Too Hot for Merriam Webster
August 3, 2018 12:34 PM   Subscribe

 
...a band of time-traveling linguistic trolls who have an inexplicable love of Lionel Barrymore.
Would make a great Metafilter: tag.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:53 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


From the final link:
Dear XXXX:

We do understand that you dislike the word “floor,” but we will not be removing it from our dictionaries as it has widespread, sustained use in current and historical English. I also regret to say that, even if the White House gets involved in the matter, we will still not be removing the word “floor” from our dictionaries.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:56 PM on August 3 [5 favorites]


Or the role of St. Augustine of Hippo in the naming of popular children's toys.

Or the structure of the internet, and how to appease your ISPs and tube cats:
Dear Ma’am:

We are sorry that you are having trouble accessing the Internet, but I doubt it is because our website killed the Internet. The Internet, as you may know, is a series of tubes that are cats all the way down. Cats are remarkably sturdy creatures with nine lives each. Though math is not my strong suit, a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals that, assuming each tube is stuffed with a thousand cats and there are a zillion Internet tubes, the Internet will never die. It is more likely that the Internet took offense at your desktop background of a cat hanging from a tree branch by its claws and has banned you. To regain Internet access, please forward this email to your ISP and make a donation to your local SPCA in honor of the tube cats.
These are good. Thanks!
posted by filthy light thief at 12:59 PM on August 3 [8 favorites]


I love Kory Stamper - I would happily consume everything she could write/shoot/produce.
posted by drewbage1847 at 1:15 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


She has a book: Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries (which I'm sure I first saw referenced by mefi at some point).
posted by namewithoutwords at 1:16 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


>...a band of time-traveling linguistic trolls who have an inexplicable love of Lionel Barrymore.<

The definition of MetaFilter.
Although (clearly) until now, secret.
posted by twidget at 3:17 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the book isn't a bad read.
posted by Chrysostom at 3:55 PM on August 3


Etymologists are just crackpots with evidence behind them.

True of more professions than you’d think.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:21 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


I know that this idea goes against the zeitgeist, but etymology, to put it in Lebowskian terms, is not just, like, your opinion, man.

AH-haha! Now, that's -just- the kind of appreciable comeuppance I expect from a dictionarian-type.

However, I hasten to remind that: language is a living thing. Etymologies (anecdotal history in silken wrappings) are one thing, but y'all are -completely- free to etymologize something new whenever you want ... and then, in future, -they- will be quoting -you-. So ... let's do farquoriously!
posted by Twang at 4:31 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


Why had I never heard the term "poutrage" before? Just another reason to love Kory Stamper!
posted by theatro at 7:41 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


I listened to her book. It was great. Totally charming. Definitely my favorite parts were the letter duty.

When someone complained about "irregardless" to her (as a young editor) her first reaction was "of course we don't have it in our dictionary, you read it ins some other lesser dictionary and then just tracked down Webster's and what? oh my god we do list this abomination"

But the various letters demanding it be removed are hilarious. "It's not a real world, it's a made up word that got in the dictionary from repeated usage." As opposed to what?! The words that were harvested from the word tree?

My advice is don't use irregardles though it's not a real word.
posted by mark k at 8:26 PM on August 3 [4 favorites]


Does a complaint about a word not being real add to it’s documented use and thus make it more likely to be in the dictionary?

I think one of the reasons Shakespeare has so many first citations in the OED is from Richard III’s famous “these are totally not words” speech.

Goddamned descriptivists
posted by Emmy Noether at 9:33 PM on August 3 [7 favorites]


From the "faith" discussion, I am going to be thinking about Sam's description of Jesus as an "utterly humble god" for a while.

I.... guess???
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:46 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


Additionally, you can stop telling me why manhole covers are really round. I’ve already been told by no fewer than 47 of you.

Wait, why are they really round? I learned as a kid that it was because this shape prevents them from falling through the hole, unlike, say, a square. Did 3-2-1 Contact lie to me?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:15 AM on August 4 [2 favorites]


"I am adept with words for both birds and failure."
posted by redsparkler at 6:13 AM on August 4


When someone complained about "irregardless" to her (as a young editor) her first reaction was "of course we don't have it in our dictionary, you read it ins some other lesser dictionary and then just tracked down Webster's and what? oh my god we do list this abomination"

I had a moment not dissimilar to this recently. I was having a chat with the executive editor about the etymology of some word which I have now forgotten, when she casually dropped into conversation the fact that we had an entry for 'alot' in the dictionary. As in, 'a lot' minus the space; as in, alot.

For a moment time seemed to stop. My brain had blocked out all sound and movement as it struggled to process what had just been said. I felt first confusion, then disbelief, then a kind of jocular amusement as I realised she was having one over on m-- OH GOD. OH DEAR GOD, SHE'S PULLED UP THE ENTRY. THERE IT IS, LOOMING OUT OF THE MONITOR, WEARING A TWISTED, SADISTIC GRIN, LIKE THAT OF THE MONSTROUS CREATURE WHO HAUNTS YOUR NIGHTMARES AFTER HAVING ESCAPED FROM THE CONFINES OF YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS INTO REALITY

I'm still impressed I managed to contain myself to a polite 'ha ha, how about that then' before concluding the conversation and walking back to my desk. I'm getting over it now, but honestly, it's kind of one of those things that I would really have preferred never to learn about.
posted by Panthalassa at 6:23 AM on August 4 [7 favorites]


Goddamned descriptivists

I swear that sounds like a made up word.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:10 PM on August 5


Wait, why are they really round? I learned as a kid that it was because this shape prevents them from falling through the hole, unlike, say, a square. Did 3-2-1 Contact lie to me?

Nah, they just fell into the same trap as everyone else by accepting a "fact" that came out of nowhere in the 1980s as the gospel truth. The shape thing is a good reason to keep them round, but the standardization on round (although there are a lot of square ones as well) all happened in the late 1800s and there's no really clear reason. Most likely it was that the access tubes were round for structural reasons (those _are_ documented) and well .... round thing, round cap.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:37 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Wait, why are they really round? I learned as a kid that it was because this shape prevents them from falling through the hole, unlike, say, a square.

Because manholes are round, of course
posted by thelonius at 4:00 PM on August 5 [1 favorite]


« Older A Potential Death of a Thousand Paper Cuts   |   NASA announces crews for Boeing and SpaceX flights Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.