Thursday, March 22, 2007


A look at some posts today in my other blogging job shows the perils of relying on anonymous sources. broke the news that John Edwards was going to announce that his campaign was on hold because his wife's cancer was back.

Headline: Edwards to suspend campaign.

Then Edwards had his news conference, confirmed the cancer news, and said the campaign wouldn't be affected.

Politico's new headline: Edwards to continue campaign.

At least the hed writers have a sense of humor.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I know you'll know some examples

NPR's "On the Media" will be covering the McJob news next week.
n his 1991 novel Generation X, Douglas Coupland coined the term "McJob," to denote – as the OED now defines it – "an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects." Now McDonald's is waging a battle to get dictionaries to redefine the term. Of course, McDonald's isn't the only trademarked name to be co-opted in an unflattering way. There's Spam. And Muzak. We'll talk about the phenomenon on the show this weekend, but we'd like your help. Can you think of other examples?
Share them in the comments here and with "On the Media."

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McDonald's has actually launched a lobbying effort to get the dictionary definition of "McJob" changed.
We believe that it is out of date, out of touch with reality and most importantly it is insulting to those talented, committed, hard-working people who serve the public every day," wrote David Fairhurst, chief people office in northern Europe, in a letter seeking support for change uncovered by the Financial Times.

"It's time the dictionary definition of 'McJob' changed to reflect a job that is stimulating, rewarding and offers genuine opportunities for career progression and skills that last a lifetime."
Not exactly how dictionaries work, but I guess execs don't have the benefit of witty Erin McKean presentations to point that out to them.

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Monday, March 19, 2007


Via comes this great example of verbing:
The verbing of English nouns continues unabated. A music producer being sentenced for attempted theft tells the court that he's got six children "on the way". The judge thinks he's marrying a women with 6 children but the producer replies, "No, I be concubining".
Read the original, in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

More on verbing from A Capital Idea:
Hoping to podium, despite feeling all Olympic-y
More verbing (or bringing words back from the dead)

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Font on film

The movie "Helvetica" had its world premiere at SXSW this week. The font celebrates its 50th birthday this year, and the feature-length film looks at its specifics and "typography, graphic design and global visual culture" in general.

Is it coming to a city near you soon? Probably. Here are the screening dates.

And you can win a limited-edition fine art poster from the film (very cool) in this haiku contest. Just write about a font. Here are a few of my favorites so far:
In my design class
I got hit for using you
Retro IS cool, though

COMIC SANS: a haiku
Hey guys! LOL!
I forward jokes! And cat pics!
I heart MSN.

not arial, my
helvetica brings the
boys to the yard

Egg-shaped and awkward,
and you have no descenders.
I hate you, Hobo.

wedding invite came
they chose brush script mt bold
i give it six months
The "Helvetica" showing at SXSW sold out, of course. And the screening in Dallas next week is booked, too. To get my typographical cinema fix, I'll be forced to see "Zapf Dingbats: Rise to Glory" instead.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Longest entry in the OED?

Languagehat points out that it recently changed from set to make. From the OED's revisions page:
For many years the verb to set has been cited as the longest entry in the OED. But a recheck shows that it has at last been toppled from this position. The longest entry in the revised matter is represented by the verb to make (published in June 2000). However, it is quite possible that set will regain its long-held position at the top of the league of long words when it comes itself to be revised.

In ranking order, the longest entries currently in the online Third Edition of the OED are: make (verb - revised), set (verb), run (verb), take (verb), go (verb), pre- (revised), non- (revised), over- (revised), stand (verb), red, and then point (the noun - revised).


Monday, March 12, 2007

Euphemisms galore

Slate has a monthly contest about euphemisms with Barbara Wallraff (who, by the way, is living in Florence, Italy) as curator. She takes reader submissions and shares the best ones in a podcast. This month's contest was for new ways to say "incompetence in the workplace," such as chairwarmer, rock with arms and smooth-brained.

The next contest is for euphemisms for "beautiful," "hot," "very attractive," etc. Should be fun. Send entries here. Wallraff has cataloged past winners here.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Daylight-saving time

It may look awkward, but AP style calls for "daylight-saving time" instead of "Daylight Savings Time" or whatever other concoction reporters are tempted to use.

Here's the entry:

daylight-saving time Not savings. Note the hyphen.
When linking the term with the name of a time zone, use only the word daylight: Eastern Daylight Time, Pacific Daylight Time, etc.

Lowercase daylight-saving time in all uses and daylight time whenever it stands alone.

A federal law specifies that, starting in 2007, daylight time applies from 2 a.m. on the second Sunday of March until 2 a.m. on the first Sunday of November in areas that do not specifically exempt themselves.


Friday, March 02, 2007

HPV, and why does inoculate only have one N?

More states than not are dealing with some flare-up or another over the HPV vaccine. Here in Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry's executive order made the state the first to mandate the shots, the issue still makes daily news. And there's been plenty of potential for error:

First, inoculate is spelled with one N, one C; it's not innoculate. Why doesn't it have two N's like innovate or innocuous? They get their second N's from a different part of the root. Inoculate is in+oculus for inoculare. The other two words add the second N from their root: Innovate is in+novus for innovare. Innocuous is in+nocuus for innocuus. Hence the two N's.

Some other tips:
The vaccine is Gardasil, not Gardasill.
The pharmaceutical company that makes it is Merck, not Merk.
HPV stands for human papillomavirus (two words), not human papilloma virus (three words.)