and the literature on the word is all but nonexistent. Jukebox. Also a crux. Several meanings of juke have been attested, one of them being “roadside inn; brothel,” allegedly an Afro-Caribbean word. Juke refers to things disorderly and noisy, and jukeboxes were installed in saloons and other cheap places. Since jukebox originated in Black English, its African etymology is not improbable. But I would like to point out that the sound j often has an expressive function in English, whether it occurs word finally (budge, fudge, grudge, nudge) or word initially (job, jog, jig, jazz). It is perhaps a coincidence, but note that both jaywalker and juke begin with this sound. Haywire. From the use of hay-baling wire in makeshift repairs; hence “erratic, out of control.”

Hunyak. A derogatory term for a person of non-western, usually central or eastern, European background; a recent immigrant, especially an unskilled or uneducated laborer with such a background. The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), which has citations for these words going back to 1911, makes a plausible suggestion that hunyak (sometimes capitalized and alternating with honijoker, honyak, etc.) is perhaps a blend of Hun or Hunk “Hungarian” and Polack. There may be no need to posit a blend, for -ack is a common suffix in Slavic; it could have been added to hun-. DARE gives multiple citations of Hunk ~ hunk ~ hunks (with reinforcing -s) ~ Hungy, and so forth. Stupnagel. “Moron.” I risked a conjecture that proved to be correct. First, I rejected any connection with Hitler’s general Fr. von Stupnagel, who was not a fool (the opposite is true) and not a familiar figure in the United States. As with conniption, I suggested that the word had emerged in popular culture (a sketch, a show, or a series of cartoons) and reconstructed a character whose name was made up of stup- (from stupid) and -nagle, from finagle. Mr. Nathan E. J. Carlson, an assistant at DARE, has kindly sent me the information provided by Dr. Leonard Zwilling, that in 1931 a radio program in Buffalo, NY featured two idiots: Stoopnagle (so spelled) and Buddy. In 1933 a film was released with those characters, the first of them becoming Colonel Lemuel Q. Stoopnagle. There must have been a good reason for the change, because Lemuel is the first name of Swift’s Gulliver. I do not know what made the author introduce Stoopnagle, but my etymology (a blend of stupid and finagle) looks good. The author could also have been inspired by the German word Nagel “nail” (compare stud “nail,” with its obscene meaning, and the hero of Farrell’s novel Studs Lonigan) or perhaps wanted one of the characters to be a German, to invite a few cheap laughs. But the word stupnagle almost certainly goes back to that radio program. Judging by what one finds in the Internet, the word, but not its origin, is well-known.

A few comments on comments. Buzzwords. A fellow professor agrees with my negative attitude toward academic clichés like cutting edge and interdisciplinary, for which I am grateful. Those words shape our thought and pretend to disguise our shallowness. No grant can be received without brandishing a cutting edge, as though it were a bare bodkin, and proving one’s interdisciplinary ability to sit between two stools. Every elected official is “proud and humbled,” administrators (a vociferous chorus) rail against “an overblown sense of entitlement” by constantly promoting it, eagle-eyed journalists see the simplest things only through a “lens,” and no ad in the sphere of education will dare avoid the adjective diverse. What a dull new world! When asked about verbs like to Blagojevich, I said that verbs derived from last names seem to be rare. Several correspondents sent me what they believed to be such verbs; however, with one exception, they remembered words having suffixes (like macadamize). The exception is to Bork. Bork, a monosyllable, lends itself naturally to becoming a verb. I was glad to read that my post on Swedish kul, published in the middle of an inclement winter, warmed the cockles of a Swedish teacher’s heart (I pointed out that kul is not a borrowing of English cool), and it was interesting to read another late 19th century example of the superlative degree coolest (cool “impudent”). The correspondent who thinks that the phrase that’s all she wrote has nothing to do with Hazlitt’s time (because the contexts are different) may be right, but the old citation shows that the model for such phrases existed long before World War II.

Note. I received a question about the origin of akimbo. This word needs more than a few lines of discussion. See my post on it next Wednesday.


Anatoly_libermanAnatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins…And How We Know Them as well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears here, each Wednesday. Send your etymology question to blog.us@oup.com; he’ll do his best to avoid responding with “origin unknown.”

4 Comments on Monthly Gleanings: January 2009: Part 2, last added: 3/3/2009
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21. Don't Hate The Smartphone, Hate the Farting App

A recent rant published on Ad Age echoes the complaints I've started to hear from parents who stand by feeling helpless as their bright, young child falls in love with a smartphone. The argument goes a little something like this.. if you take a kid... Read the rest of this post

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22. Are Parents' Emails Still A Punchline?

Yesterday, with our brother's help, my sister and I video chatted with our mom for Mother's Day. I also talked on the phone with her in the morning and exchanged emails. Now usually these things don't all happen in such close succession (it was a... Read the rest of this post

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23. What’s Wireless Got to Do With the Digital Divide?

Yesterday the Pew Internet in American Life project released a report on wireless Internet use. When I first heard about the report I didn’t think very broadly about what the data might have to say about the impact of access for teens (and for libraries for that matter). But, when I read several news reports that highlighted findings that wireless access, particularly on mobile devices, is serving to lessen the digital divide I started thinking about teens. While not everyone has what some might consider traditional internet access at home - a wired or wireless connection that is used with a laptop or desktop - that doesn’t mean that the Internet isn’t available in the home. People are accessing the Internet with laptops and desktops and they are using game consoles and handheld devices for their access.

If outside of the school teens use handheld devices and gaming consoles to access the Internet, we need to look at how our resources are provided to the age group. We need to make sure to provide access to programs and services in ways that work well for someone using an Internet enabled device. For example:

  • It’s clearer now than ever before that we need to provide mobile versions of web pages, catalogs, and databases so that they display successfully on small screens. This is already something that libraries are doing, but perhaps we have to make this a bigger priority. (Mobile versions of library sites include New York Public Library and Skokie Public Library). If our web pages and databases aren’t easily read and scanned on the device someone is using at home, it’s likely that they will just look elsewhere, a place where the information is more easily read via the Internet enabled tool they use.
  • We need to embrace the kinds of technologies that teens use via their cell phones, including SMS. This includes text messaging ask a librarian services. On a handheld device this is probably the easiest and quickest way for teens to get answers. Again, if we aren’t providing the answers on these devices in this way perhaps a teen will go somewhere else that is.
  • Attention should be paid to developing and promoting applications for devices that support reading, searching, listening, viewing, and so on. Can teens download books, articles, audiobooks and read them on their handheld device or on a screen attached to a gaming console? Can they download a widget or application to their Internet enabled device in order to quickly call up the library catalog, a database, homework help tools, and so on? If this is how teens are accessing the Internet outside of school, shouldn’t these be tools the library provides?
  • If teens are using their devices as a main way to connect to the Internet, the school and public library needs to develop opportunities to use these devices in order to learn safe and smart use. Instead of banning mobile devices in schools, teens should have the chance to use them in the school setting for research, collaboration, and content creation. By providing teens that opportunity in the school setting we give them the chance to learn, with adults, how to critically think about their use of the device. Similarly, if public libraries provide programs and services that support and even embrace mobile technologies, librarians have an opportunity to embed within those programs and services discussions with teens of positive use of the technologies.

For a long time librarians and educators have said that teens don’t have Internet access at home, and have suggested that because of that the educational and leisure programs, services, and resources provided by the library should not focus too heavily on using the Internet in order to take part. Can we really continue to say and believe this if teens are accessing the Internet outside of school, just not in traditional ways? While the Pew Internet in American Life research was collected by surveying adults 18 and older, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t relate to teens 12 to 18. I’d even venture to guess that it might be more true of teenagers.

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24. How 'Give It A Ponder' Could Help Teens Think Twice

After citing LG's new "Give It A Ponder" initiative in yesterday's Essentials, I decided to give the campaign a closer look. Here's the overview from the press release: (LG Mobile Phones) has launched a multi-faceted campaign for tweens and teens... Read the rest of this post

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25. Texting And Tweeting: The 'Write' Stuff For The Classroom

It's no secret that in the age old debate of educators beating vs. joining "totally wired" teens in the classroom, Ypulse lands squarely on the side of joining. Still, it's (relatively) easy to talk about shifting a traditional paradigm. So it's... Read the rest of this post

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