Tag Archives: Etymology

Omit Needless Fossil Poetry

Chasing down a famous quotation today, I came across a volume in the College of Dentistry Library of the University of California, San Francisco, generously made available by Google Books. The publication is the 1896 yearly digest of Items of Interest, by The Dental Independent, which describes itself as “a monthly record of dental literature”. […]

“Graduate” or “be graduated”? Graduation on the active/passive divide

On the radio tonight I heard a person use passive “graduate” in a sentence: She was graduated a year early, because she was a top student I’m aware of this usage, and vaguely aware that it can be cited as “correct” usage by mavens. But while I’ve heard the transitive active form (e.g. “the school […]

Advance Access: Method as Tautology in the Digital Humanities

My article, “Method as tautology in the digital humanities” has gone up on Literary and Linguistic Computing‘s advance online publication area. If you have an institutional affiliation that lets you access Oxford Journals, it can be found here: http://llc.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/11/30/llc.fqt068.abstract [It appears Oxford are now offering the article free: download PDF here] In the article I […]

“Fail, n.” #NOTWOTY

The social media are in the midst of a brief kerfuffle over “selfie”, Oxford Dictionaries’ “Word of the Year”, hashtag #WOTY. And “hashtag”, of course, was last year’s #WOTY, as chosen by the competing #WOTY-maker, the American Dialect Society. ADS chose “tweet” in 2009, and “app” in 2010, both of which seem to have more […]

O hell-kite! All? – Antedating verse coinages

In case you thought any of the top eleven most common words invented in verse were actually invented in verse, it’s worth following up with an illustration of the inherent contingency in any lexicographical record. As everyone knows, the OED is in the midst of its first complete revision. My list of poetic neologisms was […]

Top Eleven Most Common Words Invented in Verse

Poetry and lexicography, buzzfeed style. Having recently ranked the neologisms of prolific poetic word-coiners, I decided to look at all verse-coined words in OED [*caveat], and rank them according to their frequency in British National Corpus. Only words first attested after 1500 are included, on the basis that a large proportion of the lexicographical record […]

Of Wingnuts and Moonbats

It appears that the radical fringe in American politics has self-differentiated into wingnuts and moonbats. That is, these are the epithets being used to describe them, usually by them, along ideological lines. In case you don’t know, wingnuts are conservative and moobats are liberal, but each is crazy, if the other is to be believed. […]

Forthcoming: ‘Method as Tautology in the Digital Humanities’

I’ve just recently sent Oxford Journals the typescript for an article due out in Literary and Linguistic Computing, called ‘Method as Tautology in the Digital Humanities’, in which I develop a concept of method in computer assisted literary criticism, using some my recent work with the OED. The article is both a case study describing […]

Boehner’s Eking Along

Did John Boehner have John Clare’s 1829 ode on “Autumn” on the mind this afternoon when he said: At a time when the economy is barely eking along, wages aren’t increasing, new jobs aren’t available, and what are we doing? [source] The normal idiom in English is eking out, usually with “… a living” or […]

Inter (and Intra-) necine?

You probably have used, or heard used, the word internecine. But what could the word intranecine mean? Either you have an intuition regarding this or you don’t (even if you’ve never encountered the word). If you do have an intuition about intranecine, take a minute to examine it–what basis can you come up with for […]

“Chicken scratch”, coined by Shakespeare in 1909?

In “Emily Dickinson was a Dinosaur” I conjectured that T. W. Higginson might have been riffing on the idiom chicken-scratch when he described Emily Dickinson’s handwriting as resembling the “famous fossil bird-tracks” of Amherst. Now I’m not so sure. Higginson published his essay in 1891. But chicken scratch  and variants aren’t in OED2 or OED3, nor  […]

Ambivalent Toponyms

Today Facebook suggested I play a game called Cityville, where you can “build the city of your dreams.” Presumably you have to come up with a better name for the city of your dreams than “Cityville.” “City City” would be a terrible choice [although this guy is pretty happy with his Cityville creation, which he […]

Oil has poise(s)

One for the science and metaphor files? From “The Thermodynamics of Glass“: A liquid has viscosity, a measure of its resistance to flow.  The viscosity of water at room temperature is about 0.01 poises.  A thick oil might have a viscosity of about 1.0 poise. Now, OED lets us know that “poise, n.1” is originally […]

Longest Etymologies

One of the most important improvements to the ongoing OED3 revision is occurring in the etymology sections, which are being greatly expanded. Yesterday’s Languagehat discusses two such expanded etymologies – those of ‘admiral’ and ‘to be’. The second is claimed by the current editors to be the longest etymology in OED3, coming in at 1,765 9,672* […]

Electronic OED, Poetry and Intertextuality :: DH2012 Presentation Slides

Here are the slides for my presentation today at Digital Humanities 2012 in Hamburg: PDF: Electronic OED, Poetry and Intertextuality [de-linked*] At the moment this is for reference or information only, and is presented here without the necessary context and discussion in my conference paper (to be posted at a later date). An abstract with […]

‘Poetical’ Etymologies?

This post is more about how the term ‘poetical’ tends to be used pejoratively, and how it corresponds to the term ‘etymologies’, rather than about any actually poetical etymologies, or etymological poetry, both of which I do think exist. This morning’s Language Log brings us a post called ‘Poetical Etymologies‘, which reproduces this Wondermark cartoon:

Literally Etymologically

Etymologically, ‘literal’ means ‘Of, relating to, or of the nature of a letter, or the letters, of the alphabet’. To be precise about what I mean by ‘etymologically’ here, I’m referring to the earliest English use of word as recorded in OED3 (John Trevisa, a1398). I don’t mean the prior senses of Middle French literal, […]

The OED in Poetry

Some poems mention looking etymologies up in the Oxford English Dictionary. Paul Muldoon’s “Cows” does this, near-rhyming ‘protestations of O.E.D.’ with ‘fade’ and ‘jade’ (the rhyme works best if you lexicalize the acronym and pronounce it with its preposition, like ‘of owed’). His “Hedge School” remembers ‘tracing the root of metastasis‘ in the New Shorter […]

“Obsession” on the active-passive divide?

Geoffrey Hill’s poem “Of Commerce and Society: 4” has received critical attention from almost everyone (partial list: Sherry, Knottenbelt, O’Neill, Robinson, Wainwright, Hart, Bloom, Ricks, and me). So I was surprised recently when I had (what I think is) a brand new thought about it.