Category Archives: In the news …

Glosso fodder that’s making headlines

The language of sex: come one, come all (come v cum)

Update: The censored cake … With the word “cum” back in the news today, Glossophilia is happy to republish one of its most popular posts.

The censored cake / Facebook

 

KamaSutra

*  *  Warning: contains strong language *  * Language advisory: viewer discretion is advised * *

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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.

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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

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Hall v Swift Dismissal: the uncreativity of [noun] gonna [verb]

Taylor Swift / Wikimedia Commons

Last year, songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler sued Taylor Swift, arguing that in her single “Shake It Off” she stole a phrase from their composition “Playas Gon’ Play.” Their lawsuit hinged on the phrase “playas, they gonna play, and haters, they gonna hate” — the chorus of their song.

In short, they lost. And it seems they were always [gonna] lose. “At the hearing, Plaintiffs’ counsel offered alternative (very clunky) formulations of pairing a noun with its intransitive verb, thereby suggesting that “[noun] gonna [verb]” was creative in itself. While clever, this argument does not persuade. The argument ultimately only makes sense if the use of “gonna” as a contraction of “is going to” is sufficiently creative, or (as discussed above) one can claim creativity in asserting that a type of person acts in accordance with his or her inherent nature. To explicitly state the argument is to see how banal the asserted creativity is. In sum, the lyrics at issue – the only thing that Plaintiffs allege Defendants copied – are too brief, unoriginal, and uncreative to warrant protection under the Copyright Act.” The BBC told the full story.

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To print or not to print: Presidential expletives

During a bipartisan meeting on immigration reform, President Trump reportedly asked lawmakers why “all these people from sh*thole countries” should be allowed to move to the United States. (He was referring, apparently, to Haiti and African countries.) Many news media outlets yesterday took to their keyboards and airwaves quoting him verbatim: the word “shithole” was suddenly seen and heard all over the world, even without the censoring asterisks in many cases. The New York Times reports on how the media is tackling this new peculiar challenge: the regular use of vulgarity and profanity by our nation’s leader in his public outbursts statements.

Here’s what the Associated Press’s style guide says about profanity: “AP Style holds that you should not use obscenities in stories unless they are part of direct quotations and there is a compelling reason for them.”

It seems there’s a good reason today.

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“Bombogenesis”, “bomb cyclone”: new words for a new reality

A Nor’easter / Wikimedia Commons

It’s not just any old Nor’easter heading towards America’s east coast today. It’s a “bomb cyclone,” folks. That’s another name for a word that most of the world has learned in the last 48 hours. Mashable first coined the phrase “bomb cyclone” as a more punchy  synonym for the meteorological term bombogenesis. But what the nor’easter is a bombogenesis? Continue reading