Link love: language (46)

My language linkfests seem to have fallen naturally into a monthly series, more or less. That gives you a full lunar cycle to explore the latest batch, or as many as catch your attention:

The story of English spelling.

How language change sneaks in.

Vous to tu: social codes and formality on Twitter.

♫ “I am the very model of an amateur grammarian.”

When are “Y” and “W” vowels?

Different languages’ onomatopoeic words for sneezing.

Recreating the sounds of extinct species (including our ancestors).

The attachment ambiguity of squinting modifiers.

Saying please in restaurants.

Origins of the phrase touch and go.

En dash vs. hyphen: precision in usage.

Deborah Cameron on crowd-sourced dictionaries.

Plausible origins of common phrases for the very credulous.

Some mysterious uses of the preposition up to.

How did the proof get in the pudding?

Joey Barton, grammarian?

Is rhyming slang Irish?

Smart + casual = smasual.

On pronouncing Shakespeare’s name.

The Northern Cities Vowel Shift: a phonological revolution.

Tim Storm, singer of the lowest note ever.

Opening the door on ajar‘s etymology.

Why William Zinsser’s On Writing Well is still number one.

Dan Castellaneta on the origin of Homer Simpson’s “D’oh!”

[archived links]
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11 Responses to Link love: language (46)

  1. Dr. Kim says:

    Thanks for collecting these! I somehow missed Lynne Murphy’s TedX video.

  2. Stan says:

    You’re welcome, Dr. Kim. I hope you found a few items of interest.

  3. Charles Sullivan says:

    I enjoyed the first five links. I don’t have time to read more at the moment, but I’ll be back soon. Very nice.

  4. Stan says:

    Charles: Thanks, as always, for your visit. Five for five enjoyment-wise is a promising start.

  5. Charles Sullivan says:

    Lynne Murphy, link #9. Wonderful.

  6. John Cowan says:

    I think what makes T/V different in French from the other European languages is that V still has strong connotations of equality. Before early modern times, almost all relationships above the absolute bottom level were unequal, and it was always obvious who turned the wheel and who got the shaft. But as people moved to cities, people’s relative ranks weren’t so obvious any more (partly because there are so many more complete strangers in cities), and it became safer to V everyone. In English, this went so far that T was lost except in dialects and frozen religious language; the same happened in the voseodialects of Spanish, completely so in southern South America, mixed with T in Central America. Much later, it was a minor point of the Russian Revolution that all soldiers, of whatever rank, were to be addressed with V (and so V remains strong in Russia). Elsewhere in Europe, V became once again associated (or never lost its association with) inequality, and so started to come apart in the 1960s — but not in France.

  7. Stan says:

    Charles: Yes, a fascinating discussion.

    John: That’s a very interesting bit of history. Thank you.

  8. alexmccrae1546 says:

    John Cowan,

    Enjoyed your historical perspective on the ‘evolution’ of the French “tu’ vs. “vous” usage, over time, (and place).

    But at first glance, your “T/V” short-form momentarily threw me off, as it didn’t immediately register in my semi-conscious brain as representing “tu”/ “vous”. (I’d just gotten out of bed and hadn’t even done my morning ablutions at that point. Internet addiction is such a pain. HA!)

    Then I vaguely recalled Stan had posted a link to an article addressing the “tu”/ “vous” dichotomy as it related to Twitter communications, as one item on his list of several language usage-related links; and then my temporary confusion was allayed.

    Admittedly, if I’d had a few swigs of my first mug of early morning coffee before reading your post, I’m sure it would have registered pretty much immediately. Hopefully, more synapses firing, and all that good stuff.

  9. The use of dashes described in the “precision in usage” article is new to me. In my own writing I tend to hyphenate the entire phrase (e.g. “stem-cell-derived”).

    I get “this content doesn’t seem to be working” for the BBC clip on the lowest note ever, which is fine — not something I’m going to lose sleep over — but wouldn’t it be nice if the video player would check if the content is going to work before playing the advertisement, hmm? :-)

    An aside on the “ajar” article: I think Antony chose poorly in using the word “executor” to illustrate the voicing rule, because who among us has ever heard “executor” pronounced aloud? He should have picked “executive” instead.

    Urban legend in the nineties had it that “d’oh” was a swear word in Korean or something like that.

  10. alexmccrae1546 says:

    @Flesh-eating Dragon,

    Interestingly, “Oh” is a fairly common Korean surname, as are “Ho” and “Huh”, and “Noh”, as in the ancient Japanese theatrical form, noh, which relies heavily on broad pantomime-like gestures.

    I believe there’s currently a Ms. Oh, a relative newcomer, on the LPGA tour, joining over 40-some other native Korean women pro golfers competing at the game’s highest level. (I wonder if she mutters “d’oh”, under her breath, after missing a shortish putt. HA!)

    I kind of bought “The Simpsons” veteran voice actor Dan Castellaneta’s explanation of how the expression “d’oh” came about, from the attached video—–a kind of contraction, (or more like a partial retraction), of an intended blurted out mild expletive, namely damn, or damn-it, retaining the “d…..”, coupled w/ an almost instinctive, immediate exclamation of self-censure, w/ the perfunctory “oh”.

    Both elements combined…..voila!…. we have that most endearing, familiar signature Homer Simpson punctuating oath, “d’oh”, perhaps a kind of surrogate utterance for the more common, “Oops!”, or “Geez”.

    Hmm…. knowing Homer’s abiding affection for consuming donuts, I’m surprised that by now, after over 20-some successful seasons, ‘Simpsons’ creator, Matt Groening, or the marketing gurus at FOX/ TV haven’t come up w/ a commercial product called D’oh-nuts— w/ appropriately, bright lemon-yellow icing, drizzled w/ tiny, fun red-white-and-blue candied sprinkles, reflecting Homer’s pride of flag and country. Just a thought.

  11. Stan says:

    Adrian: I use either method, depending. The en dash approach can be neater than multiple hyphenation, especially with large compounds, but the latter seems more common – and more familiar to general readers. In the ajar article, I agree that executive would have been a better example.

    Alex: Castellaneta’s account of the expression’s origin seems perfectly plausible to me, and he told it well. I expect he’s had lots of practice by now!

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