Monday, October 3, 2011

Around the Word

Better off banned? Last week was banned books week, and lit lovers around the country celebrated the freedom to read their favorite controversial tomes. But the contrarians over at opted to turn the celebration on its head and asked their readers which time-dishonored books you wish were banned. The cringe de la cringe, so to speak, of the classics that teens have been force-fed for years. Answers ranged from Lord of the Flies to A Tale of Two Cities to a particularly sadistic assignment of Ivanhoe. What required reading did you wish was verboten?

That's one way to knock 'em dead: For all you speechwriters looking up to freshen up your repertoire, check out Vital Speeches guru David Murray's profile of "celebrant" Neil Dorward. Celebrants are professional speakers who specialize in writing and delivering eulogies at secular funerals. Murray met Dorward, author of The Guide to a Dead Brilliant Funeral Speech, at the recent U.K. speechwriters conference and became intrigued by the broader applications of Dorward's unusual niche -- and its personal rewards. "I am offering comfort, closure, healing, dignity, and meaningful words. I am invited to be part of their precious lives for a few days and I know, I truly know, that what I say and how I say it, makes a real difference to people’s lives," Dorward reports.

Talk verby to me: Remember the days when "Google" was just a noun? Verbing, "the denominalization of nouns into verbs," has become a regular ritual in modern English, and the results can range from useful to grating. While it seems natural to us to "host" a party, asking a colleague to "dialogue" sounds obnoxious. As Mark Nichols over at Daily Writing Tips puts it, "It's a democratic process: If a neologism appeals to you, promote it by using it. If it appalls you, demote it by eschewing it." What are your favorite, and least favorite, verbified words?

Social reading: With all the hype about the rumored changes to Facebook, one thing has word nerds particularly excited. Facebook is reportedly expanding the "like" function to allow users to share what they "listened," "watched" and, wait for it, "read." If the all-powerful Facebook is endorsing reading with the click of a button, that must be good news for the written word, right? Will you be using Facebook to share your recent reads?

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