Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Around the Word

The BloGG is serving up some tasty hors d'oeuvres today.  Check out the tantalizing "genius" grant, sample our public libraries, see how English digests abbreviations—and play edible Scrabble!
  • Here's a pick-me-up for freelance writers wrestling with awful day jobs.  Yesterday, novelist Yiyun Li—one of the New Yorker's "20 under 40," received a "genius" grant from the MacArthur Foundation, which recognized artists and scholars in fields from music to astrophysics.  For Li, interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, the money simply means more time to write.  Her latest collection of short stories, "Gold Boy, Emerald Girl" was released on September 14.  Check out the title story here.
  • Bookworms in America have burrowed into libraries since 1731, when we were still royal subjects.  At The Book Bench, Macy Halford looks at America's first subscription library, founded by Benjamin Franklin.  The history lesson was spurred by a recent New York Times story about public libraries that are privatizing to survive (and, perhaps, for less noble reasons as well).  Given the stiff fees I paid to access Berlin's Staatsbibliothek, I consider the U.S. library system a great boon—though admittedly I visit infrequently.  What purpose do you think public libraries serve these days?
  • For word sleuths, tech innovation has opened a brave new world.  "Check out this app!" would have been gibberish to many of us last year.  Slang keeps pace with the technology that inspires it—while standardization lags behind.  The Columbia Journalism Review follows the vicissitudes of abbreviations such as "mic" or "mike" for "microphone" and "in sync(h)" for "in synchronism."  Apart from a few sticklers, most authorities accept both variants.  "Mic" and "synch" derive from the radio era, but now that most people consume information in print (online), we wonder if spelling will standardize itself more readily.  We're curious to hear your thoughts on this phenomenon.  Why abbreve? 
  • And which of those abbreviations (above) will count in Scrabble?  You'd better check your dictionary, or we'll have you eating your words.  Literally.  Cheez-Its are now edible Scrabble tiles, each toothsome treat with a letter on it.  Wired offers clues on how to play the game, cheddar-style, since the crackers have no numbers and are not distributed according to official Scrabble rules.  A triple word score has never been so scrumptious!

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