Mighty Red Pen

December 30, 2011

Words, words, words

Filed under: Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 7:20 pm
Tags: ,

One thing that was great about the word occupy was that it made both the word of the year lists and the LSSU List of Banished Words.

The LSSU list was sort of limp and uninspired this year, with words such as man cave, ginormous, and baby bump rising to the top of the words that bug people the most. Big whoop. Top vote getter was amazing, which I found kind of amazing.

Check out Stan Carey’s round up of the Word of the Year parade. This year’s horse race got off to a weird start for me when Dictionary.com named tergiversate  (which I think I’ve finally figured out how to spell) as its WOTY for for reasons that I’m sure seem well thought out to them. To me, it seemed like the year obviously belonged to occupy, both for its ubiquity and its cultural versatility.

May 27, 2010

Don’t be such a beyotch

Filed under: Overseen,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 6:05 pm
Tags: ,

I’m guessing there’s someone out there that Kim Romano of New Jersey would really like to call a b*#@!! for reporting her vanity license plate (story here):

Me, I’m thinking: Isn’t it spelled beyotch? So I looked it up (as best I could, cause it’s not, you know, in Merriam Webster).

The Online Slang Dictionary likes beyotch but eschews bioch. Urban Dictionary (that definitive source) will accept both bioch and beyotch. They also like biatch, which also appears in Wiktionary. Maybe this is the right spelling?

Some of the definitions of beyotch kind of interested me, though: “a more formal greeting than bitch” or “a friendly use of the word bitch.” Now, I was raised to think that bitch is a pretty terrible word, and to this day it tends to set off my prude-o-meter. So can you really have a “friendly” or “more formal” use of this word? Can we “take back” the word bitch, a pretty harsh invective usually, and make it a kinder, gentler, more everyday kind of word?

May 3, 2010

Aquapocalypse now

Filed under: Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 7:20 pm
Tags: ,

The impulse to blend words always amuses me.  This winter, we had the Snowpocalypse. MRP readers are familiar with the Four Grammarians of the Apostrophocalypse. And there’s the irresistible urge to put the suffixes -gate, -licious, or -holic at the end of pretty much any word. Here in the Boston area, the onset of what some are calling the Aquapocalypse (and others, H2OMG) reminded me of Jan Freeman’s column the other week on “frankenwords.”

Reminding us that words we take for granted, such as bureaucrat, electrocute, and starvation are as blended as words such as chocoholic, humorectomy, and danceathon, Freeman writes:

“Today the air is thicker than ever with such verbal fireflies, though most will glow only briefly. And what’s “acceptable” has become a matter of taste — or age. We may groan at irritainment and adultescent, but miniskirt and glitterati, now over 50, are old friends. Like our censorious forebears, we love some blends and hate others, call some adorable and others ugly. What we don’t do, in the 21st century, is condemn them as crimes against Latin and Greek.”

Read “Frankenwords: How We Came to Love our Unholy Creations.” Would it just be too much to call thousands of gallons pouring into the Charles River from a burst pipe Watergate?

March 1, 2010

Ode to the uvula

Filed under: At home with MRP,Kidspeak — mighty red pen @ 8:04 pm

Scene: The kitchen at la Casa de MRP. The sound of scampering as D. (age 3 1/2) rushes in:

D.: Mommy, can you show me that dangly thing in your mouth?
MRP: My uvula?
D.: Is that what yours is called?
MRP: Yes.
D.: What about the dangly thing in my mouth? What is that called?
MRP: Also a uvula.
D.: Oh. [pause] Is everyone’s dangly thing in their mouth called that?

As an aside: Have you ever really looked at your uvula? Considered your uvula? Said the word uvula over and over again? Ever felt that it was about one letter away from being a totally dirty word? And looking it up in the dictionary doesn’t help. Merriam Webster defines it as “the pendent fleshy lobe in the middle of the posterior border of the soft palate.” Um, ew.

If anyone knows the function of the uvula, I’d like to know. I have a feeling that question is just around the corner.

February 28, 2010

I got the fever, and the only cure is more feta

Filed under: Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 8:32 am
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I say acidophilus, you say the Acropolis. Let’s call the whole thing off.

“Rhymes with Orange,” February 27, 2010

H/t Rhymes with Orange.

January 1, 2010

Chillaxin’ with the MRP Czar

Filed under: Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 7:49 pm

Oh, happy new year to all and please enjoy with me one of my favorite ways of celebrating: perusing Lake Superior State University’s List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

Top word for the year? Shovel-ready, which apparently means that something is ready to be implemented.  I have to say I’m not even remotely ready to vote this term as “Banished for Overuse” because I’ve never heard it before, but apparently it’s a thorn in the side of many readers.

I can definitely get behind banning the following: czar, bromance, sexting, and chillaxin’ (although this latter one seems like it should have been banned years ago). I was inclined to give a pass to tweet, since it doesn’t bother me much and I think it’s just a word people will have to get used to. I confess that I use teachable moment and transparent/transparency, but I swear I’m aware that others find these words annoying when I do (I guess that doesn’t make it right). Toxic assets, stimulus, and too big to fail are buzzwords that don’t bug me as much as last year’s from Wall Street to Main Street.

And I don’t see the number one word I would ban from the year: cougar. It went from bad to worse for cougar when I started to routinely read of one of Tiger Woods’ girlfriends described as “40-something ‘cougar’ Theresa Rogers.” I mean, enough already with the cougars.

On second thought, I’m rethinking my stance on the word czar. Mighty Red Pen Czar has a nice ring to it, no?

December 21, 2009

The female of the species: Female vs. woman

Filed under: Word wars,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 5:21 pm
Tags: ,

Prompted by the possible election of a woman as U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, Jan Freeman muses in “The Female Question” on the correctness of woman and female as modifiers, asking: “If she wins the special election in January, will Martha Coakley be Massachusetts’s first female senator or its first woman senator?”

Freeman writes:

First, the defense of woman, the modifier: There’s nothing wrong with drafting woman for adjective duty, even if your dictionary calls it a noun. In English, nouns are allowed (and widely used) as attributives, modifying other nouns: cat food, bubble wrap, grammar mistake, goldfish bowl, child prodigy.

Some ‘woman’-haters argue that such adjectival use should be parallel with that of man: If we don’t say “man judges,” we can’t say “women judges.” But where is it written that words (any more than women) automatically get equal treatment?

But even if “woman senator” is fine, you might think female – indisputably an adjective – would be the safer choice. But female has its own PR problems. “Female connotes a biological category,” the linguist Deborah Tannen told columnist William Safire in 2007. “I avoid female [as an adjective] in my own writing because it feels disrespectful, as if I’m treating the people I’m referring to as mammals but not humans.”

Naturally, I’d like to see a world in which we didn’t have to point out anyone’s gender, but sometimes the fact of gender is the story, as in the case of this possibly historic election.

So in thinking this over, I realized that I tend to use woman as a modifier instead of female, probably for some reason related to the one given by Tannen. By saying female anything for me reduces women to a the female-of-the-species kind of status, as though there might be a Mutual of Omaha special on female senators, female secretaries of state, and rarest of all, female presidents.

Or, perhaps my aversion to female might be because I’ve been reading Twilight, in which the evil woman vampire is consistently referred to as the female. Creepy.

Which do you think is correct … or which do you simply prefer?

November 16, 2009

Don’t make me unfriend you

Filed under: Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 6:48 pm
Tags: ,

The Word of the Year parade makes a stop at the New Oxford American Dictionary, which named unfriend (as in “If you don’t stop writing annoying comments on my Facebook wall, I will unfriend you”) as its top pick for 2009.

According to senior lexicographer Christine Lindberg:

It has both currency and potential longevity. In the online social networking context, its meaning is understood, so its adoption as a modern verb form makes this an interesting choice for Word of the Year. Most “un-” prefixed words are adjectives (unacceptable, unpleasant), and there are certainly some familiar “un-” verbs (uncap, unpack), but “unfriend” is different from the norm. It assumes a verb sense of “friend” that is really not used (at least not since maybe the 17th century!).

Here’s my question though: As a Facebook user, I rarely unfriend (or defriend) people, but I friend others and am friended all the time (okay, maybe I exaggerate a little bit). Given the criteria that’s been outlined, isn’t there a much more compelling case for friend as the word of the year?

Oddly enough, many of the words that didn’t have the same “lex-appeal” bear a remarkable resemblance to MRP’s Top Ten Words I’d Vote Off the Island in a Heartbeat:

intexticated – distracted because texting on a cellphone while driving a vehicle

sexting – the sending of sexually explicit texts and pictures by cellphone

birther – a conspiracy theorist who challenges President Obama’s birth certificate

death panel – a theoretical body that determines which patients deserve to live, when care is rationed

And possibly my favorite, because it’s the most ridiculous and I love the idea of a bunch of lexicographers sitting around discussing it in all seriousness:

tramp stamp – a tattoo on the lower back, usually on a woman

See the rest of the nominees here.

July 9, 2009

Staycation, all I never wanted

Filed under: Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 6:01 pm
Tags: ,

I don’t know why, but it strikes me as funny just right now that memory foam (“a dense polyurethane foam that becomes more pliable when in contact with heat”) is now a word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Other new words include acai (“a small dark purple fleshy berrylike fruit of a tall slender palm (Euterpe oleracea) of tropical Central and South America that is often used in beverages”), frenemy (“one who pretends to be a friend but is actually an enemy”), locavore (“one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible”), and webisode (“an episode esp. of a TV show that may or may not have been telecast but can be viewed at a Web site”).

I’m a little sad to see staycation make it in if only because that was among my nominations for words I wouldn’t care if I never heard again, so making it into the dictionary seems to imply it’s going to be, er, staycating around these parts for a while.

April 28, 2009

It’s in their job description, actually

Filed under: Word wars — mighty red pen @ 6:37 pm
Tags: , ,


Hat tip: Toothpaste for Dinner.

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