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Category Archives: Words

Tweeting Every Word in the English Language

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIn 2007, digital artist Allison Parrish created @everyword to tweet every word in the English language one word at a time. Parrish wrote a Python script that would run every half hour and tweet each word on an alphabetical list of 109,229 words, based on an unabridged dictionary. (Note that there are over a million words in the English language, and even the exhaustive 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains more than 171,476 words). Based on the 109,229 words, Parrish imagined that the project would be completed in 2013.

Parrish’s inspiration for the project was Every Icon by artist John Simon that attempted to use a 32×32 grid to produce every possible image. In an interview he explains, “I like the idea of art works that deal with arranging mundane units (like pixels or words), algorithmically ‘exhausting’ themselves over a period of time. [@Everyword] began as kind of a snarky stunt—-a parody of (what I perceived to be) the needless verbosity of Twitter. ‘You like posting words on Twitter? Well, here’s a thing that is posting EVERY word! ha HA!'”

@Everyword completed its task in 2014 and even though it had few followers in the early years, it amassed almost 68,000 as it reached the “z” words. Followers were particularly annoyed when @everyword was tweeting the monotonous “non-” and “un'” words. All of that work culminated in the publication of the ebook titled @everyword: The Book. The advertisement for the book reads: “From 2007 to 2014, the Twitter account @everyword painstakingly tweeted every word in the English language to thousands of riveted followers worldwide. Containing all 109,157 words from the original run of the account, along with accurate counts of the number of times each was favorited and retweeted by Twitter users, @everyword: The Book provides an accelerated, ‘director’s cut’ experience of the English language like no other—as well as, in Parrish’s writing on her methods, inspirations, and reactions to the initial reception of her work, a deeply personal look at the intersection of conceptual art and secret humanity.”

A blurb from the Washington Post notes the significance of Parrish’s project: “Surely no one would read through a dictionary this way, index finger underlining each consecutive word — so many of them either mundane (“a”) or trivial (“aalii,” a Hawaiian plant). And yet, since @everyword revved up in the fall of 2007, the account has attracted more than 92,000 followers and inspired a wave of copycats and spin-offs… Parrish suspects her creation is the most widely read piece of conceptual literature in existence.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

For further reading: @everyword: The Book by Allison Parrish
https://twitter.com/everyword?lang=en

http://gawker.com/5854314/one-mans-quest-to-tweet-every-word-in-the-english-language
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/05/23/what-happens-when-everyword-ends/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.4650ab336084

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There’s a Word for That: Tergiversate

atkins-bookshelf-wordsThe more you watch the news out of Washington, D.C. these days, the more likely that you have seen politicians do it on live television. No — it’s not all the lying or logrolling, it’s the slimy evasiveness, which leads us to the word in the spotlight: tergiversate. Tergiversate (pronounced “tur JIV ur sate”) is defined as making conflicting or evasive statements. The secondary meaning is to change one’s loyalties. The word is derived from the Latin word tergiversat, meaning “with one’s back turned” and from the Latin verb tergiversari derived from tergum (meaning “back”) and vertere (meaning “to turn.”). Tergiversating, however, is not a very effective smoke screen. As we have witnessed on news shows and stories in newspapers, politicians who tergiversate, hoping to end the discussion of a particular subject, achieve the exact opposite: invite further scrutiny and investigation. Recall the famous observation from the German philosopher Georg Wilhem Friedrich Hegel: “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.”

 

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia
There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology


What are the Words and Definitions of 2018 Spelling Bee?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsOn May 31, 2018, Karthnik Nemmani, a 14-year-old from McKinney, Texas, won the 91th Scripps National Spelling Bee against a worthy opponent, Naysa Modi, a 12-year-old from Frisco, Texas. Modi stumbled on the spelling of the German word bewusstseinslage (defined by Merriam-Webster as “a state of consciousness or a feeling devoid of sensory components.”) In order to win, Nemmani had to correctly spell the last two words: haecceitas (defined as “the status of being an individual or a particular nature”) and the winning word, “koinonia,” (pronounced “key nuh NEE uh” and defined as “the Christian fellowship or body of believers”). For his spelling brilliance, Memmani won more than $40,000 in cash, a $2,500 savings bond, a trophy, an encyclopedia set, and, of course, bragging rights to being the best speller in America — not to mention the ability to ignore annoying spellcheckers on his favorite apps. While most contestants spell words in their heads, one speller, Erin Howard, from Huntsville Alabama, resorted to a technique not seen at previous spelling bees: air typing (i.e. typing out a word with her fingers on an imaginary keyboard). Kids these days…

A review of the words used in the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee shows that the judges don’t mess around when it comes to finding truly difficult and obscure words. In fact, most of them fall into the category of “I didn’t even know that there was a word for that!” A review of the winning words form the inaugural Spelling Bee in 1925 to now shows a steady evolution from simple words, like “albumen” or “fracas,” to amazingly difficult words like “feuilleton” and “scherenschnitte.” So why have the words become so difficult? Since ESPN started broadcasting the Spelling Bee 25 years ago, the competition has attracted dramatically more children, and more significantly, children who possess truly remarkable spelling skills. This year the event featured a record-breaking 516 contestants (compared to 291 in 2017), ranging in age from 8 to 15 years old. As you can see from the list below, most of these words are ridiculously arcane — and some are so archaic, they can only be found in unabridged or specialized dictionaries. In order to spell a word correctly, contestants can ask clues about the word, such as what part of speech it is, language of origin, and alternate pronunciation.

Here is a list of some of the more difficult words of the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee, including their definitions:

ascyphous: having no cup-shaped parts

cabalassou: a giant armadillo

carmagnole: a lively song from the first French Revolution

cento: a literary work made up of parts from other works

Clausewitz: Prussian general and military strategist

dereistic: thinking without the rules of logic

diploe: bony tissue between the external and internal layers of skull

draegerman: a miner trained in underground emergency and rescue work

escamotage: slight of hand, trickery, or juggling

fourrier: a harbinger or forerunner

funest: portending evil or death

glossodynia: a pain in the tongue

heautophany: manifestation of self

ispaghul: dietary fibre derived from the seed husks of Plantago orata and used as thickener in food industry

millefleurs: a pattern of plants and small flowers

orrisroot: the fragrant rootstock of a specific European iris

paillasson: coarsely woven straw used for hats

paucispiral: a spiral with a few turns

perduellion: subversion or treason

philonium: an ancient remedy

plumetis: a fine dress fabric of cotton, wool, or rayon that is woven with raised dots or figures on a plain background producing an embroidered effect

Praxitelean: work by or similar to that of Ancient Greek sculptor Praxiteles

serac: a pinnacle, narrow ridge, or block of ice among the crevasses of a glacier

triturate: to grind or crush

tychopotamic: thriving in still waters (eg, ponds)

uraeus: figure of the sacred serpent, an emblem of sovereignty, as depicted on the headdress of ancient Egyptian deities and rulers.

vinhatico: a type of leguminous timber tree from South America

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Why is it Called a Spelling Bee?
Spelling Bee Winning Words
What are the Words and Definitions of 2017 Spelling Bee?
Rare Anatomy Words

Words Oddities: Fun with Vowels
What Rhymes with Orange

For further reading: http://www.merriam-webster.com
http://www.sportingnews.com/other-sports/news/scripps-national-spelling-bee-2018-highlights-results-winning-word-eliminations/1bfuwpxdr3r2s1v19lp8ocuz9v


The Most Clever Boat Names

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIf you spend enough time behind the steering wheel of a car, you know that you can amuse yourself from time to time by reading some clever vanity license plates. Due to the limitation of characters (typically 7-10) and number of naming restrictions, many license plates are more like challenging word puzzles that take some time to decipher. For example, it is easy to figure out that a plate with the letters “CHWBCA” means Chewbacca, the lovable Wookie from Star Wars; however “VTHKOLM” is a bit tougher — it stands for “Fifth Column.” Duh! (In fact, deciphering vanity plates is such a skill, it became the premise for a short-lived game show called Bumper Stumpers in the late 1980s).

But sailing the high seas is a different situation altogether. Naming a boat doesn’t have as many restrictions as vanity plates. Of course, seamen need to keep it clean: no profanities and no racial slurs. Boat names are only limited by a boat owner’s creativity and sense of humor. Depending on your perspective, the names that boat owners come up with are very funny, punny, naughty (or should we say “knotty”), weird, or witty. Nevertheless, many of them will bring a smile to your face. Here are some of the most clever boat names:

Aquaholic

Bacon in the Sun

Bare-a Cooter

B-Yacht’ch

Berth Control

Breaking Bass

The Godfather

Dijabringabeeralong

Docked Wages

Dock Holiday

Eat Ship and Die

Fifty Shades of Cray

Filthy Oar

Fish ‘n Chicks

Fishizzle

Hell on Reels

In Decent Seas

In Deep Ship

Knot On Call

Knot Paid For

Knot Shore

Marlin Monroe

Master Baiter

Mike Roe Wave

Morning Wood

Nauti Boy

Piece of Ship

Pugboat

Reel Time

Row vs. Wade

Seaduction

She Got the House

Ship-Faced

Ships ‘n Giggles

Tax Sea-vation

Titan Uranus

Usain Boat

Wasted Seamen

Wet Dream

What’s Up Doc?

Wife Evader

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Unusual Town Names in America
Funniest Town Names in America
Naughtiest Town Names in America
Funny Names of Real People

For further reading: https://offbeat.topix.com/slideshow/14246
https://www.boredpanda.com/funny-boat-names-ships/
http://www.allthingsboat.com/boat-names/


Lost in Translation: Untranslatable Words 2

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAt the heart of clear communication is diction: choosing the right word. Many times we stumble in a conversation because we cannot find just the right word. We think or say out loud: “I wish there were a word for that.” Of course, the English language is always growing, a magpie that borrows a word from this language or that. But sometimes, foreign language words do not get absorbed into the English language for whatever reason. Bookshelf looks at wonderful, beautiful words from around the globe that express ideas that cannot be translated in a single word in English. Here is a tasty sampling of the global lexical smorgasbord.

flaneur: French – “a person of excruciating idleness who doesn’t know where to parade his burden and ennui” (from a dictionary of low language published in 1808); also, a man who saunters around examining society

drachenfutter: German – a husband’s gift to his wife when he has done something wrong

gezellig: Dutch – a sense of togetherness or a nice atmosphere

nunchi: Korean – the subtle, nuanced art of listening and gauging another person’s mood

Schnapsleiche: German – a person who has passed out from too much drinking

sobremesa: Spanish – after-dinner or after-lunch conversation

tocka: Russian – a complex feeling of melancholy, anguish, ennui, and nostalgia

utepils: Norwegian – drinking a beer outside in the sun

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia
There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

For further reading: Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders (2014)
oxforddictionaries.com/2015/07/30/7-foreign-words-you-need-to-know/

 


There’s A Word for That: Lexiphanicism

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIf you are an avid reader, you have probably come across a few writers who possess a very large vocabulary, and pepper their writing with big or fancy words, when perhaps simpler words would suffice. Whether it reflects a genuine high level of erudition or simply showing off (a verbal pretentiousness), the effect is the same — it has you reaching for the nearest dictionary (which is not necessarily a bad thing — after all, that’s how you expand your vocabulary). A recent example that made the news was Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative political commentator George Will’s recent op-ed for The Washington Post titled “Trump in no longer the worst person in government. (May 9, 2018)” Will’s powerful essay is a fitting testimony to the famous apothegm that “the pen is mightier than the sword” first written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play, Cardinal Richelieu. (Ironically, Bulwer-Lytten is also the author who is credited for the worst sentence in English literature: “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents – except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” Ah, but we digress.) Will eviscerates Mike Pence with his mighty verbal lance; he writes: “Donald Trump, with his feral cunning, knew. The oleaginous Mike Pence, with his talent for toadyism and appetite for obsequiousness, could, Trump knew, become America’s most repulsive public figure. And Pence, who has reached this pinnacle by dethroning his benefactor, is augmenting the public stock of useful knowledge. Because his is the authentic voice of today’s lickspittle Republican Party, he clarifies this year’s elections: Vote Republican to ratify groveling as governing.” And that’s just the opening paragraph!

A Google search resulted in all sorts of suggested words — such as bombastic, convoluted, elaborate, expatiation, florid, fancy, overwrought, prolix, turgid, verbose, vocabularies, word — all of which are related, but miss the mark. The word you are looking for is not found in most dictionaries — you need to consult an unabridged dictionary. The word is lexiphanicism which is defined as “pretentious phraseology or an instance or example of such phraseology.” Another term that logophiles like to use is “sesquipedalian loquaciousness.” That term is made up of two really big, fancy words: sesquipedalian (meaning “having many syllables, or use of long words”) and loquaciousness (meaning “excessive talking”). Of course these terms are technically archaic and, um, sesquipedalian. There are two other words that exists in most dictionaries: grandiloquence (or its adjectival form, grandiloquent), meaning “a lofty, extravagantly colorful, pompous, or bombastic style, manner, or quality especially in language” and fustian, meaning pompous or pretentious writing or speech.

Many teachers of writing, as well as authors like Ernest Hemingway and Mark Twain, believe that the simplest language is the best. The simpler the word, the clearer the meaning. As George Orwell wrote in his essay “Politics and the English Language” (April 1946), “Rule Number Two: never use a long word where a short one will do.” But there are many writers — like William Shakespeare, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and John Fowles, to name just a few — whose only response to that would be “poppycock!” Where is the elegance, the beauty, the mellifluousness of the majestic English language?

Let’s look at a re-write of Will’s initial paragraph: “Donald Trump, with his animal-like shrewdness, knew. The slippery Mike Pence, with his talent for kissing ass and appetite for obedience, could, Trump knew, become America’s most repulsive public figure. And Pence, who has reached this pinnacle by toppling his benefactor, is increasing the public stock of useful knowledge. Because his is the authentic voice of today’s flattering Republican Party, he clarifies this year’s elections: Vote Republican to confirm lying down as ruling.” Doesn’t have the same impact, does it? It’s like thrusting a sword with such dull edges that it barely cuts through the air.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Words Invented by Book Lovers
How Many Words in the English Language?
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order
What is the Longest Word in English?
There’s a Word for That: Epeolatry

Words for Book Lovers
Favorite Words of Dictionary Editors

For further reading: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-is-no-longer-the-worst-person-in-government/2018/05/09/10e59eba-52f1-11e8-a551-5b648abe29ef_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.94c84fa3f391
http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lexiphanicism
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/grandiloquent


There’s a Word for That: Pekoral

atkins-bookshelf-wordsHave you ever read a really bad novel (very often self-published) by an author who is trying to imitate some rather unpromising genre (eg, romance)? Well, there is a word for that: pekoral. The word was coined by a Swedish critic, Hans Kuhn, who presumably read his share of poorly written novels. The word is derived from the Proto-Indo-European word peku, meaning livestock or cattle and the Latin word pecora, meaning large herd animal. Kuhn was probably more interested in the pejorative meaning of cattle: i.e.,  a mindless group of people.

The secondary meaning of pekoral is  a parody of poor writing by a character in a novel that is recreated in the novel’s text. Finally, Glosbe, the Swedish-English online dictionary, provides a third definition: “a text written in a grandiloquent or pompous style but lacking literary quality, thus making it overly pretentious or ridiculous; doggerel, twaddle.” Laurie Henry, in The Fiction Dictionary, notes, “A pekoral is different from a parody in that the pekoral may not be comic, while a parody usually is. As with a parody, however, appreciation of a pekoral rests on the reader’s knowing both the work being parodied and understanding why the work is deserving of parody.” To that we can only add, “Moo!”

 Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier

There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia
There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology


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