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Baby Platitudes Are Called Duggles


Yes, it's another email newsletter from A Way with Words.

There was no newsletter last week, because, umm, we had a really good excuse, okay? In part, it's because your wily and wordly hosts are everywhere nattering to journalists about "words of the year," a phenomenon which threatens to swallow them whole, leaving behind only chipped bifocals and bits of cardigan.

Grant has posted two more minicasts about word-of-the-year candidates.

PUMA, a political movement spawned by supporters of Hillary Clinton after she failed to secure enough delegates for the Democratic presidential nomination:


And "ground game," a term summarizing the person-by-person political efforts that apparently helped Barack Obama win the presidential election:


This past weekend we aired a scrumptious episode about proverbs from around the world, eyeteeth, spittin' image, and The. Best. Call. Evar! about emphasizing your words by making each one its own sentence.


Two weeks ago, we took another look at moonbats, wingnuts, sleepovers, and "Are you still working on that?" Yes! I am indeed working on that. I'm building Devil's Tower out of my mashed potatoes.


This just in:

We've talked about snowclones on the show before. Prolific pop language writer Mark Peters surveys the snowy plain and summarizes the linguistic term to the readers of Good magazine.

Snowclones, in short, are phrases patterned after a well known quote, saying, catchphrase, or slogan. For example, variations on Obi-Wan Kenobi's "These are not the droids you're looking for." Or "Red is the new black." Or "My name is Noam Chomsky and I approve this universal grammar."

Read it and laugh:


If you're not browsing the A Way with Words forums, you're missing out language stories around the Internet. Each week we link to a bunch of articles, opinion columns, book reviews, and other interesting language content.

Just today Grant took offense at an opinion column that derides people who dare to write or speak publicly, even though they're not good at it:


When is it "whiskey" and when is it "whisky"?


Did you know that the New York Times has a crossword blog?


Sian Prior used to deride the use of platitudes, but he's come to appreciate that they have valid uses:


Jan Freeman offers suggestions of books for the word-lovers on your holiday shopping list. We'll be talking about a few of our own on the air in a coming episode.


A column about aptronyms, names accidentally befitting the named, like Chris Moneymaker, the professional poker player:


The British gossip newsletter Popbitch often features aptronyms. (Grant's been subscribing to it for eight years, so he says, "Be warned! Some of the Popbitch content, though text-based, is sexual and scandalous.") Popbitch also features the secret names that celebrities use when they register at hotels. And stories about otters.


To close, we'd like to thank everyone who made even more donations to the radio show. Your generosity makes a difference! If you meant to give a little bit to A Way with Words, but it somehow slipped off your plate, it's never too late:


Best wishes and happy holidays,

Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett

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