Monday, June 21, 2004

My latest Tribune language column:
On two new witty works of word watching, Geoff Nunberg's Going Nucular and Barbara Wallraff's Your Own Words.
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I was going to start the story by saying that since presidents are immortalized by their words, President Bush may be forever remembered for saying "nucular," especially now that it's in a book title. But my editor wisely called me off it: "I'm not sure you can convince me that in, say, 50 years, anyone will remember Bush said nukular. JFK's Boston blueblood accent was a big deal in the 60s, but he is not immortalized for having said "Cyu-ber" for "Cuba.""

Here's more on "nucular" from LL, the NYT and Richard Lederer. And here's LL on the Latin nuculeus.

Update: LL two-part analysis: nucular--error or deviation?

- The etymology of the expression K-Rad

- The fine print on my Quizznos coupon said I must "surrender" the coupon when redeeming it. Oh yeah? To Quizzno's and what army?

- Swimmer Janet Evans, in a Q&A with Sports Illustrated: The roofless Olympic pool is not ideal, she said. "But every swimmer is in the same boat." Are boats covered under performance-enhancers?

- In the same issue, a story said the Stanley Cup Finals "amounted to a debutant ball for 24-year-old Lightning center Brad Richards, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner..." "Debutant," told me, is French for "one making a debut."

- Yesterday's pitching matchup between Barry Zito and Carlos Zambrano was only the third meeting in the history of the game of pitchers whose surnames began with the letter Z, says ESPN. Zito faced Victor Zambrano last year; the previous instance was in 1925. Meanwhile, as Steve Rushin noted last month, Giants rookie David Aardsma has bumped Hank Aaron out of first place in baseball's alltime directory of players sorted by surname.

- In a not-so-fond farewell to Ronald Reagan, Christopher Hitchens recalled, "Reagan said that intercontinental ballistic missiles (not that there are any non-ballistic missiles-a corruption of language that isn't his fault) could be recalled once launched."

- E.J. Dionne in a Sojourners article on the language of the marketplace: He quotes a Democratic advisor: "We used to call for immunizing little children against disease. Now we call it an investment in human capital."

- Remember when participants in a study used to be called subjects? "Now the American Psychological Association wants to retire the term," says the NY Times. "It is, the group says, too impersonal, stripping people of their individuality, their humanity."

- I was studying the terminology of 2 Peter 3:10 for my book when I came across this bit of translation trivia in a 1987 piece in the Westminster Theological Journal: "The recent official Swedish version of the NT translates "will perish" (skall forgas) and adds in a footnote: "This word renders what the author must have meant.")" There's nothing like convenience when grappling with God's Word.

- Updates: I wrote about the book Wordcraft and the morphing of brand names to common nouns without knowing there was a word for it: "Genericide: The process by which a brand name becomes a generic name for an entire product category." from More on brand names at Wordlab. Also from WordSpy: Children's books get vulgar: call it poop fiction.

I wrote about Lynne Truss' Eats Shoots & Leaves the week before its release in the U.S. (where it has become a bestseller). This week Louis Menand gets picky about the book in the New Yorker.

Finally, I quoted the National Spelling Bee director as saying there were no major non-English spelling bees that she knew of (here). This one may not be major, but LL says there's a Dutch spelling bee, which intrigued this blond-haired Dutchman.

Last week's column and inflections

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