Thursday, July 20, 2006

Since no one's asked a real question in a long time

I thought I'd share some thoughts about our common enemy at Folk Etymologies

Folk etymologies are the urban legends of linguistics; they are beliefs about the histories of certain words that arise and spread spontaneously. They are intuitive, not researched, and are wonderful examples of human creativity and our search for meaning.

On the other hand, folk etymologies are weeds in the garden of research--they're not what you're trying to cultivate, but they keep popping up. They deceive people into believing that they have insight into the "true" meaning of a word and short circuit real learning (not that knowing even the correct etymology of a word necessarily gives any insight into its meaning--but that's a topic for another day).

Fortunately, these weeds are fairly easy to spot. For instance, if anyone tries to tell you that a certain word is really an acronym, feel free to punch them in the face (unless it's scuba, laser, radar, fubar, or snafu, of course). Acronyms make great word stories because you don't need to know anything about the history of the language to create them. Just string the letters together and presto! The fact of the matter is that people haven't been coining new words from acronyms for very long. You'll notice that the examples above are all technical or military in their origin. If the word is older than the 20th century, don't bet on an acronym.

Ultimately, you can check any etymology you hear against a thoroughly researched dictionary like the Oxford English Dictionary or the New Century Dictionary. Of course, they won't always be right, but if you want perfection, you'll have to wait until Anatoly Liberman finishes his Encyclopedic Dictionary of English Etymology.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Monday, July 10, 2006

anyone anyone, any takers ?

does anyone wanna help me anti-wall paper and paint this weekend /? ? ? huh ? - huh , i know it sounds exciting !

Saturday, July 08, 2006

pirates ?

How come pirates never seem to die ?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Last one...for now at least

What are you (open to anyone, but mainly targetted at the Chakas) doing the weekend of July 15th and 16th? It just so happens to be the birthday of the coolest guy around, and the coolest gal around will be in the Milwaukee area with a guaranteed scrumptious cake in hand for some celebration. Would you two like to travel north to partake?

Rules of Usage

Though I once thought I vaguely understood the proper usage of the now-common phrase "ownzed," the most recent examples have led to some confusion. When, and why, does one use such a phrase, and what does it mean?


When this three letter combo is not being used as a multi-purpose exclamation of disgust, when are you actually allowed to use it as a suffix to create an adjective? For example, childish and ticklish are legal, but warmish and reddish just sound wrong. Also, why is it used in the root of some words, such as radish, relish, ravish, outlandish, gibberish, etc.?