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Facepalm and Headdesk

Hello, language-lovers —

This past weekend’s episode is a delicious re-airing of a show from last spring, tackling great catchprases, Fibber McGee drawers, autocorrected text messages, annoying verbal fillers (“um”) and a whole lot more. Listen.

Words of the Year

In preparation for his eighth annual words of the year piece for the New York Times, and for the American Dialect Society’s annual new words vote to be held in Portland in January, Grant’s asking everyone what their must-have words-of-the-year candidates are. What are yours? What are the words or phrases that most represent the preoccupations, discourse, news and events of 2011? Send them to grant@waywordradio.org.

Last year’s word-of-the-year winner was “app.”

Scientific Study of Word Association

Prof. Dr. Gert Storms of the Department of Psychology at the University of Leuven writes with a request that we help spread the word about a new study of how English-speakers’ remember the meanings of words. He and his colleagues have created a five-minute quiz similar to the one that received 80,000 responses when they asked Dutch-speakers similar questions. Give it a try.

Language News

• A spelling error that will never disappear, from Grammarphile at the “Red Pen” blog. And from someone purporting to be a writer!

By the way, Grammarphile’s “headdesk” is a companion to “facepalm,” both words that describe gestures and that have taken on lives of their own in the informal writing of the Internet. TV Tropes has a nice explanation. (Warning: That site is a black hole that consumes time itself! You will lose days there!)

• Cambridge Dictionaries’ “About Words” blogs catches us up with the language of modern crimes: malvertising, botherding, griefing, and more.

• Merrill Perlman at the Columbia Journalism Review‘s “Language Corner” blog gets right to the heart of the mistakes journalists make when comparing things.

“The longer the separation between the two things being compared, or the longer the distance between a modifier and the thing it modifies, the more chances there are that a reader will lose the thread and stop reading.”

Behind the Scenes

Grant’s been a busy fellow updating the look of his own website and that of the American Dialect Society. Pretty!

We wish a wonderful Thanksgiving to our American listeners, and may the rest of you have a moment to relax with a warm drink and a good book.

With thanks for your conversation and friendship, we wish you the best,

Martha and Grant

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