Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

July Links

Posted by Neal on July 14, 2009

The website Google has given us the verb Google. Now, Microsoft has rolled out its competing search engine, Bing, and apparently its creators are happily anticipating the verbing of this proper noun. But have they considered the morphological ramifications? The Name Inspector explains. Hat tip to Lexiophiles’ list of candidates for the Top 100 Language Blogs of 2009. Speaking of which…

This blog has been nominated for the Top 100 Language Blogs of 2009, so thank you to whichever of you nominated it. The voting is going on even now, until July 27, and the button near the top right of the header will take you there. The voting is a bit more rigorous than you’d expect from a deal like this: They only let you vote once, and only for one blog, as I discovered. I visited the list of nominations, selected a half-dozen of my favorite language blogs, and clicked Vote. Then I visited a few more language blogs I liked, and went back to cast some votes for them, too. Only then did I notice only one button would stay marked at a time, and I wasn’t allowed to cast a vote for that entry because I’d already voted. So who knows which blog my successful vote went to? Whichever one it was, it was worthy, so I’m not too distressed. But the moral is: If you’re going to vote for this blog, do it first! (Or find yourself a fresh IP address.)

OK, so back to the links. A couple of posts ago, I wrote about fail and win as mass nouns. Now, Karl Hagen of Polysyllabic reports on newer developments: fail as an adjective. Also, in an email to the American Dialect Society mailing list, Kari Castor says, “Win is commonly used the same way, especially among us wacky internet geeks and gamers.”

Hey, want to learn how to produce a sound that’s not in English, but which isn’t too hard to learn? Read John Wells’s instructions on how to make a voiceless lateral fricative, the sound represented by the double L in Welsh, in words like Lloyd. I never knew how to make this sound, but thanks to his instructions, I think I do now. I hope he does a walk-through like this for Mandarin Chinese /r/.

For non-linguists, the word Aryan probably has strong associations with Nazis and neo-Nazis. Actually, it does for linguists, too. But linguists are accustomed to seeing Aryan in the term Indo-Aryan, an out-of-date term for the Indo-European languages, or for the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family. So how did it get its racially charged meaning? Goofy at Bradshaw of the Future explains it, along with the connection to Iran. This post is one of a series of posts there, each of which takes a pair of phonetically and semantically very different words, and traces each of them back to their common Proto-Indo-European root. Another in this series that I particularly liked is on opulent and manure.

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