Word A Year: 20th Century, Part II

Last week we examined fifty words, one from each of the years 1950-99. This week we look at words from the first half of the twentieth century.

The words chosen all have their first citation in the Oxford English Dictionary from the year in question. This does not mean that they were actually coined in that year, in fact most were probably not since it usually takes some time from the coining of a term and its appearance in print and there is no guarantee that the OED has even identified the earliest recorded use. But the words were reasonably new to the English language in the year in question and as such are a good guide for tripping down memory lane and recalling what things were new and important in a given year.

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Word A Year: 20th Century, Part I

Last week we examined a number of words from one year, 1906. This week and next we will look at one word for each year of the 20th century.

The words chosen all have their first citation in the Oxford English Dictionary from the year in question. This does not mean that they were actually coined in that year, in fact most were probably not since it usually takes some time from the coining of a term and its appearance in print and there is no guarantee that the OED has even identified the earliest recorded use. But the words were reasonably new to the English language in the year in question and as such are a good guide for tripping down memory lane and recalling what things were new and important in a given year.

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Journo’s Boffo Lingo: The Slang of Daily Variety, Part III

(This article originally appeared in Verbatim, Vol. XXX, No. 1, Spring 2005.)

Those who for the first time open up Daily Variety, the trade paper of Hollywood and the American entertainment industry, are often baffled and stymied by the paper’s use of language. Variety employs a number of grammatical tricks and jargon terms, which it dubs “slanguage,” to achieve its distinctive style.

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Journo’s Boffo Lingo: The Slang of Daily Variety, Part II

(This article originally appeared in Verbatim, Vol. XXX, No. 1, Spring 2005.)

Those who for the first time open up Daily Variety, the trade paper of Hollywood and the American entertainment industry, are often baffled and stymied by the paper’s use of language. Variety employs a number of grammatical tricks and jargon terms, which it dubs “slanguage,” to achieve its distinctive style.

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Journo’s Boffo Lingo: The Slang of Daily Variety, Part I

(This article originally appeared in Verbatim, Vol. XXX, No. 1, Spring 2005.)

Those who for the first time open up Daily Variety, the trade paper of Hollywood and the American entertainment industry, are often baffled and stymied by the paper’s use of language. Take, for example, this headline, “‘KING’ NIPS SHIP WITH 11 NOMS” (28 Jan 2004, p. 24). To most the headline is unintelligible, but to those familiar with Variety it is announcing that the movie ‘Return of the King’ beat out ‘Master and Commander’ with eleven Academy Award nominations. Another example is the opening line of an article that appears in the 11 February 2004 issue, “A hefty writedown at Blockbuster knocked Viacom into the red last quarter despite a strong perf at those true-blue cable nets and strides at Paramount, where prexy Mel Karmazin praised the 2004 pic slate.” Variety employs a number of grammatical tricks and jargon terms, which it dubs “slanguage,” to achieve its distinctive style.

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Kurt Cobain & His Orchestra

Kurt Cobain & His Orchestra: Shifts in Naming Conventions of Popular Music Groups, 1923-2003

This is a paper that I presented at the annual meeting of the American Name Society in Albuquerque, NM, 8 January 2006.

Abstract:

The paper examines 1,820 names of popular music groups from the years 1955-2003 plus 34 names from before 1955 and identifies several morphological and semantic changes to naming conventions during this period.

The primary change is a sudden shift from plural names (e.g. The Supremes) to singular ones (e.g. Toad The Wet Sprocket) occurring in a two-year period from 1965-66. Other less sudden changes include a steady decline in the use of collective nouns in group names (e.g., band, trio) and a decline in the use of personal names in band names (e.g., The Greg Kihn Band).

Download:

The paper, in Adobe PDF format, is here (94 KB).

The data set used for analysis, in Microsoft Excel format, is here (457 KB).

ADS 2005 Word of the Year

Each year for the last 15 years the American Dialect Society selects its Word of the Year at its annual meeting. This year the meeting is being held in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the word was selected today. The selection is the word or phrase that the society members feel best reflects the language and preoccupations of the year gone by. The ADS vote is the longest-running “words of the year” vote and the only one conducted by an non-commercial entity.

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A Language Gift List

So what do you get that word lover for Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate)? Here are a few suggestions.

Of course, topping your gift list should be Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends, by David Wilton, Oxford University Press, 2004, $21.95. Not only will you be giving a great gift, but you’ll be putting some ducats into my pocket.

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Latin Legacies

If you pay attention to the topics dealt with in this newsletter each week, you can get a glimpse into my life. Recently, I’ve been watching the excellent HBO series Rome, about Julius Caesar and playing the extremely addictive computer game Rome: Total War. These two sources are the inspiration for this week’s article.

We all know that many English words are derived from Latin roots. Most commonly, these words come to us from Old French as a result of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 or are modern scientific and technical terms created in modern times from Latin roots. But there are a few that come to us directly and mostly unaltered from the traditions and practices of ancient Rome. Here are some of those words.

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Trafalgar & The Language of the Age of Sail, Part I

Two hundred years ago today, on 21 October 1805, the Battle of Trafalgar was fought off the coast of Spain. A fleet of 27 Royal Navy ships under the command of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson defeated a fleet of 33 French and Spanish ships under the command of Vice Admiral Pierre Charles Silvestre de Villeneuve. In the battle, 22 French and Spanish ships were captured or sunk. No British ships were lost.

Nelson was killed at the height of the battle as his flagship, HMS Victory, grappled with the French ships Bucentaure and Redoubtable. Villeneuve was captured and eventually paroled back to France. Upon his return he was found dead in his room at an inn, stabbed in the chest six times. The death was ruled a suicide.

Even though the Napoleonic wars continued for another ten years, the threat of Napoleon’s invading England was ended at Trafalagar that October. But more than this, Trafalgar cemented British control of seas for a hundred years and bestowed on the Royal Navy an aura of invincibility.

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