To The Editor Of The Nation:
Sir: An obiter dictum in a paper which I read before the Modern Language Association last week has since appeared in a number of newspapers in a curiously distorted version. The following is a sample:
“A professor of the University of Michigan, being desirous of ascertaining the most hated word in connection with spelling-reform investigation, wrote to a thousand persons for their opinion, and was surprised when the majority replied that the most hated word was ‘woman.’ “
What I actually said was as follows:
“A considerable number of persons hate the plural form women, as being weak and whimpering, though the singular, woman, connotes for the same persons ideals of strength and nobility. It is for this reason, perhaps, that woman’s building, woman’s college, and the like have supplanted In popular speech the forms women’s building, women’s college, etc. It is noteworthy, also, that, in the titles of women’s magazines and the names of women’s clubs, the singular in most instances has been chosen instead of the more logical plural.”
It will be noticed that women was not the best-hated word on my list. That bad eminence was reserved for victuals.
I take the opportunity to say that any one who has violent antipathies to particular words or phrases, not traceable to the meaning, will do me a favor by corresponding with me. All that I wish is (1) a list of such verba non grata with (2) reasons for the dislikes, where reasons can be given.
Fred Newton Scott.
Univbrsity Of Michigan, December 30, 1901.
Hold! You crafty ones, strangers to work, and pilferers of other men’s brains. Think not rashly to lay your thievish hands upon my works. Beware! Know you not that I have a grant from the most glorious Emperor Maximilian, that not one throughout the imperial dominion shall be allowed to print or sell fictitious imitations of these engravings? Listen! And bear in mind that if you do so, through spite or through covetousness, not only will your goods be confiscated, but your bodies also placed in mortal danger.
Possibly doesn't count as outright evangelism — perhaps it's merely evangelism-adjacent — but this week's Boston Globe column is on Hulkspeak in Hulktweets.
Thesaurus evangelism: Wordnik launches a new thesaurus, with a really cool word-comparison-shopping feature (dreamed up & implemented by my awesome co-workers, with special props to Kumanan and John).
There's a new ODE out! It includes vuvuzela, only a month after the end of the World Cup! (And only two months after it showed up in Wordnik, as discovered by Language Log commenters.) That must have taken a little bit of last-minute page finagling.
Lots of great blogs in the list, including one of my all-time favorites, The Rosa Parks of Blogs. Just go check it out, you won't regret it.
And: bonus new word: erinnophily, the study of decorative labels.
First they came for the verbs, and I said nothing because verbing weirds language. Then they arrival for the nouns, and I speech nothing because I no verbs.
Two recent pieces out and about on the Interwebs:
Something in School Library Journal about online dictionary resources, which included this fantastic illustration:
And my semi-regular column in the Boston Globe about online style resources. (I should really link to all the columns I do for the Globe, huh?)
What every eight-year-old reads …
And it’s pretty safe to bet that if a fellow needs a six or seven-syllabled word to describe his profession, he’s a corn doctor when you come to look him up in the dictionary. And then you’ll generally find him in the back part of the book where they tuck away the doubtful words.
This may be my favorite euphemism ever.