TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (Oct 25)



That Gerund Is Funky: Words and language in the news during the week ending Oct 25.

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NPR took us on a linguistic journey through the word glitch … What is a glitch, anyway? Meaning everything from a catastrophe to a mere flaw, the word that began in the groovy 60s to describe uneventful snafus in space might now spell peril for Obama’s affordable healthcare act.

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“School Makes Parents Sign Contracts Promising Students Won’t Twerk or Grind at Homecoming Dance.” Yes, that’s a real headline in Time magazine. “It’s hard enough to explain twerking to parents. Now Maryland high schoolers have to explain twerking contracts.” The straight-faced magazine added this caption to the article’s accompanying photograph: “People who twerk or grind will get judgy looks.” Judgy?

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The Guardian‘s David Marsh called for the appointment of a Language Czar, to outlaw ugly business and political lingo, as reported in Prospect magazine. March also argued, in the New Statesman and the New Republicthat “the golden age of grammar is a myth. … Just think about the gay times we had in the old days, when spam was something that went into fritters and you kept your mouse in a cage. The belief that all change is for the worse is invariably accompanied by the conviction that standards of literacy are falling. Such fears date from at least the 18th century.”

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Huffington Post identified 9 words or phrases in everyday use that have racist or prejudiced origins (or murky historical pasts). Who knew that “uppity” once had more repugnant connotations?

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An appalled Daniel E. Jones wrote a letter to the editor of Baton Rouge’s The Advocate, complaining that the paper’s bad grammar (on the first two pages of its Metro section) seems to reflect a lack of education. Joan E. McDonald of Lethbridge up in Canada directed a similar complaint at her local paper, the Lethbridge Herald. But here’s a juicy one: the Washington Post must have hung its head in shame when it received this letter from one of its readers, complaining about an especially egregious ungrammatical utterance — by a penguin no less — in one of the paper’s recent editions. “’It’s me and my wife’s 20th anniversary.’ Listen, kids may be reading this stuff,” warned Jack Fretwell from Reston.

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It’s OK to retweet, but not to copy and paste on Twitter. CNBC Africa has been accused of Twitter plagiarism by its competitor, Business Day Television (BDTV), after it admittedly lifted messages posted by BDTV during South African finance minister Pravin Gordhan’s midterm budget speech. “As far as I know, publishing someone’s content as your own is plagiarism. Or does the Twittersphere have a different set of rules?,” BDTV boss Vernon Matzopolous wrote, according to TechCentral.

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When is it OK to use incorrect punctuation? When you’re listing something on eBay, explained Angus Kidman on LifeHacker. “When you’re listing items for sale on eBay and the product name includes punctuation, you should not include it in the headline. The reason? Most people find stuff to buy by searching rather than browsing, and most people are too bloody stupid to use correct punctuation. They will type the punctuation-free version. If you want to top those search results, you have to use the incorrect rendering.” Perhaps this is wise advice for anyone posting a searchable internet listing?

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