NBierma.com File

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Recent instances of wise as a suffix (see 2nd item here), pulled off Lexis:

meaning "wise about":

City officials are asking people to be water-wise and hinting that if they don't comply voluntarily, it will be mandatory.
The Arizona Republic
July 9, 2004 Friday

But if a particular group isn't into the dead poets society, [Burt Kornegay] knows when to close the book. "Burt, categorically is the consummate wilderness guide," Alexander said. "No. 1, he knows his stuff, things that matter like wilderness first aid, and he is also a good people person. He doesn't play favorites. He's a wood-wise, trail-smart, good-cooking guide."
The Asheville Citizen-Times
July 9, 2004

meaning "in terms of":

The private company officials have said that there's nothing people in Lafayette can't do now - technology-wise - that would be possible if [Lafayette Utilities System] built its system.
The Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
July 9, 2004 Friday

[Judice's Magnifico Kitchen] offers bambino meals for the little ones, among them the grilled cheese with French fries ($3.50). Our young guest enjoyed the sandwich (only the crusts were left). The French fries arrived at the table overly hot (heat-wise[as opposed to spicy?]), not the best thing when you're feeding a toddler.
The Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana)
July 9, 2004 Friday

"I think it's a good opportunity for a lot of people," Adams said. "Academic-wise, it would help you graduate and with the extra year, it could make you better and give you a better chance to make it to the NBA."
Players Back Fifth Year of Eligibility
Associated Press Online
July 9, 2004 Friday

[USA Track & Field CEO Craig Masback] on the July US trials dates: "We've been doing in the mid-1's, ratings-wise, for our NBC telecasts, and expect to do well in this meet, too."
The Boston Globe
July 9, 2004,


It should ring out loudly and clearly - an African-American calling a Caucasian a redneck is nowise the same as a Caucasian person calling an African-American a "nigger."
Text of judge's ruling in Richardson suit against UA
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock)
July 9, 2004

Monday, August 30, 2004

Most common surnames, Census 1990
Name/% of sample/% of sample including all names listed above

SMITH 1.006 1.006 1
JOHNSON 0.810 1.816 2
WILLIAMS 0.699 2.515 3
JONES 0.621 3.136 4
BROWN 0.621 3.757 5
DAVIS 0.480 4.237 6
MILLER 0.424 4.660 7
WILSON 0.339 5.000 8
MOORE 0.312 5.312 9
TAYLOR 0.311 5.623 10
ANDERSON 0.311 5.934 11
THOMAS 0.311 6.245 12
JACKSON 0.310 6.554 13
WHITE 0.279 6.834 14
HARRIS 0.275 7.109 15
MARTIN 0.273 7.382 16
THOMPSON 0.269 7.651 17
GARCIA 0.254 7.905 18
MARTINEZ 0.234 8.140 19
ROBINSON 0.233 8.372 20
CLARK 0.231 8.603 21
RODRIGUEZ 0.229 8.832 22
LEWIS 0.226 9.058 23
LEE 0.220 9.278 24
WALKER 0.219 9.497 25
HALL 0.200 9.698 26
ALLEN 0.199 9.897 27
YOUNG 0.193 10.090 28
HERNANDEZ 0.192 10.282 29
KING 0.190 10.472 30

The price of gas
By Jan Freeman
Boston Globe
August 8, 2004

FIGURATIVE PRICES won't put a dent in your wallet, but they fluctuate just like real ones, and reader Phil Smith sniffed danger in my recent reference to politicians' avoidance of "10-dollar words." "When I was a lad," Smith e-mailed from Waterloo, Ontario, "the biggest words were only $5. . .. Ah, inflation!"

Is the cost of pretension really rising, though? A sampling of usage history suggests that the answer is no: Lofty language has pretty much the same price range now as it did when Americans started applying the dollar signs, in the early decades of the 20th century. In 1942, Life magazine called geopolitics a "five-dollar term"; in 2002, the Providence Journal-Bulletin's five-dollar word was anthropomorphism. If inflation has had any effect, it's lowered the real cost of today's polysyllabic palaver.

Still, the "10-dollar word" is a relatively new idiom, and past performance, as they say, is no guarantee of future results. From the 16th century through the 19th, English speakers could disparage verbal ostentation as "inkhorn language," after the portable ink container once used by scribes. But the obsolescence of the inkwell transformed inkhorn itself into an inkhorn term. The 20th century needed a new put-down, and American slang stepped into the breach with a metaphor that equated ostentatious language with store-bought showiness.

In the earliest use recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary, the term shows up as "two-dollar words" -- and the date is 1929, when two dollars was a serious chunk of change. Within a few years, linguists were recording both higher and lower prices: In a 1940 issue of American Speech, the journal of the American Dialect Society, a writer alluded to "what not so many years ago were dubbed `five dollar words' by the irreverent." In 1942, the journal reported that the "X-dollar word" idiom was spreading as a reference to "important or pretentious words," with a range of dollar prices and some in cents as well. ...

Occasionally, then as now, some high flyer ups the bid. Neal Conan, interviewing linguist Geoffrey Nunberg this summer on NPR, spoke of "$40 words" -- though Nunberg, in a New York Times column last year, chose "a two-dollar word" to express a similar sentiment. President Harry S. Truman, in a 1947 memo later identified as an outline for a speech to the Washington press corps' Gridiron Club, joked that he had "appointed a Secretary for Semantics" whose job was "to furnish me 40 and 50 dollar words."

But overall, the price of fancy words has been remarkably stable. In the first edition of Strunk & White's "Elements of Style" (1959), E.B. White cautioned writers, "Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able." Forty years later, the fourth edition used the same figures.

And what exactly are those pricey terms? It depends on the seller. In 1979, on the eve of an election year, the Washington Post reported on the "curbstone sociologists [coming] forward with five-dollar words to explain the American temperament -- words like narcissism and alienation and malaise."

Between then and now, you could have spent $2 on globalization, $3 on syndrome, and $5 on either surveillance or "biphasic mesothelioma" (a bargain!). Apotheosis was tagged at $10 by one journalist, infrastructure at $20 by another. Just this year, commence and begin have been labeled $1 words for "start" (Australian Business News); regionalism, according to Cleveland Scene, is "just a three-dollar word for sharing"; numismatist is "a four-dollar word for coin expert," says the Bergen County, N.J., Record; and love, according to Vanity Fair, is a million-dollar word -- no, the million-dollar word.


Monday, August 23, 2004

What the world's watching
Hint: Michael Phelps isn't that big a deal in Italy, Pakistan or China
Chicago Tribune
August 23, 2004

Dispatches by Kim Barker, Michael A. Lev, Hugh Dellios, Dennis Ginosi, Charles Hawley, Peter Almond, Colin McMahon, Kirsten Fogg and Michael McGuire

Not exactly cricket

By Kim Barker, Tribune foreign correspondent

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Few people really care about the Olympics in Pakistan. And the reason is obvious: Cricket is not yet an Olympic sport. Cricket news still dominates on TV and in newspapers. Even speculative stories about future cricket games beat out stories about the Olympics.

"This is like a virus you know," said Muhammad Nazir, a driver in Pakistan. "Every street, every corner, boys are playing cricket, cricket, cricket. I don't know why."

If one does care, it is barely possible to follow the Olympics. No TV channel regularly broadcasts the Games.

Newspaper coverage is spotty as well. Most news obviously focuses on Pakistan, which has not yet won a medal in Athens. Any success is hyped, such as when the Pakistan men's field hockey team beat Egypt and South Korea. Stories focus on the more than 35,000 Pakistanis who live in Greece. Or that Pakistan has fewer participants -- 44 -- than other countries with similar populations. Or that the chief for Pakistan's contingent gave Pakistan's green cap and a souvenir pin to the queen of Spain in the Olympic Village dining hall.

Other Olympic news has a more political bent. Headlines proclaimed "American stars shine, but no one notices," "America launches salvage operation" and "Tactical error sinks American sprinters." News about any Indian success is generally shoved into a corner of the page.

Most of the newspaper sports real estate is reserved for non-Olympic news: Six Pakistani players qualified for the pre-quarter-final round of the World Junior Squash Championship. The personal assistant to the provincial sports minister created a commotion by demanding an official car when one was not available. And Islamabad may host next year's World Snooker Championship in Pakistan.

Wait 'til 2008

By Michael A. Lev, Tribune foreign correspondent

BEIJING -- Two athletic men in red and white tracksuits dash through a modern-looking Chinese city, leaping over barriers, pausing only to swig Coca-Cola. They are Chinese star hurdler Liu Xiang and gymnast Teng Hai Bin.

"Where are you going?" Teng shouts as Liu races off.

"The Olympics!" Liu responds, at the climax of the Coke commercial.

On China's state-run television coverage of the Olympics, there's very little sign of American stars such as Amanda Beard and Michael Phelps but plenty of action featuring the home team. That includes handsome diver Tian Liang, a pinup boy who has won one gold medal so far, and female weightlifter Liu Chun Hong, who at just 19 already has broken the world record 21 times.

China's Olympic team has developed into a powerhouse, but it is nowhere near what the country hopes will be its pinnacle: four years from now when Beijing is the host.

China has accelerated from winning five gold medals at the 1992 games to 25 in Sydney. At Athens, it is expecting 30 -- which the Chinese hope will run second only to the U.S. The high profile sports with the best chances for gold include gymnastics, diving, judo, badminton, shooting, and women's and men's weightlifting. But table tennis is the national game and Chinese players are the world's best, so the men's semifinal match against Denmark -- televised live -- was fraught with tension. The Chinese announcer, Cai Meng, kept up a running commentary that was heavy on analysis and avoided jingoism or cockiness. ("The Chinese are faster than the Europeans; the Danes look more relaxed.")

At the crucial moment (when technique is less important than how you handle pressure, the announcer explained), the Danes battled back fiercely from match point, but Chinese talent ultimately prevailed. ...

Linguistic foraging yields a hoard (horde?) of eggcorns
Rocky Mountain News
Linda Seebach
August 21, 2004

Now that I have a name for eggcorns, I find them everywhere.

Here's one, from an Op-Ed about education sent in by a reader: [President Bush] "stomps for his 'No Child Left Behind' policy."

Can't you just see the president stomping across the stage to the lectern, preparing for a stump speech on education? That's what makes this an eggcorn, not just the inadvertent substitution of one word for another. It makes a certain weird kind of sense. For someone who has never seen an acorn, or doesn't know an oak tree from a ponderosa pine, why shouldn't mighty oaks from tiny eggcorns grow?

I learned this whimsical term from a blog called Language Log (itre.cis.upe nn.edu/~myl/languagelog). Mark Liberman, who is a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, asked in an early post what to call this category of error, and someone reasonably responded, "Call them 'eggcorns' " and the name appears to have stuck. When Liberman first thought of asking Google about them, in January, there were 62 hits, including Language Log but most of the rest authentic examples. When I did it just now, there were 478 and the top ones are generally about linguistics.

Lots of people have contributed to Liberman's eggcorn collection, including me.

That's one of the great things about linguistics. What you need for research is all around you for the taking, like acres of diamonds, and surprisingly little is known about most of it. I had a friend in graduate school at Minnesota who wrote a doctoral dissertation about sentences such as "I like pizza cold." Why would someone say that instead of "I like cold pizza"?

Liberman distinguishes eggcorns from mondegreens, which are substitutions made by people who can't quite make out the lyrics to a song. As in "They have slain the Earl of Moray and Lady Mondegreen."

I'm not making fun of this sort of thing, since it happens to me too. I always knew it was "laid him on the green," but I'm still not sure whether it's Moray or Murray. Google slightly favors Moray.


The scholarly study of eggcorns is well under way. In one post, Liberman notes that English is full of horse and harness metaphors, and since most of us don't have much to do with horses any more, those terms are very vulnerable. "Google has 22,900 instances of 'reins of power' (the original horse-harness metaphor) and 7,120 instances of 'reigns of power' (the eggcorn substitution)," Liberman says.

When eggcorns are rare, they're probably independently generated by people who have "made a sensible but wrong guess about which words are used in a particular expression" he says. Eventually, people use them because they've seen them so often.

"Hunting eggcorns by Web search is so easy that it's hardly sporting," Liberman wrote in June. "All you have to do is to think of a pair of words with the same or similar sounds but different spellings, choose a common usage for one of the pair, and then look for examples in which the other one is substituted."

But mostly it's more fun to spot them in the wild, so with thanks to Liberman's readers, here are a couple of recent sightings.

"Just found this one in the LiveJournal of a programming languages researcher: "Binding my time," instead of 'biding my time,' " a reader e-mailed. Some version of that turns up 1307 times on Google, Liberman says, giving it a WhG/bp ("Web hits on Google per billion pages") rate of 305.

One I sent was "The public sector unions aren't going to let a team of handfisted amateurs take their overtime away," which seems to make more sense than "hamfisted" anyway.

"It strikes me, by the way, that the culture of writing must significantly decrease the development and spread of eggcorns," Liberman wrote in response. "Eggcorn invention and adoption must be much commoner in pre-literate (or post-literate) cultures. Perhaps there should be a subdiscipline of eggcornology after all, to study such questions."

And now there is.

Linda Seebach is an editorial writer for the News.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Academics on the attack over religion journalism
By James Warren
Chicago Tribune
July 5, 2004

There's nothing like a good academic spitball fight, so please, oh please,
check out the spring issue of a tiny publication called Religion in the News
via Trinity College, a fine institution in Hartford, Conn.

"Journalistically Ignorant" is editor Mark Silk's rejoinder to a piece
titled, "Religiously Ignorant Journalists" which surfaced in the
January-February issue of Christianity Today's magazine, Books and Culture.

There, University of North Carolina professor Christian Smith unloaded on us
working-stiff newsies. ...

Well, Silk reprises the late Marlon Brando's fabled utterance in "Apocalypse
Now," namely, "The horror, the horror," as he proceeds to bash Smith for a
"misguided and unmerited" broadside (the resulting Dallas article proved to
be "informed and informing" and got all the terms correct). He's convinced
that Smith's "central gripe seems to be that reporters waste his time,"
which flies in the face of their dutifully trying to find bright folks to
fill them in on areas of ambiguity or outright ignorance.

Silk argues that the average big-time religion writer is quite good and
cites a high quality of work he surveyed in judging a recent contest. The
submissions reflected a strong range of topics with a "pretty pronounced
favoritism toward religions and a generally high level of journalistic
competence." He broaches the matter of sympathy toward religion because
Smith, and surely others, seem to believe that elite journalism is hostile
to religion and too inclined to write about disarray and conflicts, notably
within the Roman Catholic Church.