23 agosto 2010

Scandal suffix switchover

For more than 30 years, headline writers have relied on -gate to flag up controversial stories. This summer, a replacement emerged:

published on: Guardian

On the use of suffix -gate to flag up controversial stories

OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word

Allan Metcalf

It is said to be the most frequently spoken (or typed) word on the planet, more common than an infant's first word ma or the ever-present beverage Coke . It was even the first word spoken on the moon. It is "OK"-- the most ubiquitous and invisible of American expressions, one used countless times every day. Yet few of us know the secret history of OK--how it was coined, what it stood for, and the amazing extent of its influence.

Allan Metcalf, a renowned popular writer on language, here traces the evolution of America's most popular word, writing with brevity and wit, and ranging across American history with colorful portraits of the nooks and crannies in which OK survived and prospered. He describes how OK was born as a lame joke in a newspaper article in 1839--used as a supposedly humorous abbreviation for "oll korrect" (ie, "all correct")--but should have died a quick death, as most clever coinages do. But OK was swept along in a nineteenth-century fad for abbreviations, was appropriated by a presidential campaign (one of the candidates being called "Old Kinderhook"), and finally was picked up by operators of the telegraph. Over the next century and a half, it established a firm toehold in the American lexicon, and eventually became embedded in pop culture, from the "I'm OK, You're OK" of 1970's transactional analysis, to Ned Flanders' absurd "Okeley Dokeley!" Indeed, OK became emblematic of a uniquely American attitude, and is one of our most successful global exports.

New edition of ODE

Other words and phrases introduced for the latest edition include 'toxic debt', 'staycation', 'cheesebal' and 'national treasure'
by Sam Jones

The Guardian

The Oxford Dictionary of English has added words such as vuvuzela to the latest edition.

The World Cup in South Africa, climate change, the credit crunch and technology have all left their mark on the way we talk, the new edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English reveals, as the latest crop of new words to be added to its pages is published today
Football fans will perhaps be unsurprised to learn that the vuvuzela, whose apian drone soundtracked yet another summer of hurt, has blared its way into the dictionary's pages. By being ushered into the dictionary, which is based on how language is really used, the metre-long plastic horn has cemented its immortality as well as its ubiquity.

Climate change, an issue only marginally less controversial than refereeing, has also made its mark. Even the most ardent sceptics will no longer be able to deny the existence of "carbon capture and storage" – the process of trapping and storing carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels — or "geo-engineering", better known as the manipulation of environmental processes to counteract the effects of global warming. The new words appear today in the third edition of the single volume dictionary, which was first published in 1998.

Two of the buzzwords of this economically squeezed epoch also figure: toxic debt, used to describe a debt that has a high default risk, and the rather less snappy quantitative easing: the introduction of new money into the national supply by a central bank.

The virtual world, as ever, proffers plenty of its own jargon. The new edition has finally cottoned on to social media and microblogging. Slightly less quotidian is the phrase dictionary attack, which describes an attempt to gain illicit access to a computer system by using an enormous set of words to generate potential passwords. The new edition also dusts off and polishes a couple of terms – staycation (a holiday spent in one's home country), national treasure (someone or something regarded as emblematic of a nation's cultural heritage, normally Judi Dench or Stephen Fry) – that feel as though they have been in common usage for some while.

To balance them out among the 2,000 or so new items there are a few more left-field choices.

Among them are cheeseball, which refers to someone or something lacking taste, style or originality, and the more disturbing phenomenon of hikikomori, the Japanese word for the acute social withdrawal that occurs in some teenage boys.

20 agosto 2010

I wrote 2U B4! British Library shows up textspeak as soooo 19th century

New exhibition features Victorian poems written like text messages, the rise of RP, and battles over the letter H

Mark Brown Arts correspondent


A typical text message on a mobile phone. The British Library has unearthed examples of 19th century language using text msg abbreviation. GR8!

If u really r annoyed by the vocabulary of the text generation, then a new exhibition at the British Library should calm you down. It turns out they were doing it in the 19th century – only then they called it emblematic poetry, and it was considered terribly clever.
Details were announced today of the library's new exhibition devoted to the English language, exploring its 1,500-year history from Anglo-Saxon runes and early dictionaries to not dropping your Hs and rap.
The exhibition will open this winter after three years of planning.
One of the stars of the show will be the oldest surviving copy of Beowulf, the longest epic poem in Old English, which was written down at least 1000 years ago. There will also be the first book ever printed in English, which, reassuringly perhaps, has inconsistent spelling. The French are both "frensshe" and "frenshe" in Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, published by William Caxton in Flanders around 1473.
Roger Walshe, the British Library's head of learning, said it had been "a hugely ambitious project for us, but a hugely enjoyable one as well". He added: "There is always interest in language and there are always debates about whether language is changing or declining or improving and also what is influencing language. We felt we were uniquely placed to be able to give a historical perspective to that debate."

The journalese blacklist becomes collaborative

published on: Johnson

I'VE quickly become slack about maintaining my blacklist of tired phrases used by lazy journalists. (Seems this journalist is too lazy even to look for tired phrases.) But hooray! Someone has now starting doing it for me. A new web tool called Listiki lets people create lists of things and manage them collaboratively, and one Alison Gow ("Journalist, skier, biker. Usually in Liverpool, always over-caffenated") has created a list of journalistic clichés, to which 16 people have already contributed. Among them:


Outpouring (of grief/support/etc)

Grisly murders. Or brutal ones.

"Plummeted" meaning "was down a bit"

In scenes of reminiscent of (insert film/TV show here)

Only time will tell (I haven't a clue)

Yes, indeed. Will Listiki take off, and will this list turn into a comprehensive encyclopaedia of journalistic mediocrity? Only time will tell.

19 agosto 2010

MPs told to mind their language

By Sean Curran

Parliamentary Correspondent, BBC News

Could the expenses scandal turn out to be good news for the English language?

A group of MPs has been having a bit of end-of-term fun by talking about the sort of language used by politicians and civil servants.
To help their plain English party go with a swing they invited along some star witnesses: Matthew Parris from The Times, The Guardian's political sketch-writer Simon Hoggart and Professor David Crystal, a linguistics expert from Bangor University.

Everyone agreed that a lot of political speeches are gobbledygook, full of words and phrases like "stakeholder", "multi-agency", "level playing field", "outsourcing" and "blue-sky thinking".
I could go on but that's part of the problem. Politicians do go on and on and on, inventing more and more gibberish.

David Crystal pointed out: "politicians could not be accused of lying if nobody understood what they had said".

Don't be 404, know the tech slang!

A study of new slang terms entering English finds that technology is driving and perpetuating them.
For instance, "404" - the error message given when a browser cannot find a webpage - has come to mean "clueless".

Slang lexicographer Jonathon Green says that some such terms and abbreviations come about because of the limited speed and space afforded by text messaging.

Story from BBC NEWS


Da Wikipedia

Il leet (o anche l33t, 31337 o 1337) è una forma codificata di inglese caratterizzata dall'uso di caratteri non alfabetici al posto delle normali lettere (scelte per la semplice somiglianza nel tratto) o piccoli cambi fonetici.

Il termine ha origine dalla parola "élite", in inglese di pronuncia simile a "leet", e si riferisce al fatto che chi usa questa forma di scrittura si distingue da chi non ne è capace.

Il leet nasce anche dall'esigenza di memorizzare password di senso compiuto (quindi facili da ricordare) ma difficilmente riconoscibili. Il l33t era un modo valido per rendere il file riconoscibile a chi lo cercasse, mentre sfuggiva alle ricerche dei SysOp.

How the internet is changing language

By Zoe Kleinman Technology reporter,

BBC News

'To Google'
has become a universally understood verb and many countries are developing their own internet slang. But is the web changing language and is everyone up to speed?

Technology and culture
The internet prank was just one of several terms including "lurker", "troll" and "caps".

According to David Crystal, honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Bangor, who says that new colloquialisms spread like wildfire amongst groups on the net.

"The internet is an amazing medium for languages," he told BBC News.

"Language itself changes slowly but the internet has speeded up the process of those changes so you notice them more quickly."

People using word play to form groups and impress their peers is a fairly traditional activity, he added.
"It's like any badge of ability, if you go to a local skatepark you see kids whose expertise is making a skateboard do wonderful things.
"Online you show how brilliant you are by manipulating the language of the internet."

Word play
For English speakers there are cult websites devoted to cult dialects - "LOLcat" - a phonetic and deliberately grammatically incorrect caption that accompanies a picture of a cat, and
"Leetspeak" in which some letters are replaced by numbers which stem from programming code.
"There are about a dozen of these games cooked up by a crowd of geeks who, like anybody, play language games," said Professor Crystal.
"They are all clever little developments used by a very small number of people - thousands rather than millions. They are fashionable at the moment but will they be around in 50 years' time? I would be very surprised."
For him, the efforts of those fluent in online tongues is admirable.
"They might not be reading Shakespeare and Dickens but they are reading and cooking up these amazing little games - and showing that they are very creative. I'm quite impressed with these movements."
Txt spk
One language change that has definitely been overhyped is so-called text speak, a mixture of often vowel-free abbreviations and acronyms, says Prof Crystal.

"People say that text messaging is a new language and that people are filling texts with abbreviations - but when you actually analyse it you find they're not," he said.
In fact only 10% of the words in an average text are not written in full, he added.
Wireless in the 1950s meant a radio. It's very rare to talk about a radio now as a wireless, unless you're of a particular generation or trying to be ironic”
They may be in the minority but acronyms seem to anger as many people as they delight.
Stephen Fry once blasted the acronym CCTV (closed circuit television) for being "such a bland, clumsy, rythmically null and phonically forgettable word, if you can call it a word".
But his inelegant group of letters is one of many acronyms to earn a place in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
The secret of their success is their longevity.
"We need evidence that people are using a word over a period of time," said Fiona McPherson, senior editor in the new words group at the OED.
She says the group looks for evidence that a word has been in use for at least five years before it can earn its place in the dictionary.
Such evidence comes in the form of correspondence from the public and trawling through dated material to find out when a term first started appearing.
Hence TMI (Too Much Information) and WTF (you may wish to look that one up for yourself) are in, while OMG (Oh My God) has yet to be included in the quarterly dictionary updates.
"Some people get quite exercised and say, 'do these things belong in our language?'," said Ms McPherson.
"But maybe this has always happened. TTFN [ta ta for now] is from the ITMA (It's That Man Again) radio series in the 1940s."

Word thief
There is no doubt that technology has had a "significant impact" on language in the last 10 years, says Ms McPherson.
Some entirely new words like the verb 'to google', or look something up on a search engine, and the noun 'app', used to describe programmes for smartphones (not yet in the OED), have either been recently invented or come into popular use.
But the hijacking of existing words and phrases is more common.
Ms McPherson points out that the phrase "social networking" debuted in the OED in 1973. Its definition - "the use or establishment of social networks or connections" - has only comparatively recently been linked to internet-based activities.
"These are words that have arisen out of the phenomenon rather than being technology words themselves," she added.
"Wireless in the 1950s meant a radio. It's very rare to talk about a radio now as a wireless, unless you're of a particular generation or trying to be ironic. The word has taken on a whole new significance."
For Prof Crystal it is still too early to fully evaluate the impact of technology on language.
"The whole phenomenon is very recent - the entire technology we're talking about is only 20 years old as far as the popular mind is concerned."
Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to a word is that it becomes too mainstream, he argues.
"Remember a few years ago, West Indians started talking about 'bling'. Then the white middle classes started talking about it and they stopped using it.
"That's typical of slang - it happens with internet slang as well

Dialetti della Rete, così Internet modifica la lingua

articolo tratto da La Stampa

«To google»
(cercare qualcosa su un motore di ricerca), «Apps» (applicazioni scaricabili e installabili sugli smatphones, telefonini di ultima generazione«), »Social Networking« (l’attività di di chi crea reti e connessioni sociali attraverso il web): sono questi alcuni dei termini, nati dalla rete Internet e oramai universalmente riconosciuti ed utilizzati.

In ogni parte del mondo, infatti, sta nascendo e si sta diffondendo a macchia d’olio un vero e proprio »dialetto internettiano« che diventa peculiare e caratteristico di quel determinato Paese.

E se in Ucraina le comunità che utilizzano Mac o Linux usano un vocabolario specifico, diverso da quello di coloro che preferiscono Microsoft, per le comunità anglofone, invece, sono diventati di culto alcuni siti internet che inventano ed insegnano giochi linguistici innovativi, come ad esempio il »Leetspeak«, un linguaggio nel quale alcune lettere vengono sostituite da numeri che derivano dai codici e linguaggi di programmazione informatica. Le parole, in questo modo, diventano comprensibili da chi conosce il codice, ma non dai pc.

La domanda, a questo punto, diventa se e quanto queste variazioni e giochi linguistici, per quanto siano affascinanti, saranno in grado di resistere nel tempo. «È ancora troppo presto per valutare l’impatto della tecnologia sui linguaggi - spiega alla Bbc David Crystal, professore alla University of Bangor - Basti ricordare la sparizione di alcuni vocaboli che alcuni settori della società hanno smesso di usare nel momento in cui altre classi sociali hanno iniziato a farli propri. Questa è una caratteristica tipica degli slang, e può succedere anche al linguaggio di internet, che è una fonte sorprendente di possibilità nuove per il linguaggio».

«Sicuramente si parla di trasformazioni non irrilevanti - dice all’ADNKRONOS Mario Morcellini, Sociologo e Preside della Facoltà di Scienze della Comunicazione dell’Università La Sapienza di Roma - possiamo immaginare anche che siano anche congiunturali, legate ad una moda, in quanto è difficile stabilire se siano o meno irreversibili. Bisogna però tenere sempre in considerazione che il mondo della rete è il centro produttore delle maggiori trasformazioni linguistiche per i giovani».

Nel dibattito è intervenuto anche il prestigioso dizionario della lingua inglese di Oxford, l’Oed. Fiona McPherson, editor della redazione che si occupa dell’inserimento dei neologismi, spiega alla BBC la procedura che seguono in redazione: «Dapprima raccogliamo le prove di una utilizzazione effettiva di un termine per un periodo di tempo di almeno 5 anni. Una volta acquisite le prove, al vocabolo viene definitivamente assegnato un posto all’interno dell’Oxford English Dictionary».

«I processi di cambiamento delle lingue - sottolinea ancora il professor David Crystal alla Bbc - sono generalmente molto lenti, ma il web ha notevolmente accelerato questi fenomeni, in modo da averli resi molto più evidenti anche nel breve periodo. Online oramai la propria brillantezza e creatività si dimostrano proprio a partire dalla propria capacità di manipolare il linguaggio da e sul web».

Un altro dialetto, oramai considerato lingua a tuttig li effetti, di cui si parla da tempo, è il linguaggio degli sms, costituito da un mix di abbreviazioni ed acronimi.

«A ben guardare, però, - sostiene il Professor Crystal - si scopre che solo il 10% delle parole utilizzate nel testo dei messaggini inviati, a differenza di quanto si crede, non è scritto nella sua forma estesa e completa. E gli acronimi - prosegue Crystal - sembrano infastidire molto più persone di quante, invece, sostengono di amarle».

Generation X

published on: BBC

A poem by so-called 'Mini Meee' written in txt talk

Dear peers of mine wat r we thinkin?
Our health and lives r slowly driftin.
Can't u c ure hurtin each otha?
Can't u c ure hurtin ya mothas?
All this violence, sex and drugs,
Ain't nuthin fun bout bustin slugs.
My dear poor friends of Generation X,
Can't u c u havin too much sex?
Some girls in my school r pregnant and hopeless,
Jus go to school be calm and stay focused.
I had friends killed by drugs and drug relations,
Please say no, let's fight against 'em.
Do somethin' positive unlike dealin or doin,
Jus' have fun by dancin or hoopin.
So much in this world can kill in one second,
Like guns 'n' knives, they're dangerous weapons.
All these song bout shootin and chokin,
U think thas cool? U must b jokin!
Guns kill us quick, drugs kill us slow,
Sex makes us kill a life before it even grows.
Sex, drugs and violence,
Jus be safe and practice abstinence.
Please my Generation X friends,
Don't go down as STD fiends.
This is a poem for Generation X,
Stay alive, get your life in check.

14 agosto 2010

Silly season

source: worldwidewords

Mentioning silly season provoked me to look up where it comes from. As you may guess from its current circulation — the term is better known in Commonwealth countries than the US — it was a British invention.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites it appearing first in the Saturday Review of London on 13 July 1861. I can find no earlier example.

The Morning Chronicle referred to the term four days later, specifically mentioning the Saturday Review; six months later an article in The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent likewise gave it as the source. Others followed. It would seem that it had indeed been created by a writer on that journal. It referred to the months of August and September, when Parliament and the law courts were on vacation and anybody of substance was away. (Today, the dates are variously specified to suit local conditions.) News was sparse and to fill their columns journalists were forced to feature less significant stories that they wouldn’t bother with during the rest of the year. National papers suffered, but local ones starved, as was illustrated three years later:

The “silly season,” as the Saturday Review calls it, is at its height. Enormous gooseberries and marvellous aerolites are in full force in local newspapers, and happy are the sub-editors who can “congratulate their worthy fellow-townsman, Mr. Such-a-One, on the beautiful effect produced in his back yard by the painting of his pump and water-butt.”

The Illustrated Times, Middlesex, 27 Aug. 1864. An aerolite is a stony meteorite.

13 agosto 2010

Do you speak Cameronese?

da: Repubblica

Do you speak Cameronese?” è la domanda, semiseria of course, posta dal quotidiano Guardian di Londra ai suoi lettori. Non c’entra il Camerun. C’entra David Cameron, il nuovo primo ministro britannico. Il quale ha un accento inconfondibilmente “posh”, che rivela la sua appartenenza alle classi sociali privilegiate e la sua frequentazione delle migliori scuole e università del regno. In più, talvolta Cameron parla in modo un po’ particolare. In “Cameronese”, appunto. Quando un giornalista gli ha chiesto perchè, nei dibattiti televisivi in campagna elettorale, non ha parlato della sua idea di “Big Society” (Grande Società, ossia un modo di responsabilizzare e coinvolgere la gente), ha risposto: “Well, all the questions were rather subjecty subjects”. Che si può tradurre all’incirca così: “Bè, il fatto è che tutte le domande (del pubblico) erano su argomenti molto specifici”. Ma lasciamo stare il senso della frase: è quel “subjecty subjects” che ha attirato l’attenzione dei linguisti. In pratica, Cameron ha inventato un aggettivo, “subjecty”, derivato dal sostantivo “subjects” – argomenti. David Crystal, un docente di lingua inglese interpellato dal Guardian, sostiene che c’è un precedente illustre: anche Shakespeare inventava aggettivi.

11 agosto 2010

'Delivery's out, implementation'a in': The civil servant's essential guide to Davespeak

If you want to make it in the new Government, you need to know the lingo. So civil servants have produced a guide to ‘speaking Cameron’ to help its employees adjust to life under the Coalition. The briefing note, drafted by officials in Michael Gove’s Education Department – but expected to be emulated across Whitehall departments – is headlined ‘language of the new Government’. The memo – drawn up for the benefit of outside agencies hired to work for the department – is divided into two columns: words used before May 11 (the day Mr Cameron entered No 10) and those which should be adopted instead. The first word which the memo says should be dropped is ‘State’. The officials write that it should be substituted for Mr Cameron’s cherished concept of the Big Society, his idea that power should be taken away from Government and handed back to communities. The concept, which is thought to have been driven by Mr Cameron’s long-term image guru Steve Hilton, can be felt throughout the list: civil servants should not talk about ‘leading change’ but about ‘empowering change’, it says. The 30 key ‘translations’ include several mentions of families, another key part of the PM’s ‘brand’. More...Shire wars: Cameron risks new 'Turnip Taliban' rebellion with secret plan to drive out old-style constituency chairmen. The guide says that the emphasis is no longer on England being ‘the best place in the world to grow up’, but should be on Britain being ‘the most family-friendly place in Europe’. The list, which is subject to the caveat that it ‘depends on the context the words are used in’, spells the end for much of the jargon which sprang up during New Labour’s 13 years in power. ‘Stakeholder’, meaning someone with an interest in a policy, has been abolished, to be replaced with ‘people, volunteers, practitioners, professional organisations etc’, while ‘delivery model’ has been axed in favour of ‘getting things done’. The term ‘integrated working’ has been replaced by the more verbose, but comprehensible, ‘people working together to provide better services’. Last night, a Government spokesman said the guide was a natural consequence of the change of regime. ‘All new governments have new policies, which they communicate to the public with fresh language and tone,’ said the spokesman. ‘It will come as no surprise that we’ve been working on this.’

6 agosto 2010

Beach Blanket Lingo


When Jake Tapper of ABC’s “This Week” asked Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey last month for his opinion of the MTV reality series “Jersey Shore,” the contempt in the governor’s voice was obvious. “What it does is it takes a bunch of New Yorkers — most of the people on ‘Jersey Shore’ are New Yorkers — drops them at the Jersey Shore and tries to make America feel like this is New Jersey,” Christie said. In other words, in the parlance of the Jersey Shore, the show is about a bunch of bennies — disagreeable tourists from the metropolitan New York region who crowd the beaches every summer.
When it comes to the seasonal exodus of sun worshipers to the Jersey Shore and other beach spots around the country, language can get fiercely local. It starts with the fundamentals: how do you describe your prospective trip to the beach? In Oregon, you might say you’re going “to the coast.” In New Jersey, you invariably go “down the shore.” Baltimore natives, meanwhile, say they’re going “down the ocean” — but in Baltimorese (make that Bawlmerese), the phrase sounds more like “downy eaushin.” The down of “down the shore” and “down the ocean” doesn’t necessarily imply a southward journey. As in many dialects along the Eastern Seaboard, down can be used as a preposition indicating movement from the inland toward the shoreline.
Once you get to your destination, you might find that the locals have some colorful epithets for you. Old-time New Englanders have disdain for the summer people. On the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland, the come-heres are pitted against the from-heres. Hawaiians call white visitors to the islands haoles. West Coast surfers, a territorial lot, have a plethora of terms for nonlocals: Trevor Cralle’s “Surfin’ary: A Dictionary Of Surfing Terms and Surfspeak” lists put-downs like hondo, inlander, flatlander, valley and casper. (The last one is reserved for tourists whose pallid complexion resembles that of Casper the Friendly Ghost.)
On the Jersey Shore, the two main terms for unpleasant outsiders are bennies and shoobies. Roughly speaking, bennies are those who descend from the New York area to the beach towns of Monmouth County and northern Ocean County (like Seaside Heights, where MTV shot the first season of “Jersey Shore”). Shoobies generally come from the Philadelphia region to towns farther south, with the southern tip of Long Beach Island marking the dividing line between the realms of bennies and shoobies.
Those lunches packed in shoe boxes were so associated with the influx of Philadelphia visitors that they likely gave rise to the term shoobie. The word researcher Barry Popik has traced the localism back to a 1952 recollection of Edward Brown, then a lifeguard in Ocean City, about 10 miles south of Atlantic City. Brown recalled that certain beaches “attracted hordes of ‘shoobies,’ day-trippers or weekend visitors who didn’t have a clue as to what the ocean might do in a fit of whimsy.”
Bennie or benny, though a newer word, is shrouded in greater mystery. The first print appearance documented by the Dictionary of American Regional English is in an unpublished paper by Robert A. Foster, detailing a lexical survey of New Jersey undertaken in 1977 and 1978. Foster wrote that bennie refers to “tourists from New York City and North Jersey,” and speculated that it comes from the Jewish name Benny, used as a label for Jews in general, “well-known in working-class New York City.”

Coining suffixes: -tariat

by: Johnson

GEOFF NUNBERG thinks he may have coined the word "logotariat", and he's probably right. He googled it when he wrote it and found no hits (and five years ago, the internet already had around 10 trillion words on it). He's not certain, though—making certain would take "more intense Zimmering than I'm capable of". He might have coined a second word there; "to Zimmer" would be to trace a word back to its earliest usages, antedating others' claims of the first recorded usage, as Ben Zimmer (of the New York Times) expertly does.
Back to "logotariat": Mr Nunberg's coinage shows not only how new words can come into the langauge, but how new suffixes do. "-tariat" is not, as far as I can tell, a traditional English suffix. It seems to have begun with two common words coming from French. Proletarius was the Latin term for a citizen of the lowest class in society. Prolétariat entered French to discuss the entire class of proletarii, using a French suffix -at to make a group or collective noun from prolétaire. English "secretariat," similarly, is a group or location of a group of secretaries, and came from French secrétariat as well.
If workers can show solidarity in a proletariat, and secretaries can feel grand at a secretariat, then someone thought it made sense to dub the self-important purveyors of commentary, as a class, "the commentariat". My OED is too old to have an entry for it, and MerriamWebster.com doesn't have either, and I don't have time to Zimmer further just now. The point is that people started seeing more and more words ending in -tariat about, and with "commentariat" they had a word that further implied a smug in-group feeling.
Remember that -tariat was still not a proper suffix itself; the -tariat words attach -at to words that end in -ary and their analogues: proletar(ius), secretary, commentary. It seems a fluke that all three of these also have a t, so that the group nouns all end in -tariat. (Commisariat is probably too rare to have broken this trend.) As a result, it seems, after a while speakers decided that there is in fact an English suffix, -tariat: a group of people who share a function or purpose, perhaps (like the commentariat) even smugly thinking they were more useful to society than they really are. Hence a spate of joyful new coinages, some more common than others: blogotariat, lawyertariat, punditariat, mediocritariat, idiotariat and so on, all with the same connotation. Some of these words usefully already end with -t and so are crying to be made into -tariats (punditariat, idiotariat). Blogotariat requires an intervening -o- to make the rhythm right for most folks; blogtariat is far less common out there. But notice that nobody seems to have thought "blogariat" was the right word. -tariat is the clear winner.
Executive summary: take the Latin ending -arius, make it the French -aire, make the collective noun -ariat, import it into English, generalise from the fact that most common words happen to end in -tariat, add "smugness" to the connotation (generalising from "commentariat"), and presto. New suffix. I, for one, welcome our new logotariat overlords.
(Some of this, admittedly, is speculative, especially what I've posited about how the -t crept in there. If anyone has the resources to Zimmer more ably than I have, let us know what you find in the comments.)

Linguistics: Speaking of Space

published on: Time

America's leap into space has stimulated science and spawned new industries. It has also created a new idiom: space-speak. Many a scientist finds the growing, and sometimes incomprehensible jargon essential to the simplest conversation about new devices and techniques. But many a layman has become convinced that it is only one more irritating and unnecessary obstacle looming between him and a better grasp of scientific accomplishment. In a detailed analysis of space-speak for the magazine Science, University of Michigan Psychologist David McNeill suggests that there is something to be said for both points of view.
Creativity Limitation. Such space-speak metaphors as "umbilical" (the cord connecting a space-walking astronaut to his craft) and "milk stool" (the arrangement of a missile's three rocket engines) are vital additions to the language, says McNeill. He is equally impressed by such metonyms as "eyeballs in" and "eyeballs out" (describing extreme conditions of acceleration and deceleration, respectively), and he approves of neologisms such as "rockoon" (a rocket launched from a balloon). Unfortunately, metaphors, metonyms and neologisms—and the creativity required to invent them—are limited. They constitute only about one-eighth of the entries in official NASA diction aries of space terms.
Most of the remaining space jargon, according to McNeill's analysis, is made up of "nominal compounds"—words strung together endlessly in what scientists consider a logical order to describe complex devices or systems. Controlling the attitude of a ship by ejecting gas through nozzles, for instance, is called "nozzle gas ejection ship attitude control." The longest nominal compound discovered by McNeill appeared in the Congressional Record, and sounded as if it had been translated literally from the German: "liquid oxygen liquid hydrogen rocket powered single stage to orbit reversible boost system."
Such unwieldy compounds, McNeill says, constitute 19% of all the words in written NASA reports—substantially more than he found, for example, in papers by psychologists (8%) or in articles by educators (3%). But they are also used extensively by non-space scientists, "apparently to meet the common need for technical terms in greater numbers than metaphors, metonyms or neologisms can supply."
Possessive Pretension. On the other hand, McNeill stresses, the compound is often used to extremes, especially by those who pretend to possess a degree of technical knowledge that they do not have. Establishing a "pretension index" based on the length of nominal compounds and their frequency of use, he discovered that in their speeches, members of Congress were even more compound-conscious than NASA engineers. A space-technology magazine was a worse offender. It printed 300% more six-word compounds than did written NASA reports.
Even the engineering mind has begun to boggle at the profusion of space-speak—which explains the reduction of some complex nominal compounds to straightforward acronyms. "Augmented target docking adapter" has become ATDA, "astronaut maneuvering unit" is known as AMU, and the "electronic ground automatic destruct sequencer" —used to blow up missiles that have gone astray—is known simply as EGADS.
More detailed study of space-age jargon would be beneficial, McNeill feels, and his report must be considered only preliminary. "But we can conclude," he says, "that the following statement is probably true: Space-speak is an engineering technology concept expression manuscript sentence grammar device."

Jargon, Buzzwords and other Bad Biz Writing

By Ilya Leybovich

Here we look at the worst examples of office-speak, along with some words that deserve a place in our professional vocabulary. Not all corporate buzzwords are without their usefulness.
Everyone has encountered business jargon at one time or another. Whether hearing them from your boss, coworkers or customers, buzzwords can be a major source of irritation, obscuring rather than clarifying someone's point. There are, however, some types of business lingo that can aid in effective communication. Knowing the difference between helpful business language and the kind that should be banned is an increasingly vital skill in today's communication-driven workplace.
"When we talk about business jargon, we are generally referring to one of two things — words that are peculiar to a trade or words that are pretentious, unintelligible or gibberish," small business advisory Flying Solo explains. "And sometimes we can experience a spectacular combination of the two."
Despite its negative reputation, business jargon continues to proliferate, perhaps because those who use it don't recognize it as jargon or because they have become habituated to the quality of communication in their work environment. Either way, research shows that professionals across the board dislike office-speak.
A mid-2009 survey from staffing firm Accountemps identified the most irritating business buzzwords and phrases based on responses from 150 senior executives at major United States firms.
Here are the top 10 from the findings and their supposed meanings:

Leverage: To use something. According to the jargon dictionary from theOfficeLife.com, "A list of the worst business jargon would, of course, be incomplete without it."

Reach out: To make contact. This is "a dramatic way of saying a very mundane thing."

It is what it is: There's nothing we can do about it. As in, "The server is down today, and clients are irate. It is what it is."

Viral: Popular and spreading. As in, "Our video has gone viral."

Game changer: "A sports term describing a critical point with the potential to alter the overall outcome."

Disconnect: An inconsistency. As in, "There is a disconnect between what the consumer wants and what the product provides."

Value-add: As in, "We have to evaluate the value-add of this activity before we spend more on it." It's a "typical biz-speak reversal of 'added value."

Circle back: To return. As in, "I'm heading out of the office now, but I will circle back with you later."

Socialize: To reconcile. As in, "We need to socialize this concept with our key stakeholders."

Interface: A complicated way of saying "communicate." As in, "My job requires me to interface with all levels of the organization."

Unfortunately, these types of business jargon aren't isolated to conversation. In fact, they have a tendency to make it into work e-mail, memos and reports, reducing the general quality of business writing.
"Unfortunately, years of language dilution by lawyers, marketers, executives and HR departments have turned the powerful, descriptive sentence into an empty vessel optimized for buzzwords, jargon and vapid expressions," Inc.com explains. "Words are treated as filler — 'stuff' that takes up space on a page."
However, not all business terminology is stale and tired. A separate article from Inc.com lists some original buzzwords that might actually improve the quality of communications:

Big hairy audacious goal: The use of humor makes this more memorable than most goal-related phrases, and hyperbole provides some motivation.

Frictionless: A highly descriptive term that visualizes how business processes should run.

Knowledge worker: Emphasizes the mental contributions of certain employees rather than just their profitability.

Management by walking around: This is a humble and vivid description of good leadership.

Angel: "What better metaphor for the answer to an entrepreneur's prayers?" Inc.com asks.

Just in time: This phrase evokes both resourcefulness and efficiency in work processes.

Decoding The Latest Business Buzzwords

published on: cbsnews

MarketWatch's Marshall Loeb Translates Some Of The Latest Conference Room Lingo
(MarketWatch) Buzzwords have always been a part of the business lexicon. But just like street slang, the language of business changes. For instance, today's business words are heavily influenced by the technological times we live in.

From Megan Aemmer of MSN Encarta, here are some popular buzzwords to help you decode the jargon of today's business world:

Offline: You speak to someone offline when you need to talk with them in person or one on one on the phone rather than via email or instant message. It can surface in a meeting or conference call, when some sensitive or long-winded issue comes up that can be discussed more privately or efficiently without the group. "Let's take that offline, after the meeting."

Ping. Also Pinging: If you need to get someone's attention, you "ping" them, usually via email or instant message. Before the Internet, ping was used to describe the sound of a submarine's sonar. "When you get the chance, ping him for his contact information."

Deep Dive: When someone asks you to do a deep dive, they're asking for more in-depth information. This pops up frequently in research or consulting services. The phrase "drill down" can also be used in a similar context. "We did a deep dive of that telecom company, but we still need to drill down on their margins."

Bandwidth: In computer science, digital bandwidth refers to the capacity of the system to transfer data over a connection. But in the world of business jargon, bandwidth refers to a person's available time to complete a task. "My bandwidth is getting too sapped by the January report" or "I don't have the bandwidth to work on another report right now."

Geek Speak

Have you ever been at a party with a bunch of "software industry" people and overheard a conversation that included something like this:
"I was sitting in the cube farm checking out the dead tree edition of the Times when some idea hamster comes in to ask for my help on a project. I told him I didn't have enough bandwidth to support him--that he should go find some gray matter to help him out."
Sound like a different language? It is. An entire lexicon of "geek speak" has emerged from the world of hardware and software. But the next time you feel left out at a party full of mouse potatoes, you can show your savvy by speaking the lingo. If you do it well enough, you might even be mistaken for the alpha geek.

Alpha geek: The most knowledgeable, technically proficient person in an office or work group. "Ask Larry, he's the alpha geek around here."

Bandwidth: The ability to juggle or handle an excessive amount of stuff. "I'm really busy and don't have the bandwidth to dedicate to your issue right now."

Cobweb site: A World Wide Web site that hasn't been updated for a long time. A dead Web page.

Cube farm: An office filled with cubicles.

Dead tree edition: The paper version of a publication available in both paper and electronic forms, as in: "The dead tree edition of the San Francisco Chronicle..."

Doorstop: A computer that is no longer considered fast enough or to contain insufficient storage, etc. for use in normal work. All 286's and 386's are doorstops. Most 486's are now doorstops. Soon we'll see Pentium doorstops.

Egosurfing: Scanning the net, databases, print media, or research papers looking for the mention of your name.

Gray matter: Older, experienced business people hired by young entrepreneurial firms looking to appear more reputable and established.

Idea hamsters: People who always seem to have their idea generators running.

Keyboard plaque: The disgusting buildup of dirt and crud found on computer keyboards. "Are there any other terminals I can use? This one has a bad case of keyboard plaque."

Let's take this off-line: Let's talk about this later, after the meeting.

Liveware: Slang for people. Also called wetware or jellyware, as opposed to hardware, software, and firmware.

Mouse potato: The online, wired generation's answer to the couch potato.

Nonlinear Inappropriately intense negative response. "I told him we didn't have any Starbucks' Gazebo Blend and he went totally nonlinear."

Ppen-collar: workers People who work at home or telecommute.

Plug-and-play: A new hire who doesn't need any training. "The new guy, John, is great. He's totally plug-and-play."

Randomize: To divert someone from his or her goal with tertiary tasks or niggling details. "Marketing has totally randomized me by constantly changing their minds about the artwork."

Stress puppy: A person who seems to thrive on being stressed out and whiny.

Total disconnect: An extremely low-bandwidth human interaction. "It was a total disconnect. I spent half an hour explaining how this stuff worked, and he just didn't get it."

Uninstalled: Euphemism for being fired.

published on: mainframe.org

5 agosto 2010

The English language is a vast restaurant kitchen

posted on: blog.oregonlive.com

The English language is a vast restaurant kitchen. New words and phrases are brought in, cooked up, served to customers and thoughtfully chewed. Most are quickly spit out in disgust. But sometimes an offering is tasty enough to add to the menu.

Wordspy.com collects some of the more popular selections. So take a nibble.

downager: A person who acts younger than his or her age.

meh-sayer: A person who expresses indifference or apathy toward something.

sexsomnia: A sleep disorder in which a person engages in sexual behavior while asleep.

recombobulate: To recover from a state of confusion or disorganization.

jihobbyist: A person who is interested in and sympathetic to the goals of radical Islam, but who is not a member of a radical group.

nutritarian: A person who chooses foods based on their micronutrient content.

auto-eating: Eating without thinking or being hungry.

hurry sickness: A malaise where a person feels chronically short of time, and so tends to perform every task faster and to get flustered when encountering any kind of delay.

e-mail apnea: The unconscious and temporary suspension of regular breathing while checking and reading e-mail.

lucrepath: A person who is pathologically driven to make money.

churnalism: Journalism that churns out articles based on wire stories and press releases, rather than original reporting.

misery lit: A memoir or novel that focuses on extreme personal trauma and abuse.

thumbo: An error made while using the thumbs to type, particularly on a mobile device keypad.

infoganda: A fake or misleading news story designed to further a hidden agenda.

Decoding Business Buzzwords

published on: CNN

From "scalable" to "enterprise," many words enter our business lingo, but some say they're just mumbo-jumbo. Here's the plain English explanation of buzzwords that can leave you going "huh?": In the business world, we tend to be overly fond of fancy words and phrases, says a recent article from the Associated Press. For example, high-tech companies don't simply make products, they "provide solutions." And those solutions don't simply perform tasks, they give us "experiences."
In short, we've gotten carried away--something that tech terminology expert Alan Freedman realized when people started asking him to decode the marketing materials of technology companies. And this marketing speak is supposed to get people to purchase products.
Even Freedman, who's written technology encyclopedias for 25 years, is left confused by the latest slew of buzzwords. "The marketing people are so bad at hyping their products that, with all my experience, I'll have to read and reread and reread just to figure out what this thing does," Freedman, founder of The Computer Language Company Inc. in Pennsylvania, tells the Associated Press.

So here's a clarification of some words that are particularly annoying to many:

Scalable: This simply means that something can be expanded. Points out Fredric Paul, TechWeb editor-in-chief, who would love to banish this word for good, "My son is scalable, he's got built-in room to grow."

Enterprise: According to the AP article, Paul finds this word especially vexing, something that a Star Trek fan would say. Translation: "big company."

Viral marketing: A campaign that spreads very quickly. Supposed to be positive but sounds like something you don't want to catch.

Stickiness: A Web page quality that captures people's interest.

Blog: A combination of "Web" and "log." It's simply an online journal. More on it in this article.
Meanwhile, a hilarious Web log from Monster nominates 10 buzzwords for execution. Here's a few of them...

Best practices: Means a few so-so ways to get things done. Used when the best way eludes people.

FYI (For Your Information): Something to call a long e-mail thread of questionable relevance.
Action items: To-do's to pass off to other people in a meeting.

Think outside the box: According to the Monster post, "This is a way of saying, 'Don't think like you normally do--pretend you're someone smarter."

Cloud Compunding's World of Acronyms: Enter at Your Own Risk

published on: advice.cio.com

With Forrester Research's help, I attempt to demystify the Cloud flavors known as SaaS, PaaS and IaaS for enterprise software.
What hasn't the high-tech industry done to the poor "Cloud Computing" moniker? For the past couple years or so, "The Cloud" has been hyped up like a LeBron James appearance, contorted like a Yoga-practicing Swami, poked and prodded again and again, and then hijacked by just about every apps vendor in the known universe.
Sucked up in the marketing vortex of cloud computing's hurricane were software-delivery models SaaS (software-as-a-service) and "Web-based" or "on-demand" computing. Along for the ride now—and further flummoxing market watchers and IT customers—are more aaS's: PaaS (platform-as-a-service) and IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service). (And don't forget about "private" and "public" clouds!)
Perhaps our favorite was the Governance-as-a-Service solution we heard about this winter. Yes, that's GaaS, friends. (But I digress.)
On occasion, it seems that even the most informed tech-vendor executives and marketing folks are just as confused as the rest of us. Or, perhaps even more insidious, they do know what they're saying—how they're bending truths and glossing over factual, technical inaccuracies—all in the name linking their product or service to The Cloud.
Defining cloud in the broadest of terms is not forbidden according to today's marketing rules. Many a vendor now calls any old app that runs via the Web a "cloud computing solution." (I'm actually doing "cloud blogging" right now!)
Nevertheless, it appears that The Cloud and its marketing-licious brood are here to stay. So what does it all actually mean?
In a new Forrester Research report, principal analyst Paul Hamerman provides definitions for each as well as examples of vendors that offer products and services in each category. It's a great place to start if you're a little overwhelmed by cloud lingo. Let's do it together!
First, this is how Forrester defines cloud computing:
Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
OK, I buy that. Then the report then drills down further into the mix:

• Software-as-a-service (SaaS): Finished applications that are available on a rental basis.

• Platform-as-a-service (PaaS): A developer platform that abstracts the infrastructure and middleware.

• Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS):
A deployment platform consisting of virtualized hosting services.

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