Monday, November 5, 2012



I get what this guy is saying, right, about phrases like "snowpocalypse" and "Frankenstorm":

But I haven’t mentioned yet the nails-on-a-blackboard abomination that has permeated popular culture and, I fear, could find its way into permanent usage. Tell, me, honestly, why do we need the word “ginormous”? With “gigantic” we “are exceeding the usual or expected,” and with “enormous” we are “marked by extraordinarily great size, number, or degree.” I have yet to hear anything referred to as “ginormous” that could not have been fully described with one of these two words. This word inflation is a gigantic cultural problem, and its implications are enormous.

But allllll I can hear is Syme:

"After all, what justification is there for a word which is simply the opposite of some other word? A word contains its opposite in itself. Take 'good,' for instance. If you have a word like 'good,' what need is there for a word like 'bad'? 'Ungood' will do just as well—better, because it's an exact opposite, which the other is not. Or again, if you want a stronger version of 'good,' what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like 'excellent' and 'splendid' and all the rest of them? 'Plusgood' covers the meaning, or 'doubleplusgood' if you want something stronger still."

Which one could really muster in support of either the super-sizing or the arguments against it, yet again suggesting that Orwell has already written all the things we need about language and these articles and this one about it are already redundant IN THIS VERY INSTANT. To coin a new phrase, I have engaged in "Winstoning," or "Winston's law," punishable by a rat-cage to be constructed about one's head.

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Can I hate both of these positions?




What an amazing article@t


A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not ungreen field.

fuck fuck fuck

i would not really describe this as a "cultural problem." more like a thing that annoys that guy.

Daisy Razor

@fuck fuck fuck Yeah, he massively (or maybe ginormously HA HA) inflated the importance of a pet peeve.


I try to take sort of a 30,000-foot-view approach to the linguistic prescriptivism vs. linguistic descriptivism debate by appreciating the fact that linguistic conservatives slow the tides of change while descriptivists ensure that change can, in fact, occur. It all strikes a decent balance. And it's the only view of the debate that keeps me sane.


@Emby 30,000 feet is also a very convenient altitude from which to drop bombs on things. Just sayin'.

Lisa Frank

We can all agree that "thundersnow" is amazeballs, though, right?


@Lisa Frank Can we also agree that "amazeballs" is amazeballs??


@redheaded&crazie (she said, then scrolled down to find multiple other comments blasting it but hey what else is new)

maybe partying will help

"Hurrizard" makes me think of a Pokemon with weather powers and is therefore amazing.

maybe partying will help

also it doesn't help that I'm about to get to the ants in The Book of Merlyn. A very DONE chapter to be sure.


It's odd...I'm very much a descriptivist (when it commons to grammar & words, not at all on naming theory) and I'm generally all "ugh, leave people alone stupid grammar jerks, words change, the whole point of language is intelligibility, if it gets your point across, who cares if words change."

But...I dunno. As much as I'm here on one thread in love with the slang of my youth, I just...I can't stand the new slang I hear.

I am aware that this makes me "an old." But I'm 30. It's okay for me to not like new slang, right? Like, I here my friends say "crazypants" and "amazeballs" and "douchenozzle" and I just...ugh, it makes me cringe. I don't really care what people in their teens and twenties say - who am I too judge the young'uns? - but I just can't, and never will, bring myself to say these new words.

tl;dr - "GET OFF MY LAWN, I'm keeping your frisbee."


@leon s It's like they say, "If you're not a descriptivist when you're young, you have no heart. If you're not prescriptivist when you're older, you have no amazeballs."

Miss Maszkerádi

@leon s The problem I have with stuff like "amazeballs" is the way the new slang builds so much hyperbole into itself that one can't possibly use it in any other way than sarcastically, ironically or with a sort of bored world-weary apathy. I know i'm being all "O Tempora, o Mores!" today but my generation's driving me nuts, the way they'd rather be caught dead than expressing any actual emotion or opinion.

Daisy Razor

@leon s I have a framed newspaper from 1880 on my living room wall. It has a front page editorial decrying the vulgarity and imprecision of the new slang. plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose


@Daisy Razor - Haha totally. I mean, I'm not against new slang or anything. It's fine.

I'm just against myself and people my age using it, I think. Maybe it's because I am no longer hip & fun I don't feel that other people my age should stay young, but I also just feel like, you know, if my mom had been all "What up dun" at the dinner table, I would have cringed, and now that I have more hair on the sides of my face than the top of my head, I should probably leave the new words to the newer people.


@Countess Maritza I just hate the way that word sounds.

Miss Maszkerádi

I wouldn't be annoyed by all this word-remixing if it wasn't so widespread. Like, if people (teh Media) usually restrained themselves to ordinary English and once in a while coined an amusing word like "Frankenstorm", used it a few times and then let it go, the new coinages might even seem mildly witty. But when it's this constant deluge of tortured puns and tacky neologisms - especially the collective nouns for celebrity couples, Brangelina etc - it just starts to feel like the entire world is turning into someone's dorky uncle who makes everyone cringe all Thanksgiving long, or an overly-perky elementary school teacher talking way, way, way down to her students.

Also, get off my lawn and stop corrupting society, apparently.


@Countess Maritza
I find it annoying too, though I am amused when it goes wrong. Like the fans of the Hunger Games who want Peeter and Katniss to get together find themselves shipping Pee-niss.


But different, because ginormous is a good old British English word, that a bunch of people seem to have heard for the first time recently, and think is cutting edge.

fondue with cheddar

@noReally I'm American and I can attest that this word is not new here, either.


So according to Orwell agglomerative languages are inherently totalitarian? Hm.


@stuffisthings I'll say this for Orwell, though: He had the guts to call out Salvador Dali for being a fascist-sympathizing slug. "One ought to be able to hold in one's head simultaneously the two facts that Dalí is a good draughtsman and a disgusting human being." Amen.


@Emby No I love Orwell and I think the newspeak was meant to be a satire of top-down language reform/bureaucratic language in general, not a particular way of going about said reforms. Also it's hard to imagine the author of "Politics and the English Language" being a fan of "amazeballs" or "Frankenstorm."


@stuffisthings Also, if you're writing novels about language while watching the Nazis rise to power...it's hard NOT to make the connection between agglomerative language and totalitarianism.

(Not to sell Orwell short; am realizing belatedly that sounded totally snotty)


Speaking of that essay, this excerpt is great: "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them."

Nice to know that in 2012 we just talk openly about kill lists and evildoers and nobody bats an eye. Progress!


@stuffisthings Like I could just see this photo on the front page of the NY Post with the headline "WE GOT 'EM!"


@stuffisthings It is a truly great essay.


I wouldn't mind all the words like "Frankenstorm" if it wasn't for that horrible little smirk reporters have every time they say it and are impressed anew with their own cleverness.


We are at war with Neologism. We have always been at war with Neologism.


@TheLetterL I don't know about you, but I'm at unpeace with neologism.


@Ophelia There is no unpeace. There is only war and unwar.


I recommend anyone annoyed by word mash-ups stays far away from all German speaking countries.


@garli Ten years after starting to learn German I am still aghast at 'Handy'.

maybe partying will help


I just learned about "kummerspeck" today and it just...everything became clear.


@maybe partying will help Okay, I put that into Google Translate and it said "grief bacon". This has to be losing something in translation.

Flora Poste

@Elsajeni A better translation would be something like... sad-fat. It's referring to weight put on through comfort eating.


Prescriptivists shouldn't exist.


@thiscallsforsoap Eknefet!


Language is always changing. You can't really stop it.


I can see what he means, but I think Hurricane Sandy is a bad example for this trend. There was a reason behind the nicknames this time, since there were two or three storms colliding and that contributed to the overall intensity.


Frankenstorm, snowmageddon, icepocalypse: YES.
Mansplain, manny, murse, manpris: YES GOD YES

If I thought about it for awhile I bet I could come up with a reason behind those categories. Too lazy.


@par_parenthese For "mansplain": we really don't have a handy word for that thing men* do where they explain to women what it's like to be a lady, or how to do things we demonstrably already know how to do. It doesn't fit in with manny, murse, or manpris because those are just regular words + man to show how ~different~ they are, while mansplaining is a sociological phenomenon wherein a person of privilege explains really obvious shit as if they've just made this amazing, mindblowing new discovery.

*I've also seen whitesplaining, cissplaining, and straightsplaining, but mansplaining is still the most concise and commonly used.

every tomorrow@twitter

"This word inflation is a gigantic cultural problem, and its implications are enormous."


But that's the thing, it's not hurting anything! It's totally not! It's seriously not hurting ANYTHING. It's been going on since the dawn of language and we're all still cool.

And my professional opinion is that language is fun and we should all keep playing with it.


I have a great admiration for the way languages grow and change over time and new words are invented to express different ideas.

But I must confess that I find our culture's current fascination with puns and word mash-ups a little bit silly.



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