Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Googleganger and Dracula Sneeze

With less than a week to go before my deadline, I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not an oncoming train!

On my breaks from writing, I’ve been watching lectures from the Great Courses. Nonfiction topics seem to clear my mind so, when I go back to work, I can more clearly see the story I'm writing.

I check the courses out from my local library through Hoopla. (It’s a great resource, by the way. See if your library subscribes to it. My own books are available through it, both in e-book and audio formats.)

The latest course I’ve been enjoying is “Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins.” Anne Curzan is the lecturer. She’s a professor of English and Associate Dean of Humanities at the University of Michigan. She also is a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel and co-host of That’s What They Say on Michigan Public Radio. She’s a great lecturer. I highly recommend it.

Secret Life of Words covers a number of topics including The Life of a Word, The Human Hands Behind Dictionaries, and Often versus “Offen”. There are 36 lectures total. I’ve only viewed a handful so far.

In the first lecture (Winning Words, Banished Words), Professor Curzan talked about how the American Dialect Society chooses its words of the year. It’s interesting enough, I thought I’d tell you about it.

The ADS conference meets every January and votes. Anyone who attends can take part in the discussion as well as vote. There’s an open floor for debate on the choices, ending in the participants raising their hands to vote on which word they believe should be the “word of the year” for the previous year.

The word of the year for 2018 was tender-age shelter. I admit I’ve never heard of this one. It refers to the government-run detention centers that have housed the children of asylum seekers at the U.S./Mexico border. That has been a bit of a preoccupation of the U.S. this last year so I can understand why it was selected.

In 2000, the ADS also voted on “Word of the Millennium”. The finalists were “the”, “she”, “government” and “science”. “She” won out. Here’s a few interesting things I learned about the pronoun. (1) No one’s sure of its origin, (2) The word is new to the millennium. It first appeared in a written document in 1154, and (3) It may reflect language contact with Old Norse.

There are several categories the ADS votes on besides “Word of the Year". One of the more interesting categories is "Most Creative".

Past winners of Most Creative Word have been:

Googleganger: when you google yourself, these are the people who come up that aren’t you

Dracula sneeze: a sneeze into your elbow

Recombobulation area: area after security at airports where you put shoes back on and basically put yourself together before heading to your gate

gate lice: airline passengers who crowd around a gate waiting to board

You can find all of the nominees and vote tallies for all of these words and more on the ADS website.


Thomas Kies said...

This is really fun and interesting, Sybil!!

Sybil Johnson said...

Thank you! Now if only I could finish this dang book...

Rick Blechta said...

Another great post! We're on a role.


Sybil Johnson said...

I actually did a Dracula sneeze the other day. Never knew what to call it until now.