In a week’s time, on August 21, a total eclipse of the sun will dim American skies; it will be the first such eclipse to be seen in the continental United States in 38 years, making it the cosmic episode of the decade. In 1925, the New York Times described a solar eclipse as “the most magnificent free show nature presents to man.” Glossophilia takes a rocket-ship ride through some of the light-fantastic lingo of solar eclipses (definitions courtesy of the OED and NASA). We’ll also ask an important and relevant spelling question: should we capitalize “Sun”, “Moon” and/or “Earth” when we’re writing about this heavenly happening? Continue reading
Spelling is important. It can affect your chances of getting a job, your love life, and it can make us appear less intelligent than we are. A recent BBC article spells it all out for us.
“Research shows that as soon as people spot a spelling mistake on a website they’ll often leave it because they fear it’s fraudulent.
Corporations are aware that a portion of their image rests upon correct writing and spelling, says Roslyn Petelin, associate professor in writing at the University of Queensland in Australia. ‘Nothing can make you lose credibility more quickly and seem uneducated than a spelling mistake, and that includes apostrophes,’ she says.
… Indeed, a lack of a certain level of proficiency may be a barrier to getting a job at all. A lot of employers in Australia now ask candidates to take writing tests, says Petelin. ‘Young people coming out of university may have all the right interpersonal skills, but if they can’t write coherently, employers won’t give them a job.’
Poor spelling can even affect your dating chances. A Match.com survey found that 39% of singles judged the suitability of candidates by their grammar.”
Read the full story at the BBC.
Back in May, my aunt Sally wrote to me asking if I knew of a specific word that she had come across in her reading but which now escaped her. Here’s how she described her word mystery:
“A short while ago I read the book The Lonely City by Olivia Laing, in which she talks about women walking alone at night, including Greta Garbo. I’m certain that in the book, or in an article about it, there was a word used to describe these women. I know I read it, but I just can’t find it. Can you help? I’m sure it begins with F.”
Can you guess what that word is, before you read on? Continue reading
I’ve always thought the word “mid-Atlantic” is such a strange misnomer: doesn’t it conjure up images of boats tossing on vast ocean waves with no land in sight? But that’s just me, it seems: most people think of Katherine Hepburn or Cary Grant — and that’s because the term is most commonly used to describe an accent. Continue reading
Glosso apologizes for the slightly longer-than-normal pause that followed the last post. …
It wasn’t deliberate. …
But it was slightly awkward …
How long do you think a pause in conversation has to be before it becomes uncomfortable? Two seconds? Four seconds? Eight? Continue reading
“The ‘ladies and gentlemen’ greeting on Tube announcements is to be scrapped, Transport for London (TfL) has announced. London Underground staff have been told to say “hello everyone” in an effort to become more gender-neutral. … The revised phrasing will be applied to all new pre-recorded announcements made across the capital’s transport network.” Read the full story on BBC News.
And while we’re on the subject of gender-neutral language: “Malta might be the next country to bring in marriage equality after the country’s government brought forward legislation to removed gender language from their marriage laws. The draft law would abolish gendered terms such as “husband”, “wife”, “mother” and “father” from the country’s Marriage Act and other laws and replace them with gender-neutral terminology. The move has the support of the centre-right opposition Nationalist party.” Read more in OutinPerth.
“Brussels MEP plots sweet revenge for Brexit by changing definition of MARMALADE so it includes German jam.” So screamed one of the more bizarre headlines in Tuesday’s Daily Mail. What does marmalade actually mean?
According to the OED, it’s “a preserve made from citrus fruit, especially bitter oranges.”
As the Daily Mail went on to explain, “Under EU rules the spread — a staple of many British breakfast tables and beloved by Paddington Bear — can only be labeled such if it contains at least 20 per cent citrus fruit. … This enshrines in law the British definition that it refers exclusively to spreads made from oranges or lemons. But Germans have traditionally used the name to refer to all sorts of jams made from a variety of fruits including strawberries and plums. … Jakob von Weizsäcker, a German socialist member of the European Parliament, called for the definition to be changed.” You can’t make this stuff up…
Etymonline offers this history of the name of the sweet spread: “late 15c: from Middle French marmelade, from Portuguese marmelada “quince jelly, marmalade,” from marmelo “quince,” by dissimilation from Latin melimelum “sweet apple,” originally “fruit of an apple tree grafted onto quince,” from Greek melimelon, from meli “honey” + melon “apple”. Extended 17c. to “preserve made from citrus fruit.”
Passing through Fulham Broadway Shopping center (in London) recently, I was more than a little surprised to see this juice stall pictured above. “Funky Juice.” It was the American in me that was surprised. Smelly fluids? Rhythmic beverages reminiscent of James Brown and George Clinton? A trendy tasty health drink wasn’t exactly what Funky Juices promised in that moment to me. Continue reading
Glossophilia is posting this one again — at the start of Wimbledon fortnight today. Djokovic and Murray aren’t meeting tomorrow, but they’re both still in the game. Familiar faces, new balls …
They’re meeting tomorrow in what promises to be a nail-biting Wimbledon final (nail-biting at least for the great British public). But how much love will there be on Centre Court between these two formidable sportsmen, Novac Djokovic and Andy Murray? On the scoreboard, there might be a fair amount during the course of the match; perhaps not so much on the court itself. Why is love the name given to the score for zero in tennis? And what the deuce is the story behind the score for 40-all? Continue reading
“Was this the wokest Glastonbury ever?” So asked The Guardian this morning. “Beyoncé and, rather less convincingly, Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry have attempted to, as Vice recently put it, “board the woke train”; “woke” being the current vogue term for political enlightenment.”
Is woke a real word, used like this as an adjective? Continue reading