Friday, October 1, 2010

Around the Word

It's Friday Happy Hour here at the BloGG, and to smooth the inevitable barside awkwardness, we've stocked up on writerly ice-breakers for speechwriters, fiction-lovers, and anyone navigating the New York City streets:
  • Language nerds can go globe-trotting with two new books on how language shapes our thinking. On her blog, former journalist Nancy Friedman samples Guy Deutscher's Through the Looking Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages and Elif Batuman's The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them. Learn about the semiotics of Japanese streetlights ("green means go" is not a universal sign) and the riotous profusion of verbs in Old Uzbek (which has a word for "speaking while feeding animals" and for "gazing imploringly into a lover's face"). I've always wondered why English has no word meaning "to make more efficient"—efficate?
  • Speechwriters who follow politics across the Pond may have caught the maiden speech of new Labour Party leader Ed Miliband earlier this week. The Guardian breaks down the speech's strategy, noting that Miliband established ethos by telling his family's personal history, and zazzed his rhetoric up with chiasmus and alliteration. Check out the transcript here and let us know what you think—where does he dazzle and where does he goof?
  • Literati get their day of glory next Thursday, October 7, when the Swedish Academy announces the winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature. GalleyCat quotes a UK betting site that favors Swedish author Tomas Transtromer with 5/11 odds of winning. The only author we'd heard of on the list, Japan's Haruki Murakami, has 11/1 odds. Who do you think will take the prize? Who would YOU give the prize to?
  • eBooks in the 1800s? Charles Dickens and Leo Tolstoy brought home the bacon by feeding the hungry public monthly installments of their masterworks. Now there's a modern twist: instead of via newspaper, Neal Stephenson and Greg Bear will deliver their new novel, The Mongoliad, directly to your smart phone or computer. According to USA Today, the best-selling authors will release chapters weekly, and subscribers can pay $5.99 for six months of anachronistic adventure amid Mongol hordes.
  • Attention New York drivers! If you find ALL CAPS street signs dazing, you're not alone. Starting this fall, the city will replace uppercase with normal lettering on street signs, reports the New York Post. The new signs resemble the street signs in ever-modish Berlin, though NYC is skipping Helvetica in favor of a typeface called Clearview. The $26.7 mil copyedit will enhance readability and safety—and will score the city "hip" points with fans of e.e. cummings.

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