November 18, 2014
*[click to enlarge]
It took me a moment to figure out this headline in today’s Irish Times. I wondered if it might be a novel or obscure sense of depart in sports journalism that had escaped my notice to date, before realising it was probably supposed to be impart. The article supports this analysis.
To impart is to pass on or transmit, to communicate or disclose, to bestow. One often imparts wisdom. To depart is to leave: a train departs a station. Depart from can mean deviate from (a normal or recommended course of action): the headline departs from intelligibility.
John McIntyre, in The Old Editor Says, warns that errors lurk in the big type and imparts the following wisdom: “Always give the big type a second or third look before publication.” Be on guard, too, for departing wisdom when parting wisdom is meant.
Google returns a few examples of “departs wisdom”, each seemingly intended to mean imparts wisdom, but none so prominent as this. I expect it will crop up again sooner or later.
[Hat-tip to Ultan Cronin for the link. For more like this, see my archive of posts about headlines.]
August 16, 2014
I have two new posts at Macmillan Dictionary Blog.
First up, Why heed the language cranks? continues a recent theme:
People who are inclined to be intolerant of others find in language usage ample grist to their mill. Though English has a broad and accommodating variety of styles to suit a range of occasions and preferences, sticklers favour a very formal mode of the language – usually the version they were taught in school – and they advocate it in all contexts. This is as inappropriate, even as silly, as telling everyone to wear formal dress all the time.
I would happily ignore the usage cranks if they weren’t routinely given significant platforms from which to air their prejudicial misconceptions. This publicity helps them tap into widespread uncertainty about what grammar is and how language works.
You can read the rest here.
Hail-phrase-well-met looks at a curious old phrase, hail fellow well met, to establish what exactly it means and where it might have come from:
Macmillan Dictionary, which hyphenates the phrase, says hail-fellow-well-met is an adjective that means ‘behaving in a very friendly way that is annoying or does not seem sincere’. So it packs quite a lot of nuance into a few familiar, if unpredictably arranged, words, usually indicating not so much a certain amount of social intimacy as an assumption or display of too much of it. It may be an extension of the shorter phrase hail-fellow (also Hail, fellow!, etc.), which the OED notes was both a greeting and a descriptive expression used in a range of constructions. The second part, Well met, was also a greeting: roughly ‘it’s good that we’ve met’, according to World Wide Words.
Sometimes, too, the phrase carries no negative connotations. For examples and further discussion, pop over to Macmillan Dictionary Blog.
For older articles you can browse the archive.
May 26, 2014
God forgive me, I’ve written a listicle. Below are ten words and usages in Irish English (or Hiberno-English*) that you mightn’t be familiar with unless you’re a Sentence first veteran, a dialect scholar, or of course Irish, or Irishish.
Some were borrowed from Irish and became part of Irish English. Others are English words with meanings peculiar (or mostly so) to Ireland. What follows is just a summary, but each word links to a post I’ve written with more detail, notes on pronunciation, examples from literature and real life, and so on.
1. Smacht is a noun loaned from Irish meaning control, discipline, or order. You might put smacht on something or someone, like an untidy room or an unruly team.
2. Moryah has various spellings all based on the Irish phrase mar dhea. It’s an ironic or sceptical interjection used to cast doubt or mild derision on an assertion.
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February 28, 2014
A couple of excerpts from Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger (2009), a fine polemic by the Irish critic and author Fintan O’Toole:
One of the great strengths of Irish culture [is] its capacity for double-think. For a range of reasons – the simultaneous existence of paganism and Christianity, the ambiguous relationship of indigenous society to a colonial power, the long experience of emigration – Irish culture developed a particularly strong capacity for operating simultaneously within different mental frameworks. This is one of the reasons for the rich inventiveness of Irish artistic life and for much of the humour, teasing and wordplay that enliven social interaction. Irish double-think is wonderfully summed up by the old woman in the 1930s who, asked by Sean O’Faolain if she believed in the little people, replied, ‘I do not, sir, but they’re there.’
Much of this is of course unprovable (and unfalsifiable), and you could probably make a case for the same capacity for doublethink in other countries. But O’Toole’s ideas are, as always, food for thought.
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