Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

October Links

Posted by Neal on October 20, 2009

A couple of posts on baby names. First, here are David Crystal’s thoughts on on when and why books about babies (and, I might add, advertising copy and articles in some magazines) refer to your baby as Baby, as if it were a proper name.

The other post on baby names is actually three posts, but it’s well worth reading them all. Laura Wattenberg of The Baby Name Wizard starts with a tiresome email I’ve received a few times, about a child supposedly named Le-a. It’s pronounced Ledasha, because “the dash don’t be silent.” From there she gives a really enlightening and well-researched argument on how this and other urban-legend names (you know them: Orangello and Lemonjelo, Eczema, etc.) are a covert, or sometimes not so covert, way of talking about race.

Hat tip to Ben Zimmer for the Wattenberg pieces. Ben himself authored this next article: A Word Routes post on the expanding set of un-verbs. Follow link there to the related article he wrote while subbing for William Safire. Below that article is a note saying that Safire would be away “for a few weeks.” Little did I know…


4 Responses to “October Links”

  1. GPHemsley said

    Yeah, as I noted on Twitter, he was “on vacation” for a while, came back with one column (I think), and then went “on hiatus”.

  2. Aha, I knew it! In high school my shop teacher told me he’d had a student named Nosmo King. He delivered this information to me the same way all urban legends come. Either the story is about a friend of a friend, or you can tell by the intonation that the person is changing the subject from someone he doesn’t know to someone he has met in order to make it more credible. He didn’t come out and name the race of the family who had supposedly named their child this, but again, I could hear the suggestion in the undertone.

  3. Ingeborg S. Nordén said

    A cute example of an ad-hoc verb with un- in a real conversation: I has just met a close friend and given him a big hug; several minutes later, the friend asked me to “unhug” him so he could reach something he’d placed on the floor. (OTOH, the “I feel so…unhugged!” that I overheard on a kid’s TV show definitely meant “I feel deprived of hugs”, not “I feel as if someone who hugged me has just let go”.)

  4. Another recent article about baby names that I found somewhat interesting was the following, which describes a study into how the popularity of baby names changes over time.

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