Orion Magazine | Landspeak

A new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary was published. A sharp-eyed reader noticed that there had been a culling of words concerning nature. Under pressure, Oxford University Press revealed a list of the entries it no longer felt to be relevant to a modern-day childhood. The deletions included acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, heather, heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture, and willow. The words introduced to the new edition included attachment, block-graph, blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player, and voice-mail.

Orion Magazine | Landspeak

Decoding a Menu at Root & Bone – NYTimes.com

In a study of more than a million Yelp restaurant reviews, Mr. Jurafsky and the Carnegie Mellon team found that four-star reviews tended to use a narrower range of vague positive words, while one-star reviews had a more varied vocabulary. One-star reviews also had higher incidence of past tense, pronouns (especially plural pronouns) and other subtle markers that linguists have previously found in chat room discussions about the death of Princess Diana and blog posts written in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In short, Mr. Jurafsky said, authors of one-star reviews unconsciously use language much as people do in the wake of collective trauma. “They use the word ‘we’ much more than ‘I,’ as if taking solace in the fact that this bad thing happened, but it happened to us together,” he said.

Another finding: Reviews of expensive restaurants are more likely to use sexual metaphors, while the food at cheaper restaurants tends to be compared to drugs.

Decoding a Menu at Root & Bone – NYTimes.com

Cormac McCarthy’s Vocabulary Is Better Than Yours: Blood Meridian {spoilers!}

sprent
anchorite
tailorwise
carbolic
chancel
halms
scantlin(g)
vernier
hasping
jacal
purlieus
bistre
sotol
kerfs
scoria
ratchel
porphyry
mare imbrium
apishamore
marl
ignis fatuus
cibolero
enfilade
acequias
spanceled
azoteas
debouched
topers
chert
eskers
escopeta
shakos
caparisoned
serried
devonian
charivari
catafalque
ciborium
guttapercha
shacto
vedette
suzerain
almagre
roweled
withy
criada
sutlers
billets
spalls
whinstones
scrog
chorines
alameda
vigas
guisado
sclera
baldric
lemniscate
tiswin
demiculverin
revetment
holothurians
morral
alcalde
skelps
baize
cabildo
lazarous
scow
thaumaturge
atavistic
scapular
fard
sprues
alparejas
mansuete
replevined
pampooties
skifts
burins
dosshouse
pitero
matracas
nickered
bagnios
scapegrace
peignoirs

The Jefferson Bible – The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth by Thomas Jefferson

I figured I should read this eventually. I mean look at this thing. It cuts off the miraculous bookends of Jesus’ life and focuses on the Enlightenment-friendly moralizing. There was nothing in here I hadn’t heard before, but reading it in all in one go made me remember how many common phrases come out of the Bible. A quick run-through, just from the Sermon on the Mount:

  • blessed are the…
  • salt of the earth
  • light of the world
  • town upon a hill
  • turn the other cheek
  • left hand knowing what the right hand is doing
  • serving two masters
  • can’t serve God and mammon
  • lilies of the field
  • ye of little faith
  • tomorrow will worry about itself
  • just not, lest you be judged
  • cast pearls before swine
  • seek and you will find
  • do to others what you would have them do to you
  • wolf in sheep’s clothing
  • by their fruit you will recognize them
  • bearing bad fruit

And that section is only, what, 2500 words? That’s some influential shit.

The Jefferson Bible – The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth by Thomas Jefferson

Making culture for the internets—all of them — The Sea of Fog — Medium

People ridiculed George W. Bush when he called them “the internets” but he had it right. Technically, the internet is one huge interconnected network. Linguistically and socially, it is many networks, and they are very distinct. For example: There are 40 million Brazilians on Twitter. Do you follow any Brazilians?* This is a significant fraction of a service that many of us consider our internet front porch—and yet, unless you speak Portuguese, it’s invisible. It might as well be a different service entirely.

Making culture for the internets—all of them — The Sea of Fog — Medium

A Wealth of Words by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., City Journal WInter 2013

There’s a positive correlation between a student’s vocabulary size in grade 12, the likelihood that she will graduate from college, and her future level of income. The reason is clear: vocabulary size is a convenient proxy for a whole range of educational attainments and abilities—not just skill in reading, writing, listening, and speaking but also general knowledge of science, history, and the arts. If we want to reduce economic inequality in America, a good place to start is the language-arts classroom.

A Wealth of Words by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., City Journal WInter 2013

Chiasmus – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

the figure of speech in which two or more clauses are related to each other through a reversal of structures in order to make a larger point; that is, the clauses display inverted parallelism.

So they’re mirrored (like the shape of the letter X… Greek letter chi… chiasmus…). Think ABCCBA, or ABCDEDCBA, or whatever. This is really common in the Bible, e.g. Isaiah 6:10:

A “Make the heart of this people fat,
B and make their ears heavy,
C and shut their eyes;
C lest they see with their eyes,
B and hear with their ears,
A and understand with their heart, and convert [return], and be healed.”

And in songwriting, e.g. Snoop’s Gin and Juice:

I got my mind on my money, my money on my mind.

Or the wisdom of Stephen Stills:

If you can’t be with the one you love, honey / Love the one you’re with.

You also see chiastic structure for an entire work, like the Song of Songs or Paradise Lost.

Man, I really like words.

Chiasmus – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia