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Sexless Objects

Our two most recently aired episodes were Going All-City last week and The College Slang Party the week before that. They’re reruns more than six months old — which means you’ve forgotten half of what’s in them, right? Give ’em a whirl.

Just Like You Imagined Him

Grant has a number of speaking gigs coming up in Potsdam, New York, and San Diego, California. Say “hi” if you see him!

Language Titbits and Tidbits

• April is National Poetry Month! For your gift, we got you a link to A Poem From Us, which distributes video of people reading favorite poems written by others.

• A former Hustler magazine copy editor explains why even porn needs an in-house style guide.

• An editor at The New Yorker defends spicing up sentences with nutty commas. Also, more arguments for the serial comma.

• Two sites encourage you to rethink old — even moribund — words:

  • Dead Words asks “other designers, typographer, and letterers to reinterpret the dead word through a piece of hand lettering,” according to a quote attributed to its creator.
  • Making a Meaning “invites people to make a new meaning for an extinct word, tailoring it to their own purposes. … using bizarre, little known words to create personalised language and the use of language to create social identities.”

• What books would you expect to find at this bookstore? (Cartoon via the Twitter account of Grammarly.)

• What’s the history of gender in English grammar? In Gender Shifts in the History of English, Anne Curzan writes,

The mysteries of how European languages such as German, French, Spanish, or Italian categorize nouns as masculine, feminine, and neuter are at best a source of amusement and more often a source of bafflement and frustration for Modern English speakers, who are often unaware that their own language used to have these same kinds of noun categories. To English speakers, having been brought up in a linguistic universe where sexless objects are almost always it, it can seem arbitrary and absurd to talk about such objects with language normally reserved for male and female human beings and perhaps for animals. And the idea that grammatical gender is not supposed to “make sense,” that it is semantically arbitrary, often makes even less sense.

• Want even more things to read? Nancy Friedman has a link roundup for her specialty of names and naming.

Don’t forget: we’re drastically modifying and redesigning our website. What do you want it to do?

Peace and love,

Martha and Grant

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Further reading

Walkie Talkie (episode #1541)

One of the most powerful words you’ll ever hear — and one of the most poignant — isn’t in dictionaries yet. But it probably will be one day. The word is endling, and it means “the last surviving member of a species.” The...

Tiger Tail (episode #1540)

You may have a favorite word in English, but what about your favorite in another language? The Spanish term ojalá is especially handy for expressing hopefulness and derives from Arabic for “God willing.” In Trinidad, if you want to ask...