Tag Archives: Breaking Bad

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (Dec 27)


As 2013 draws to a close, we’ve got lots to celebrate about it — like the use of the word selfie, and other words of the year.  The Russians haven’t just banned discussions about homosexuality: they also won’t let anyone mention obscene terms for genitals or women of easy virtue. The Church gave a nod to Mexican languages; the Finns don’t like the way iPhone is spelled. And we learned some important new facts: like the words for horse-eating, 3-letter extensions to words in Scrabble, and French kissing in France …

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What do selfies, Suarez and Seamus Heaney have in common? The same as Bieber, bitcoins and Breaking Bad . . . They all appeared in “top words of 2013” lists. “PRIVACY. Selfie. Geek. Science. Four dictionary publishers each selected one of those words as its word of the year for 2013. But it’s tough to catalog the preoccupations of the year in a single word. There were many flying around that seemed to capture a moment, an emotion, a thought, a new way of doing or describing things, or the larger zeitgeist. Some were new, some not so new, but they all seemed to say something about the times. Here are a few …”, the New York Times reported …

Time magazine looked more closely into Oxford’s actual word of the year, which is captured — literally — in James Franco’s pic above …

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The Russian media has been given four categories of swear words that must never appear either in articles or in readers’ comments, in print or online. Newspapers and websites that fail to comply could lose their licenses. The list of unprintable words was compiled by Roskomnadzor (Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications) and among the categories of banned words are “obscene terms for a woman of easy virtue”. RT has the story.

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Mexico’s indigenous languages get a nod from the Church. The BBC has the story …

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According to Cult of Mac, Finland’s linguistic authorities — the Institute for the Languages of Finland, which rules on correct spellings, loan words and usages as the Finnish, Swedish, Romani and Sami languages develop — has decreed that the correct Finnish usage of iPhone is not iPhone, but rather Iphone or I-phone. You tell ’em, Finland.

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Finally, thanks to the BBC’s list of “100 things we didn’t know last year”, we now know 22 fun facts about words and language that we didn’t know in 2012:

Horse-eating is called Hippophagy.

“Russian flu” got its name because of the Cold War rather than because it originated in Russia.

William is the surname that has decreased the most since 1901.

Haribos are so-named because of founder Hans Riegel and his hometown Bonn.

South Africa was included in the BRICS as it made for a better acronym than Nigeria.

“Lucifer” and “.” (full stop) are banned baby names in New Zealand.

Birmingham City Council blocks the word “commie” from incoming email.

Using “don’t” and “won’t” correctly in online dating messages boosts response rates by more than a third.

The French call a walkie-talkie a talkie-walkie.

Until recently the US Navy had a requirement that all official messages be sent in capital letters.

“God’s bones” was the sweariest expression in medieval times.

The French had no official word for French kissing… until now. It’s “galocher”.

Ampersand was once an actual letter which followed the letter Z in the Latin alphabet.

The first recorded incorrect use of the word “literally” was in 1769.

Polyamorous people have invented a word to indicate the opposite feeling of jealousy – compersion.

Glaswegians are starting to sound like Cockneys because of EastEnders.

In Scrabble, a Benjamin is a three-letter extension to the front of a five-letter word.

The word “get” went out of fashion in books between 1940 and the 1960s.

Amazon’s original name was to be Relentless – and the URL relentless.com still redirects to the company website.

John Wayne coined the phrase “the Big C” to avoid naming cancer.

Americans pronounce gifs as “jifs”.

A long-term lover is known as a “small house” in Zimbabwe.

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (4 Oct)


Welcome to “TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky”, a new weekly feature on Glossophilia. Every Friday, you’ll find a digest of some of the week’s best offerings about language, literature, grammar, usage and abusage — on the web and on the wire. Some of it will make you laugh, some might make you cry. Some will be genuinely useful, a lot of it won’t, and there will be stuff you just won’t believe. Enjoy (it).


On Facebook, Grammarly posted some incorrect word definitions offered by creative and lateral-thinking students. One of my favorites is Adamant: “pertaining to original sin” …

The Guardian reassured us that there are 10 grammar rules we no longer need to worry about. And one of those is starting sentences with a conjunction; another is all about what you should and shouldn’t end them with.

You think “OMG” or “srsly” are 21st-century inventions? You might have to think again, as Jen Doll, in The Atlantic‘s October issue, takes a look at the not-so-recent history of today’s hottest expressions (not yet online).

The Associated Press reported on the rise in heritage language programs — and why the need for them has grown. “Dorothy Villarreal grew up dreaming in Spanish, first in Mexico and later in South Texas, where her family moved when she was six. She excelled in school — in English. But at home life was in Spanish, from the long afternoon chats with her grandparents to the Spanish-language version of Barbie magazines she eagerly awaited each month. She figured she was fluent in both languages. Then the Harvard University junior spent last summer studying in Mexico and realized just how big the gaps in her Spanish were.”

Pride’s Purge offered us a very useful document: a pocket guide to Toryspeak – ie. what Tories (aka members of the British Conservative Party) say vs. what Tories mean. When they say they’re reforming the NHS, what do they REALLY mean? And what does everyone understand by it?

Keith Houston gives us a sneak peek [see Stealth Mountain below] of his new book, Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks, when he describes “four scandalously overlooked typographic outliers” in the Financial Times.

You might not want to try singing like David Bowie – but now you can read like him. As part of the exhibition “David Bowie Is”, which recently opened at the Art Gallery of Toronto, a list of the legendary singer’s top 100 books has been compiled. Open Book Toronto has the list.

The writer Margaret Atwood is among a group of prominent Canadian women who have launched a campaign to make the English-language lyrics to Canada’s national anthem more gender-neutral, as the BBC reports.

Oliver Moody wrote in The Times (UK) that “many teachers do not have adequate knowledge of English grammar to teach the new curriculum, according to the architect of a government-funded teaching programme. Bas Aarts, a professor of English linguistics at University College London, … said that the English tests for pupils up to the age of 14 introduced by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, demanded more knowledge of grammar than many teachers possess.”

mental_floss brought us 9 colorful words and phrases from Breaking Bad‘s final season. (Here’s what I learned: The next time someone offers to send you on a trip to Belize, run in the other direction. Fast.)

On The Guardian‘s U.S. comment site, self-confessed accent geek Erica Buist asks whether Britain is becoming a nation of accent snobs. If we Brits don’t take the trouble to pronounce foreign words like bruschetta correctly, do we have the right to judge those who communicate less comfortably in English?

If you read literary fiction, you’ll become more empathic. That’s what a new scientific study shows, according to a New York Times science blog post. Apparently “reading literary fiction – as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction – leads people to perform better on tests that measure empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence.” Um – do we really need scientists to tell us that? I hear a big resounding ‘duh!’ echoing through the chattering book groups of the world …

And finally, I think I’ve found my favorite Tweeter. Here is how Stealth Mountain @stealthmountain advertises his or her mission: “I alert twitter users that they typed sneak peak when they meant sneak peek. I live a sad life.” The replies to Stealth’s tweets are even funnier than the tweets themselves. Thanks to Reddit for the tip-off.