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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: ben, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 45
1. Calling all tonguesters: Refresh your gossip with old words

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Mark Peters, the genius behind the blog Wordlustitude in addition to being a Contributing Editor for Verbatim: The Language Quarterly, a language columnist for Babble, and a blogger for Psychology Today, is our guest blogger this week. Below Peters encourages us to make old words hip again.

Did you hear about the nude pictures of Lindsay Lohan and Roger Clemens drinking a human growth hormone/grain alcohol smoothie?

You have? Then let me tell you what my brother’s nanny has been up to with your father’s mechanic in the gazebo. (more…)

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2. Oslo, Norway

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Oslo, Norway

Coordinates: 59 54 N 10 43 E

Population: 808,000 (2007 est.)

I’m not sure if location, expense, or as the Onion’s Our Dumb World insinuates, a residual fear of Viking invasion is to blame, but Oslo, one of my favorite European cities, doesn’t seem to get its fair share of attention. (more…)

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3. Hinche, Haiti

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Hinche, Haiti

Coordinates: 19 9 N 72 1 W

Population: 23,599 (2003 est.)

People travel for many reasons, but a chance to sample local or “authentic” cuisine often weighs heavily in the decision-making process. In my own peregrinations I’ve sampled stir-fried insects in Thailand, whale carpaccio in Norway, and stink tofu in Taiwan: all things that are harder to come by in the U. S. of A. An uncommon foodstuff that I haven’t tried however, can be purchased for next to nothing in the impoverished Caribbean nation of Haiti. (more…)

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4. Santiago, Chile

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Santiago, Chile

Coordinates: 33 26 S 70 40 W

Population: 5,623,000 (2007 est.)

For Chileans, February 12th marks an important moment in the history of their country. On this day in 1541, Pedro de Valdivia, a Spanish conquistador, founded Santiago de Nueva Extremadura on Saint Lucia Hill overlooking the Mapocho River. Present-day Santiago eventually grew to fill most of the basin of the same name and currently ranks as the sixth largest city in South American and the tenth most populous in the Western Hemisphere. (more…)

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5. The Super Bowl and Super Tuesday: How’d They Get So “Super”?

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Americans have two “super” events coming up on the national agenda: Super Bowl XLII on Sunday between the Giants and Patriots, followed two days later by Super Tuesday, when about half the country will vote in Democratic and Republican presidential primaries. Fox, the network that is broadcasting the Super Bowl, is even creating a Super mashup before the game begins, with two hours of coverage on Sunday morning mixing politics and football. It’s all quite super, some might say super-duper. So how did we get to this level of superheated superabundancy?

(more…)

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6. “Big-Up” on the Rise

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As OUP lexicographers monitor the linguistic radar for new words and meanings, sometimes we find a usage that appears novel but has actually been kicking around for quite a while. Consider the verb big-up, meaning ‘to praise or promote; to raise the profile of.’ Three recent quotes from American media sources give you a sense of how it’s being used these days. Here’s the actress Jaime Pressly critiquing the show “Ugly Betty”: “They’re purposefully big-upping the ugly fat girl to make everybody feel great, but it also glamorizes the fact that people are getting plastic surgery because they can.” The music blog Idolator had this to say about an “American Idol” contestant: “This is actually the second time that Hennessy has been big-upped by the Idol powers that be,” adding, “is big-upping this girl really the best strategy to boost ratings?” And finally a profile of Staten Island’s Budos Band notes: “Legit blogs like Brooklyn Vegan and online publications like Pitchfork and RollingStone.com have also big-upped the band.” This might be the verb of the moment in hip, pop-culture-savvy varieties of American English, but it already has a long history in Caribbean and British English.
(more…)

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7. “Primary” Colors


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Now that U.S. voters are deeply enmeshed in the presidential primary season, I’ve been thinking a lot about the word primary. (Or maybe it was last week’s column on subprime that primed the pump.) Primary and its colleague caucus are distinctly American political terms for the processes by which a party’s candidates are selected, and tracing the usage of these words offers a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of the nation’s electoral process.
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8. “Subprime” Ready for Prime Time


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The American Dialect Society has announced that the Word of the Year for 2007, as voted by members at its annual meeting, is subprime. It’s a sturdy choice, given how much media attention has circulated this past year about the financial crisis in the housing sector blamed on mortgage loans made to high-risk borrowers with credit ratings that are less than prime. Subprime (sometimes hyphenated as sub-prime) might not be as flashy as some previous selections by the ADS, such as truthiness in 2005 (comedian Stephen Colbert’s term for “truth from the gut” unencumbered by facts) or plutoed in 2006 (’demoted or devalued in the manner of Pluto losing planet status’). Nonetheless, the word has an intriguing history, even for people like me who aren’t terribly fascinated by the lending practices of banks.

(more…)

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9. Mojave, California

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Mojave, California

Coordinates: 35 3 N 118 10W

Population: 3,836 (2000 est.)

Here in the United States, most eyes are on New Hampshire today, as Democrats and Republicans head to the polls to decide their Party’s candidate for the 2008 presidential race. Further South in New York however, where it’s currently a very sunny 59 degrees Fahrenheit, I find my mind has wandered out west, to Mojave, California. (more…)

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10. Should “Decimate” be Annihilated?


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For the past few decades, Lake Superior State University has issued an annual “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.” Candidates for “banished words” are nominated by the public at large, and then a committee decides on the final selection, which is released every year on New Year’s Day. The 2008 list is a typical mix of terms deemed by the committee to be clichéd, improperly used, or objectionable in some other way, with a particular emphasis on management-speak, Internet lingo, and youth slang. Of course, the LSSU list is never effective in actually banning words — in fact, some words from years past have flourished quite successfully (“online” in 1996, “9-11” in 2002, “blog” in 2005). In general, the list is most informative as a barometer of pet peeves about language: what is it that gets under people’s skin, so much so that they think words (or particularly disliked senses of words) should be removed from the lexicon forthwith?

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11. Quixotic Coinages: The Failure of the Epicene Pronoun

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Earlier this week I spent an enjoyable hour being interviewed on the Wisconsin Public Radio show “At Issue with Ben Merens.” Though our topic was ostensibly the New Oxford American Dictionary’s choice of locavore as Word of the Year, as well as other notable words of 2007, we soon ventured into other word-related matters when the lines were opened for listeners’ calls. One caller had his own coinage that he hoped might someday achieve the fame of locavore and other recent additions to the language. Since English lacks a singular pronoun that can be used to refer to a person regardless of gender, the caller suggested that O be used for this purpose (since I is used as the first-person singular pronoun). (more…)

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12. From “Nuclear Winter” to “Carbon Summer”

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When Al Gore received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to raise awareness about man-made climate change, his acceptance speech featured a new word, or rather a new sense of an old word, that Oxford lexicographers have been watching closely: carbon, in the sense of “carbon dioxide or other gaseous carbon compounds released into the atmosphere.” As I wrote back in July, this extended sense of carbon can be found in all sorts of novel lexical compounds: carbon-neutral (2006 New Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year), carbon footprint, carbon tax, carbon trading, and so forth. In his speech, Gore introduced another compound into the mix: carbon summer.
(more…)

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13. Italian Food Podcast

italian-food-cover-image.jpgLast week we posted an article by Gillian Riley, author of The Oxford Companion to Italian Food, which advised on how to have an Italian Christmas. This week we have a great treat for you, a discussion between Riley and OUP editor Ben Keene (also a regular OUPblog blogger.) Listen to the podcast below. The transcript is after the jump.

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14. New Words on the Block: Back When “Movies” Were Young

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When we think about new additions to the English lexicon such as locavore or tase (or other candidates for the New Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year), it’s easy to forget that some of our most common vocabulary items were once awkward newcomers, like transfer students desperately trying to fit in with the other kids in class. A good reminder of that is John Ayto’s A Century of New Words. Looking through this “chronology of words that shaped our age,” one is struck again and again how so many of our old lexical friends are really not so old after all. Have we really only been talking about plastics since 1909, when Leo Baekeland invented bakelite? And who would have guessed the T-shirt has only been around since 1920, and the zipper since 1925? All of these words must have sounded downright peculiar when they first came on the scene, and yet now they’re unremarkable elements of the linguistic landscape.

(more…)

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15. Oxford Place Of The Year: Warming Island

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I’ve been blogging about the Place of the Week for nearly two years now, choosing a new location every seven days that I knew little about but had caught my attention or that appeared in the news. In the last year global warming has become much more than another subject debated within academia; in fact its found its way into our language, popular culture, and even our shopping habits. As I thought about this while I tried to pick my first Place of the Year, I kept coming back to the very visible ways the Earth’s landscape has been altered by the phenomena. (more…)

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16. Multi Tasking

We are in a deep freeze today; every inch of grass, trees, roads and homes are covered with a thick layer of ice. All my plans for shopping and errands..poof! The roads are just too dangerous to out be on today. The ice covered my beautiful minature rose bush in our front yard. I do hope it survives as it is north facing. So now it's to the project list.

It's crazy! Do you ever have those days, weeks and months where you are working on a dozen projects at one time? That's me, the story of my life. I am high in Input so that explains everything. We are in the midst of renovating, decorating for Christmas, booking flights and I am working on a Christmas card and have almost finished my first composition book. Phew! This has me stressing about how will I get it all done? Oh, and I must make one Christmas ornament for an exchange coming up...when's a girl have time to soak and relax??? Not to mention do all the Christmas shopping...

You are probably wondering why I haven't posted any illustrations lately. I actually am working on several illustrations and will post them as time permits. As I said, I am working on a Christmas card and I just finished a promo card that I send to clients. I also handed them out at the most recent Silver Bella event.

In the coming year I will be working on rebuilding my website and my blog. Have I said I've put enough on my plate to wear the most industrious woman out?

And yet another post of a Silver Bella project taught by the lovely Rebecca Sower.


This was such a fun project. I loved all the little glass pieces and mini collages underneath. It looks so much better in person and the edges of the glass are tipped in an antique glitter. Rebecca was so helpful and took the time to work with everyone individually as needed.

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17. Calais, Maine

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Calais, Maine

Coordinates: 45 11 N 67 17 W

Population: 3,447 (2007 est.)

Not to be confused with the much larger, older, and better known French city, Calais, Maine is nonetheless significant for several reasons: a French settlement established in 1604 by Champlain on nearby St. Croix Island was one of the first in North America, and as a point of entry into the United States, it’s the eight busiest northern border crossing. (more…)

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18. “Word of the Year” Mania!

zimmer.jpgIt’s always an exciting time at OUP when the New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year is selected. As announced here on Monday, this year’s choice is locavore, meaning “a person who endeavors to eat only locally produced foods.” The word may very well strike a resonant chord for anyone who has mulled over how many miles a bunch of bananas has logged before it gets to the local grocery store. But unlike some of our previous Words of the Year — most recently, podcast in 2005 and carbon neutral in 2006 — locavore is very much “on the cusp,” not yet firmly established in widespread usage, despite its great potential. That means Oxford lexicographers will continue to monitor its progress to see if it eventually warrants inclusion in the next edition of NOAD.

(more…)

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19. Afyon, Turkey

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Afyon, Turkey

Coordinates: 38 45 N 30 33 E

Elevation: 3,392 feet (1,034 m)

When speaking of edible plants (and their medicinal properties), the opium poppy tends to get a bad rap. Most likely this is because while its harmless leaves, oil, paste, and ripened seeds can be found in various Turkish, Arabian, and Persian dishes, the narcotic properties of unripe poppy seeds have made it a lucrative black market crop in recent decades. (more…)

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20. Dictionary Day is Coming…

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We’re just five days away from Dictionary Day, the annual celebration of all things lexicographical held every 16th of October. Commemorating the anniversary of Noah Webster’s birth in 1758, it’s largely an opportunity for US school teachers to organize classroom activities encouraging students to build their dictionary skills and to exult in the joy of words. Those of us who are out of school can celebrate too, of course. We’ll have some dictionary-themed fun on OUPblog next week, but I thought I’d kick things off with a look at some of the great names in the Anglo-American tradition of lexicography. Just about everyone knows about Webster, who published the first truly American dictionaries in 1806 and 1828, but let’s also pay homage to some other dictionary doyens who might not be quite as well known to the public. (more…)

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21. Are We Giving Free Rei(g)n to New Spellings?

zimmer.jpgOn Tuesday, in celebration of National Dictionary Day, ABC World News with Charles Gibson ran a piece about how some old expressions are being respelled (and reimagined) in new ways. They had me on to say a few words about how such respellings sometimes become so common that they make their way into the hallowed pages of Oxford’s dictionaries. (You can watch the webcast version of the segment here.) The whole thing was inspired by an OUPblog column I wrote a few months ago, “Shifting Idioms: An Eggcornucopia.” With the help of some amusing animated characters, ABC News correspondent Robert Krulwich took a look at a few of the “eggcorns” I discussed, namely vocal chords (vs. vocal cords), free reign (vs. free rein), and shoe-in (vs. shoo-in). Despite the light-hearted tone of the segment, I’ve received a number of grave responses wondering why Oxford University Press is so cavalierly allowing “corrupted” spellings into its dictionaries. So perhaps some clarification is in order. (more…)

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22. Extending the History of Words: The Case of “Ms.”

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Lost in the hubbub about the new words and disappearing hyphens in the latest edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is a more subtle type of editorial revision. The Shorter, as a dictionary built on historical principles, provides information about the age of words and their main senses. The date range of earliest known use is noted in each entry by E (early), M (mid), or L (late) plus a century number: thus “M18″ means a word was first recorded in the mid-18th century. This style of dating is admittedly approximate, but giving the exact year of a word’s first recorded use would lend a false sense of precision. We very rarely can determine the first “baptismal” usage of a word with any confidence. But even with dates given by rough century divisions, the editors of the Shorter have been able to revise the dating of nearly 4,500 words and senses based on discoveries of earlier recorded uses, known as “antedatings” in the dictionary world. Much of this new antedating information is derived from the ongoing work done for the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Since I dabble in what my colleague Erin McKean recently called “the competitive sport of antedating,” I thought I’d share a discovery of mine that made it into the new edition of the Shorter.

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23. When Spellcheckers Attack: Perils of the Cupertino Effect

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Dictionaries, for all their virtues, can sometimes be troublemakers. Ever since the dawn of word processing, dictionaries have been mined to create wordlists for automated spellcheckers. (OUP, for example, offers its own spellchecker on CD-ROM in addition to licensing its dictionary data for various handheld devices and software add-ons.) These dictionary-derived inventories are used to detect and correct spelling errors, by checking to see if the words in a user’s text match what’s found in the wordlist. If an error is detected, algorithms help decide what the user might have meant to type and alternatives are suggested from the accepted list of words. Of course, a spellchecker is only as good as its wordlist and its correction algorithms. Anyone who has spellchecked a document is familiar with the laughably incongruous suggestions that are sometimes provided. And every once in a while incautious users allow these laughers to get through to their final text.

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24. How Do “Miss Steaks” Go Unnoticed? It’s Along Story

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Last week’s column focused on the havoc that automated spellcheckers can wreak when a suggested “correction” turns out to be utterly wrong. More often, though, people who over-rely on spellcheckers can run into trouble when a misspelling is actually a legitimate word and therefore isn’t flagged as an error. There’s a well-circulated bit of verse (with variations going back to 1992) poking fun at people’s tendency to ignore mistakes that spellcheckers miss:

Eye halve a spelling chequer,
It came with my Pea Sea.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks I can knot sea.
Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your shore real glad two no.
Its vary polished in it’s weigh.
My chequer tolled me sew.

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25. Geography Awareness Week 2007

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With Election Day, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving all squeezed into the first three weeks of the month, November may seem to be amply provisioned holiday-wise. As resident champion of place-related news here at Oxford, I feel obligated to mention another event that seems to have escaped the attention of calendar-makers nationwide for the last twenty years: Geography Awareness Week. (more…)

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