“Lit”: drunk, high, happy — or something else?

(Warning: explicit lyrics)

This is ASAP Rocky singing his “Get Lit”. As Jakob Scott pointed out in the comments below the video: “[H]e said lit before it was cool”. But was ASAP really that hip when he recorded the song in 2011? I think the Oxford English Dictionary might disagree with Mr. Scott. And just what does lit as an adjective mean nowadays, when we’re not talking about something that has been either illuminated or set on fire? Does it mean drunk? High? Or something else entirely? I think you’ll be surprised to see how versatile lit‘s become, even since ASAP “got it”, and especially when it’s flying high on the blue bird … Continue reading

Written in Early Spring — by William Wordsworth

Songs of Innocence – Spring, by William Blake / Wikimedia Commons

Written in Early Spring
I heard a thousand blended notes
While in a grove I sat reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What Man has made of Man.

Through primrose tufts, in that sweet bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure –
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What Man has made of Man?

— William Wordsworth

 

 

Forensic linguists play part in 20-year-old murder case

29043308 - magnifying glass on an old handwritten letter

Magnifying glass on an old handwritten letter / 123RF

What exactly is — or are — “forensic linguistics”? It’s the application of linguistic knowledge, methods and insights to the forensic context of law, language, crime investigation, trial, and judicial procedure. Here’s an example of it.

Retired FBI agent James Fitzgerald is one of the U.S.’s most prominent forensic linguists: as well as advising on some of TV’s popular fictional crime and forensics shows, he was on the investigative teams of two high-profile criminal cases of the last couple of decades: the Unabomber, and the murder of JonBenét Ramsey in 1996. The Ramsey case was recently back in the news, with a new TV documentary detailing a new, independent investigation of that 20-year-old crime. As part of the new investigative team, Fitzgerald returned to the scene of the crime to analyze in detail the notorious ransom note that became such a mysterious and vital part of the unsolved homicide. He talked to Yahoo TV about the significance of that 370-word document, and the various things it revealed about the person who wrote it. Here are a couple of excerpts from that interview: Continue reading

“Bob’s your uncle” — and other family members in lingo

Emperor Maximilian I with his son Philip the Fair, his wife Mary of Burgundy, his grandsons Ferdinand I and Charles V, and Louis II of Hungary (husband of his granddaughter Mary of Austria) / Wikimedia Commons

“Using a fluffy brush, blend the highlight into the fuller parts of your breasts — that being the high points that naturally catch the light, and Bob’s your uncle.” So advised Cosmopolitan recently in an article titled “How to make your boobs look way bigger …” That has to be one of the saucier examples of the very British expression “Bob’s your uncle,” which curiously still hasn’t made its way across the Atlantic. But there are plenty of expressions and colloquialisms used by both Brits and Americans that incorporate the names of family members, as well as slang meanings of those names. Here are some of them below; can you think of any others? Continue reading

A short proofreading quiz on National Proofreading Day

From Wikimedia Commons

Fancy trying your hand at a bit of proofreading, on National Proofreading Day? See if you can catch all the spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors in the five sentences below. A clean copy will be posted tomorrow. (Clue: you should be able to spot at least 10 errors, and a few more.) Good luck! Continue reading

An unpresidented spelling quiz on World Spelling Day

On World Spelling Day, Glossophilia hear by presents an unpresidented spelling quiz on the subject of America’s 45th precident of the United States of America — “one of the dummer people on television” (Donald Trump — not about himself — in a June 2015 pre-presidenshal tweet). How many spelling errors can you count in the President’s tweets illustrated below? Continue reading

“Alternative” or “alternate” facts?

From my inbox …

“Kellyanne Conway says Donald Trump’s team has ‘alternative facts.’ Which pretty much says it all’,” reported the Washington Post recently. Well, these ‘alternative facts’ issuing from our new President’s administration might be wrong, but at least the adjective Conway uses to describe their facts is correct on both sides of the Atlantic. She could easily have used the alternative adjective and called them ‘alternate facts’.

“Alternative facts” are the new lies. And at least in America, they can also technically be known as “alternate facts,” which will grate on many an Englishman’s ear. Take the following examples:

The day before the inauguration, the New York Times reported that “around the country, an unusual number of alternate activities are planned to coincide with weekend events surrounding the inauguration of President-elect Donald J. Trump and the Women’s March on Washington.” And in the same article, discussing her own event that she hosted up in Washington Heights, the actress Ellen Burstyn explained: “It’s not a protest,” “It’s an alternate reality.”

Yes, in America we don’t just have alternative facts, but we also have alternative words for alternative. On this side of the pond, alternate is a synonym of alternative (as well as being an adjective describing things that are alternated). This is presumably a case of linguistic evolution, in which a word frequently confused with and substituted for its similar-sounding colleague has been absorbed into the vernacular with the ‘wrong’ meaning becoming standard and legit.

As Oxford Dictionaries explains succinctly: “In both British and American English the adjective alternate means ‘every other or every second’, as in they meet on alternate Sundays, or ‘(of two things) each following and succeeded by the other in a regular pattern’, as in alternate layers of potato and sauce. Alternative means ‘available as another possibility or choice’ (an alternative route; some European countries follow an alternative approach). In American usage, however, alternate can also be used to mean ‘available as another choice’: an alternate plan called for construction to begin immediately rather than waiting for spring. This American use of alternate is still regarded as incorrect by many people in Britain.”


Chad, Brad and other tools

A hanging Chad (h/t Jacob B)

As my friend Clyde recently, idly, commented on Facebook: “4am thought. It’s pretty random that the paper fragment created when you three-hole punch paper is called a “Chad” and the brass fastener you put through that hole is called a “Brad”. Why do these stationery terms have the most bro-y names (ironically, possibly names of people most likely to generally punch holes in things)?” Jacob B had some more bro-y names to add to the toolbox:  Continue reading