Thursday, November 4, 2010

Around the Word: Post-Election Edition

As pundits parse the political implications of Tuesday's midterm elections, some of our favorite metamedia outlets review the grammatical, lexical, and—yes—orthographical fallout.
  • President Obama may or may not have reinvigorated the Democratic Party, but judging by the response to his speech yesterday, he's definitely breathed new life into an old word. Reflecting on Tuesday's humbling results, he acknowledged he'd taken a voter "shellacking." Wait—shellacking? On his DCBlog, linguist David Crystal traces the history of the word, from is origins as "a resin or varnish" to the "thrashing, beating" Obama received at the polls.
  • While cliches may have their place (and, judging from the CJR's roundup of "midterm metaphor madness," that place seems to be election headlines), don't let them infiltrate your NaNoWriMo manuscript, says GalleyCat. With Cliche Finder, a searchable index of more than 3,300 tired phrases, you can determine once and for all if that coinage is really yours—or yours and everyone else's.
  • At Slate, Jon Lackman explicates the Tea Party's enthusiastic use of mid-sentence capitalization. "The point," he writes, "is to hark back to better times, to establish your politics as more authentically American, and to associate yourself with the Founding Fathers." Makes sense, except that, as Lackman goes on to note, "their orthography imitates not Thomas Jefferson and James Madison but the far-less famous Timothy Matlack and Jacob Shallus—a couple of secretaries."

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