Thursday, December 29, 2005
The first time I heard it, I thought it was a small slip-up, that bank people use the term "social" among themselves and the rep had used it inadvertently when talking to me. But overnight, it seemed, everyone was using this foreshortened version with the public at large; I can't recall the last time someone asked me for my "social security number" by that name.
Obviously, it's not a term that's difficult to grasp. Still, I wonder how many times the customer service person is asked "My what?". And of course I wonder whether the public at large will use the term outside of the context of banks and credit card companies and those who traffic in "socials" every day.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Flickr labs have been hard at work creating a way to show you some of the most awesome photos on Flickr.Free extra bonus new word included at no charge to you.
We like to call it interestingness.
Explore the gorgeousity by choosing a point in time...
(On an entirely extra-linguistic note, I personally find the use of we and especially we like to think or we call it in advertisements kinda oily. But that's just an opinion, not a usage observation.)
I will say that at this exact point in time -- it's early today, perhaps -- I can't think of an existing noun that would substitute for interestingness in place. One would have to recast using interest as an adjective, wouldn't one?
I'll also throw in that the word labs in this kind of context seems to me to be ambidextrous with respect to number. I think we could say either Flickr labs has been hard at work or Flickr labs have been hard at work. In British English, at least, the plural would be preferred always. We Americans often like to think of collective nouns as singularities. Is labs a collective noun? You decide.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
In English, we have:
need (I, you, we, they)
needs (he, she, it)
needed (all persons), also functions as participle
I count four forms -- two present, one for past (including participle), one for progressive. Did I forget any?
Even gnarly verbs in English don't have that many forms. An irregular verb like eat has only one additional form: eat; eats; eating; ate; eaten. A wackier verb, still pretty simple: think; thinks; thinking; thought. Still only four. Another: ring; rings; ringing; rang; rung. The star irregular verb is, as usual, to be, which has these: be; am; are; is; being; was; were; been.
For further comparison, I just totted up some German verbs, and unless I am missing some forms (I wouldn't be surprised), it looks like in German, most verbs have about 11 forms. Rather more than our four or five, but still way simpler than latinate languages.
(Incidentally, if you're wondering how we can get by with such greatly simplified verb forms in English, it's because we have effectively excised the semantic component represented by a verbal inflection and transferred it to another word, such as a pronoun. Thus Spanish amo is I love, amas is you love -- they like inflection, we like not-inflection and pronouns. Spanish has pronouns, of course, but they're often optional. Our habit of preferring to use separate words instead of inflecting verbs -- which is to say, the tendency of English toward being an analytic language -- applies also to verbal tenses and moods. As in German, many of our past and all of our future verbal forms involve auxiliary verbs. Ditto subjunctive -- If he would have come, ...)
And the point of this is? Well, I was talking to a 12-year-old the other day, and the topic of swimming came up, and when the phrase have swum was floated (haha), my interlocutor did not believe that swum was a word. "I have swam," she insisted was the correct form. This was all the more surprising to me because this is an extremely well-read girl who regularly tackles texts several grade levels above her age. Yet she has as yet not learned the "correct" participial form for a verb that is by no means obscure.
This seems like evidence to me that the drive in English to reduce verb forms continues, albeit somewhat checked among those who have formally studied the language. Non-standard English has all sorts of examples where, as with our swim example, the simple past has taken over the participle and further reduced the number of forms -- I have went, I have ate, etc.
It is of course in the vulgate where continued change will manifest, and one therefore is not surprised that speakers of non-standard English are in the vanguard of evolution. But when people who for the most part speak standard English are confused about things like the form of a participle, further evolution in English is snoofling around at the door.
Lest any of us get to feelin' too smug, though, consider that even us speakers of more perfect English can find ourselves unsure of forms, at least till we run to our beloved reference works for rulings. Which is it, dragged or drug? Sneaked or snuck? And as noted here before, there's that perplexing to dive -- I dive, I dove, I have ___________ ? It will be the rare folk among us who can confidently roll out every form of every verb in English, and especially, who can do it based on instinct alone. The fact is that we "know" the correct forms of such verbs only because various "authorities" have made a decision for us and we have studied their rulings.
 It doesn't take advanced linguistics study to guess that the forms of to be are probably not tortured inflections of a single base verb; instead, our current forms are the result of smooshing together several verbs into a single to be.
 Sometimes the participle wins: I seen him.
 At this point, even among educated people it's hard to find someone who can explain the difference -- or heck, even bothers to distinguish -- lie and lay.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
In a recent article in the New Yorker ("Hogs Wild"), Ian Frazier writes about an urban-legendish monster boar that was shot, photographed, and shortly thereafter buried. The lack of concrete evidence inspired descriptions of an ever-bigger pig until it came to be known as ... tada! ... Hogzilla. (The boar did prove to exist, and did indeed prove to have been huge, though not quite up to the size of legend.)
The suffix -zilla is another one of those morphemes that falls out of reparsing an existing word. The meaning seems to be "monster." So Hogzilla is a monster hog. Something like truck-zilla would be a monster truck. Here are some examples I found using Our Friend Google:
- ForumZilla a kind of meta-forum for finding forums. They use a lizard logo.
- Blogzilla. Nice graphic.
- Gozilla, "monster downloads."
- Nanozilla, in the cleverly titled article "Nano-zilla strikes Tokyo."
Update 28 Jan 2006 I just thought of another: bridezilla, which per Paul McFedries is "a bride-to-be who, while planning her wedding, becomes exceptionally selfish, greedy, and obnoxious." That is, a bride-monster.
The suffix -zilla is handy, because as far as I know, we don't have a particle in English that we can add to a word to create "big version of." We have diminutives -- dog, doggy -- but no, uh, what? increasative. (Actually, it's called an augmentative.) In Spanish, there are a handful of augmentatives, such as -on and -ota, to name two. Una caja is a box; un cajón is a big box, etc. (For the curious, more on Spanish augmentatives to be found here.) Of course, -zilla isn't just "big version of"; it's "unprecedently enormous version of": the monster version.
And whence this term, anyway? I can't say definitively, but a very good bet is that it began with the movie Godzilla. That's in itself a slightly strange word, an Anglicization of the Japanese word Gojira, with an extra -d-. (One etymology posited here.) Given that Godzilla is an unprecedently enormous lizard, it's not a stretch to break the name on boundaries that make sense in English (god+zilla) and reuse the suffix-like part.
A note on Mozilla, the umbrella name for the browser foundation. The foundation uses a lizard as its mascot, but according to some purported diary entries from Jamie Zawinski, the name's originator, the name came first as a portmanteau of something like Mosaic+killer, Mosaic being the browser guts on which many a commercial browser was originally based. And in an interesting twist, some uses of -zilla do not directly mean "huge"; they instead echo the Mozilla name and suggest some affinity with that browser or its community, such as Bugzilla and podzilla.
Monday, December 12, 2005
I got an appointment on the schedule for a good-bye shindig on Friday, but I am not the greatest cruise director for these sorts of things, so I could use planning and implementation help from the more socially inclined among you.and
I'll ask XXXX next week if I can make a brief announcement after class to see if we can sign up more people, but if you know of or have met other people you'd think would be good additions, let me knowIt's always interesting to see if a term that has a specific cultural context -- here, a TV show -- can make it out into the lexicon without its context. IOW, whether people who don't know the original context will pick the term up anyway. So far, people I know who use the term all explicitly understand that they're referring to a TV character. (At least, as far as I know.) Anyone have further info on this?
aka Julie the Cruise Director
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Not known at this time is when the word blog evolved from web[ ]log.
* My 40th birthday.
Via Dave Winer.
Friday, December 09, 2005
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Are the holiday cards greeted?The un- prefix does not exist, AFAIK, in the transitive version (I greet you!, but no I ungreet you!).
Yes and No! The holiday cards come greeted with the words "Happy Holidays" or they can be ungreeted, please specify when ordering.
It does represent economy -- the more traditional way would be something like "come with preprinted greetings" or the like; greeted surely is a lot shorter.
So, this usage is passive (the cards are greeted), which implies a differently transitive verb to greet meaning "to add a greeting to," right? I wonder if the folks at this company sit around at meetings and say things like Should we greet these cards? We should subpoena their emails.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
The Bogdanov Affair article has been plagued by vicious POV warrioring from a number of sides, including IPs belonging to Igor Bogdanov, the subject of the article.Aside from being hard to pronounce, it seems that the term "fighting" would be appropriate. So why does the author use "warrioring"? Because it appears to derive from a noun "POV warrior," which (heh) Wikipedia helpfully defines as "someone whose writings consistently lack a Neutral point of view." Another Wikipedia entry uses the term in a similar way:
In short, I object to RoB's knee-jerk reverting of any change I make to the article, without any consideration for process (explaining his edits, responding to my explanations). Moreover, I object to his knee-jerk POV warrioring, refusing to accept views other than his own.So within the Wikipedia community, this seems to be established. The verb is just a, uh, bonus.
As for turning "xxxx warrior" into a verb, we can find other examples:
- An Amazon reviewer (of PlayStation) who signs himself "warrioring."
- A clear example where "weekend warrior" (not completely defined) is converted to "warrioring."
- A straightfoward example from a page that addresses machismo: "Macho posturing is a hangover from hand-to-hand combat times when tribal societies were in need of fierce warriors to survive. Now that women fly combat planes, warrioring no longer suffices as a sufficient proof of masculinity." [Note: site is perhaps not work-safe. -- M]
- Ditto: "Warrioring is a necessary evil, like chemotherapy against cancer - not the kind of remedy I like to celebrate - we should use it sadly, only when necessary. Think of all the greatest atrocities in our history, like the holocaust - they were all committed by warriors. Warrioring is how we evolved as societies."
BTW, the original Wikipedia entry also introduced me to a term I hadn't heard before: a "sock puppet," which they define as "an additional account created by an existing member of an Internet community. This account allows them to pose as a completely different user, sometimes to manufacture the illusion of support in a vote or argument." I generally suspect that overly enthusiastic reviews on Amazon and CitySearch.com are put there by sock puppets. But then, I'm a skeptic.
Monday, December 05, 2005
- One specific feedback we’ve received from our customers is that they would like to ...I found this just a very tiny slightly small bit odd. Feedback is, in my experience, a collective noun. Granted, the standard means to indicate an individuum from the collective is the unsatisfactory "a piece of feedback," which is not only bland, but which doesn't even work -- you can have a piece of cake, but what the heck would a piece of feedback look like, anyway? Haha.
I sent this around for commentary, and one of my co-editors made this astute observation:
"Feedback" as a collective noun seems analogous to "e-mail": "One e-mail I received said..." I'm probably the only one on the planet who doesn't refer to individual e-mail messages as "e-mails." Let's see how long it is until you find "Many feedbacks we've received..." :^)I had a fight once with someone (in email) about the use of email to mean "piece of email," and about the inevitableness of that usage and moreover its lack of ambiguity in everyday speech. (The counter-argument was that you would never refer to a letter as "a mail." FWIW, our in-house style guide insists on both the hy-phen ("e-mail") and on referring to "e-mail messages.")
The fact that people don't refer to feedbacks suggests that even if the analogy to "e-mail" has some merit, the word feedback has not yet fully made the leap to count noun. So keep your ears (and email eyes) open, folks.