“GIGO”

My friend Loretta and I were recently discussing a movie we’d just seen. Struggling to find a way to describe and explain the main character’s gloomy revolving door of unsuitable lovers and why Isabelle was unable to find herself a lasting, fulfilling relationship, Loretta shrugged her shoulders and raised her palms to the ceiling: “I guess it’s a case of GIGO. … Continue reading

One space or two with your full stop?

Update, 6 May: the Washington Post has recently weighed in on this decades-long debate. Are you a single-spacer or a doubler?  (The post that follows was originally published in August 2011).

During the process of editing (or “izing”, as we call it at 21C) a recent press release, we were asked by an impressively detail-oriented client to clean up a certain inconsistency in the document: there was a mixture of single spaces and double spaces after the periods (or full-stops, as some of us know them) at the end of sentences. The client had no particular preference for one space or two, but they rightly wanted a choice to be made – a rule to be followed – to maintain consistency.

Who would have thought that the question of this tiny little space – barely wider than a fat ant’s body – would inspire such discussion, disagreement and general excitement amongst my colleagues at 21C? Could it be because our usage of spaces after sentence-ending periods can actually date us? Continue reading

It’s Friday 13th: a day for paraskevidekatriaphobia, friggatriskaidekaphobia or triskaidekaphobia

 

frigga

Reposting this, on this auspicious day …

It’s Friday 13th, and for some people that’s a day when their triskaidekaphobia kicks in big time. Triskaidekaphobia? It means “fear of the number 13”. Also sometimes spelled triskaidecaphobia, it’s a slightly strange word deriving from two different languages: it combines the Greek treiskaideka (“thirteen”) with the Latin word for “fear of”, phobia. The first known written citation is in a book by Isador Coriat, Religion and Medicine: the Moral Control of Nervous Disorders, published in 1908, so this superstition linked to the number 13 is probably quite a recent phenomenon. But is there also a word for the fear of the date itself? Continue reading

In the news: a linguistic Brexit? (“French leave”)

Exactly a year after the historic Brexit referendum, a British MP looks likely to achieve her goal of seeing another major change in citizenship in Europe — in a popular English expression. A bill has been steered through Parliament by the Conservative MP for Anglebury, Avril Berner, who has called for the expression “French leave” — meaning “absence from work or duty without permission” (OED) — to be changed to “English leave” in dictionaries and school textbooks throughout the UK. In a four-page document, which was reported by Parliament Today to have reached Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s signature on Thursday, the anniversary of the landmark 2017 vote, Berner argued that the word French has no business holding its place in standard British English, especially as the island nation continues to negotiate its economic and legal separation from the European mainland. Interestingly, the French equivalent for the phrase is “filer a l’anglaise” — meaning literally “to leave English-style”. The nearly 250-year-old phrase “French leave” is first recorded in 1771.

***

Other English terms that contain the names of European nationalities are:

  • Spanish fly: an aphrodisiac, made from the dried blood of Spanish beetles
  • Dutch cap: a contraceptive diaphragm
  • French letter: another contraceptive, a condom

***

 

Celebrating seven on Glosso’s seventh birthday

 

It’s the number of wonders in the world; for many, it’s the number of perfection, security, safety and rest. It’s the number of colors in a rainbow and of days in a week; of notes in a scale, and of dwarfs in Snow White’s entourage.

Here, on Glosso’s seventh birthday, are seven phrases or proverbs that include the word seven — plus one for luck.

  • Seven-day wonder: A person or thing that generates interest for only a short amount of time.
  • At sixes and  sevensFrazzled or disorganized. Probably originated from a dice game in which rolling a six or seven was unfavorable.
  • Seven-year itch: A supposed tendency to infidelity after seven years of marriage.
  • In seventh heaven: In a state of ecstasy.
  • Seven-league boots:  The ability to travel very fast on foot. This phrase comes from the fairy-tale Hop o’ My Thumb (or Little Thumbling), in which magic boots enable the wearer to travel seven leagues in each stride.
  • Keep a thing seven years and you’ll (always) find a use for it
  • You should know a man seven years before you stir his fire

And the last one for luck:

Twenty-four seven: All day every day …

***