Category Archives: Language and Literature in Society

Boathouse Words

Q: What’s the difference between having a SQUIRREL FACE and having a FACE SQUIRREL? A:                      Generally speaking, if you want a word for a MORP that has FUZ, you call it a FUZ-MORP, right? And if there’s a FUZ that gets rid of your MORPS, […]

Insinuendo: OED’s Opinions

The Oxford English Dictionary is rightly regarded as a dispassionate authority on English words, recording without fear or favour as many of those little beasts as it can. But OED editors have not always been above a bit of prescriptive snark. Here is a list of opinions Robert Burchfield, editor of the Second Supplement, decided […]

The Life of Words Anthology 2018

Every year we run a poetry competition, funded by the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation and the English Department of St Jerome’s University. We invite submissions from all Ontario high school students, on a topic to do with language or linguistics. This year we received over 200 poems from all over the province. We […]

Gender Shifts in American Names

Lately I’ve been working with several different gender-inference tools, tweaking them here and there to serve my purposes. Since I’m working with a historical dataset with about eight million records, from 1800 to today, once of the packages I’m using is the gender library for R by Lincoln Mullen, which uses historical US census and […]

Poetry Competition 2018

April is coming! And that means poetry is on the way… Now in its third year, The Life of Words hosts an annual poetry competition, open to all high school students in Ontario. Last year’s theme was “write a poem about language.” This year we’re narrowing things down a bit (but not too much), to […]

Lurking Impactfuls

Today on the NPR I heard someone say, “even more impactfully” [link].  Knowing that anything to do with “impact” is peever-bait [of the “only teeth can be impacted” variety–see BBC Magazine: “Should “impact” ever be used as a verb?“], I was surprised to find that “impactfully” occurs unselfconsciously about once a day on Twitter, and […]

Guest Post: Don’t go breaking (up) my genre: visualizing genre against attributes

Danielle Griffin is a research assistant on her third co-op term at The Life of Words. This is the first of a few posts based on her last work-term report,”Comparative Data Visualizations of Textual Features in the OED and the Life of Words Genre 3.0 Tagging System”. Danielle’s report won the Quarry Integrated Communication Co-op […]

How Indigenous American words came into English

I’ve been deep in the OED documentation of borrowings and loanwords for my look at “tramlines” [see my previous post, and look out for a few more to come] and OED’s treatment of foreign, about to be naturalized, and naturalized words. I got curious about some of the Indigenous American words in my dataset, and […]

||-Tripping over tramlines-||

“Tramlines”, icydk, are those upright parallel bars that OED1 and OED2 editors used to indicate that a word was “alien or not fully naturalized”. So, for instance, zeitgeist you may recognize as a word of German origin, not infrequently heard in English. In OED1 (1928) it appeared as ||Zeitgeist, and this mark was preserved on […]

Guest Post: Cataloguing the Catalogue

Cosmin Dszurdsza is a research assistant at The Life of Words. In my last guest post I discussed problematic magazine classifications. Now, once again, a periodical publication proves to be an exciting and difficult genre identification challenge. The kind of text I will be dealing with today is the “catalogue” (filtered out of our data […]