Category Archives: Language and Literature in Society

Entitled Professor

I happen to have an interest and a certain amount of expertise in words that mean their own opposites. You might say I’m qualified to post here on that topic. You might even say I’m entitled to my opinion on a wider range of things in which I’m not necessarily expert. But if you call […]

Last Day to Submit a Poem for the 2016 Poetry Contest

Today is the last day for Ontario secondary school students to submit a poem to The Life of Words Poetry Competition 2016. Keep your eye on the contest page for upcoming news, and for eventual publication of The Life of Words Anthology 2016, which will print the winning entry and all honourable mentions. We’re received […]

How did OED Supplements Supplement?

There has always been an interest in the changing editorial practice within and between various editions of the Oxford English Dictionary. Recently some scholars have complained that changing electronic interfaces are making it impossible to distinguish what edition a particular definition or quotation is coming from. See, e.g., Charlotte Brewer, “OED Online Re-launched: Distinguishing old […]

Life of Words Poetry Competition

Good news for Ontario secondary school students who like words: The Life of Words is announcing the first in what will be an annual poetry competition, in which we invite submissions of poems about words and reward excellence with some pretty great prizes. Here is the competition web page, where we’ll post links, news, and […]

The Best Words

The Life of Words is a bit late to this one, but: NEWSFLASH! Best Words, Best Word of Best Words, Located: Presented here without further comment, stupid. Enjoy Super Tuesday, y’all.

Babies say the darndest things

Everyone knows you have to start watching your language once Baby gets good at words. Even then there are moments: for a time my daughter’s impression of a snake ended with a “snap” that sounded just like… the French for “seal.” And then there’s the French for “seal,” favourite of every schoolboy, which HRW likes […]

Bowie on OED

It’s a day for sharing David Bowie quotations on the social medias. One in particular just crossed my path: I presume the person who wrote out, photographed, and posted this little tidbit (making sure to draw attention to their book store’s own social media outposts) found it among the collected Bowie quotations on some “famous […]

Pullum doesn’t understand their own example

On the venerable Language Log earlier today, a post by Geoff Pullum [Annals of singular ‘they’: another case with known sex” 30.11.15] quotes Transparent writer/director Jill Soloway’s interesting use of singular they [recently named a WOTY for 2016]: People will recognise that just because somebody is masculine, it doesn’t mean they have a penis. Just […]

Bad Boundary

Did a federal MP from Saskatchewan call a female NDP candidate a whore? [story at CNCNews.com 19.11.15]. Tom Lukiwski is alleged to have said: We got to get Greg back elected.” He’s too important of an MLA to let go down to an NDP whore just because of a bad boundary. The explanation given by Lukiwski, […]

Maniacal Mental Etymology

In a recent number of the London Review of Books [37.20; 22 October 2015], a poem by Anne Carson gets thinking about etymology: Prepare for thinking (in the car as we go) by reading a book found in the garage, Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, where I learn ‘to think’ comes from root men-, (zero […]