Dictionary Additions

Category : society

The Oxford English Dictionary is always adding new words to its masses, but the most recent word-dump has some people questioning the overall… intelligence of our society. While “twerk” has been around since the 1990s, it has finally found a home in the dictionary. And you may not ever want or need to look up “selfie” in the OED, but it’s there now.

Besides these apparent embarrassments of our language, there’s a whole slew of fun terms the OED has recently added. How could I dream of venturing to the stars without space tourism? And I’m ashamed how many times I’ve used the term squee without it being a official part of our lexicon. But there it is! Now I can safely add it to my future novel.

Before you start ranting about the “youth of today” and the decline of language, remember who’s to blame. The majority of the new words focus around social media, and isn’t that the center of our lives? If you don’t like the addition of unlike to the dictionary, then don’t spend half your day on Facebook. Just throwing that out there.

Let’s not forget, though, other great terms that have been added during the past couple years:

  • flexitarian (n) a person who has a primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally eats meat or fish.
  • Godwin’s law (n) the theory that as an online discussion progresses, it becomes inevitable that someone or something will eventually be compared to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis, regardless of the original topic
  • lifecast (v) create a three-dimensional representation of a subject from a mould of their living body
  • metabolic syndrome (n) a cluster of biochemical and physiological abnormalities associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes
  • ripped (adj) informal. having well-defined or well-developed muscles; muscular
  • tray bake (n) a type of cake or similar sweet food which is baked in a square or rectangular container and cut into individual pieces for serving

You take the good with the bad. I’m not going to justify quasi-recent additions such as “guyliner” (eyeliner worn by men (why can’t we all just wear eyeliner??)) or “totes” (slang for “totally”), but somewhere beneath the derping—another new addition—and the twerking, there’s still a hint of snobbery that dictionary purists are searching for.

English to a Native Speaker

Category : society

There’s a sense of wonder when listening to a foreign language. You wonder how someone can learn all those words, how they can string them together to form actual thoughts. Yes, we do the same thing in English, but we know English. It’s easy for us. But then you get to thinking… what do our words and phrases sound like to non-native speakers?

Unsurprisingly, we are not the first to wonder. People have attempted to recreate the sounds of English into nonsensical terms, which are quite fun to listen to. Adriano Celentano’s 1970s hit Prisencolinensinainciusol (don’t ask me to pronounce that) is a catchy little tune made entirely of nonsense verse. And while the words mean nothing at all, it sounds like English.

Truthfully, this tune is a now a starred track on my Spotify account.

If soap operas are more your style, the short film Skwerl has a similar effect. You understand what’s going on, even if you don’t understand the dialogue.

It’s a little eerie, like eavesdropping on someone’s disagreement. But that’s why it’s so fun.

If anyone has other examples, I’ll gladly listen to them. It fascinates me to think that the language we hear every day is complete nonsense to non-native speakers. Of course, they may feel the same way about us as well.

Orhan Pamuk’s Novel Museum

Category : society

I mean literally: It’s a museum based on a novel.

When you begin your tour, it’s like beginning the novel. And the museum is laid out like the story itself, chronologically, displaying items mentioned in the novel—an earring, a collection of cigarette butts. Pamuk says that the museum wasn’t simply a product of the book, Museum of Innocence. They were created simultaneously, each of them dependent on the other. As the author wrote the book, he was gathering materials for the museum at the same time. And there is a display case for each chapter of the novel, so there is certainly no lack of detail.

Makes me want to take a trip to Turkey.

Check out the slideshow, too. It’s such a fascinating idea, walking through a novel-based museum. We get excited when our favorite stories are transformed to film, but I like this concept even better. It doesn’t take out the imagination like film does, instead expanding upon the mental images we have of the novel.

The museum opened its doors on April 28th, and if you happen to be in the area (bring me?) you can purchase tickets online. And take a moment to scroll through the museum’s website, too, even if it’s not all open yet. There’s a brief write-up of Pamuk’s vision, and (of course) visitor info.

Gender-Fic?

Category : society

I won’t deny that there’s a special sort of sub-genre of literature dubbed “chick lit,” which a certain species of women enjoy. But when a supposedly serious work is dubbed “chick nonfiction,” I get a little angry.

And so, apparently, did the rest of the Internet. Counterattacks in articles. Twitter wars. You name it. All because a woman wrote a non-fiction work about a political figure that wasn’t completely based on politics. Because she (gasp) mentions their marriage. (Here is the review itself.)

I don’t understand how this stuff still happens. Aren’t we an “equal rights” sort of society? Clearly, only men enjoy politics and women want romance. People: Read whatever you want. It disgusts me that someone believes a label like “chick nonfiction”—whatever that means; I’d like to see that in the bookstore—is appropriate. And a professor at that, who you’d think would be fairly educated.

As far as we’ve come with gender equality, there will always be someone whose gut reaction is still something like this. It makes me sad to realize how much further we still have to go.

Wimpy Kid Balloon

Category : children, society

Per tradition, I’m sitting here watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in my PJ’s while everyone else in my house is doing something constructive. (It’s understood that I must watch the parade, though. At least, until I see the Rockettes.)

Imagine my joy when I hear that Diary of a Wimpy Kid will have its own balloon this year. And look at how adorable he is! I’m a little bit of a slacker in my love for children’s books, as I haven’t actually read them yet (shush). But the fact that a book series has become so insanely popular to warrant a balloon in the Macy’s parade is just awesome beyond words. (Photo copyright and courtesy of Abrams Books.)

Way to go, Jeff Kinney!

And happy Thanksgiving!