Does anyone jog any more? Or do we now just run – for our lives?

Members of the Air Force Academy football team job on Waikiki Beach before their game with the team from the University of Hawaii / Wikimedia Commons

Members of the Air Force Academy football team job on Waikiki Beach before their game with the team from the University of Hawaii / Wikimedia Commons, 1980

While I was growing up I often heard my dad saying that he was “going out for a jog”. He took his jogging pretty seriously: he covered respectably long distances, wore the right shoes and suitable gear, and built it into his daily routine to keep himself fit. Now, fast forward several decades, and my brother and daughter (in their 40s and 20s respectively and on opposite sides of the Atlantic) are similarly dedicated to this type of activity to stay fit. But the big difference between them and my father seems to be this: they go for a run, and not a jog. And this seems to be true too for their athletic contemporaries. Running is a huge and important part of their lives: as my brother, Owen, said in his own book: “Running is not what I do: it is an essential part of who I am.” So my question is this: has the word jog simply faded from usage over time and generations and been replaced in our vernacular by the more generic term run, or is it the activity itself and its practitioners’ attitudes that have transformed over time — from what was once a somewhat casual and discrete hobby into a more all-consuming lifestyle choice, which in turn has affected how runners prefer to name their passion? Continue reading

A big bad “ablautive” exception to the grammar rule that went viral

By Felix Summerly, via Wikimedia Commons

By Felix Summerly, via Wikimedia Commons

As we discovered to our delight last week, we all use a grammar rule — a fairly complicated one involving the ordering of adjectives by property — without even realizing it. If you were hiding under a rock and missed the memo, you can see it explained in Matthew Anderson’s tweet, the viral post that was responsible for lighting up our inner grammatical souls. But what might delight you even more is to learn that there is in fact a big bad exception to this awesome astronomical rule, and you know that rule too … Continue reading

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (Friday, Sep 16)

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/1498–1543) via Wikimedia Commons

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/1498–1543) via Wikimedia Commons

TGIF! In usage and grammar news this past month: how and why we curse (or swear, if you’re a profane Brit); a new app for grammar snobs; a celebrity scolds Siri for mispronouncing her name; names that parents regret giving their babies; the true nature of the word gypsy; and a grammar rule that we all use without knowing it. Continue reading

An American flat: once an upmarket tenement?

Kitchen in the Vanderbilt tenements, 1912; Wikimedia Commons

Kitchen in the Vanderbilt tenements, 1912; Wikimedia Commons

The other day I read an article in the New York Times, from 2011, about a particular block on Manhattan’s Upper West Side that had a colorful history. One particular sentence jumped out at me, and I’ve bolded the part that caught my interest: “The handsome red brick apartment houses at 167 through 173 West 83rd Street are one of McKim, Mead & White’s minor commissions; even famous architects have to put food on the drafting table. People often call such buildings tenements, but these were known then as flats, for tenants a notch or two above the working class. They got one three-bedroom apartment per floor.” Were those dwellings really once known as flats, in the heart of New York City? Continue reading

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (Aug 12)

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Spot the spelling mistake in this Gap ad …

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky. And it’s been a while, so we have a number of lingo and language news items from the last few weeks to share today. But before we go any further, can you spot the rather awkward spelling mistake in the Gap ad above? The first person to identify it in the comments section below gets serious Glosso respect. Meanwhile, in the news this month: how commentators in Rio are being accused of turning nouns into verbs; an analysis of the monstrous period at the end of texts; is the word “bitch” still that offensive?; Latin abbreviations removed from a government’s web sites; a task-force cleaning up menu translations in South Korea; and a teacher’s fears about kids’ creativity being crushed by punctuation police.  Continue reading