Category Archives: In the news …

Glosso fodder that’s making headlines

Goodbye ladies & gentlemen; hello everyone

Central London Railway (now Central Line) motor car 1903 / Wikimedia Commons

“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.

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Ich sage marmalade, you say jam … (But maybe not for long)

Frank Coopers Oxford Marmalade / Wikimedia Commons

“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.”

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In the news: the return of Jay-Z’s hyphen

The newly rehyphenated Jay-Z

“It’s simple really. First there was a rapper called Jay-Z, who was very popular until 2013. Then he disappeared and was replaced with someone called Jay Z. But yesterday a new album was announced by someone called JAY-Z. … The musician’s hyphen has been reinstated with the announcement of his new album – but he’s far from the first pop star to opt for a change of moniker.” Read the full story in The Guardian.

And see Glossophilia’s earlier post from July 2013: “Jay Z no longer mononymous” …

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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

The spelling (& Jerkish) of the President: update

IMG_3905We are humbeled, Mr President.

UPDATE:

As the great American novelist Philip Roth has recently commented to the New Yorker: “Whatever I may have seen as their limitations of character or intellect, neither [Richard Nixon nor George W. Bush] was anything like as humanly impoverished as Trump is: ignorant of government, of history, of science, of philosophy, of art, incapable of expressing or recognizing subtlety or nuance, destitute of all decency, and wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”

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In the news … (Friday, Oct 21)

Portrait of Cod; Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of Cod; Wikimedia Commons

In grammatical and usage news this past month: a political email scandal involving risotto and apostrophes; some fishy regional accents, literally; how we’ll all be talking in 50 years’ time; Trump gets it wrong yet again; a British supermarket with a name that’s already been taken (by Iceland, for itself); a dictionary goes online; and those familiar experiences and concepts that desperately need a word or name to describe them  … Continue reading

In the news … (Friday, Sep 16)

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

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

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

In the news … (Aug 12)

einstien

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

In the news … (June 10)

trump

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky. In usage and grammar news this month: Trump is unaware of the hottest portmanteau of the year; a very sinister punctuation trend; Roald Dahl’s weird words get their own dictionary; a grammar mistake on a London Transport ad (can you spot it?); Texan Republicans either believe that most Texans are gay, or they just can’t string a sentence together; the name of a famous bridge has been spelled wrong for more than five decades; a comedian lands herself in trouble with a mispronunciation; and some awesome Bachelorette malapropisms. (And if you’re not sure what a portmanteau or malapropism is, check out Glosso’s earlier post here.)

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As became apparent in a Hollywood Reporter piece at the beginning of the month, presidential wannabe Donald Trump seemed to be unaware of the most famous political portmanteau of 2016, which is on the lips of most Brits — especially during this month of the EU nation’s historic referendum. At one point during a lengthy interview with Michael Wolff, the Donald was asked what he thought about the two-syllable word that’s currently dividing the UK into warring factions: “And Brexit?” Woff asked. “Your position?” … Trump: “Huh?” … Wolff: “Brexit”. Trump: “Hmmm.”

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“Over the past few days, Twitter users may have noticed an increase in the number of fellow users who have surrounded their names with ((( ))). The symbols appear harmless enough but have become controversial after an investigation revealed that they were being used by a small minority of white supremacists to target Jewish writers with anti-Semitic abuse.” The BBC reports on this disturbing punctuation trend.

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“It’s an error that has loomed over New York Harbor for more than 50 years: The name of the majestic Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is spelled wrong. Despite a new petition drive to make it right — the bridge is named for 16th-century Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano (two Z’s) — the state authority that controls the span has stubbornly held to the one Z position it’s taken for years: We know it’s wrong, but we’re not changing it.” New York’s Daily News has the full story.

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Can you spot the grammatical error in this TfL (London’s public transport) advertisement?

tfl ad

Clue: it’s a singular mistake. The Evening Standard has the full story.

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“A Texas-based LGBT advocacy helped spark a grammar debate … over whether an errant comma in the stridently anti-homosexual Republican Party of Texas platform can be read as saying the majority of Texans are gay. … “Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that has been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nations founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.” I’m not so sure it’s an errant comma that causes the confusion, as Reuters reports; isn’t it those two “that”s and those plural “truths” with a singular “has” that make the whole statement incomprehensible?

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According to the UK’s Independent, a woman from Georgia is suing Ellen DeGeneres after the comedian and chat show host mispronounced the litigant’s name on daytime TV. “Titty Pierce” was the name DeGeneres sounded out as she poked fun at the estate agent’s advertisement in her segment “What’s Wong With These Ads…. and These Signs?”. Pierce, 35, insisted in the lawsuit that her name is pronounced “Tee Tee … as grammar dictates”. Maybe she means spelling. Either way, it’s a shame she wasn’t just called Mildred.

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“Roald Dahl was the master wordsmith who wrote some of the nation’s most memorable children’s books. To mark 100 years since his birth, almost 8,000 of the phrases he used in his novels are going to be published in a special dictionary. The BBC asked some of his biggest fans in Manchester what they thought of his language.” See the video here.

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And finally, 10 awesome malapropisms from the season premiere of ABC’s The Bachelorette, courtesy of Mashable.

 

 

 

In the news … (April 29)

TGIF … In language and usage news this month (and it’s been a good one), we have a Presidential hopeful having some trouble abroad —  in pronouncing the name of that place he’s never been to;  some landmark capitalization rules (or make that “DEcap” rules) at the AP; how personality is behind grammar nazis; does the name “Jim Wilson” mean anything to you (especially if you’re in the aviation world)?; find out which words were born in the same year as yours truly; the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism; some words made famous on an iconic TV show; and some dope on pugs … Continue reading