One of the mysteries of the game of baseball is the origin of the term bullpen, the name for the area in which relief pitchers warm up. Several competing theories vie for the origin. About all we know for sure is the earliest recorded use of the term to refer to the pitchers’ warm-up area was not until 17 August 1913 in the Washington Post:

He corrects the faults of the youthful trajectory hurlers and takes them to the “bullpen” in the afternoon and keeps them warmed up.

And next season the same paper had this to say about the Chicago White Sox on 12 April 1914:

At this juncture Manager Callahan crooked his index finger and “Butcher” Benz ambled in from the “bull pen.”1

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GOOD Q&A: The Linguists

Also from Good, a short interview with linguists K. David Harrison and Gregory Anderson, who are featured in the documentary The Linguists, about the efforts to document dying languages.

Frak Attack! The Lingo of Battlestar Galactica

The best show currently on television is returning to the screen tonight for its final half-season. Mark Peters over at Good has a column on the language of Battlestar Galactica, including its all-purpose swear-word, frak.

How Dictionaries Shape the Language

Barbara Wallraff over at theatlantic.com comments on the word hinky and why it is or isn’t in various dictionaries. This is pretty much old hat for most of us here at wordorigins.org, but her comment at the end about Webster’s New World Dictionary as the standard for the Associated Press is notable.

free lunch

Despite the claims of rabid science fiction fans, the phrase there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch began its life as a joke that was commonly told by economists in the first half of the 20th century.

The joke goes that one day a king assembled his advisors and asked them to summarize the essence of economics wisdom. One by one, the advisors delivered lengthy treatises on the subject. Angry that they weren’t doing what he had asked, the king had them executed. When it came to his turn one wise advisor, realizing what was happening, summed up all of economics wisdom in there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, pleasing the king and sparing his life.

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Orwell’s Liar

David Beaver over at Language Log posts a much needed criticism of Orwell’s Politics and the English Language, an essay, which along with Strunk and White, is probably responsible for more prescriptivist crap than any other source. Orwell makes some valid points in the essay about clarity in writing, especially politically writing, but, as Beaver points out, his six rules for good English are inconsistent, illogical, and so inane that even Orwell ignores them.

Bailout: 2008 ADS Word of the Year

Yesterday at its annual meeting in San Francisco, the American Dialect Society decided on its “word of the year” for 2008, bailout. Other nominees were:

  • The names Barack and Obama as combining forms, resulting in dozens of words like Barackstar, Barackiavellian, Obamania, and Obamadammarung
  • lipstick on a pig
  • change
  • shovel-ready
  • game-changer

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The Sentence Is a Lonely Place

An ode to beautiful sentences by short-story writer Gary Lutz.

(Thanks to Paul Constant over at The Stranger Slog for the heads up.)

Sesquiotica: Language Change

The blog Sesquiotica has an interesting article on language change.

Irregardless of what you think, “conversate” is a word

Ta-Nehisi Coates, blogger at theatlantic.com, interviews the OED’s Jesse Sheidlower about conversate and other “non-words.”

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