Monday, June 07, 2004

My latest Tribune language column:
On the science of spelling, on the occasion of the National Spelling Bee.
temp link/perm.preview

More about the research of Dr. Greg Simpson at his home page. Update: more on the science of word recognition.

The winning word at the National Spelling Bee this year was "autochthonous" (meaning indigenous). The best story on the winner and the wobbly-kneed runner-up was in the Scotsman. Previous winners and words here at, more on spelling bees here and on spelling in general here. Geoff Nunberg has written a couple of good commentaries (one of which appeared in The Way We Talk Now, the other in Going Nucular), unavailable online, on these odd ceremonies that celebrate the useless skill of spelling unknown words.

- I have no idea what this means:
"He is 58, fleshy and balding, with a hard blue gaze."
NY Times, 6/1/04

- "Tonight a courageous dog is recovering from [a dangerously helpful intervention]" WBBM 2 News, Chicago, last week.

Can a dog be said to have courage? Or is that a moral virtue ascribed only to humans? (And just what is the difference between courage and recklessness, anyway?)

- Yesterday's church bulletin, introducing a young member of our congregation (whose mother is not pregnant):

"He currently has two younger siblings."

- Letter to the Times of London, as reported by the Plain English Campaign

"It says on the pack of coffee I have just bought: 'Produce of Central America, Colombia and Tanzania. Packed in Belgium.' What puzzles me is why this product is called 'Italian Blend'?"

- I wrote about the naming of BlackBerry last month. The NY Times did a piece a week ago Sunday on BlackBerries as dating devices:

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