New bookmash! This one’s a bit conflagrationary.
Remember the transformation of fail and win 5–6 years ago? Fleeting online slang phrases like bucket of fail and made of win may sound dated now, but terms like epic fail/win and FTW (“for the win”) and the words’ use as tags and hashtags remain popular. Fail and win have firmly, if informally, extended their grammatical domains, having been converted from verb to noun, interjection, and other categories.
A word undergoing comparable change is nope. Its metamorphosis over the last few years has in some ways been more impressive, but it seems less remarked on than fail and win – maybe because of its more limited distribution. For instance, this cartoon on Imgur (pronunciation note here), which shows Spider-Man shooting spiders from his hands, drew comments that use nope as a verb, adjective, and noun – mass and count – as well as duplicating, lengthening, and adverbifying it.
Some of the comments are listed below. A couple have swear words, so you might prefer to skip ahead if you’re likely to be offended by those:
As James puts it, the blog:
gives a place for professional language geeks to talk about things they can’t talk about in more polite contexts. It’s a sweary blog about swearing.
At the bottom of the new blog you’ll see some familiar names among the contributors. More will be signing up, and we’re very open to ideas for new material. The associated Twitter account is @stronglang.
Some of you may find the idea unappealing, and will not wish to read further. I won’t hold it against you.
It’s early days, and we’re still figuring out the details, but there are several posts up already on a range of topics, including the phonology of cusswords, whether shit is a contronym, and one from me today on great moments of swearing in the horror film The Thing.
My first Strong Language post is featured on the Paris Review blog:
Great moments in swearing: an utterance in John Carpenter’s The Thing helped define our sense of a treasured obscenity.
Ben Zimmer introduces Strong Language to Language Log readers:
There’s a new linguablog that’s definitely worth your time if you’re not put off by vulgarities. And if you revel in vulgarities, well, you’re in luck. . . . James and Stan have enlisted a great lineup of contributors (I’m happy to be one of them).
Eugene Volokh gives Strong Language his nod of approval at the Washington Post.
Strong Language just got picked up by MetaFilter.
Language Hat is also happy about it.
Dave Wilton spreads the word at Wordorigins.org.
Katy Waldman at Slate‘s Lexicon Valley blog welcomes the “cheerful temple to the vulgar and profane” that is Strong Language.
Jazmine Hughes at The Hairpin praises Strong Language‘s “scholarly, robust, cool-as-shit deep dive into when and why we swear, where our curses come from, and what, exactly, they mean”.
Laura M. Browning selects Strong Language as a staff pick for the A.V. Club:
Although the blog’s authors are serious about language, they don’t take themselves too seriously, so the posts are as hilarious as they are informative. Plus you’ll pick up some language that would make Malcolm Tucker proud.
Bookmashing, for the uninitiated, is when you stack books so the titles on their spines form a poem, or a mini-story, etc. It also has the more transparent name book spine poetry. It’s a fun game – and challenge – for word lovers, and a great excuse to browse your bookshelves. You’ll see them in a new light.
I’ve made several bookmashes over the years, and would do them oftener if most of my books weren’t in storage. Usually there’s no special theme, but some have been explicitly linguistic, e.g. Evolution: the difference engine, Forest of symbols, The web of words, Ambient gestures, and Cat and Mouse Semantics. So today I imposed the restriction of only using books from the ‘language’ shelf:
[click to embiggen]
Unlocking the language
And the madman
Defining the world,
Unlocking the English language –
Is that a fish
In your ear?
Thanks to the authors Simon Winchester, Henry Hitchings, Keith Houston, Robert Burchfield, and David Bellos. (I’ll try to be less gender-skewed next time.)
I got the idea originally from artist Nina Katchadourian, and it has spread to public radio and around the web. Last year a British drama group ran a bookmash competition, and now Jump! Mag (an educational magazine for children) is holding one for young readers.
Millie Slavidou, who set up the contest, has put several bookmashes on her Glossologics blog, which I wrote about last year. Seeing the idea featured in Jump! Mag prompted today’s simple effort, and I look forward to seeing any competition entries they make public. New players are always welcome.
[click to enlarge]
The Name of the World
In search of memory –
The first word, my last breath,
The name of the world,
The world without us.
One of these, you may have spotted, is a library book, while another appeared in an earlier bookmash and I still haven’t read it. I discussed Buñuel’s book in a recent post on curses and adjectives; Kenneally’s featured some years ago in a brief post on language evolution.
Other than that, I have nothing to add except my customary thanks to the authors: Lawrence Block, Eric Kandel, Christine Kenneally, Luis Buñuel, Denis Johnson, and Alan Weisman; also to Nina Katchadourian.
Older bookmashes and links to other people’s are browsable in my archive of book spine poems. Join in if you like.
I’m late to the story of Weird Al and his word crimes, and I’m too busy to do it justice, but luckily there has been a glut of good commentary already, some of it linked below.
First, the song, in case you’re catching up. ‘Word Crimes’ is a new release from American comedian ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, a novelty number about grammar, spelling and usage that borrows the template of a hit song from last year called ‘Blurred Lines’. You might want to watch or listen first, if you haven’t heard it, and you can read the lyrics here.
At the Galway Film Fleadh this week I saw It Came From Connemara!!, a documentary about the great Roger Corman’s time producing films in the west of Ireland, specifically Connemara in Co. Galway – a short drive west of my adopted city. (Fleadh is Irish for festival or feast.)
It Came From Connemara!! – NSFW trailer here – is a fun, fond look back at that productive and sometimes controversial stint in the late 1990s and the lasting effects of Corman’s presence on the Irish TV and film industry. (The friend I saw it with worked there as an extra, and the audience included many of the crew from those years.)