A belated Happy New Year to Glossophiles everywhere! I’m sorry that a couple of biological* and technological* glitches took Glosso off the air for a while, but we’re back in business and looking forward to all that 2022 has to offer to us word-nerds.
I think we can all agree that the year is off to a flying start with the auspicious birth of Wordle. OK, OK: I know it launched in October last year and suddenly got popular in December, but I’m afraid I’m a late Wordle bloomer (thanks to glitch 1 mentioned earlier) so I see it as a 2022 phenomenon. My question is this: how did we ever live without it?
For any Glossophiles who have been living under a rock since December (as I was), here is what you’ve been missing. Wordle is a web-based word game developed by Josh Wardle (sic), a programmer who previously created the social experiments “Place” and “The Button” for Reddit. Players try to guess the day’s five-letter word in six attempts or fewer. Feedback is given to each attempt in the form of colored tiles, informing players if they’ve guessed any of the letters in that day’s word correctly. Letters marked green are in the word and in the correct word position, while those marked yellow are in the word but in another position. The mechanics and rules are similar to those in Mastermind, except that Wordle specifies exactly which letters in each attempt are correct. There is just one specific answer word for each day, and it is the same word for every player the world over.
The world loves Wordle.
* a case of Omicron and a lapsed security certificate respectively
On Book Lovers Day, Glossophilia is drawing your attention to a very funny (and beautifully written) review of a couple of books that have recently hit the headlines, mainly thanks to the stellar PR work of the publishers involved, and not because of any runaway literary success on the part of either of the duchess-authoresses. The review is worthy not just because of its witty characterizations of the books and their respective creators, but also because of its historical romp through the right royal writing adventures of Kings and Queens past. Enjoy Andrew O’Hagan’s review of The Bench and Her Heart for a Compass – neither of whose authors needs any introduction – in the London Review of Books, August 12 edition.
For Glossophiles wanting to go a bit further down The Bench rabbit-hole, with some more specific and exquisite analysis of the Duchess of Sussex’s rhyming clangers (Andrew O’Hagan in his review noted her instinct for posterity, but the same can’t necessarily be said for her poetry), read the New York Times‘s review of the bestseller, from which here’s a Glossophiliac excerpt:
There is no excuse, in a book of fewer than 200 words, for every syllable not to be just right. Even a tiny discordant note can throw the whole thing into disarray. This is even more true with rhyming books. Force-feeding words into unlikely configurations to eke out a tortured rhyme works about as well as stuffing a foot into a too-small glass slipper and passing it off as a perfect fit. “You’ll love him. / You’ll listen. / You’ll be his supporter. / When life feels in shambles / You’ll help him find order,” Meghan writes. Not terrible, but not terrific. What she does in the last line of the book, though — contracting “alone” into “’lone” in order to get it to rhyme with “home” — should be illegal.
Book Lovers Day is celebrated on August 9 every year. This unofficial holiday encourages bibliophiles around the world to celebrate reading and literature. Put away your smartphones, ditch social media for a day, and pick up a good book – written by a duchess or not.
Ten years ago today, this little hobby-blog tip-toed onto the internet, taking an informal, irreverent, trans-Atlantic look at language use and abuse in all its glory. A decade on, it’s flourishing. With visitors from every country in the world bar five, the blog recently celebrated its millionth reader. Its lively Facebook page has a flock of 28,000+ followers, and our fledgling podcast spin-off is warmly appreciated on both sides of the pond. It’s thrilling to know that there are glossophiles loving their lingo in every far-flung corner of the planet. (Read more about the blog below.)
Original post in 2013: I was watching Masters of Sex the other night on Showtime, and it struck me that Masters and Johnson were using the word come a lot. And they weren’t meaning the opposite of go. (It didn’t escape my notice that they also seemed to be coming a lot — but that’s another story…) I know these ground-breaking sex researchers of the 1950s and ’60s were famously ahead of their time, but not in their word choices — and their use of this particular piece of sexual terminology sounded weirdly anachronistic to me. I really thought that this word “come” was a more modern invention… Continue reading →
“A language is far more than a means of communication; it is the very condition of our humanity. Our values, our beliefs and our identity are embedded within it. It is through language that we transmit our experiences, our traditions and our knowledge. The diversity of languages reflects the incontestable wealth of our imaginations and ways of life.” So explained UNESCO’s Director-General Audrey Azoulay three years ago on February 21: International Mother Language Day.
What follows is a brief history of the UNESCO international day that was inaugurated in 1952 to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and to promote multilingualism.
No world leader can trump Trump in the high stakes world of grammar and spelling errors. But Boris Johnson came fairly close when he flubbed one of the three letters he sent to Brussels a few days ago — and it was in the letter he actually signed that he made his gaffe (so you can’t wriggle out of this one, BoJo). Read it here and see if you can spot the mistake:
There’s a new novel out, published earlier this month, that will probably appeal to glossophiles (and Glosso-philes) everywhere. Describing itself, as books can do proverbially these days, the novel by best-selling author Cathleen Schine “celebrates the beauty, mischief, and occasional treachery of language.” Continue reading →