Word of the Month: Soviet

The October Revolution is famous the world over. In October of 1917, Lenin and his followers seized control of the government of Russia, ushering in 75 years of Communist rule. But few today realize that the October Revolution actually happened in November. Tsarist Russia had not converted to the Gregorian calendar and while by traditional Russian reckoning the revolution took place in October, from the perspective of the rest of the Western world it happened in November. One of the first acts of the new Communist government was to change the calendar to bring it in line with the rest of the world.

So in honor of that event some 86 years ago this month, our word of the month is:

Soviet, n. & adj., an elected council that performs governmental functions. English use dates from 1917. Soviets operated at all levels of government in the Soviet Union, the highest being the Supreme Soviet or national legislature. The word literally means council in Russian. The noun was also used to mean a citizen of the Soviet Union. As an adjective, it is used to denote things associated with the Soviet Union.

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Dept. of Legal Affairs: Intellectual Property, Part 1: Copyright

In this two-part article, we will examine the two types of intellectual property that relate to language, copyright and trademark. There are two other types of intellectual property, patent and trade secrets, that apply to physical inventions and commercial business information.

The point of intellectual property laws is to encourage the advancement of the art, science, and commerce by giving the creators of original works, ideas, and products a limited period within which they can exercise exclusive control over their works and derive profit from them.

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Book Review: Mighty Fine Words and Smashing Expressions

Do you know the difference between crisps and chips? How about between a boot and a trunk? Or between an identity parade and a lineup? The difference is that in each case the first term is British and the second is American. Otherwise, they are the same.

Mighty Fine Words and Smashing Expressions, by lexicographer Orin Hargraves, is a must-have book for anyone interested in the differences between the British and American dialects. Hargraves systematically documents and explains these differences. 

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Book Review: Slayer Slang

Michael Adams, English professor at Albright College, has produced what will probably be the definitive study of the language associated with a rather unique television show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Buffy, or BtVS, made its debut on the WB network in the spring of 1997 and continued until the series concluded this past spring (making a shift to the UPN network along the way). BtVS was one of the most innovative shows in television history. It cannot be pigeonholed into a genre, being simultaneously a horror show, a comedy, a teen drama, a feminist saga, and a martial arts show.

But perhaps the most innovative aspect of the show was its use of language. Buffy and her friends continually engaged in creative banter. Vampires might give someone the wiggins, hearing the events of a hot date to a friend is to engage in vicarious smootchies, and a bad cream rinse is neither creamy nor rinsey. The writers used a combination of real teen slang, created words, and pop culture references to produce a show filled with linguistic delights.

Slayer Slang is the ultimate compendium of the language used on the show. Adams has written four essays on the show’s use of language. These essays constitute the first half of the book. The second half is a lexicon of the various words and phrases used on the show, used in the BtVS novels that have been written, and used by fans of the show in Internet chat rooms.

One caution for those thinking of buying this book, this is a serious study of language. While the research subject may be light-hearted, this book is not. The words and usages described in it are a lot of fun, but the core of the book is serious academic study. Fans of the show looking for a light-hearted look at fun Buffy words may be daunted by the serious nature of the Slayer Slang.

Those who may want a brief look at the slang used on BtVS may wish to take a look at the two articles on the subject that appeared in the October and November 2002 (Vol. 1, Nos. 3 &4) issues of A Way With Words.

Hardcover, 308 pp, Oxford University Press, June 2003, ISBN: 0195160339, $19.95

Word of the Month: File Sharing

This past month has seen the issue of duplicating and distributing copyrighted music files over the Internet become front-page news. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has filed lawsuits against several hundred people who have “shared” music files over the Internet. So our word of the month is file sharing, n., the distribution of data files, such as music, in a peer-to-peer network.

While on the surface this issue is about music, there is a deeper issue regarding intellectual property in electronic media. The new stories about file sharing have focused on the music industry, with a secondary focus on Hollywood and the movies, but at its core the issue affects all types of copyrighted material. Music is not the only thing that can be shared over networks like Napster, Morpheus, and Kazaa. Any type of files can be distributed, text, photos, movies (actually, the bulk of material distributed over these networks is not music, but pornography).

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