A few updates are long overdue.
Last Sunday, I had a piece in the UK’s Sunday Express defending the much and wrongly maligned like. Like, you know, like. As I argue:
Like isn’t a sign that we’re dumbing down English. It’s a sign of just how, like, sophisticated our language is.
Speaking of days of the week and the UK, keep up with my Weekly Word Watch on the Oxford Dictionaries Blog. They’re out every Friday. Some recent highlights include dotard, centrist dad, porg, and döstädning. That means “death cleaning” in Swedish:
We wrapped our arms around the Danes’s ‘warm and cosy’ hygge, which made the shortlist for Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 Word of the Year. Earlier this year, we leapt for Sweden’s ‘just-right’ lagom. Now, in our latest appetite for Scandinavian lifestyles and lexemes, we are springing for döstädning.
This Nordicism really gives up the farm – or cleans it, shall we say. Döstädning literally means ‘death cleaning’ (dö, ‘to die’, and städning, ‘cleaning’). The word is getting new life in English thanks to Swedish author Margareta Magnusson’s popular book, The gentle art of Swedish death cleaning, which encourages people over 50 to gradually downsize so that their next of kin won’t be burdened by their possessions once they pass on. Döstädning can also help us all learn to declutter our lives to prioritize what’s really important – and learn some handy Swedish along the day.
And don’t forget about my What in the Word?! series there, too. My last article chased down the forerunners of harbinger. (It’s essentially the same word as harborer). Another recent one uncovered the surprising roots of tall—which originally meant “quick” and “docile.”
I’ve been branching out a bit, too, writing for a site called HealthyWay on, oh, just a few things like vasectomies and recycling. I’ve got some more pieces in the pipeline on travel agencies, improbable legal defenses, cyberchondria, wearables—and, back in my wheelhouse, emoji and the history of the English language. I’ll be sure to share those when they’re up.
Look out for a special post on Saturday. And wish me luck on Sunday. I’ll be running my first marathon. Here’s a bit about the word from a piece I did on Mental Floss a little while back:
The ancient Greeks didn’t run marathons in their Olympics, though footraces were a main event of their games. The marathon joined the Olympic program when the games were rebooted from antiquity in 1896. Much lore surrounds the historical marathon. In one account, it’s claimed that a Greek hero [Pheidippides] ran from Marathon to Athens to announce that Greece was victorious in their battle with Persia. He delivered his message—and then died, his feat living on in the word marathon.
The place-name Marathon itself is said to mean “fennel-field” in Ancient Greek. Fennel, ha. Just the sort of boost I’ll need.
2 thoughts on “Getting up to speed with Mashed Radish”
Can we have business with each other?
I can’t believe this. All the time, when I lived in California in the 80’s and I used that expression, people thought I didn’t, like, use proper English. One of my teachers said she’d tutor me if I’d “like, learn English.” She was opposed to the construction, That & 100 others, it seemed. We were never allowed to use the word bunch unless we were referring to bananas or that popular 70’s show, Brady Bunch.
All my life I’ve been plagued by language purists. They’re truly not-such-nice people. My friend, who’s a lexicographer, wrote an article about how common usage isn’t a bad thing and all these puritanical intellectuals posted scathing comments to him, half of them seeming like they were making ad hominem attacks on his intelligence, which distressed me bc I wouldn’t make those statements abt anyone much less someone I’ve known for almost 2 decades. Besides that he graduated from Oxford University; I don’t see how he could be stupid or absurd or not truly interested in usage. One guy said “Some people may think common language is acceptable. I’m not one of them.” His whole entry made you feel like you had to come from royalty before you could even speak to him. My friend has a graduate degree in linguistics. If they dislike the way he talks they’d really have issues with me.
I’m just glad he doesn’t. He’s never been upset when I make accidents of pronunciation, which I did a few days ago to my horror. Germans pronounce w- words with a ‘v’ sound and I did that even after all this time of not making a mistake. I was telling my friend about the w- words in German and pronouncing all of them, then I switched back to English w-words that mean the same thing as the German words but are pronounced w/ a w sound, which still doesn’t roll easily off the tongue after all this time. It ought to. I don’t know why it doesn’t.
Most speakers of English as a first language look annoyed or like they might have a heart attack when I make that mistake, or so it seems to me. Not with him though, thank god. I’ve only known three people in my life who are as forgiving as he is: one person who left me, another who died and this friend I have now.