Link love: language (14)

“CQD . . . MGY

Who owns English?

World loanword database.

What should we call The Gulf?

The largest book in the world.

Global English language haiku.

The many connotations of biddy.

Pulp Diction: a grammar noir serial.

The new science of graphophonetics.

Language that dare not speak its name.

Bryan A. Garner on portmanteau words and neologisms.

The so-called “split infinitive”. (See also: James Thurber’s solution.)

David Crystal talks about yummy & scrummy (mp3, 2 min.; PDF, 31 kB).

Erin McKean of Wordnik talks about words, dictionaries, definitions, and the spaces between them:

[previously on Link love]

13 Responses to Link love: language (14)

  1. Another fascinating selection Stan

  2. Sean Jeating says:

    Didn’t find a close match for the word “abendfüllend”, so here’s the plain translation: evening-filling stuff, Stan. Informative, entertaining and fascinating. Thanks a lot.

  3. Stan says:

    You’re very welcome, Sean. Evening-filling is a useful loan translation, though it sounds less attractive than abendfüllend! Strange that English has no common translation. WordReference.com offers the accurate but cumbersome “occupying a whole evening“.

    Among the Google results for “evening-filling” are several from Dutch and German speakers (one of them referring to a werewolf card game), and the phrase also appears in James F. Murphy’s The Proletarian Moment: The Controversy Over Leftism in Literature. So it’s used infrequently but in a grand variety of registers!

  4. Sean Jeating says:

    You are amazing, Stan. :)
    As a lazy learner I just quickly typed ‘abendfüllend’ in the Leo and got feature length, felt not at all satisfied and thus decided to translate literally.
    ‘Occupying a whole evening’ (to me*) indeed does sound overblown/mannered, and – ‘occupying’ does have a certain negative touch.
    Ha, language … :)

    * writing ‘to me’ in a comment to me (ha ha ha) sounds pretty redundant. Not including these two words bears the risk, though, that some contemporaries might feel indignant, as to them :) it sounds as if ‘this bloody arrogant’ commenter does take his statement for apodictic.

    Here you are! :) I do feel (!) that I implemented several more or less tiny mistakes in(to?) this comment. Still, I do and – after having pressed the send-button – did not hesitate, as I am convinced that without making many mistakes I shall never get the chance to learn a lot. :)

    The peace of the night, my friend. Hope you have already started to feel a bit homely in your new ‘four walls’ (another German idiom).

  5. Claudia says:

    Lire Link love:language 14 a bien rempli ma soirée. Merci!

    I like your haiku. Here’s my English, accepted in the comments:
    Born in French Quebec
    Habitant of Canada
    Unique Can-Fran-Glish

    CQD…MGY was particularly interesting as I viewed again, recently, the magnificent film, A Night to Remember. I also just finished the atmospheric novel of Beryl Bainbridge: Every Man For Himself. It’s called rightly so a gem of a book. After I read:…the ululation of grief which later pierced the glittering heavens. (at the bottom of the perfect first page) I could hardly put the book aside, except to brew more coffee. The last page was as poignant and sparkling. And the in-between…

    BTW, I had a friend (Phyllis) whom we always called Biddy. Don’t ask me why. She was a nurse-missionary in the Arctic. She even used that name when she published a few poems. It was fun to discover the connotations.

    With Sean, I hope that you’re nicely settled and ready to pendre la crémaillère. (housewarming)

  6. Stan says:

    Sean: It’s interesting that Leo suggested “feature-length”, because I wondered about other possible meanings of abendfüllend after searching for examples yesterday. For instance (paragraph 8): “1941 follow Dumbo as the fourth evening-filling Zeichentrickfilm…” You could have an evening-filling binge on a series of films, but I don’t think you’d have a single evening-filling Zeichentrickfilm, unless it’s a lost Warhol. “Feature-length” seems the proper term here.

    Occupy has some negative connotations, such as geopolitical occupations, and toilets that are occupied in moments of urgency, but on the whole it is quite neutral. Still, it is probably less winsome than filling, which readily implies satisfaction or satiation, such as a filling meal, a refill of tea, or filling one’s tank with fuel.

    Whether to use “to me” or not “to me”, that is a question that also runs through my own head sometimes. It can be redundant, but redundancy can (despite its poor reputation) be a worthwhile or even necessary flourish, especially between friends telling stories. It would be tiresome to have to introduce every thought and opinion with a qualifier such as “to me”, but there are also times when it serves its purpose well, by emphasising how subjective are our ideas about intangible things like lexical connotations.

    Sean, you’ll be glad to hear that your comment contains few if any mistakes worth mentioning. I would suggest not using implement where you did, where included (in) or made (in) would serve better. But apart from that I have nothing to add, except that I will try to remember to point out mistakes you make in the future, since you asked so nicely! And thank you for your kind wishes. Yes, I’m settling in fine between my new four walls and in the green and grey spaces beyond them!

    Claudia: I love your haiku! It will probably be moved from the comments to the post itself. There’s a great variety there. Thank you for sharing your poem here too, and for the good wishes. Much unpacking remains to be done, but I have organised the essentials and am awaiting a good bookcase to take some of the weight off the floor! (Like the man who helped carry a wardrobe by climbing inside and carrying all the clothes.)

    “CQD . . . MGY” was prompted by Walter Lord’s book A Night to Remember, which I read recently. The film made a strong impression on me on the two occasions I saw it, so when I came across the book I didn’t think twice about picking it up and setting time aside for it. I’ve also been browsing this book, which is more akin to a time capsule. It’s still such a poignant and powerful story.

    How curious that you knew a Biddy called Phyllis. Do you know if she had Irish roots?

  7. Stan says:

    Jams: I’m glad you enjoyed them. Sorry I’m just responding to your comment now — it went straight into the spam folder for some reason.

  8. Claudia says:

    My friend Biddy (Phyllis) Worsley was from British Columbia. I never asked about her roots. With my limited English vocabulary, Biddy looked like a very normal nickname to me. I didn’t know all the connotations. I wish she would still be here. Not just to clarify her origins. She was a beautiful, faithful letter-writer. She couldn’t type a word. I’m the one who typed her poems to offer to editors. They were always returned. Finally she got 100 copies printed at a place called: Shoebox Publishing. It didn’t cost much and it gave great pleasure to her family and friends. She wanted me to do the same with my own poems. I laughed. I told her I didn’t know even 3 people who would enjoy reading what I wrote. This was before the blogosphere was born. And people could built a readership.

  9. Stan says:

    Thanks Claudia. Biddy is a very normal nickname, though less so for someone not called Bridget or a variation thereof — hence my curiosity about your friend. I’m happy to hear that her poems were eventually published.

    No doubt online communication has contributed to the rapid decline of letter-writing, but it has also allowed reading and connecting to take countless new and surprising forms. If you were to publish some of your own poems, you would already have a good deal more than three enthusiastic readers!

  10. cafemolido says:

    Oh, Erin McKean. I just love her! She is the writer of the blog dressaday.com, where she writes in a surprisingly entertaining manner about fabric and vintage dress patterns. One of the best features of the blog is “The Secret Lives of Dresses,” a collection of short stories from the point of view of different dresses (actually, I think these are being made into a book). Each one is enthralling in its own way. I suggest you check it out.

    I’m quite in awe of this woman, not only for her ability to write so well in so many different styles, but also for her extensive knowledge of language and its ever changing nature, as well as everything else she seems expert on. I would love to have lunch with her any day!

  11. Stan says:

    Thanks for your comment, cafemolido! I agree, Erin’s erudition and enthusiasm make her a force for good in the world of words. A Dress A Day is very funny and well written, but I admit to spending more time on Wordnik. If I was in the habit of wearing dresses, the balance might shift.

  12. Tim says:

    On the topic of loan words and translations, it is interesting that in the vastness and complexity of our language, there are still words in other languages that cannot be translated word for word. Sure, we coin neologisms and probably borrow more foreign words than any other language; but sometimes I get asked (for example) what a Japanese word would be in English — when such a word doesn’t exist.

    Language and culture are intertwined and inseparable. How a culture pictures anything is directly reflected in their language; how those thoughts are voiced. And thus the incredibly fascinating tropes of translation are enough to keep one occupied indefinitely.

    In the same way, it explains why some languages may prove to be more difficult for English speakers to learn than others. When the thinking behind how to express something is so very foreign to us, it takes extra effort to grasp; and greater effort to use satisfactorily.

    The article “Who Owns English” was a very interesting read. Thanks for linking that. In my mind, we do speak the same language as Americans. The biggest differences are in colloquialisms (grammar and spelling are minor and less noticeable in speech than in writ) which vary even within a wider area; and, I am sure, in all languages. To argue about which one is more pure is like arguing that language should stay the same for 400 years. Even pronunciations can vary and still be acceptable (though some are just plain wrong).

    I love that we speak the world’s primary language. And I love that our language is ever evolving and changing and has so many so-called dialects spread across its lattice.

    Bring on split infinitives and sentences ending with prepositions — but never loosen your grip on proper promulgation of prose and pronunciation.

  13. Stan says:

    Tim: The lack of full lexical correspondence between languages is very interesting all right. There can only be a partial fit. Even where direct or near-direct translations exist, there are subtleties of sound and connotation that easily disappear into the gaps between languages. (You might enjoy this recent interview with Edith Grossman on the art and the importance of translation.)

    Sometimes foreign terms become adopted and widely used despite initial resistance and the existence of an English equivalent, e.g. Schadenfreude for “malicious pleasure”. Esprit de l’escalier is less well known, but its English equivalents “staircase wit” and “latter-wit” never seemed to gain common currency.

    You make a good point about how inextricable are language and culture. Each is embedded in the other. This is one reason why total immersion in a language is so helpful when one wants to learn it. I picked up French quite well in school, but by the end of a three-week exchange trip to Brittany I found myself thinking in French, which was a welcome and unexpected development.

    All languages have fuzzy, porous borders, overlapping with each other to greater or lesser degrees. So it makes little sense to argue over illusory boundaries or notions of purity. The frisson between British English and American English (i.e. between some of their speakers) is unlikely to ever fully disappear, but I think most people would accept that both are rich and vibrant clusters of dialects of an amazingly enduring and adaptable language.

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