In this free-wheeling era, when the English language is often applied with little supervision, it’s common for purists to complain about the abuse of words.
For instance, I dislike it when things are indicated instead of said. And impact gets rough treatment, as it’s transmogrified into a Franken-adjective (impactful) and is too often made to serve as a substitute for affect — probably by people who are unsure whether to use that word or effect.
And there should be a petition to remove the word literally from use, for at least a lengthy rehabilitation and perhaps a permanent retirement.
But I was surprised to learn that in 19th-century Britain, readers viewed words like lengthy and reliable as signs of the coming apocalypse. It turns out that those words, along with talented andtremendous, were imports from America.
As Matthew Engel writes at the BBC, “The poet Coleridge denounced ‘talented’ as a barbarous word in 1832, though a few years later it was being used by William Gladstone. A letter-writer to the Times, in 1857, described ‘reliable’ as vile.” [Read More]
What Started the “Two Way” discussion (Below)
By Matthew Engel I have had a lengthy career in journalism. I hope that’s because editors have found me reliable. I have worked with many talented colleagues. Sometimes I get invited to parties and meet influential people. Overall, I’ve had a tremendous time.
All of these words we use without a second thought were never part of the English language until the establishment of the United States.
The Americans imported English wholesale, forged it to meet their own needs, then exported their own words back across the Atlantic to be incorporated in the way we speak over here. Those seemingly innocuous words caused fury at the time.
The poet Coleridge denounced “talented” as a barbarous word in 1832, though a few years later it was being used by William Gladstone. A letter-writer to the Times, in 1857, described “reliable” as vile.
As Summer Blockbuster Season Peaks, a Look Back at the Top Hollywords from 2010
8th Annual Global Survey by the Global Language Monitor
Austin, Texas. July 12, 2011. As summer blockbuster season peaks, a look back at the top words from the movies that influenced the English language from 2010.
For the first time a single word representative of a number of the year’s blockbusters, Grit, tops the list of Hollywords as named by the Global Language Monitor. Grit topped arrogance, abdicate, stammer, and madness. Dream-stealers, nerds, Borogoves, shard, and 3-D rounded out the top ten.
“For the first time a single word was representative of a number of the year’s Oscar winning films,” said Paul JJ Payack, president and chief word analyst for the Global Language Monitor, “According to Webster’s the term, grit, has the following senses that applied to these films: firmness, pluck, gritty (as in soot-covered), stubborn, indomitable spirit, courageous, and brave perseverance.”
The Top Hollywords of the 2010 season with the largest impact on the English language with commentary follow.
1. The word grit has been defined in a number of ways by Webster that reflects many of the virtues of this year’s nominees.
Grit is, of course, from the title of Best Picture nominee True Grit, as exemplified by the character’s played by Jeff Bridges (firmness) and Hailee Steinfeld (pluck).
The action of The Fighter took place against the backdrop of one of the nation’s fabled gritty cities: Lowell, Massachusetts into which Mark Wahlberg, Melissa Leo and Christian Bale expertly blended.
127 Hours portrayed the stubborn courage of a man driven to desperate acts to ensure his survival.
The accidental and courageous king and his indomitable tutor as portrayed by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech.
Woody’s brave perseverance to keep his fellow toys together in Toy Story 3.
2. Arrogance – Deftly depicted in both The Social Network and Inside Job.
3. Abdicate – Another generation learns of cowardice in high places, again; this time it’s found in the British Royal Family as depicted in The King’s Speech.
4. Stammer and/or Stutter – If you paid close attention you might actually notice the difference between a stammer and a stutter in Colin Firth’s dialogue.
5. Madness – We are told there is no such thing as ‘madness’ in the 21st century, but whatever we may call it, in the Black Swan Natalie Portman’s creates a dramatic portrait of the descent into it.
6. Dream-Stealers – (and dream shapers and sowers). Evidently, new career options for the 21st century endless-recession economy introduced to us by Leonardo DiCaprio and his film Inception. The timid need not apply.
7. Nerd – Once more, we are fascinated by the rise of the nerd in The Social Network … though most nerds never overcome their nerdness, and only the most rare of exceptions is able to cash in on it.
8. Borogoves – Alice in Wonderland sheds a bit of light on the ‘borogoves’. As you know, they were all ‘mimsy’ in Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s nonsense poem, Jabberwocky.
9. Shard – Though widely confused with the word ‘shred’ as in a ‘shred of truth’, Harry Potter finds a mirror shard, in which he catches a glimpse of a blue eye and keeps it for later use. From Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.
10. 3D CGI – (Three-dimensional, Computer-generated imagery) Five of the top ten grossing films of 2010 were CGI-based 3D, accumulating some $1.3B domestically: Toy Story 3, Despicable Me, Shrek Forever After, How to Train Your Dragon, and Tangled. Whether this is a transformative trend or a passing fad has yet to be determined.
The Global Language Monitor uses a proprietary algorithm, the Predictive Quantities Indicator (PQI) to track the frequency of words and phrases in the global print and electronic media, on the Internet, throughout the Blogosphere, as well as accessing proprietary databases. The PQI is a weighted Index, factoring in: long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum, and velocity.
Previous Top HollyWord Winners include:
2009 ‘Pandora’ from Avatar
2008 ‘Jai Ho!’ Literally ‘Let there be Victory’ in Hindi from Slumdog Millionaire
2007 “Call it, Friendo,” from No Country for Old Men
2006 ‘High Five!!! Its sexy time!’ from Borat!
2005 ‘Brokeback’ from Brokeback Mountain
2004 “Pinot” from Sideways
2003 ‘Wardrobe malfunction’ from Super Bowl XXXVIII
NY Times attributes ‘How’s that Working Out for You? to Sarah Palin?
According to Tom Kuntz in the New York Times’ Week in Review (June 18, 2011):
Refudiate this: Sarah Palin’s undeniable impact on the English language. Exhibit A, of course, is the idiom she lent wildfire currency to only last year, by asking at a Tea Party convention on Feb. 6, “How’s that hopey-changey stuff working out for ya?” Witness the meme’s broad cultural reach ever since and — perhaps unfortunate in some cases — its seemingly limitless versatility.
“How’s that working out for ya?” — Herman Cain in the first Republican presidential debate on May 5, belittling rule by Washington politicians.
“Someone really should borrow Sarah Palin’s question and ask [Prime Minister] David Cameron: ‘How’s that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?’ ” — The Observer, London, March 27
“Hey, seniors, how’s that no-tax thing been working out for ya?” — Letter to the editor, The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 10 …
[and it goes on to cite another half dozen instances]
The Global Language Monitor has traced back the meme at least to the 1999 film Fight Club; the phrase, no doubt, can be traced much earlier.
GLM Comment : We think not. But perhaps an unexpected ability to fashion an English Sentence.
One week ago today, the MoJo DC bureau was consumed by the arrival of Sarah Palin’s emails covering the first half of her half-term as Alaska’s governor. As David Corn detailed, there were plenty of interesting discoveries—a less than chilly attitude toward climate change, for instance, and a sometimes obsessive attitude toward media critics (marginal and otherwise).
While we were poring over the documents, though, Michael McLaughlin of AOL’s Weird News was taking a different approach:
AOL Weird News brought samples to two writing analysts who independently evaluated 24,000 pages of the former governor’s emails. They came back in agreement that Palin composed her messages at an [8.5] level, an excellent score for a chief executive, they said…
“She’s very concise. She gives clear orders. Her sentences and punctuations are logical,” Payack said. “She has much more of a disciplined mind than she’s given credit for.”
Although it’s like comparing apples to oranges, Payack said that famous speeches like Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was a 9.1 and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” oration rated a 8.8 on the scale.
Having read several thousand pages of the Palin emails, I think apples and oranges might be a bit of an understatement here. But there’s also a bit of truth there: Palin’s written communications are noticeably more coherent than her efforts to explain herself verbally (witness: Paul Revere-gate).
Palin’s Emails: What Her Remarkably Lucid Prose Says About the Art of Teaching Writi
June 16, 2011 | 12:00 am
Sarah Palin’s emails are telling us something about remedial writing classes at our universities and colleges, and it’s not what you think. Call her defensive or parochial based on the cache of her spontaneous writings while serving as governor of Alaska, but
something easy to miss is that Palin, in contrast to her meandering, involuted speaking style, is a thoroughly competent writer—more so than a great many people most of us likely know, including college graduates.
Indeed, her facility in writing proves something one might be pardoned for supposing she was exaggerating about in Going Rogue, her autobiography, in which she limns a childhood portrait of herself as a bibliophilic sort of tot:
Reading was a special bond between my mother and me. Mom read aloud to me – poetry by Ogden Nash and the Alaska poet Robert Service, along with snippets of prose …. My siblings were better athletes, cuter and more sociable than I, and the only thing they had to envy about me was the special passion for reading that I shared with our mother.
That’s right, Sarah “you betcha” Palin was, of all things, a bookworm, excited to learn to spell “different” and winning a poetry contest for a poem about Betsy Ross. And as such, it is predictable that her emails would evidence such casually solid command of the language—even if her oral rendition of it is a different matter entirely.
Once we understand that, it leads to some serious questions, as posed by books getting buzz at present such as Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s Academically Adrift and In the Basement of the Ivory Tower by the anonymous “Professor X.” How sensible is our assigning millions of freshmen each year to classes intended to teach them a skill so deeply rooted in unconscious facilitation at an early age?
To get a sense, it helps to see a few of these emails. Because email is written speech, it’s easy to miss artfulness in them. Yet, take this Palin passage: “Even CP has admitted locking up tax rates as Glenn suggests is unacceptable to the legislature, the Alaskan public, this administration, and the Constitution.”
The spelling is flawless—and unlikely to be completely a product of spell-check, which misses errors and often creates others. More to the point, she has an embedded clause (“locking up tax rates”) nested into a main one, with another clause “as Glenn suggests” nested within the embedded one. That’s good old-fashioned grammar school “syntax.” I have known plenty of people with B.A.s who could barely pull it off properly at gunpoint, and several others who would only bother to at gunpoint.
Equally graceful despite its mundane content: “Cowdery telling a kid what’s acceptable and what isn’t inside these four walls??? Puleeeze. A three-pound puppy vs. all the CBC crap that he helped dump around here?” You hear an actual human voice here. We tell some people “I can hear your voice in the way you write”—because it’s unusual for people to be able to “write” themselves. Palin is one of the people who can. [Read More.]
Sarah Palin’s Emails Written At 8th Grade Level — Better Than Some CEOs
The huge cache of Sarah Palin’s emails released Friday offered not only a chance to see what she was writing about during her uncompleted term as Alaska’s governor, but also an opportunity to see how well she writes.
AOL Weird News brought samples to two writing analysts who independently evaluated 24,000 pages of the former governor’s emails. They came back in agreement that Palin composed her messages at an eighth-grade level, an excellent score for a chief executive, they said.
“However, the emails say something else. Ms. Palin writes emails on her Blackberry at a grade level of 8.5.
“If she were a student and showing me her work, I’d say ‘It’s fine, clear writing,’” he said, admitting that emails he wrote scored lower than Palin’s on the widely used Flesch-Kincaid readability test.
“She came in as a solid communicator,” said Paul J.J. Payack, president of the Global Language Monitor. The emails registered as an 8.2 on his version of the test. “That’s typical for a corporate executive.”
An example of Palin’s strongest writing came on Jul. 17, 2007 in an email to Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell about the controversial Gravina Island Bridge, infamously called the “Bridge to Nowhere.”
“We cant afford it, the Feds won’t pay for it, the general populace isn’t placing it as a high priority … can you diplomatically express that?! Of course we want infrastructure — and this is NOT a “bridge to nowhere” (that is so offensive), but as it stands today with the highest-cost bridge design selected by the Ketchikan community, we need to find a lower-cost alternative [if] a bridge will be built.”
“She’s very concise. She gives clear orders. Her sentences and punctuations are logical,” Payack said. “She has much more of a disciplined mind than she’s given credit for.” [Read More.]
Is “aarrghh” a word? Not if you are playing Scrabble with me. If it is not in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary: put your tiles back and think again. “Aargh” is acceptable (an expression of anguish, horror, rage, or other strong emotion, according to the OED), but not “aarrghh”. My board, my rules.
Others disagree. “Aarrghh” appears in the Collins Official Scrabble Words. Collins’ latest edition also includes “thang”, “innit” and “nang”. Commentators greeted the Scrabble book by bemoaning the decline of the language and berating publishers who pandered to the young.
The new Collins book appeared on the same day that the CBI, the UK employers’ organisation, published a survey showing that 42 per cent of companies were dissatisfied with school leavers’ English skills. Are the two events connected?
We at the Global Language Monitor have noted that for at least two hundred years folks as diverse as Benjamin Franklin (eliminating and adding new letters), Noah Webster and George Bernard Shaw (simplifying spelling), and George Orwell (simplifying grammar) have long argued. Ghoti and chips anyone?
Now that this is actually happening in the early 21st century, it is most interesting to note that these changes are being driven by the youthful users of the language, as has been the case since the earliest days of the language.
Consider: Sumer is icumen in! / Lhude sing cuccu!
Which ancient forbear playing an early version of Scrabble(tm), had the audacity to recognize ‘cuckoo’ for ‘cuccu’ or for that matter accept ‘loud’ for ‘lhude’?
One note of caution: these same folks have decided that is perfectly fine to intermix letters with words, so you now can find ‘gr8′ substituting for ‘great’.
Is this something the up with which you will simply not put?
Royal Wedding breaks in at No. 5; Obama top mover (+4)
AUSTIN, Texas May 6, 2011 – The Top News Stories of the 21st century have been shuffled by the historic events of the still young 2011, according to the Austin-based Global Language Monitor. The death of Osama bin-Laden, the Royal Wedding, between Prince William and the former Kate Middleton, the unprecedented series of Japanese disasters, and the series of uprisings now known as the the Arab Spring have all broken into the Top Ten.
The on-going rise of China to first-tier nation status continues as No. 1. The election of Barack Obama to the US presidency moved up to the second spot, followed by the death of bin-Laden, and the springing of the Wikileaks followed. The Royal Wedding pushed ahead of the death of Michael Jackson and also replaced Jackson as top celebrity-driven event of the century thus far. The 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Japanese Disasters, the Arab Spring and the Global Economic Restructuring rounded out the Top Ten.
The acceleration of the news cycle has been a long-observed fact, however the acceleration of the news itself can also be viewed as unprecedented,” said Paul JJ Payack, President and the Chief Word Analyst of Austin-based Global Language Monitor.“
The full list of the Top 20 News Stories of the 21st century thus far follows. The includes the story and its rank, the year the story first broke, its ranking in 1999 and its movement (if any).
Rank of Story, Year the Story Began, Last Ranking in 2009 and Movement
1. Rise of China 2000 1 (Same)
2. Election of Barack Obama 2008 6 (+4)
3. Bin-laden Killed 2011 New —
4. Wikileaks Published 2010 New —
5. Royal Wedding British 2011 New —
6. Death of Michael Jackson 2009 5 (-1)
7. 9/11 Terrorist Attacks 2001 3 (-4)
8. Japanese Disasters 2011 2011 New —
9. Arab Spring 2011 New —
10. Global Economic Restructuring 2008 7 (-3)
11. War on Terror 2001 4 (-7)
12. Iraq War 2003 2 (-10)
13. Hurricane Katrina 2005 8 (-5)
14. Social Media as Strategic Weapon 2011 New —
15. South Asian Tsunami 2004 12 (-3)
16. Osama bin-Laden Search 2001 15 (-1)
17. iPad Launch 2010 New —
18. Death of Pope John Paul II 2005 14 (-4)
19. War against Taliban 2002 13 (-6)
20. War in Afghanistan 2002 9 (-11)
GLM employed it NarrativeTracker Technology in analyzing the data. NarrativeTracker first focused on the number of citations found the Internet, blogosphere, and social media sites. The second focused on the top 75,000 print and electronic media sites. Finally, the two analyses were normalized.