Monday, August 23, 2004

My latest Tribune language column:
My hunt for the origins of the word solecism.
temp link/perm.preview

Here's a guide to ancient Greek literature that mentions Anakreon, and here's an amateur page about modern-day Soloi.

What was trimmed from the piece was a graf about how the singling out of Soloi seemed unlikely because Greek was morphing into so many different dialects around the empire. This source on the history of the Greek language contains a muddled sentence that seems to make a similar point.

Because of the importance of Athens in both politics and literature, its speech was destined to play an especially prominent part; but the custom of treating 5th and 4th century Attic as the standard form of Greek, and divergencies from it in other dialects as abnormalities, while it may be convenient pedagogically, is indefensible linguistically.

Here's a shorter page on Greek dialects throughout history.

Finally, here's Strabo's fateful entry about "barbarize" and "solecize":
The term "barbarize," also, has the same origin; for we are wont to use this too in reference to those who speak Greek badly, not to those who talk Carian. So, therefore, we must interpret the terms "speak barbarously" and "barbarously-speaking" as applying to those who speak Greek badly. And it was from the term "Carise" that the term "barbarize" was used in a different sense in works on the art of speaking Greek; and so was the term "soloecise," whether derived from Soli or made up in some other way.

Also, here's an artists' rendering of the Greek playwright Aeschylus about to get bombed by a turtle shell, which came up in my 8/12 column. Here are the perm.prev's for my 8/12 and 8/5 columns.

Update: More words supposedly derived from Greek slurs: laconic, abderian, sybarite, boeotian

-More (here and here) from LL on d'oh and other grunts (earlier)

- Listening to the sanity-threatening Olympic gymnastics announcers last night, I was wondering if dismount is an appropriate term for the conclusion of a floor routine. Here's LL on how one linguist named the marathon.

- Here's the Rocky Mountain News on eggcorns, with a follow-up post by LL.

- I had the phrase just one damn thing after another in my head, so I googled it. What came up repeatedly was an anonymous quote which some sources (such as this one) attributed to PBS's Nova: "Time is just one damn thing after another."

- From Joseph Epstein's entertaining, sporadically apt, sometimes snobbish Weekly Standard story "Is Reading Really at Risk?":

Eubanks reports that "at the heart of the NEA survey is the belief that our democratic system depends on leaders who can think critically, analyze texts, and write clearly." If this were true, the United States would have been done for around the time of Andrew Jackson.

Epstein also uses the term whinging--"But what if the books that Oprah's club endorsed were mostly works of victimology--whinging, hopeless books about dysfunctional families that chiefly reinforced readers in their own self-pity and self-righteous anger?"--I didn't know it, but it turns out to be the OE root of "whining."

- From The Week: "The Japanese rival Americans in their devotion to work; indeed, they have had to add a word to their language for “death from overwork,” “karoshi.” Still, they manage to get away for an average of 18 days a year-almost twice as much as Americans."

Cleaning out a lot of old files:
- I never did write anything about the U of Colorado flap over the c-word, but, really, how could I have discussed that in a family newspaper? x

- LL is skeptical about what the BBC calls the most untranslatable word in the world: ilunga x

- The CHE and LL on god-awful academic titles.

- From the Globe&Mail a few months back:
Just as North American sports commentators compete with unique terms, Indian announcers seek to outdo each other with distinctive expressions, reports The Wall Street Journal. One, a retired cricket player named Navjot Singh Sidhu, has become famous for his "Sidhuisms," as when he refers to a losing team as "tumbling over like a row of bicycles without their stands." Indian cricket announcers, describing a well-hit ball, might say "the batsman has a royal stroke," "his bat is roaring like a lion," or, the ever-popular, "runs are flowing from his bat like water flowing from the Ganges River."

- From "Many German viewers were annoyed when they realized that in the German dubbed version the dubbing voice of Brad Pitt was changed from his usual one (Tobias Meister) to the voice of Nicolas Cage (Martin Kessler). This was done on personal request from director Wolfgang Petersen."

- And more "Troy" news from the Plain English Campaign in May:
Promoters of a major Hollywood production have encountered linguistic problems in Japan. Japanese uses a "phonetic" language where words are made from a set of sounds rather than letters. When foreign words are used in Japanese, they are altered to the closest equivalent that can be produced from this set of sounds.
This means the film title "Troy" appears on posters above star Brad Pitt as "Toroi". Unfortunately, when read out loud, the word sound the same as the native Japanese word for slow and dim-witted.

-From the Apr. 12 '04 Christian Century: "The way things stand in many seminaries, learning Hebrew and Greek is the standard for everyone, while learning Spanish is a specialty reserved for the few. ... I think we have it backwards.
If learning a language other than English is not presented as the norm, it will never be embraced later on by busy pastors." Heidi Neumark, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church

-From the NYT 4/14:
Sarah Harmer waited until near the end of her show at the TriBeCa Rock Club on Friday night to make her embarrassing confession. Just as she was about to sing "Took It All," from her enthralling new album, "All of Our Names" (Zoƫ/ Rounder), she paused to announce that there was a slight problem with the chorus.
"It wasn't until I was spell-checking the lyrics to the record that I found out `abundancy' isn't really a word," she said. But she sang the song the way she wrote it, intoning, "It didn't blow up in our face/This life's abundancy/Came clear to me," and the line conjured up two images at once.

-From the Trib on grade inflation ("NU finding A par for journalism courses," Robert Becker, April 6 x): "Education officials decry the "Lake Wobegon" effect, where suddenly all students are now above average, and the grade of C has been consigned to the academic dustbin."

Previous column and inflections

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