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Twenty-Five Words Being Added To Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary In 2018

For a change this list of words being added to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary in 2018 not only contains words I know, but even a few that I’m surprised aren’t already there.

Some abbreviations: guac, fave.
Some tech words: force quit, predictive.
Some geek words: adorbs, TL;DR.

And more.

Read the list at Mental Floss.


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What If English Pronunciation Was Phonetically Consistent

This effort at standardising English pronunciation is surprisingly understandable.
It also provides an interesting progression in accent as the process develops.


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Fifty Collective Nouns For Groups Of Animals (via Mental Floss)

It’s always fun to keep up with collective nouns for groups of different animals.
This article from Mental Floss has some I’d not heard of.
A walk of snails (or an escargatoire)
A coterie of prairie dogs.
A bale of turtles.
A wisdom of wombats.
Among others.
Some sound made up, but the ones I did know were legitimate, so I guess they’re all good.
Check out how many you knew.


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Colporteur

I’m reading Meredith Lake’s fascinating ‘cultural history’ The Bible In Australia.
I can’t recall ever encountering the word ‘colporteur’ before, but Lake in referring to the activity of agents of a variety of societies that were dedicated to the distribution of Bibles and religious literature uses the label Colporteur.

A variety of online dictionaries define a Colporteur as:

  • a person who travels to sell or publicize Bibles, religious tracts, etc.
  • a peddler of books.

This reminds me of Big Dan Teague, the morally compromised Bible salesman from O Brother, Where Art Thou.


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Eighteenth Century Insults (via Mental Floss)

I don’t recommend using any of these.
It’s simply for information’s sake if anyone calls you any of these it’s not good.
From Mental Floss.
A sample:

Death’s Head Upon A Mop-Stick
Gollum-us
Shabbaroon
Unlicked Cub

(My text correct, just had a party with all that)

See the definitions and twenty one more here.


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The Secret Life Of ‘Um’ (via The Atlantic)

An interview by Julie Beck of The Atlantic featuring N.J. Enfield, a professor of linguistics from Sydney, that explains how vocal fillers like ‘um’ are as much a part of spoken communication as other parts of speech.

An excerpt:

One of the big traffic signals that manages that is these hesitation markers like “um” and “uh,” because they can be used as early as you like. Of course, they don’t have any content, they don’t tell you anything about what I’m about to say, but they do say, “Wait please, because I know time’s ticking and I don’t want to leave silence but I’m not ready to produce what I want to say.”
There’s another important reason for delay, and that is because you are trying to buffer what we call a “dis-preferred response.” A clear example would be: I say “How about we go and grab coffee later?” and you’re not free. If you’re free and you say, “Yeah, sure, sounds good,” that response will tend to come out very fast. But if you say “Ah, actually no, I’m not really free this afternoon, sorry,” that kind of response is definitely going to come out later. It may have nothing to do with a processing problem as such, but it’s putting a buffer there because you’re aware saying “No” is not the thing the questioner was going for. We tend to deliver those dis-preferred responses a bit later. If you say “no” very quickly, that often comes across as blunt or abrupt or rude.
The way we play with those little delays, others are very sensitive to what that means. A full second is about the limit of our tolerance for silence. Then we will either assume the other person’s not going to respond at all, and we just keep speaking, or we might pursue a response.

Read the whole interview at The Atlantic.


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Twenty-Seven Words That Have Changed Meaning

This edition of the List Show, hosted by John Green, contains twenty-seven words that have changed meaning over time.
It’s interesting to see how in some cases the form of the word still shows the link to other words which have to do with the original meaning, and how what seems like a weird word. (like calling someone’s face their ‘mug’) make sense.
It will literally never make sense that literally can now mean the same thing as figuratively even though their original meanings are opposite.