The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'words'


Found in Bruce Schneier's account of a workshop on security and human behaviour, this gem:

Great phrase: the "laundry belt" -- close enough for students to go home on weekends with their laundry, but far enough away so they don't feel as if their parents are looking over their shoulder -- typically two hours by public transportation (in the UK).

privacy society words 0


There's a fairly interesting paper on the status of the word "fuck" in US law, and the irrational power that word taboos have in our seemingly enlightened society.

A trilogy of events motivated me to start this project. The first occurred during my second year of law teaching. In my Professional Responsibility course, the lesson for the day was attorney racist and sexist behavior. The case I assigned from a leading casebook was liberally sprinkled with fuck, cunt, shit, bitch and the like. Sensitive to the power of language, I recited the facts myself rather than ask a student as was my norm. After the course was over, I was reviewing my student evaluations and discovered this: "I was a little disturbed by the way he seemed to delight in saying 'cunt' and 'fucking bitch' during class. I think if you're going to say things like that in class, you should expect it to show up on the evaluation."
Three legally trained minds--a law student, a law enforcement officer, and a federal judge--each heard the word fuck and suddenly lost the ability to calmly, objectively, and rationally react. If fuck has power over these people, what are the limits of its influence?
It has some interesting factoids, such as:
Of particular interest to the lawyer-lexicographer is the suggestion of an Egyptian root petcha (to copulate). During the last Egyptian dynasties, legal documents were sealed with the phrase, "As for him who shall disregard it, may he be fucked by a donkey." The hieroglyphic for the phrase--two large erect penises---makes the message clear.
The author of the piece (which is titled, simply, "Fuck") makes it clear that he regards word taboos as irrational and unworthy of a place in rational discourse, and as such never avoids using the word where there is an option. Oddly enough, he also seems to refuse to put quotes around it, even when discussing the word "fuck" itself rather than what it refers to, as if doing so would be an unacceptable surrender to the Prim And Proper Language Police.

(via Boing Boing) fuck language law usa words 0


Some highlights from a new book of nuance-laden foreign words:

  • "backpfeifengesicht" - German for "a face that cries out for a fist in it"
  • "bakku-shan" - a girl who appears pretty from behind but not from the front (Japanese)
  • "drachenfutter" - peace offerings made by guilty husbands to their wives (German; literally "dragon fodder")
  • "koshatnik" - A seller of stolen cats (Russian)
  • "Kummerspeck" - weight gained from emotion-related overeating (German; literally "grief bacon")
  • "uitwaaien" - walking in windy weather for fun (Dutch)
And then there are the numerous Albanian words for types of facial hair, the name of an Inuit party game which literally translates as "frozen walrus carcass", and the Easter Island Pascuense word "tingo", as used in the book's title, which means "to borrow objects from a friend's house, one by one, until there's nothing left".

(via bOING bOING) culture language words 0


Lake Superior State University's annual list of banished words is out, listing various words or phrases which came into wide usage over the past year, and should bloody way come out of it. They include obvious ones ("metrosexual", "bling-bling" and the endemic use of "X" in product names), war-related jargon ("embedded journalist", "shock and awe") and miscellaneously annoying or pedantic coinages, like "companion animals" or "hand-crafted latte":

We're not sure where Orin Hargraves of Westminster, Maryland discovered this beauty, but we agreed with his assertion that "This compound is an insult to generations of skilled craftspeople who have mustered the effort and discipline to create something beautiful by hand. To apply 'hand-crafted' to the routine tasks of the modern-day equivalents of soda jerks cheapens the whole concept of handicraft."
"I'm just waiting on 'Shock and Awe Laundry Soap' or maybe 'Shock and Awe Pool Cleaner,'" says Joe Reynolds of Conroe, Texas.

(via /.)

neologism words zeitgeist 0


It looks like the major dictionaries are trying to outdo each other at being hip and up-to-the-minute and savvy to the latest street lingo. A while ago, the OED added a raft of neologisms including "bling-bling" and now the Collins English Dictionary has published its list of new words. As well as cultural phenomena ("Sars", "quidditch") there are neonconservative coinages (such as "regime change" and "road map"), SMS abbreviations ("gr8", "want 2tlk"), definitional terms for new aspirational classes ("yetties", "nylons") and even words scraped from WIRED Magazine's made-up jargon columns, like "idea hamster". (Come on; did anybody ever use the phrase "idea hamster" in a non-ironic sense?)

idea hamster language words zeitgeist 11


Jim informs us that the word "wibble" is now in the OED. How much do you want to bet that it'll stay in usage longer than some of the other new additions like "bling-bling" and so on?

language wibble words 6


According to a recent A Word A Day a "goth" is "a rude or uncivilized person". So it's synonymous with "mook" then?

(Which other youth subcultures are named after words for disagreeable people? There's punk, for one.)

(Thanks to Cos)

goth mooks punk subculture words 6


Factoid of the day: Japanese has a word for the concept of slack. The word is "yutori" - to take it easy. It means having room or a surplus of something, be it time or money. (ta, Toby)

japan japanese language slack subgenius words 1


Another UL debunked: The word "chad", as seen in the press recently in light of some dubious events in the US, is not back-formed from a Mr. Chadless, inventor of the chadless key punch, as the Jargon File suggested. It now appears that Mr. Chadless never existed (no more than the legendary inventor of the brassière, the renowned German engineer Otto Titzling). The latest theory is that 'chad' comes from the Scottish word for gravel.

(I wonder whether, once facts are forgotten and selectively rediscovered a few times, theories will emerge that the term "chad" originated in the year 2000, as a reference to St. Chad, the patron saint of disputed elections.)

chad chadless etymology otto titzling urban legends words 0

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