Cause for hope

Thomas Vinciguerra has written a hopeful piece for the Columbia Journalism Review that looks at the unlikely Internet stardom of copy editors.

The piece features the always-sensible John McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun, who got more than a million views for a video outlining his practical and progressive views on the singular “they.”

Says Mark Allen, of the American Copy Editors Society:

People are getting more information than they ever have, whether it’s in ink or electronically. People want to read, and they want to read without stumbling. And that’s where the copy editor comes in. The copy editor is the bridge who keeps the writer from tripping up.

You can find most anything online, including a million reasons to believe that most folks these days think clear writing went out with the Lindy Hop. But here – on the Internet! – is proof you don’t have to leave your readers stumbling around like a bunch of drunks in a sack race.

Shitgibbon: the saga continues

My campaign to have “shitgibbon” declared the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2017 is gaining momentum with a ground-breaking revelation in the search for the term’s origin.

Ben Zimmer reports that this delightful word was coined by the British writer David Quantick.

“I’m surprised and delighted that a word I made up in the 1980s to insult British indie rock stars has resurfaced in the context of 21st century US politics and the shitgibbon in the White House,” Quantick told Zimmer. “It’s bizarre and a very odd journey for a very silly word.”

From the irksome Mark E. Smith to a strange-haired delusionist strongman is indeed an odd journey. Let’s hope the Oxford folks are listening.

(By the way, I’m following Zimmer’s practice and dropping the hyphen from “shitgibbon.” As the Canadian Press Stylebook notes, “in North America, the tendency is to drop the hyphen as soon as a new compound becomes familiar.” I say it’s time we all got familiar with this exemplary bit of invective.)

If you can’t say anything nice . . .

. . . then you can at least be inventive.

U.S. politician Daylin Leach didn’t resort to cliché when he called President Donald Trump a “fascist, loofa-faced shit-gibbon.”

It’s early yet, but I’m hoping “shit-gibbon” becomes the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2017. Turns out the word has been applied to Trump before, notably by @MetalOllie, the Hamfisted Bun Vendor.

I have to get this mug.

A word I just learned…

… reading Roy Peter Clark’s The Art of X-Ray Reading: How the Secrets of 25 Great Works of Literature Will Improve Your Writing:

ludic

On more than one level the act of writing is, to use a fancy word, ludic. It’s a game. A game of language, connection, and meaning. Have some fun, for goodness’ sake.

And may I add that any book that references the Swingin’ Medallions and T.S. Eliot on the same page (p. 5, in this case) is all right by me.

Double Shot (of My Baby’s Love): The Love Song of J. Alfred Fratrock?

A word I just learned…

… reading a review by Christian Wiman in the New York Times Book Review:

ovine

Nietzsche believed that if only a Dostoyevsky had been among the apostles who followed Jesus, someone who understood the environment in which “the scum of society, nervous maladies and ‘childish’ idiocy keep a tryst,” we might have been spared centuries of ovine idiocy.

Shaun the Sheep: Not one to follow the ovine crowd.

A word I just learned…

… from my wife, who was doing the New York Times Magazine acrostic.

Tantivy

Another wonderful archaic word. I have to agree with Michael Quinion‘s theory that this word echoes the sound of the huntsman’s horn. You can just hear Bertie Wooster’s Aunt Dahlia hollering “Tantivy!” as she rides over the fields with the Quorn.

 

A word I just learned…

… reading an article by Rachel Cooke  in The Week.  (Feb. 7, 2015, pp. 56-57. Originally published in The Observer.)

fumigerous

In a memoir of his 1930s Potteries childhood, The Vanished Landscape, historian Paul Johnson describes his father taking him to see the Sytch in Burslem, an immense stretch of ground composed of clay, black water, mud, industrial detritus and ‘fumigerous furnaces belching forth fire, ashes and smoke.’

I have a fondness for words that are obscure and euphonious, but this one takes the gateau. It’s meaning is clear from the context, but it doesn’t show up in a search of the online OED. And Google returns only a handful of hits – most of them either the Paul Johnson quotation above or this one, from the same memoir:

You went down a steep track to get into Tunstall Station, a cavernous place under a bridge, of smoke-stained dingy brick, dark and fumigerous.

Searching Google Books turns up the Johnson memoir and four other books. Before that search I was beginning to suspect Johnson had invented the word; instead, I’ll give him full credit for keeping it alive.

A word I just learned…

… reading The Beatles: All These Years, Volume 1 – Tune In by Mark Lewisohn

nesh

Chapter 7 of this remarkable book contains this marvellous description of the Liverpool slang spoken by the future fab four:

“…something good or great was ‘gear’ and stupid was ‘soft,’ and out of fashion was ‘down the nick’ and when taunting or teasing someone you’d shout ‘Chickaferdy!’; and if someone was spineless they were ‘nesh’; and you said ‘Come ’ead!’ (‘come ahead’ for ‘come on’); and ‘Eh oop!’ had many uses, from ‘hello’ to ‘let’s go,’ and ‘lad’ was ‘la’; and an interesting person was a ‘skin’ – so ‘Eh la!’ and ‘Eh oop, la!’ and ‘ ’E’s a good skin’; and where (though swearing was muted on the street because people got upset if they overheard it) ‘stupid get’ (‘stupid git’) or ‘yer daft get’ were OK … and then you said good-bye to your mates with a wacker’s ‘Tarrah well!’”

(“Wacker” being a word for working-class Liverpool males.)

A word I just learned…

… reading an AFP story:

immurement

“Locals in the village of Brugairolles in the foothills of the Pyrenees were so appalled by the immurement, they rose up to rescue the elderly couple, tearing down a wall from the front of the house and ripping open windows and doors that had been nailed shut.”

From the Latin murus, or wall, which shows up in English words like mural.