Two stories in last week's The New York Times feature contributions from DSNA members: you can read Grant Barrett's annual column on words of the year, an amusing, if dispiriting, 29-word summary of the last 12 months, here. Then, check out the intriguing story on a possible etymology for "the whole nine yards," which appeared in the Times the day after Christmas. Ben Zimmer (who was quoted in the article, along with fellow DSNA members Jesse Sheidlower and the late William Safire) has followed up with a discussion of the topic on his Word Routes column at the Visual Thesaurus. Of course, if you want to go the whole nine yards, check out the reader commentary on the Times piece, which is most remarkable for its cheerful refusal to accept the reported conclusions of word-sleuths Fred Shapiro and Bonnie Taylor-Blake.
In other word news, Oxford English Dictionaries apologized for the ghastly timing of its automated "word of the day" mailing, which sent out "bloodbath" as the word for 18 December, four days after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Meanwhile, word-of-the-year announcements continue, with "Gangnam Style" and "fiscal cliff" joining the queue at Collins. Editor Ian Brookes noted that "Gangnam Style" has a good chance of making it into the dictionary itself, given its notable association with K-pop star Psy's most-watched youtube video of all time.
The American Dialect Society, which gravely brings up the rear of the WOTY nominations, is still soliciting nominations: according to their website, "Nominations can be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, tweeted to the Twitter user name @americandialect or using the hashtag #woty12, or they can be posted on our Facebook page." ADS votes on the WOTY at the final session of its annual meeting, next Friday, January 4 at 5:30 pm in Boston.
And to wrap up my penultimate post of 2012, let me share the first few sentences of a news story
from the December 20 Orangeburg County [South Carolina] Times and Democrat:
An Orangeburg County man suffering from apparent mental issues was taken for treatment after parking his truck in the middle of the road, according to a Sheriff’s Office incident report.
Around 8 a.m. Tuesday, callers stated a Ford truck was parked in the roadway on Moncks Corner Road in Eutawville. Deputies found a man sitting in the driver’s seat reading a dictionary.
When asked why he had stopped in the roadway, he said Jesus had told him to do so, the report said. ...
And with that, on behalf of the Dictionary Society of North America, Happy New Year! I hope to see many of you in Boston at the DSNA reception on Saturday.
Beginning on New Year's Day, you will need a new password in order to read Dictionaries: The Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America online. Access to the complete run of Dictionaries, via Project MUSE, is a privilege of membership. If you have already renewed your membership for 2013, you will receive notification of the new password in 10 days. If not, now's the time to renew! Click on Renew My DSNA membership in the right-hand sidebar.
Thanks to generous financial support from the University of Georgia, which is hosting DSNA's biennial meeting next May, the registration fees originally announced have been reduced!
Conference co-chair Don McCreary has shared the details:
General registration is now $195 (reduced from $225) and includes the banquet
Graduate students may attend for free (reduced from $110)
Late registration (after April 15, 2013) is now $220 ($20 for graduate students)
Hotel rooms remain $89 per night
Remember, if you wish to present a paper at the meeting, proposals are due to Don McCreary at email@example.com no later than January 10, 2013. Abstracts for papers on any topic relating to the history, theory, or practice of lexicography are welcome. Abstracts for papers about bilingual lexicography are especially encouraged.
My Google alerts are overflowing with the doings of DSNA members:
Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large at Merriam Webster, reports that the most looked-up words in 2012 were capitalism and socialism, while malarkey enjoyed the biggest one-day spike. Here's one version of the story, from theChristian Science Monitor.
Check out this interview with American Heritage Dictionary Executive Editor Steve Kleinedler. He is talking with Robin Young on WBUR's program "Here and Now" about "Words We ‘Literally’ Want Out Of The Dictionary."
Meanwhile, in Athens, Georgia,
The Red and Black has a story on the lexicography course taught by our 2013 DSNA meeting host Don McCreary: check out this short feature now to whet your appetite for the 2012 volume of Dictionaries (to be published later this month), which includes Don's article on his students' ongoing project "Dawgspeak: The Slanguage Dictionary of the University of Georgia."
The New York Times reports today on the role of crowd-sourcing in developing and expanding scientific glossaries in American Sign Language and British Sign Language. The article, "Pushing Science’s Limits in Sign Language Lexicon," reports that, for example, the Scottish Sensory Centre’s British Sign Language Glossary Project, added 116 new signs for physics and engineering terms. According to the Times: "The signs were developed by a team of researchers at the center, a division of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland that develops learning tools for students with visual and auditory impairments. The researchers spent more than a year soliciting ideas from deaf science workers, circulating lists of potential signs and ultimately gathering for 'an intense weekend' of final voting, said Audrey Cameron, science adviser for the project." Only time will show whether the terms in the glossary are adopted by users of sign language.
The illustration, by Jonathan Corum, appears on the Times website--from left to right, it represents the terms "covalent bond," "mass" and "organism" in systems proposed by (top) the Scottish Sensory Centre and (below) ALS-STEM Forum and the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.
The manuscript of a 212-year-old dictionary written by a British polymath employed by the East India Company in the late 18th century has been found in the British Library.
The dictionary, Comparative Vocabularies, was written in 1800 by Dr Francis Buchanan-Hamilton (1762-1829), who was a surgeon to the governor-general Lord Wellesley in Calcutta. The book includes 18,000 words--1,800 words in each of 10 Indian languages.
A Scottish physician, in 1794 Buchanan-Hamilton was appointed a surgeon with the East India Company. He explored Burma, Chittagong, the Andaman Islands, Nepal and North Bengal and Bihar, and made detailed surveys of botany, geography, agriculture, commerce, social conditions and culture. His published works include An Account of the Fishes Found in the River Ganges and its Branches (1822), which describes over 100 species not formerly recognised scientifically; A Journey from Madras through the Countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar (1807) and An Account of the Kingdom of Nepal(1819). He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1806.
Here's a link to the wire story as it appeared in the Hindustan Times.
When I checked the Times this morning on my phone, there was DSNA member Ben Zimmer's column--the latest salvo in the blogospherical contention over Robert Burchfield's editorial practice as purportedly reported in Sarah Ogilvie's new book The Words of the World. And what was the headline? Well, on my phone I was greeted with "Lies! Murder! Lexicography! Dictionary!" Wow!!!! But on the New York Times website accessed on my computer just now, the headline is the much tamer: "Lies! Murder! Lexicography!"
What happened to "Dictionary!" ?
Very mysterious--though not, arguably, a universally intriguing aspect of this story. Ben's column retraces the uproar following the characterization of Sarah Ogilvie's book on OED in an article published by The Guardian last Monday, and he quotes DSNA members Jesse Sheidlower (an editor at OED, cited here last week) and Kory Stamper (an editor at Merriam Webster and author of the Harmless Drudgery blog) on the unglamorous truths the dictionary business. Ben writes:
"And dictionaries do play a role in legitimate controversies, like the continuing political battle over defining 'marriage.' Lexicographers may want to stay away from such contentious issues, but the authoritative power of their dictionaries means they’re inevitably caught up in such definitional wars — even as they try to stay above the fray and describe language without worrying about the sensitivities of one side or another in a political dispute."
The Atlantic Wire also has a story, by the way, that quotes both Jesse Sheidlower's New Yorker essay and an interview with DSNA vice president Michael Adams: you can read it here.
The eloquent defenses penned by Ben and Jesse and other DSNA members share the blogosphere with new, heated permutations on the original Guardian story. Here's a typical headline from this morning roundup: "Former Oxford Dictionary editor secretly deleted Indian words" (The Indian Express).
I don't think we've been this hot and bothered since Philip Gove (allegedly) gave "ain't" the okay.