Mighty Red Pen

July 19, 2010

Gov. Strangeword, or How I learned to stop worrying and love Sarah Palin

Filed under: Word wars,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 7:25 pm
Tags: , ,

Okay, okay, I’m not loving Sarah Palin. But I am finding myself in the strange position of kinda, sorta agreeing with her.

By now, you may have heard how the Interwebs are all in a twist over refudiate, the word Palin apparently made up in a recent tweet: “Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.”

Because Palin’s someone lots of people love to hate, there’s a bit of gleeful jeering over her verbal misstep (which has since been deleted). But I have to say, she raises an interesting point with her follow-up tweet: “‘Refudiate,’ ‘misunderestimate,’ ‘wee-wee’d up.’ English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!”

Okay, I get it. Her seeming to compare herself to Shakespeare is just more grist for the anti-Palin mill. But here’s where I kinda, sorta agree with her: English is a living language. And one of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is: one person’s malapropism can apparently be another person’s neologism. And vice versa. Right?

Anyway, this conundrum brings to mind a couple of recent good pieces:

  • Stan Carey at Sentence First, with the smart post, “Not a Word is Not an Argument.” He writes, “If you see or hear someone reject a word by saying it’s ‘not a word’, you can reasonably assume that they mean it’s not a word they like, not a word they would use, not a word in standard usage, not a word in a certain dictionary, not a suitable word for the context, and so on. There’s a difference, and it matters.”
  • Jan Freeman, of the Boston Globe and Throw Grammar from the Train, touched on related issues in her column this weekend with a brief round up about how any public figure (from Bush I to Bush II to Obama) can be made to sound like a language moron, depending on the analysis. “Whatever your political allegiance,” she writes, “when you hear this kind of ‘language analysis,’ your fact-checking antennae should be twitching.”

I’m not saying we’ll be seeing refudiate in the dictionary anytime soon. But I also don’t see it as evidence that we avoided a near-catastrophe by not voting the McCain/Palin ticket into the White House. As a word (or as a non-word), refudiate seems to have some solid roots in actual words, such as refute and repudiate. And as a word nerd, I know we love ourselves some good neologisms, mondegreens, and portmanteaux. So what do you think: has Sarah Palin made Mrs. Malaprop proud or is this just the beginning for refudiate?

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May 31, 2010

What is this malamanteau of which you speak?

Filed under: Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 8:04 pm
Tags: , , ,

This little tidbit brought to you by xkcd.

And here’s Erin McKean’s column, “One-Day Wonder: How Fast Can a Word Become Legit?

September 26, 2008

What’s the good word?

Filed under: Lit review,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 6:12 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

“I love neologisms, coinages, new words, whatever you want to call them. I think ‘staycation’ is hilarious,” says writer Alex Beam in a recent column in the Boston Globe, “Put in a Good Word for Me.”

It’s an amusing commentary on the topic of neologisms, and Beam references Paul MacInnes’s June column in the Guardian. But what really interested me was his discussion of a new book, Brocabulary: The New Man-i-festo of Dude Talk by Daniel Maurer.

Examples of brocabulary:

“Brobituary” is the all-too-apropos term for the valedictory speeches a man hears at his wedding. Full of praise and good feeling, they signal that the portion of his life worth living has come to an end.

A manecdote is a story that emphasizes one’s manliness. Like the time I talked about repairing the garage door. Which I still haven’t done.

I can think of a couple of others. Manorexia (which I loathe because it seems to suggest that anorexia in men is somehow different from anorexia in women) and also mandals (sandals for men). And of course, there’s that episode of “Seinfeld” in which George’s dad wants to market a bra for men called “The Bro.”

What other brocabulary do you know (and no fair peeking in the book!)?

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