A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about. Ask me anything you can't Google.
Posts tagged "language"
Feb 26, 2014
Does anybody actually own a dictionary anymore?
Today I tweeted:
You know what’s underrated? The simple act of looking up a word in the dictionary.
And a few people seemed shocked that I actually use a paper dictionary.
A big, 10-pound American Heritage, no less.
A few months ago I went out and bought the biggest, nicest dictionary I could find. I wanted a huge honking dictionary, open on a side table in my office, like one of those big bibles you see at a mass.
If you consider your mission exploring language, flipping through pages of words to land on a particular definition is a feature, not a bug.
For example, did you know that “patina” comes after “patient”? One word about enduring time, the other describing its residue.
Google won’t give you that.
Jan 02, 2014
Last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
Dec 03, 2013
I am so sorry to have deranged you for so small a matter.
Using the internet = constantly being interrupted = derangement
May 07, 2013
Apr 27, 2013
There’s another (paywalled) John McPhee piece in this week’s New Yorker on his writing process. After he reads his second draft aloud and makes some adjustments, he starts drawing boxes around words that he thinks can be improved:
You draw a box not only around any word that does not seem quite right but also around words that fulfill their assignment but seem to present an opportunity. While the word inside the box may be perfectly O.K., there is likely to be an even better word… If none occurs, don’t linger; keep reading and drawing boxes, and later revisit them one by one.
Then, you go not to a thesaurus, but a dictionary:
With dictionaries, I spend a great deal more time looking up words I know than words I have never heard of—at least ninety-nine to one. The dictionary definitions of words you are trying to replace are far more likely to help you out than a scattershot wad from a thesaurus.
His reasoning: the dictionary not only gives you a gives you a list synonyms, it also gives you a deeper understanding of the meaning of the word, and sometimes the definition can lead you to a better way of phrasing altogether.
In the search for words, thesauruses are useful things, but they don’t talk about the words they list. They are also dangerous. They can lead you to choose a polysyllabic and fuzzy word when a simple and clear one is better. The value of a thesaurus is not to make a writer seem to have a vast vocabulary of recondite words.
Filed under: writing
(via Sara Bader)
Apr 24, 2013
People who don’t consider themselves to be creative will sing and draw and make up stories if they are interacting with a baby or a toddler they care about. When I point this out, they tell me it’s because babies are not judgmental. But is that really it? Or is it because it’s a language that works?
Apr 05, 2013
He wouldn’t know how to pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were printed on the heel.
Dec 23, 2012
» The Words and Expressions of 2012 - NYTimes.com
From Grant Barrett of A Way With Words:
MIKE DROP OR DROP THE MIKE Literally, to drop a microphone on the floor in a showy way when finished with speaking or singing, especially after an outstanding performance. Figuratively, to quit a job or undertaking after an outstanding performance, especially when failure was predicted.
SWAG A stylish and confident demeanor or attitude. A shortening of “swagger.” This term has been used in recent years but became huge this summer following its repeated use in pop songs and by large numbers of (mainly) young men. Its popularity has since fallen.
YOLO An acronym for “You Only Live Once.” Used as an interjection when someone is considering doing something risky or ill-advised. The expression took off this year after the hip-hop star Drake’s song “The Motto” became a hit in 2011.
Dec 14, 2012
How to Read International Art English
In the latest issue of the online magazine Triple Canopy, Rule and Levine analyze and attempt to understand art-world-speak, which they term International Art English (IAE). “This language,” they write, “has everything to do with English, but it is emphatically not English.”
Filed under: art bollocks
Dec 08, 2012
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