Tag Archives: tgif

In the news (March 14)


TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky … Words and language in the news this week include a hilarious video about foreign language pronunciation, angst in Germany over an unusual invasion, a slip-up in the supermarket, an interview with Julian Barnes, and an embarrassing spelling mistake.

And find out below the definition of this week’s weird word of the week: engastrimyth …   Continue reading

In the news (March 7)


Words and language in the news this week (and for the last couple of weeks; Glosso is catching up after a short vacation …): a Hollywood “Insta-bee”; the power of words in online dating; an age-old linguistic battle examined; what’s the difference between ladies and women in sports?; the stories of words; and, last but not least, it was National Grammar Day …

This week’s weird word of the week is dasypygal. See below for what it means.  Continue reading

In the news (Jan 24)

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky. Words and language in the news this week.
Plus the start of a new weekly series: WWW: Weird Word of the Week


On National Reading Day in the U.S. (Jan 23), Jon Stewart describes what a book is on the Daily Show. (Thanks to Grammarly on Facebook.)

Continue reading

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (Jan 17)


Hostile attitudes towards both the Welsh and Irish languages, the American Dialect Society’s curious word of the year, and certain adjectives under attack from a prestigious music magazine are all making the news this week.

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“‘World-class’ and other adjectives that should be banned from 2014” was the subject of an article in Gramophone magazine, written by its reviews editor Andrew Mellor. “The misleading and debasingly ubiquitous use of adjectives like ‘young’, ‘exciting’ and ‘dynamic’ probably has more to do with a chronic lack of imagination (and a good thesaurus) than deceit,” he argues. “But when it comes to the dubious description ‘world-class’, the intention and the result are rather more dangerous.” Read on to find out why.

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The American Dialect Society has chosen the word because as its word of the year. Why? Because … the New York Times‘s ArtsBeat blog explains why.

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In Cambridge, England, the City Council has banned apostrophes in place names. The decision to outlaw the punctuation from new road names, according to Cambridge News, has been branded by grammar gurus as “‘deplorable’ and condemned as ‘pandering to the lowest denominator’, especially in a city renowned for learning.”

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An ad for a job in Pembrokeshire, UK, has sparked some controversy. The county council has been accused of a “scandalous attitude” towards the Welsh language after its website said applicants for social work jobs need not “worry” if they were not bilingual. As the BBC reports, “language pressure groups claim the Pembrokeshire council statement was “an insult” to people living there.” In other news about the Welsh language, there’s a  report before European ministers highlighting concerns about the delivery of health and care services through the medium of Welsh. According to the BBC, “it comes as experts say they are already worried by a fall in the number of Welsh speakers, particularly in the traditional heartland areas of north and west Wales.”

And the Irish language is also said to be under attack: in another accusation of the Council of Europe has said that there is a “persisting hostile climate” towards the Irish language in the Northern Ireland Assembly; RTE has the story.

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (Jan 10)


Words and language in the news during the week ending Jan 10: a fading dialect; a strange code with Mafia ties; a new trend in South Korean baby-naming; “strategic sloppiness” in professional communications; a congressman with a punctuation plan; and more …

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Missouri’s paw-paw French language dialect is fading into silence; Al Jazeera has the story.

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Police in Italy say they have deciphered a mysterious coded text that appears to reveal the details of a secretive mafia initiation process, according to a BBC report.

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Is “strategic sloppiness” a new way of communicating professionally? According to a piece in Linked In Today, it is. New York magazine writer Kevin Roose explains how spelling mistakes and bad e-mail etiquette can help you get ahead.

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The Los Angeles Times asked the question “Does grammar matter?” Read the article to discover the paper’s verdict …

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“Yahoo malware creates Bitcoin botnet” was one of the BBC News headlines today. How 21st-century is that?

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Roll Call describes how Congressman Jared Polis, the Colorado Democrat, has a plan to streamline overly worded thoughts — with tildes.

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Parents in South Korea are ignoring traditions and choosing baby names that are easy for foreigners to pronounce. Arirang News, a South Korean broadcaster, says names that are easier to pronounce in English are gaining popularity. The BBC gives more detail.

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (Dec 27)


As 2013 draws to a close, we’ve got lots to celebrate about it — like the use of the word selfie, and other words of the year.  The Russians haven’t just banned discussions about homosexuality: they also won’t let anyone mention obscene terms for genitals or women of easy virtue. The Church gave a nod to Mexican languages; the Finns don’t like the way iPhone is spelled. And we learned some important new facts: like the words for horse-eating, 3-letter extensions to words in Scrabble, and French kissing in France …

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What do selfies, Suarez and Seamus Heaney have in common? The same as Bieber, bitcoins and Breaking Bad . . . They all appeared in “top words of 2013” lists. “PRIVACY. Selfie. Geek. Science. Four dictionary publishers each selected one of those words as its word of the year for 2013. But it’s tough to catalog the preoccupations of the year in a single word. There were many flying around that seemed to capture a moment, an emotion, a thought, a new way of doing or describing things, or the larger zeitgeist. Some were new, some not so new, but they all seemed to say something about the times. Here are a few …”, the New York Times reported …

Time magazine looked more closely into Oxford’s actual word of the year, which is captured — literally — in James Franco’s pic above …

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The Russian media has been given four categories of swear words that must never appear either in articles or in readers’ comments, in print or online. Newspapers and websites that fail to comply could lose their licenses. The list of unprintable words was compiled by Roskomnadzor (Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications) and among the categories of banned words are “obscene terms for a woman of easy virtue”. RT has the story.

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Mexico’s indigenous languages get a nod from the Church. The BBC has the story …

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According to Cult of Mac, Finland’s linguistic authorities — the Institute for the Languages of Finland, which rules on correct spellings, loan words and usages as the Finnish, Swedish, Romani and Sami languages develop — has decreed that the correct Finnish usage of iPhone is not iPhone, but rather Iphone or I-phone. You tell ’em, Finland.

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Finally, thanks to the BBC’s list of “100 things we didn’t know last year”, we now know 22 fun facts about words and language that we didn’t know in 2012:

Horse-eating is called Hippophagy.

“Russian flu” got its name because of the Cold War rather than because it originated in Russia.

William is the surname that has decreased the most since 1901.

Haribos are so-named because of founder Hans Riegel and his hometown Bonn.

South Africa was included in the BRICS as it made for a better acronym than Nigeria.

“Lucifer” and “.” (full stop) are banned baby names in New Zealand.

Birmingham City Council blocks the word “commie” from incoming email.

Using “don’t” and “won’t” correctly in online dating messages boosts response rates by more than a third.

The French call a walkie-talkie a talkie-walkie.

Until recently the US Navy had a requirement that all official messages be sent in capital letters.

“God’s bones” was the sweariest expression in medieval times.

The French had no official word for French kissing… until now. It’s “galocher”.

Ampersand was once an actual letter which followed the letter Z in the Latin alphabet.

The first recorded incorrect use of the word “literally” was in 1769.

Polyamorous people have invented a word to indicate the opposite feeling of jealousy – compersion.

Glaswegians are starting to sound like Cockneys because of EastEnders.

In Scrabble, a Benjamin is a three-letter extension to the front of a five-letter word.

The word “get” went out of fashion in books between 1940 and the 1960s.

Amazon’s original name was to be Relentless – and the URL relentless.com still redirects to the company website.

John Wayne coined the phrase “the Big C” to avoid naming cancer.

Americans pronounce gifs as “jifs”.

A long-term lover is known as a “small house” in Zimbabwe.

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (Dec 6)


Words and language in this week’s news: featuring men speaking valleytalk, dodgy carol grammar, a particularly pesky tongue-twister, some famous last words, and cursing Ohioans…

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When you’re caroling this Christmas, be mindful that you might be ho-ho-hoing ungrammatically. The Week has identified six potentially dodgy lyrics in our Yuletide musical fare. You better watch out: Grandma Clause is coming to town …

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According to a study reported in the Daily Mail, Ohioans curse more than anyone else and Southerners are more courteous. “Researchers made the discoveries after mining for curse words, ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’ among more than 600,000 phone calls between consumers and businesses across 30 industries, including cable and satellite companies, auto dealerships and pest control centers. The monitored calls spanned the last 12 months.”

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“The taste of death is upon my lips. I feel something that is not of this earth.” These were the last words of a famous composer; to find out who uttered them, read Classic FM‘s compilation of the great composers’ parting words to the world.

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U.S. psychologists have come up with what they say is the world’s most frustrating tongue-twister. The World’s newsroom at WGBH gives it a go (and you can see the results on YouTube).

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A study shows that men are speaking more like girls — Valley girls, that is. The BBC reports on the news that young men in California rise in pitch at the end of their sentences in a process known as “uptalk” or “valleygirl speak”, which has been associated historically with young females, typically from California or Australia.

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TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (Nov 22)


Too much seeing, the selfie comes into its own, literary prizes, another dying art, and grammarians who should know better, and the new because: all making the news this week, because language…

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Multiple outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, reported the news that selfie is 2013’s word of the year. A sign of our times?

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On CSIS, we see Reginald Dale writing about the sloppy misuse and overuse of the verb “to see” in journalism.


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Everyone makes grammar mistakes. Even people who write about grammar mistakes make mistakes. Arrant Pedantry sums up those mistakes we all make.

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Because has a new role in life. Linguists are calling it the “prepositional-because.” Or the “because-noun.The Atlantic reports, because linguistic evolution.

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NPR’s Morning Edition talked about the dying art of old-fashioned letter-writing (but it is still alive and kicking in some parts of the world).

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Whom or what are literary prizes for? asks the New York Times. “What purpose do these prizes serve? Are the values they promote aesthetic or commercial? And how on earth do the judges arrive at their decisions?”

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TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (Nov 15)


This week in the news: Authors raise money for the Philippines typhoon appeal; The Guardian brings us the Letter H; a kerning fail at the hardware store; and is there such a thing as a universal syllable?

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Authors for the Philippines is an online auction of books and book-related items (including everything from dedications to author visits, manuscript critiques to signed books) to raise money for the Red Cross’s Typhoon Haiyan Appeal. Please bid enthusiastically.

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The British hardware chain store B&Q seems to have a festive font problem. It’s all about the kerning. The Poke brought this to fuckering light …


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Michael Rosen writes in The Guardian about the letter H: “debates about power and class surround every letter, and H is the most contentious of all. No other letter has had such power to divide people into opposing camps.”

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Is there a syllable that everyone recognizes and understands around the world and across cultures? Jennifer Schuessler reports in the New York Times that there is, “Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands announced that they had found strikingly similar versions in languages scattered across five continents, suggesting that “Huh?” is a universal word.


TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (Nov 8)


Words and language in the news during the week ending Nov 8. Scrabble, dudes and dementia are on the docket. Plus an epic and epically misunderstood poem.

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The Independent reported that one of the most famous sentences in the history of the English language has actually been misinterpreted for a couple of centuries. “The accepted definition of the opening line of the epic poem … has been subtly wide of the mark.”

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The etymology of dude: Slate finally puts this enduring mystery to rest, citing a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education that claims that “a massive, decade-long “dude” research project has finally yielded convincing results.”

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Want to know what words came up on the board of the final game of the British National Scrabble Championships? Swarf, enew and fy were some of the more obscure ones, and not all the weird words even have an entry in the OED. The BBC reported.

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If you’re nervous about getting dementia, learn a new language. As SmartBrief reported, a study in the journal Neurology found that the onset of many symptoms of dementia can be delayed by knowing more than one language. And this backs up the findings of an earlier Canadian study. Gehen und eine Sprache lernen!