Has the age of email led to an outbreak of exclamation marks? Do women use them more than men? Also, is there a word for the odd feeling when you listen to a radio personality for years, then discover that they look nothing like your mental picture of them? And what's the origin of the verb "to bogart"?
This episode first aired June 6, 2009. Listen here:
Writing in the Guardian, Stuart Jeffries contends that our email boxes are being infested with exclamation marks, known as bangs or bangers (without mash) to some people. Jacob Rubin also wrote on the subject a couple of years ago in Slate.
If you tell a buddy, "Don't bogart that joint," you're telling him not to hog the marijuana cigarette. Ahem. We know phrase was popularized in the film Easy Rider (performed by The Fraternity of Man) but does it have anything to do with Humphrey Bogart?
You know that odd feeling when you've listened to a radio personality for years, but when you finally meet them, they look nothing like you'd imagined? Is there a word for that weird disconnect? Radiofreude, maybe?
Martha shares what F. Scott Fitzgerald and Elmore Leonard had to say about exclamation marks. Short version: Neither is a fan.
Quiz Guys John Chaneski and Greg Pliska lead a couple of rounds of Chain Reaction, a word game that's great for parties and long car rides. Two players try to make a third one guess the word that the other two are thinking of. The trick is that they have to give alternating one-word clues to build a sentence. Hilarity ensues. Hillary sues.
Why do some people refer to a couch or a sofa as a davenport?
How should you pronounce the word gala?
Grant reports some etymological news: A recent article in the journal American Speech suggests a new source for the term that means "drunk," blotto.
If you're in New Zealand and are told to "rattle your dags," you'd better get a move on. Literally, though, the expression has to do with sheep butts.
Martha reviews the new book, Dreaming in Hindi, by Katherine Russell Rich, a memoir about setting out to learn a second language in mid-life. Rich spent a year in India to learn Hindi, and became so fascinated with the process that she went on to interview experts about the mechanics of second-language acquisition and how it affects the brain. Publisher's Weekly has an interview with Rich.
Grant discusses an article about what happens to the mother tongue voice when first-language speakers of indigenous languages in India learn English and then spend years focused on speaking and writing in their adopted tongue.
How did the word pigeonhole come to mean "classify" or "categorize"?
An employee who gets a great termination package is said to leave the company with a golden parachute. Where'd that term come from?
A caller is adamant honorifics should be used to address the President of the United States, as in "President Obama," never "Mr. Obama." He thinks it's disrespectful and divisive when news organizations use "Mr."
A Way with Words is sponsored by Mozy:
I'm thinking we need to go with a foreign flavor here for the wrong visual impression one has of someone before seeing them in a photo or in person. How about either, "mal-ver" or "vu-gauche" (my personal favorite as it implies a certain awkward feeling about the moment, like how deja-vu refers to the feeling of having seen previously). I was also wondering about your use of an exclamation point at the top of your "Reply To Topic" comment, Courtesy Matters. Are you just emphasizing the courtesy aspect or as you discussed in the radio broadcast, are you just making fun of the statement?
Another fine show, thanks.
One question about Presidential honorifics (hm, that looks like something to buy on QVC): I thought it was the original George W. who declined any references to royalty, not the plurbus people as mentioned in the show. This great humility was supposed to be another facet of the First President's super awesomenessâ€”that and his ability to fly without a cape.
Grant, would you direct me to a reference about which party wanted to avoid royal references in early U.S. history?
As a security alarm dispatcher for many years, I spoke on the phone with the same people regularly who were checking in overnight (such as cleaning crews) and people who routinely set off their security alarms and had to call in or answer the phone -- and I also formed mental imagery of what they looked like, later to discover them to be drastically different, in truth. You might augment the requirements for the new word to be merely in a situation where a voice is routinely heard and its speaker unseen (phone, radio, by the blind, etc).
My grandparents (born ~1922, Texas/Oklahoma border area) have always called their couches a "devan" (uncertain spelling). "Get your shoes off the [deh-VAN]!" is something they would say to me or my brother if committing such a deed.
Touching on what Martha noted as "second reference" regarding the president/mister title when referring to Obama -- I've found that a significant portion of the public is not aware of varying styles of written or spoken newsreporting, such as AP Style or Chicago Style journalism and consider on some occasions newsreporters who speak or write with such styles (such as hyphenating adjectival phrases, or writing out numbers) as poorly educated in proper writing. I've had to explain on more than one occasion that it's based on a different system of rules than the schoolhouse grammar teacher of yore, rather than being incorrect. I think this caller was one such person to misunderstand -- that once a person has been identified in the lead/bridge/what-have-you, simply using "Mr. Obama" or calling someone purely by their surname ("Thursday, Obama spoke with..") is not at all disrespectful. While in college, a fellow English major who was also in journalism told me his professor wrote on his term paper for a literature class that, "You could write great articles for the New York Times. However, this is an English class."
I LOVE wreckanize as a suggested word but it might not be popular with those I believe in TV-land were once called "Talking Heads".
How about misimageing as in, "I totally misimaged Grant but my misimage of Martha wasn't a miss at all" or "I keep misimaging what Grant looks like!"
As far as exclamations go, what are the options? It's either an exclamation mark or using capitalization (as I did in the word "love" above). This is sometimes difficult with caps representing shouting in e-mailese. Beyond that you can underline but the keyboard strokes to accomplish this are a nuisance.
Lastly, I once worked with a number of Aussies, Kiwis and Brits and one of the British mates happened to have the initials D.A.G. Naturally he was called Dag. He was a dag too unlike my son whom we named Randall and called Randy. He isn't so terribly randy.
I'd like to respond to the caller in this week's episode who passionately and sincerely insisted on the use of titles by the news media.
It is clear that this issue has been on his mind for some time and he has given much thought to it. However, I can also say that I have given much time and thought to this issue and I have passionately come to the conclusion that in a democratic society, we should _never_ use job titles as honorifics for holders of public office.
First of all, I should point out, as I think Martha tried to, that it is the general practice of news articles to give full titles and names on first reference and then resort to a shortened form on subsequent references. There are a few old-fashioned institutions, such as The New York Times, that still use "Mr." and other courtesy titles. However, the majority of news media use family name only on second reference, and this seems a fully logical, modern, egalitarian, and admirable practice to me.
However, I mentioned before that I am passionate on this issue, so I would go even further.
The conceptual, philosophical, moral, and legal basis of our system of government is egalitarianism and the idea that government authority derives from the will of the people. That is, when it comes to governing our society, we each possess a unit of public voice that is equal in size and importance to everyone else's. We are equal before the law, and under the law. And we use these equal units of voice to choose a time-limited administration.
In other words, legally and morally, our public office-holders are not our rulers, but our employees, and temporary ones at that. As employees, they are entitled to common courtesy, but they are most emphatically not entitled to deference.
Thus, in my view, a public office holder should be treated with the same courtesy that any two members of society should confer on each other, but absolutely no sign of deference. We should address public office holders only with the kinds of courtesies that any member of society may claim right to. Thus, Mr./Ms./etc. are fine, because any member of society are entitled to be addressed as such.
However, public office holders should not be granted deferential forms of address, such as "Your Honor," because as employees of the public, the deference should go in the other direction. Even more so, I believe that names of public offices, that is, job titles, should not be converted into forms of deference. That means that people holding public positions with titles such as president, senator, or chief justice, should never be addressed with those job titles used as honorifics.
If I were the managing editor of a news outlet, therefore, I would choose the style "Mr. Barack H. Obama II, the U.S. president" and just plain "Mr. Obama" or "Obama" on second reference, never "President Obama."
I sent an e-mail regarding this, the first contact I have ever made with the show after years of listening, and an automated reply suggested I also post here.
In concocting a word to describe meeting a voice personality for the first time and finding that they looked nothing like how I imagined, I concentrated on the feeling of subdued shock. It only took a few seconds to follow that up with "mug shock."
I like how it plays with the term, "mug shot," which itself contains a now-rare slang term for someone's face that I happen to like, and try to use whenever possible.
For me the voice phenomenon occurs most often with phone contact. It has been quite common for me to work extensively with people without any visual contact. I used the unimaginative term "phone presence" to refer to the mental images I would construct. Sometimes my image would be right on, sometimes it was a real case of "mug shock" when we met.
However, public office holders should not be granted deferential forms of address, such as â€œYour Honor,â€ because as employees of the public, the deference should go in the other direction. Even more so, I believe that names of public offices, that is, job titles, should not be converted into forms of deference. That means that people holding public positions with titles such as president, senator, or chief justice, should never be addressed with those job titles used as honorifics.
If I were the managing editor of a news outlet, therefore, I would choose the style â€œMr. Barack H. Obama II, the U.S. presidentâ€ and just plain â€œMr. Obamaâ€ or â€œObamaâ€ on second reference, never â€œPresident Obama.â€
What of something such as "Mr.President" as a form of 2nd person address? It seems simply like a recognition of ones job. One might also find it confusing in a gender situation. As an example if you were to say, "Secretary Clinton" one would know you were referring to Hillary and not "President Clinton". Assuming one didn't know if Nancy Pelosi were married or not, wouldn't "Speaker Pelosi" or "Congresswoman Pelosi" be preferred over Ms.Pelosi or Mrs.Pelosi? I believe there are exceptions to your rule.
Hello Grant and Martha
I've listened to the program for years. It is not passion for the subject that has inspired me to write to you. It just happens to be something I remember well.
For you see, I was there back in 1969 when the expression "Don't Bogart…" was somewhat fresh. As the younger siblings of the so-called counterculture, we witnessed everything, including the bogarting of joints.
I do not agree that hogging onto something brought to mind Bogie's alpha male persona, and hence the phrase "Don't Bogart that joint". No no no.
When somebody would hold onto the joint to tell a story…it inevitable was a long winding road of a story. The image I have, is of the "Bogart-er", if you will, screwing up his face, holding the cigarette like Bogart did, and often even using it as a prop to make a point.
There's was no alpha dog action back then, justy solid passive agression. In fact girls could be violators of the etiquette as much as the boys were.
Anyway, I'm your elder and I was there, so take it from me, it was the Bogart like
physical stage business that popularized the expression in my day.
What of something such as â€œMr.Presidentâ€ as a form of 2nd person address? It seems simply like a recognition of ones job.
A news report should have no reason to "recognize" one's job.
One might also find it confusing in a gender situation. As an example if you were to say, â€œSecretary Clintonâ€ one would know you were referring to Hillary and not â€œPresident Clintonâ€.
As I said before, news articles always fully identify the subjects at the start. We would already know whether "Clinton" referred to the current secretary of state or the former president. In the rare occasions when there are repeated references to both, then there are many ways of handling it, using their own names, without having to resort to titles.
First reference: Bill Clinton, the former U.S. president, and Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state …
Second reference: Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, or Mr. Clinton and Mrs. Clinton, or (for informal articles) Bill and Hillary
Assuming one didn't know if Nancy Pelosi were married or not
1. No respectable news outlet wouldn't know whether she was married.
2. Her marital status is not necessarily relevant anyway.
a. Because only a small number of publications still insist on using a courtesy title -- most mainstream publications would refer to her by her full name on first reference and then just as "Pelosi" on second reference.
b. Because even if you insisted on using a courtesy title without (i) knowing her marital status or (ii) knowing her preference, "Ms. Pelosi" is perfectly acceptable.
c. Because Nancy Pelosi's husband is rarely the subject of news articles. "Pelosi" works just fine.
wouldn't â€œSpeaker Pelosiâ€ or â€œCongresswoman Pelosiâ€ be preferred over Ms.Pelosi or Mrs.Pelosi?
As I said before --
First reference: Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the speaker of the House of Representatives
Second reference: Pelosi
Yet another great episode!!! Do my exclamation marks make me sound more friendly? I usually limit my use of this punctuation mark in correspondence. I will usually make sure that I never end two sentences in a row with exclamation marks. That's about all the thought I had put into it until now. I rarely will ever use it for formal writing, but I think in email and chat it helps add expression.
I grew up using the word sofa with my largely spanish-speaking family. I remember I was introduced to couch as soon as I started going over to friend's houses.
I have no disagreement with the use of â€œMr.â€, for example, or just a last name in reference to public officials, at least in journalism, once their position has been established.
I also would make a distinction between â€œaddressâ€ and â€œreference.â€ Those I would reference by name in an article (e.g. Dr. Kildare, head of Edocrinology at University of Lilliput â€¦ Yesterday, Kildare spoke â€¦ ), I might well address with a title or honorific. (e.g. Dr. Kildare, would you please â€¦ )
I agree that any two members of our society deserve mutual respect. But I have trouble agreeing with the idea that public officials are merely employees and don't deserve deferential forms of address, simply because they are employees of the public. They are employees that have often been given a â€œgoverningâ€ (I prefer â€œgoverningâ€ to â€œrulingâ€) responsibility and authority. The respect shown to the person should be common to all people, but there should be uncommon respect shown to the office of those who have been given special oversight of the common welfare.
Surely, if they do not have uncommon ability to perform the office, worthy of respect, they should not be in the office.
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