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.