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Posts Tagged ‘slang’

A Parish for Slang Bedouins, and Other News

November 4, 2014 | by

John Frederick Lewis, A Bedouin, ca. 1841.

  • Edgar Allan Poe filed for bankruptcy in 1842. Here’s a long list of his debts, with creditors listed in Philadelphia, Richmond, and New York, and orderly columns of numbers that grow large enough to give you a sympathetic panic attack.
  • “If ambitious writers work at the boundaries of the written language (as they should), then they ought do it from a path of mastery, not ignorance; broken rules carry no power if writers and readers don’t notice the transgressions. Proper usage shows us where the earth is, so that, when the time comes, we know what it means to fly.”
  • Not unrelatedly: “Dickens published an essay on slang, probably by George Augustus Sala. The 1853 article expressed the view that either slang should be ‘banished, prohibited’ or that there should be a New Dictionary that would ‘give a local habitation and a name to all the little by-blows of language skulking and rambling about our speech, like the ragged little Bedouins about our shameless streets, and give them a settlement and a parish.’ ”
  • In which Ann Patchett reminds readers of the New York Times that she’s not married to her dog.
  • “I found it odd that there had never been a scientist as a Man Booker judge. There have been many non-literary types amongst the judges: a former spy, a former dancer, a Downton Abbey actor—but science, apparently, was a step too far. Until this year, when I joined the judging panel.”

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The Unknown Ajax

June 5, 2014 | by

georgette-heyer

Georgette Heyer

Like most families, mine makes frequent use of shorthand. In the case of me and my mother, much of the talk derives from the work of Georgette Heyer, the prolific author who created the genre of Regency Romance in the first half of the twentieth century. As my mother had, I read all of the books in my early teens, and even today, our exchanges are liberally peppered with the idiosyncratic language of Heyer’s novels—or, as she might put it, “Regency cant.”

Something popular is “all the crack.” Exaggeration becomes “doing it much too brown.” A young relative fresh from the sticks “needs a little town bronze.” A snob is “high in the instep.” And our favorite, of course, is “impervious to the most brutal snubs,” a phrase which one finds applicable with dismaying frequency.

Heyer was a famously scrupulous researcher with a vast archive of materials and detailed notes on all aspects of the eras she portrayed. (In addition to the Regency, Heyer set books in the Georgian and Medieval periods; she also wrote modern mysteries.) Her files contained subject headings like “Beauty, Colours, Dress, Hats, Household, Prices, and Shops.”

While devotees will argue passionately for their favorite Heyers (mine, not that you asked, are Cotillion, Devil’s Cub, and, of course, The Grand Sophy—I don’t like the May-December jaded-rakes ones) it can’t be denied that there are certain recurring tropes in her work. One biographer defined these as the “saturnine male lead, the marriage in danger, the extravagant wife, and the group of idle, entertaining young men.” To this I would add a mad chase at the book’s end, which oftentimes brings together disparate characters at a remote and random inn. But all are characterized by their real wit, fully realized characters, and utterly satisfying conclusions. (Okay, A Civil Contract, not so much.) Read More »

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The Logistics of Ark-Building, and Other News

April 23, 2014 | by

Noah's_Ark_on_Mount_Ararat_by_Simon_de_Myle

Simon de Myle, Noah's Ark on the Mount Ararat, 1570

 

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WTF, and Other News

September 24, 2013 | by

wtflarge

  • Poet Kofi Awoonor was among the victims of the Nairobi terrorist attacks. The African Poetry Book Fund will publish his final collection next year. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal runs one of his last poems.
  • Following charges of author-bullying, Goodreads has declared that, going forward, it will “delete content focused on author behavior.”
  • China is establishing a naming system for seabed areas based on the oldest known collection of Chinese poetry, Classic of Poetry, also known as the Book of Odes, which dates from the eleventh to seventh centuries B.C.
  • A concise history of WTF.
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    In Which Jane Austen Tells Your Fortune, and Other News

    August 29, 2013 | by

    Austen-Tarot

  • Oxford Dictionary Online (not to be confused with older sibling OED) has added twerk, derp, and selfie.
  • “I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of a cigarette, some coffee, and four tiny stones.” The Jean-Paul Sartre cookbook.
  • The top twenty books people leave in motel rooms. (Fifty Shades Freed leads the pack.)
  • The (inevitable?) Jane Austen tarot deck.
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    Chocolate, Jerks, and Other News

    July 29, 2013 | by

    chocolatebarlarge

  • We all know OMG has some years on it, but, as it turns out, so do unfriend, outasight, and hang out.
  • Some leaves, woman holding a birdcage for some reason, and seventeen other contemporary book-cover clichés.
  • According to a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, bookstore sales may benefit from the aroma of chocolate.
  • “One unexpected development of becoming a writer is meeting literary heroes … Unfortunately, sometimes they turn out to be asses, or they hit on you.”
  • [WARNING: the following is disturbing.] The frontispiece of this nineteenth-century book reads, “The leather with which this book is bound is human skin, from a soldier who died during the great Southern Rebellion.” And it is not an idle boast; rather, it’s an example of the (hopefully) lost art of anthropodermic bibliopegy. Read at your own risk.
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