Posts Tagged ‘language’
April 23, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Will García Márquez’s unpublished manuscript ever see the light of day?
- The eagerly anticipated third edition of the OED won’t appear until 2034—and it probably won’t be available in print.
- “The ark is the first impressive man-made creation, the world’s first ambitious piece of technology. In the world of Genesis … a world of slick-talking snakes, cherubs with flaming swords, and guys who live to be eight hundred years old—the ark gives us something pragmatic, something with worldly dimensions. In other words, some literary realism.”
- Meanwhile, in 1895: What compelled Paul Gauguin to take off his pants and play the harmonium? Science may never know.
- Hey, hotshot: “the way we Americans casually, often unthinkingly, incorporate gun metaphors into our everyday slang says a lot about how deeply embedded guns are in our culture and our politics, and how difficult it is to control or extract them.”
April 18, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
Yesterday I made some Easter-themed cupcakes, topped with cream-cheese frosting and dusted with green-tinted coconut. Within each nest, I placed four jelly beans. Brand: Teeny-Been. They were, if I do say so myself, pretty cunning.
When I was asked to contribute a word to Let’s Bring Back: The Lost Language Edition, I was thrilled to have a chance to agitate for my favorite adjective. It’s not that the word has disappeared, exactly, but it has shed one of its meanings. While one usage always denoted craftiness, the other meaning was benign, even infantile. Something cunning was dear, precious, made with craft and care. Read More »
March 19, 2014 | by Sadie Stein
Repeating compliments to a third party is a bit like giving money: everyone’s glad to get them, but the giving can be awkward.
It was not always so. Time was, the passing on of compliments was so ritualized a part of life that the practice had a name: trade-last. Merriam-Webster’s defines it as “a complimentary remark by a third person that a hearer offers to repeat to the person complimented if he or she will first report a compliment made about the hearer,” and dates the first recorded use of the term to 1891. Read More »
March 4, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
Today is Mardi Gras, yes—the beads, the cake, the booze, the breasts. We get it. I love a Dionysian spectacle as much as the next joe, but one can take only so many years of unhinged debauchery, face paint, and galettes des Rois before the charm wears thin, even when there’s nudity involved. We need a change of pace.
Enter Shrove Tuesday, i.e., National Pancake Day, i.e., today. Picture a Mardi Gras where men lust not for nipples, but for fluffy flapjacks. The Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day has just taught me about the pancake bell, “A bell rung on Shrove Tuesday at or about eleven a.m., popularly associated with the making of pancakes.”
Imagine! A bell devoted entirely to pancakes, a bell whose mellifluous peals say to all within earshot, Abandon your post, hire a sitter, and get thee to the griddle—it is time to eat starch.
Shrove is the past tense of shrive, meaning “to hear the confession of, assign penance to, and absolve.” On the Tuesday before Lent began, the same bell that called people to confession served as a stern reminder: use your eggs, milk, and butter now, because once the day is out, we must begin ritually fasting and you are totally fucked.
Thus, everyone began to run home and whip up hotcakes; some people, rumor has it, even tried to cook the pancakes as they ran home, tossing and jogging, jogging and tossing, perhaps ladling syrup on occasion. To this day, the British town of Olney holds a pancake race (“Participants must don an apron and hat or scarf to compete. They are also required to toss the pancake three times during the 415 yard race, serve it to the bell ringer, and receive a kiss from him”) and IHOP hosts a fundraiser, though it does not, to my knowledge, involve the tolling of a pancake bell.
The OED includes an early reference to the bell, from Thomas Dekker’s The Shoemakers Holiday, which dates to 1600: “Vpon euery Shroue tuesday, at the sound of the pancake bell: my fine dapper Assyrian lads, shall clap vp their shop windows, and away. This is the day, and this day they shall doot, they shall doot.”
December 20, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
The Dictionary of American Regional English is an epic compendium that’s been in the works since 1965. Now, it’s done and all 60,000 words are available on a great interactive site. Just to give you a taste of the myriad riches contained therein, the following are all regional variations on informing a woman her slip is showing:
- “It’s snowing down south”
- “Your father likes you better than your mother”
- “Whitey’s out of jail”
June 27, 2013 | by Sadie Stein