Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

April Links

Posted by Neal on April 20, 2009

There’s been a fair bit of discussion on the American Dialect Society mailing list about the past tense of text. I was surprised there was even a question about it: Assuming you are OK with text as a verb in the first place, wouldn’t the past tense naturally be texted? Ben Zimmer’s Word Routes column on texted shows that it’s not that simple, and that some people who don’t complain about clearly verbal uses such as texting have a problem with texted.

Even knowing a foreign language fluently isn’t always enough to understand what its speakers are saying to you. For some good illustrations involving Mandarin Chinese, read this post from Syz on Beijing Sounds, and follow the other Beijing Sounds posts he links to.

If you’ve been reading this blog since before it spun off from Agoraphilia, you might remember a post I wrote on the metaphor of carrots and sticks. For a fresher, and more researched look at this topic, check out Jan Freeman’s column from March 8.

And lastly for this installment, I recommend Beatrice Santorini’s collection of linguistics humor.

3 Responses to “April Links”

  1. pannonica said

    Ben Zimmer’s column put me in mind of another sociotechnologically enhanced verb construct: to friend. This formation bothers me more than the relatively benign neologism texted because there’s already a perfectly viable verb in befriend. I’ll grant that English is a language chock-full of redundancies and subtle near-synonyms, but does it really need a new verb when one from the same root is extant? A potential counterargument– that befriend is too archaic-sounding– doesn’t hold water since there are many other be- verbs, from bedazzled to besotted and beyond, enjoying currency.

  2. The Ridger said

    But “to friend” doesn’t mean “to befriend”. It is a very specific thing – you probably don’t know anything at all about many, if not most, of the people you’ve friended. It doesn’t mean “to become friends with” someone, only “to add them to a list” on a social networking page.

  3. pannonica said

    Perhaps then it would be more accurate to use a more appropriate word, one that doesn’t subvert its root? Something like “link,” “connect,” or the awkward-but-charming “conglobulate”? On a side note, perhaps this is why I haven’t “friended” many on-line; I’m simply too discriminating to consider all of these entities actual friends.

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