Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Don't Patronize Your Patrons

The other day, my husband and I were having a debate as to whether or not "patronize" could be used in a positive context. I argued that it could, but he believed it could only be used in phrases such as "don't patronize me."

 So, after much deliberation, the verdict is in. "Patronize" swings both ways. It can mean talking down to someone, or treating them in a haughty manner. But it can ALSO mean being a patron of something, supporting it with funds or regularly frequenting a place. For example, visitors to the library can be referred to as "patrons" and they often "patronize" the library.

Why one word can mean two drastically different things is beyond me. But, in this debate at least, I WIN!

Monday, June 14, 2010

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Is it even a question? Everyone likes to "tweet" on Twitter, but the New York Times refuses to "tweet." Or at least, they refuse to use the word. I will admit, the word "tweet" is cute but I'm not really sure of its usage. I don't understand why it is "tweeting" and not "twittering" for example. But maybe it is just a linguistic preference of sorts, like "spat" as a past-tense version of "spit." (Instead of "spitted").

But the Times likes to be archaic and old fashioned in its language usage. The editors consider "tweet" or be slang or coloquial language apparantly, not suitable for their elitist readers. Instead, they use heavy, loaded down phrases, such as "posted on Twitter" or "wrote a message."

If we must be more verbose, what is the point? More concise language, using good word choices, makes reading easier for all of us. We don't need all that wordy jargon and extra syllables. Come on now, we don't even take the time to cook at home anymore, much less actually read the newspaper.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

F*ck the heck?

Arnold Zwicky's commentary on obcenicons - the symbols used to represent swear words - is definetly worth reading. He discusses why certain symbols appear to be unsuitable to replace words (i.e. the period (.) or the comma (,) or even parentesis). These punctuation marks just don't seem to express the emotion required. Exclamation points and question marks definitely do the trick !?!?!

1337 - or LEET - refers to "elite" meaning that those who use the language are superior than those who do not. This way of typing - specifically used by computer geeks - uses symbols to represent letters and thus create an interesting way to communicate, ( similar to emoticons, but much more sophisticated.)

Also on the gauntlet of symbol-created art is ASCII art, which creates entire pictures with an array of symbols. Check it out sometime - c'est tres cool!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Spoken in sotto voce

In a short story I was reading recently, one of the characters spoke sotto voce. This was not a term I was familiar with, so I decided to do some digging.

Sotto voce is an Italian phrase that has been adopted, in its original form, into English conversation. Literally meaning "under the voice," the phrase is used to describe a conversation or utterance that is dramatically quiet, and usually private. In musical direction, it can mean a section of a composition played in hushed tones.
The phrase originated in 1737, but is still used (although rarely) in modern times. A specialty food shop in Seattle, WA takes the phrase as it's namesake. Sotto Voce sells a variety of infused olive oils The name is a poetic way of saying, the added flavor is there, but you can just barely taste it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Leftovers, anyone?

If someone looks very ill, as in almost dead, you might call them "death warmed over." Apparently, the British call it "death warmed up."

A clever play on this phrase comes in the title of a book on funeral practices, entitled "Death Warmed Over: Funeral Food, Rituals, and Customs from Around the World" by Lisa Rogak.

I didn't find much in way of the origins of this phrase. Suppose it's one of those common sense things. But why would you warm death up, like leftovers?

Which reminds me of "momento mori," the Latin phrase meaning remember death. For it is only in facing our own mortality that we learn to appreciate life. Brief as it is.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The search for a genderless pronoun

I don't think I have written about this yet, but is definitely something that has irked me for quite a long time. The expectation that we use "he or she" when writing formal papers is not only cumbersome, but just plain exhausting. People don't talk that way, why should we write that way?

Some of my LGBT friends in college regularly used the term "ze" to represent "he or she," but what about his and hers, him and her? You can't just slap a "z" at the beginning of those words to make them gender neutral. Why can't we just use "it"? Because its "dehumanizing"?

Apparently, this debate has even reached the realms of Twitter. Like Internet junkies really care about grammar and proper usage.

But...surprise surprise! A New York Times article reveals that "they" (even used as a singular) once stood in for the gender neutral pronoun. That was before a WOMAN school teacher in the 1700's decided that "he" was more suitable because it was universally seen as singular.

I suppose it goes along with the whole "mankind" and "history" tradition. It does sound a little ridiculous even now that feminists talk about "womankind" and "herstory." Just give it a break, will you?

So the battle continues.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bust up the Block

If I had to guess where the term “blockbuster” came from, I would say it was the lines of people, stretching out for blocks, waiting to get the next hot movie or book. Picture fans camping outside of a store so they can be the first to get the newest edition of whatever.

However, the real origin of “blockbuster” is much more violent than a horde of parents fighting over the last Cabbage Patch doll or Tickle Me Elmo. In World War II, bombs that could level an entire city block were known as “blockbusters.”

Now anything that makes a “considerable impact” is considered a “blockbuster.”

Source: Webb Garrison’s Why You Say It