It’s National Proofreading Day (March 8). Here are ten reasons why everyone should proofread everything:
It’s National Proofreading Day (March 8). Here are ten reasons why everyone should proofread everything:
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.
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To promote his new film Bad Words, Jason Bateman and Focus Films are running an “Insta-Bee” (a spelling bee on Instagram) via the @Mashable and @BadWordsMovie accounts. Mashable has the lowdown.
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Last month, Wired did a study of online dating profiles — with the help of OKCupid and Match.com — to help its readers craft the perfect profile. mental_floss reports on the results, listing “7 Ways to Improve Your Online Dating Profile With the Power of Words”. Do you think the words “cats”, “God” or “my children” went down well in the search for love?
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Can the prescriptivists and the descriptivists ever be friends? The Guardian seems to think it’s unlikely.
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NPR’s Only a Game asked: why is it that in some sports it’s ladies that compete, and in others it’s women? Is there a difference?
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“Forget selfies, belfies and twerking – practically every word in the English language has its own remarkable story.” Find out more in this Guardian piece …
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Glossophilia did its own round-up of news and events surrounding National Grammar Day earlier this week. Check out the grammar fever here …
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WWW: Dasypygal (da-si-PIE-gul): having hairy buttocks. From the Greek dasys meaning ‘hairy’ + pyge meaning ‘buttocks’.
“Style guide editors are insecure people who show their need to be loved by wanting everyone to speak, spell and write just like them. Or so I read somewhere.” So said David Marsh, who edits The Guardian‘s style guide, with his tongue firmly in his cheek. But I think there might be a tiny grain of truth to his claim …
Even though we English-speakers all share the same language, it’s wonderful to see how many organizations lay down their own strict rules and regulations about how it should be used — and to watch how seriously and authoritatively these laws of the proverbial land are protected, defended, and monitored, even in the most unlikely of places. Like Buzzfeed, the social media giant, which published its style guide last month to the world’s great surprise and amusement. I mean, in what other list of words and expressions would you find these entries rubbing up against each other: “bandmates, Bashar al-Assad, batshit” … “Hoodie, hook-up (n.), hook up (v.), Hosni Mubarak” … “Mixtape, mmm hmm, M.O., Muammar al-Qaddafi”??
In the U.S., most journalists and media professionals follow the AP Stylebook, whereas non-journalist professionals tend to look to The Chicago Manual of Style for their language guidance. Brits often defer to Oxford (University Press and Dictionaries): that’s where they got their so-called Oxford comma. Scholars and academics consult the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, and a classic and popular style guide for the general public is The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, known more colloquially by the names of its authors. The world’s important newspapers each have their own set of rules — and they often disagree with each other and with the authoritative style guides on the most basic principles. For example, the New York Times‘s Manual of Style and Usage differs from the AP Stylebook on at least these two points: the “Grey Lady” uses an apostrophe + s after an s for possessives; AP style doesn’t. The former allows the use of the word over when referring to numbers and amounts: AP doesn’t.
Here are some examples, tips, and words of wisdom from some of the world’s great language guides, as well as some links to style guides that you might be surprised to know even existed …
Style guides on Twitter:
The Guardian’s style guide: “expatriate: often misspelt as ex-patriot, ex-pat, or ex-patriate. But this is ex meaning “out of” (cf export), not ex- as in “former”.
AP Stylebook: “AP Style tip: It’s dis, dissing, dissed.”
Chicago Manual of Style: “Tip: Don’t use an en dash in place of the word “to” if the pair is preceded by “from” (from 1906 to 2013 not from 1906–2013)”
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The Economist‘s style guide
1. Never use a Metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do (see Short words).
3. If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out (see Unnecessary words).
4. Never use the Passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a Jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous (see Iconoclasm).
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You can see a copy of The Guardian‘s original style guide, published in 1928; a particularly nice touch is its three sections devoted respectively to Cricket, Football and House Servants …
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The UK government’s digital service style guide: it advises writers to be
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The U.S. Navy‘s style guide:
“aboard vs. on board - These two terms mean nearly the same thing and in some uses are interchangeable. “Aboard” is the preferred usage. Use “on board” as two words, but hyphenate on board when used as an adjective. “Aboard” means on board, on, in or into a ship.
The crew is aboard the ship.
An on-board medical team uses the on-board computer.
BUT NOT: The Sailor is going on board the ship.
Also, a Sailor is stationed “on,” “at,” “is serving with” or “is assigned to” a ship. A Sailor does not serve “in” a ship.
A ship is “based at” or “homeported at” a specific place. A plane is “stationed at” or is “aboard” a ship; is “deployed with” or is “operating from” a ship. Squadrons are “stationed at” air stations. Air wings are “deployed with” ships”
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“Italicize true Latin terms like a fortiori, infra, and supra. Also italicize e.g. and i.e. But no italics for Anglicized (in other words, familiar) Latin terms like certiorari, per se, pro se, and status quo.”
“Pleaded” or “pled”? Pleaded: “Petitioner pleaded guilty.”
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The Associated Press issued a Winter Games style guide for editors at its member news organizations. “Within stories, lowercase the events: e.g., halfpipe, men’s downhill, women’s slalom, men’s figure skating, women’s luge, two-man bobsled, men’s skeleton.”
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The U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual, published since 1894, is a guide to the style and form of Federal Government printing. There’s no better guide to the use of the em-dash, in my opinion. (See page 204.)
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GLAAD‘s Media Reference Guide - a transgender glossary of terms for journalists.
Transgender An umbrella term (adj.) for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term may include but is not limited to: transsexuals, cross-dressers and other gender-variant people. Transgender people may identify as female-to-male (FTM) or male-to-female (MTF). Use the descriptive term (transgender, transsexual, cross-dresser, FTM or MTF) preferred by the individual. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.
Transsexual (also Transexual) An older term which originated in the medical and psychological communities. While some transsexual people still prefer to use the term to describe themselves, many transgender people prefer the term transgender to transsexual. Unlike transgender, transsexual is not an umbrella term, as many transgender people do not identify as transsexual. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers.
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints‘ Style Guide for the name of the church. “While the term “Mormon Church” has long been publicly applied to the Church as a nickname, it is not an authorized title, and the Church discourages its use.”
It’s National Grammar Day! In honor of this auspicious occasion, Glossophilia checks out some of the ways grammar is being celebrated online and around the world.
CNN talked with one of its copyeditors, Katherine Dillinger, about what it’s like to have a job in which every day is grammar day … Asked what she thinks are the most common errors? “It’s probably punctuation errors, specifically comma errors with independent and dependent clauses. … And capitalization … people love to capitalize things they shouldn’t.”
mental_floss gives us 7 Sentences That Sound Crazy But Are Still Grammatical, including the wonderfully bizarre “Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo.”
The Atlantic explores the issue of teaching grammar: “A century of research shows that traditional grammar lessons—those hours spent diagramming sentences and memorizing parts of speech—don’t help and may even hinder students’ efforts to become better writers. Yes, they need to learn grammar, but the old-fashioned way does not work.”
Business Insider India examines the 9 Most Controversial Rules in English Grammar. Whether or not you can split an infinitive or use like as a conjunction, and why and when you should use whom are just some of those pesky things we all need to know …
fishbat, announcing some language news about one of the big search engines, makes a spelling error in its press release headline: “fishbat Reveals Why Bing Is Cleaning Up It’s Grammar Act”. Oy: fishbat need’s to get it’s act together … Still, what Bing is doing is interesting: “Bing claims that poor spelling and grammar mistakes affect what users see when searching on the platform. Instead, Bing says that content with errors should be penalized. Now, Bing will reward content with zero errors and rank them at the top of search queries.”
Business2Community offers us a list of Top 10 Grammar Tips for Content Creators, advising such practices as avoiding comma splices and knowing the difference between affect and effect. (OK, that’s a spelling issue, but spelling errors can be so much more fun than grammar fails …)
Finally, celebrate National Grammar Day with a host of activities — from quizzes and tips to wallpaper, t-shirts and a special theme song — at its virtual home on QuickandDirtyTips.com. March forth!!
National Grammar Day was established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG) and author of Things That Make Us [Sic].
Throughout the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, poet Kwame Dawes is writing verses that capture the spirit of the day’s action. The Wall Street Journal is publishing his poems: here are those he has composed so far.
They Flee From Me
They flee from me that sometime did me seek
With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild and do not remember
That sometime they put themself in danger
To take bread at my hand; and now they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.
Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise
Twenty times better; but once in special,
In thin array after a pleasant guise,
When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,
And she me caught in her arms long and small;
Therewithall sweetly did me kiss
And softly said, “Dear heart, how like you this?”
It was no dream: I lay broad waking.
But all is turned thorough my gentleness
Into a strange fashion of forsaking;
And I have leave to go of her goodness,
And she also, to use newfangleness.
But since that I so kindly am served
I would fain know what she hath deserved.
– Sir Thomas Wyatt
Western wind, when wilt thou blow,
The small rain down can rain.
Christ, if my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again.
– Anon, 16th century
The Silent Lover
Passions are likened best to floods and streams:
The shallow murmur, but the deep are dumb;
So, when affections yield discourse, it seems
The bottom is but shallow whence they come.
They that are rich in words, in words discover
That they are poor in that which makes a lover.
Wrong not, sweet empress of my heart,
The merit of true passion,
With thinking that he feels no smart,
That sues for no compassion;
Since, if my plaints serve not to approve
The conquest of thy beauty,
It comes not from defect of love,
But from excess of duty.
For, knowing that I sue to serve
A saint of such perfection,
As all desire, but none deserve,
A place in her affection,
I rather choose to want relief
Than venture the revealing;
Where glory recommends the grief,
Despair distrusts the healing.
Thus those desires that aim too high
For any mortal lover,
When reason cannot make them die,
Discretion doth them cover.
Yet, when discretion doth bereave
The plaints that they should utter,
Then thy discretion may perceive
That silence is a suitor.
Silence in love bewrays more woe
Than words, though ne’er so witty:
A beggar that is dumb, you know,
May challenge double pity.
Then wrong not, dearest to my heart,
My true, though secret, passion:
He smarteth most that hides his smart,
And sues for no compassion.
– Walter Raleigh
In summer’s heat, and mid-time of the day,
To rest my limbs upon a bed I lay;
One window shut, the other open stood,
Which gave such light as twinkles in a wood,
Like twilight glimpse at setting of the sun,
Or night being past, and yet not day begun;
Such light to shamefaced maidens must be shown,
Where they may sport, and seem to be unknown:
Then came Corinna in a long loose gown,
Her white neck hid with tresses hanging down,
Resembling fair Semiramis going to bed,
Or Lais of a thousand wooers sped.
I snatched her gown; being thin, the harm was small,
Yet strived she to be covered therewithal;
And striving thus, as one that would be cast,
Betrayed herself, and yielded at the last.
Stark naked as she stood before mine eye,
Not one wen in her body could I spy.
What arms and shoulders did I touch and see,
How apt her breasts were to be pressed by me!
How smooth a belly under her waist saw I,
How large a leg, and what a lusty thigh!
To leave the rest, all liked me passing well;
I clinged her naked body, down she fell:
Judge you the rest: being tired she bade me kiss;
Jove send me more such afternoons as this.
– Christopher Marlowe
Air and Angels
Twice or thrice had I lov’d thee,
Before I knew thy face or name;
So in a voice, so in a shapeless flame
Angels affect us oft, and worshipp’d be;
Still when, to where thou wert, I came,
Some lovely glorious nothing I did see.
But since my soul, whose child love is,
Takes limbs of flesh, and else could nothing do,
More subtle than the parent is
Love must not be, but take a body too;
And therefore what thou wert, and who,
I bid Love ask, and now
That it assume thy body, I allow,
And fix itself in thy lip, eye, and brow.
Whilst thus to ballast love I thought,
And so more steadily to have gone,
With wares which would sink admiration,
I saw I had love’s pinnace overfraught;
Ev’ry thy hair for love to work upon
Is much too much, some fitter must be sought;
For, nor in nothing, nor in things
Extreme, and scatt’ring bright, can love inhere;
Then, as an angel, face, and wings
Of air, not pure as it, yet pure, doth wear,
So thy love may be my love’s sphere;
Just such disparity
As is ‘twixt air and angels’ purity,
‘Twixt women’s love, and men’s, will ever be.
– John Donne
For her this rhyme is penned, whose luminous eyes,
Brightly expressive as the twins of Leda,
Shall find her own sweet name, that nestling lies
Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader.
Search narrowly the lines!- they hold a treasure
Divine- a talisman- an amulet
That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure-
The words- the syllables! Do not forget
The trivialest point, or you may lose your labor
And yet there is in this no Gordian knot
Which one might not undo without a sabre,
If one could merely comprehend the plot.
Enwritten upon the leaf where now are peering
Eyes scintillating soul, there lie perdus
Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing
Of poets, by poets- as the name is a poet’s, too,
Its letters, although naturally lying
Like the knight Pinto- Mendez Ferdinando-
Still form a synonym for Truth- Cease trying!
You will not read the riddle, though you do the best you can do.
– Edgar Allan Poe
To His Mistress Going to Bed
Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tir’d with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven’s Zone glistering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,
That th’eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime,
Tells me from you, that now it is bed time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off, such beauteous state reveals,
As when from flowery meads th’hill’s shadow steals.
Off with that wiry Coronet and shew
The hairy Diadem which on you doth grow:
Now off with those shoes, and then safely tread
In this love’s hallow’d temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes, heaven’s Angels used to be
Received by men; Thou Angel bringst with thee
A heaven like Mahomet’s Paradise; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know,
By this these Angels from an evil sprite,
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
Licence my roving hands, and let them go,
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man mann’d,
My Mine of precious stones, My Empirie,
How blest am I in this discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee,
As souls unbodied, bodies uncloth’d must be,
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
Are like Atlanta’s balls, cast in men’s views,
That when a fool’s eye lighteth on a Gem,
His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them.
Like pictures, or like books’ gay coverings made
For lay-men, are all women thus array’d;
Themselves are mystic books, which only we
(Whom their imputed grace will dignify)
Must see reveal’d. Then since that I may know;
As liberally, as to a Midwife, shew
Thy self: cast all, yea, this white linen hence,
There is no penance due to innocence.
To teach thee, I am naked first; why then
What needst thou have more covering than a man.
– John Donne
To My Dear and Loving Husband
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov’d by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.
I prize thy love more then whole Mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompence.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold I pray.
Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
– Anne Bradstreet
My dearest dust, could not thy hasty day
Afford thy drowsy patience leave to stay
One hour longer: so that we might either
Sit up, or gone to bed together?
But since thy finished labour hath possessed
Thy weary limbs with early rest,
Enjoy it sweetly; and thy widow bride
Shall soon repose her by thy slumbering side;
Whose business, now, is only to prepare
My nightly dress, and call to prayer:
Mine eyes wax heavy and the day grows old,
The dew falls thick, my blood grows cold.
Draw, draw the closed curtains: and make room:
My dear, my dearest dust; I come, I come.
– Lady Katherine Dyer
I think we all know at least one person who speaks as though they’re addressing a courtroom or their own nation – even when they’re in the line for the bathroom or firing off a hasty text. Three tell-tale signs of linguistic pomposity are the words thus (or, even worse, thusly), commence, and prior to — all of which have perfectly sound and simple synonyms without all the airs and graces. Let’s see what some of today’s — and yesterday’s — linguists have to say about them.
Thus (or thus far): Thus, so the OED says succinctly, is “now chiefly literary or formal”. Thus, unless you’re Shakespeare or Chief Whip, use so. ”Some people think ‘thus far’ is too snobby or stuffy, but in terms of meaning, it’s the same as ‘so far’.” So says the YUNiversity of Grammar.
Thusly: A couple of years ago, the New York Times‘s After Deadline blog explained why thusly just isn’t a viable word. ““Thus,” meaning “in this way” or “therefore,” is an adverb. “-Ly” is a suffix that turns an adjective into an adverb. Since “thus” is already an adverb, it has no need for “-ly.” So “thusly” is unnecessary — colloquial at best, illiterate in the view of many readers.”
As Mark Davidson says in his book Right, Wrong and Risky: “Thusly gets almost no respect … You need supreme self-confidence to use this much-maligned variant of the adverb thus. Thusly, which word sleuths suspect was coined in the mid-19th century as a humorous American variant of thus, has been taken seriously by almost nobody in America’s usage establishment. Descriptions of thusly have ranged from “superfluous” (Theodore M. Bernstein’s Careful Writer) to “an abomination” (William and Mary Morris’ Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage).”
Prior to: “You are committing an offense against English if you use the phrase prior to as a substitute for the preposition before, according to the “Language Corner” of the Columbia Journalism Review,” reports Davidson. “What in heaven’s name is wrong with before?” Enough said on that subject …
Commence: As Barrie England commented (I thought rather wittily) on StackExchange about the use of commence instead of begin, “My entirely intuitive thought is that begin is less formal than commence. Dylan Thomas began his play for voices, ‘Under Milk Wood’, with the words ‘To begin at the beginning.’ He didn’t, with good reason, write ‘To commence at the commencement.’”
Commence, which at one time was described by the OED as “precisely equivalent to the native begin“, has been variously described as a “formal”, “fancy” or “stilted” alternative; Merriam-Webster acknowledges that it is often considered “pretentious”, ”old-fashioned”, “inappropriate”, “bookish”, or “pedantic”. As Longman pointed out, even back in 1874 George Eliot used the word ironically in Middlemarch: “Things never began with Mr. Borthrop Trumbull; they always commenced, both in private and on his handbills.”
Fowler did concede that certain circumstances prescribe the use of the more formal alternative: “In official announcements commence is appropriate: the play-bill tells us when the performance will commence, though we ask each other when it begins. The grave historical style also justifies commence, & historians’ phrases, such as commence hostilities, keep their form when transferred to other uses, though we begin, & do not commence, a quarrel; similarly we commence operations, but merely begin dinner.”
About these “formal words” generally, Fowler in his Modern English Usage offered his own typically quirky explanation. “There are large numbers of words differing from each other in almost all respects, but having this point in common, that they are not the plain English for what is meant, not the form that the mind uses in its private debates to convey to itself what it is talking about, but translations of these into language that is held more suitable for public exhibition. We tell our thoughts, like our children, to put on their hats & coats before they go out; we want the window shut, but we ask if our fellow passenger would mind its being closed; we think of our soldiers as plucky fellows, but call them in the bulletins valiant troops. These outdoor costumes are often needed; not only may decency be outraged sometimes by over-plain speech; dignity may be compromised if the person who thinks in slang writes also in slang; to the airman it comes natural to think & talk of his bus, but he does well to call it in print by another name.”
“Thus far, with rough and all-unable pen,
Our bending author hath pursu’d the story,
In little room confining mighty men,
Mangling by starts the full course of their glory.”
– William Shakespeare, Henry V
If a yoghurt is “slated for Sochi”, does that mean it failed to tickle the tastebuds of Russian athletes, or that it’s on board the supply vessel heading for the Olympic village? Hmmm. It probably depends on whether it was an American or a Brit using that rather strange turn of phrase about that particular foodstuff. (And someone did actually say that in print.) If something was capped in England, it was probably costing too much money, but to Americans it might well have been leading up to something even better. And whereas a palaver on either side of the Atlantic is much ado about nothing, it’s merely a discussion among Yanks but more of a big nuisance to the Brits.
Below are the subtly different definitions of these words determined by who is uttering them, along with some examples recently published in the media. (Except where stated, the definitions are from Oxford Dictionaries — the British-English and American-English versions.) Because the words are used differently — contextually and linguistically — by Americans and Brits, there isn’t usually any confusion or ambiguity when they’re being communicated to trans-Atlantic counterparts; indeed, at this point both meanings are pretty well understood, if not in actual usage, on either side of the pond (at least in the case of slated and capped), even if they might still give pause. To my mind, a performance that has been slated — even if it is for a future date — still sounds like something not to get excited about.
British: “criticize severely”. Tom Service, writing about a Bruckner symphony in The Guardian, wrote that “a contemporary critic slated its ‘nightmarish hangover style’, but Bruckner’s last completed symphony contains music of sheer, breathtaking magnificence.”
American: “schedule; plan”. In an NBC News headline, some Chobani yoghurt “slated for Sochi [was] held up at U.S. customs”.
American: “provide a fitting climax or conclusion to; follow or reply to (a story, remark, or joke) by producing a better or more apposite one”. Discussing Russia’s figure-skating team winning the gold medal in Sochi yesterday, AP sports writer Barry Wilner wrote: “It was victory capped by the freshness of Lipnitskaia.”
British: (Cambridge Dictionaries): “to put a limit on the amount of money that can be charged or spent in connection with a particular activity.” In The Guardian, the UK’s health secretary, Patricia Hewitt, was quoted as saying that “with hindsight, she wished GPs’ earnings had been capped.”
British: “prolonged and tedious fuss or discussion”. (Commonly used in the phrase “what a palaver”.) In the Evening Standard, gallery co-owner Tamara Beckwith, referring to selfies, was quoted as saying: “I’ve tried taking one and it was such a palaver.” Reporting on supermodel Naomi Campbell’s refusal to use her allocated dressing room for the National Television Awards, the Kildare Nationalist quoted a source telling The Sun newspaper: ”What a palaver. Apparently Naomi wants something more luxurious so the team have had to scrabble around trying to find something suitable nearby.”
American English: “prolonged and idle discussion; verb – to talk unnecessarily at length.” In a report on the recent debate on creationism between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, the New Republic’s writer said: ”My friend said that no, Ham wasn’t lying—he truly believed the palaver he was spewing.”
Strangely, the Brits seem to have broadened the definition of this word, which remains similar to its original meaning on American shores. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, palaver dates from 1733 (implied in palavering), “talk, conference, discussion,” sailors’ slang, from Portuguese palavra ”word, speech, talk,” traders’ term for “negotiating with the natives” in West Africa, metathesis of Late Latin parabola “speech, discourse,” from Latin parabola ”comparison”. Meaning “idle talk” first recorded 1748. The verb is 1733, from the noun. Related: Palavering.”