Friday, September 30, 2011

Around the Word

More than just, like, a tic? Ever since the Valley Girl emerged onto the American cultural scene, language lovers have been fighting against a particularly exasperating enemy: "like." Young people are the most likely to use this sometimes grating linguistic placeholder, nervously interjecting "like" every few words and driving their elders berserk. But Trinity College professor and Lingua Franca blogger Lucy Ferris isn't so quick to judge those who use "like," arguing that it can serve a more complicated linguistic function than just an annoyance. "Like"has been analyzed in all sorts of roles, including "as an aspect of 'sluicing' or elided speech; as a presentation of dramatized dialogue; as a useful point of departure for the study of the interactions of components of grammar." What do you think? Is there more to like about "like?"

How to become well noun: Forget writing the great American novel. If you really want to make your mark on the English language, work on becoming a noun. NPR science reporters Adam Cole and Robert Krulwich took a look at the people and history behind some common nouns, from Jules Leotard to Samuel Maverick to Charles Boycott. But be careful what you wish for -- sometimes being objectified isn't all it's cracked up to be. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin's family changed their name after the guillotine was named after him.

The Times, they are a-changin': The New York Times made history today by printing its first ever emoticon headline. The headline -- "Study of Twitter messages tracks when we are :)" -- was originally only intended for the web, but received so much buzz that it made it into the print edition as well. The Washington Post also embraced Twitter-speak when covering the same story. Their headline read, "Twitter study: We <3 wknds & a.m." Okay, grammar guardians: Is this a breach of professionalism? Or just all in good fun? (via The New York Observer)

Investigative crowdfunding: We've been keenly following/weighing the pros and cons of crowdfunding, so we're always interested/encouraged to learn about inventive new writing projects finding success on Kickstarter. 10,000 Words pointed us to three especially enterprising investigative journalism projects -- on Libya, the Great Recession and the world of crystal meth -- that are being funded through Kickstarter. Check out these campaigns if you need some crowdfunding inspiration of your own, or to donate to some worthy projects.

Engaging grammar guides: These aren't your grandmother's grammar books. Over at the Writing Resource, Erin Brenner knows that not all language books are boring, and she picked out some of the most entertaining and unique books about words she knows. Check out her reviews of Alphabetter Juice, On the Dot and How to Read a Word. What's your favorite book on writing and language?

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