Tag Archives: that gerund is funky

In the news (March 28)


Cockney rhyming slang courtesy A Salt and Battery on Facebook this week

The weird word of the week is galimatias: see its definition below.

That Gerund Is Funky … In the news this week: a deadly spelling error; sign language in Italy and dogs; the true meaning of grammar; and some ever enjoyable Yank-Brit differences.

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U.S. authorities missed several chances to detain Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev when he was traveling to and from Dagestan for his terror training, thanks partly to a deadly spelling error. On one occasion, Tsarnaev, thought to be possibly armed and dangerous, was set to be pulled aside for questioning at JFK airport but he slipped through undetected because someone had misspelled his last name in a security database. NBC News reports.

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When most people write about grammar (especially when they’re listing or testing for “grammatical errors”), are they really talking about grammar — or something else? Rob Reinalda sets us straight on Huffington Post. Thank you, Rob; I’m so glad someone finally wrote this important article.

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Deaf dogs are learning sign language in Nebraska, according to Nebraska.tv.

In Italy, where its inhabitants’ characteristic hand gestures and physical gesticulations are almost as important as the language itself — to the extent that they have their own dictionary and every Italian understands their meanings, the local sign language for the deaf isn’t legally recognized. The BBC reports on this strange anomaly.

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Anglophenia gives us five tiny U.S. phrases with opposite meanings in the UK. Like table, and bills

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Weird word of the week: galimatias. n. nonsense; gibberish; confusing or meaningless talk.

“Easy at first, the language of friendship
Is, as we soon discover,
Very difficult to speak well, a tongue
With no cognates, no resemblance
To the galimatias of nursery and bedroom,
Court rhyme or shepherd’s prose,”

— from W. H. Auden’s For Friends Only



In the news (March 21)


Only one news item makes the TGIF cut this week. And the weird word of the week is facinorous: see below for its definition.


A big piece of news this week – so big that it has its very own TGIF post: AP has decided to remove the distinction between over and more than. As Poynter reports, “AP Stylebook editors said at a session Thursday that “over” is fine when referring to a quantity; you don’t have to change it to “more than.” The news elicited a gasp …”


Facinorous: adjective meaning atrociously wicked, detestably bad. From the Latin facinora.

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 (Feb 7)


That Gerund Is Funky …

Language and usage in the news this week: an unfortunate subtitle fail by the BBC, an unusual style guide, a Superbowl ad that needed an edit, and further discussion about just how important French really is. Plus, this week’s weird word of the week …

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Oops! In a subtitling blunder, the BBC rang in the Chinese New Year by welcoming its viewers to the “year of the whores”, as The Independent gleefully reported.

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Continuing an ongoing argument about the importance of French and whether it’s a language in decline, Zach Simon in the Huffington Post writes a rebuttal to John McWhorter’s piece in The New Republic entitled, “Let’s Stop Pretending That French is an Important Language.” As Simon points out: “As the 9th most-spoken language in the world, it’s not as though French is going to go the way of Cherokee anytime soon.”

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One of my favorite articles of the year so far is this critique – an amusingly positive one — by The Guardian of Buzzfeed’s style guide, which the internet giant decided to share with the world this week. More on style guides are to come in an upcoming Glossophilia post.

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“Less bottles”? Really? Shouldn’t she have said “fewer bottles”? As Slate reported, Scarlett Johansson’s SodaStream ad could have done with a good edit.

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This week’s weird word of the week:

Callipygian: adjective: having beautifully proportioned or finely developed buttocks. From the Online Etymology Dictionary: “1800, Latinized from Greek kallipygos, name of a statue of Aphrodite at Syracuse, from kalli-, combining form of kallos “beauty” + pyge “rump, buttocks.” Sir Thomas Browne (1646) refers to “Callipygæ and women largely composed behinde.”

In the news (Jan 31)


In language news this week: different ways of pronouncing Hyundai, the ‘ax versus ask’ question, whether commas are really necessary, and more. Plus a new Weird Word of the Week …

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According to the BBC, there are at least three different approved ways of saying Hyundai, depending on whether you’re in South Korea, the UK or US. “The original Korean pronunciation is closest to HYUN-day (-hy as in Hugh, -u as in bun, -ay as in day, stressed syllables shown in upper case). Hyundai UK, including its adverts, has a different way of saying it: high-UUN-digh (-igh as in high, -uu as in book, British anglicisation). … Hyundai’s US operation…uses the pronunciation HUN-day (-h as in hot, -u as in bun, -ay as in day, US anglicisation).”

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The ‘ax’ versus ‘ask’ question: linguist John McWhorter, in a Los Angeles Times op ed piece, asks: “Using ‘ax’ for ‘ask’ dates back to at least Chaucer, so why do we consider it illiterate today? … As a black linguist, I have come to expect that, during question sessions after any public talk I give on language, someone will ask: “What’s with ‘ax’?”

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The BBC’s Mind the Gap blog identifies 10 American speech habits that grate on British ears.

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Slate asks: will we use commas in the future? “In some ways commas are like ketchup and mustard. We’re glad those things exist. They surely make our french fries and hamburgers taste better. But we’d all survive without them.” Is this really so?

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WWW: Weird Word of the Week: 

This week’s word is batterfang: verb: To assail with fists and nails; beat and beclaw. Etymology unknown.

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.