There’s nothing new about selfies, this one’s 175 years old

Monday, 2 December, 2013

Photo by, and of, Robert Cornelius

No sooner does the word “selfie” earn itself title of the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year, than someone digs up what is thought to be the world’s first such photograph, a picture Robert Cornelius, a US chemist, took of himself in 1839.

I get the feeling though this claim may be challenged, but let’s see what happens.

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Analysing the words used in certain series of well known novels

Thursday, 28 November, 2013

For those with an interest in such things, listings of the most distinct, and commonly used adjectives, adverbs, and sentences used in the fantasy/adventure “Hunger Games”, “Harry Potter”, and “Twilight”, series of novels.

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The word of the year is “selfie”, but might it be a sleeping beauty?

Wednesday, 27 November, 2013

2013’s Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is… selfie, as in the photos we, or many of us, delight in taking of ourselves with, usually, our smartphone cameras.

I’m not sure how long this will remain unchallenged, but seemingly the… neologism originated in Australia, or at least in an Australian online discussion forum, in 2002.

Who knows, studies of historical transcripts may yet reveal the use of “selfie” dating back centuries. It’s happened before. A word falls from use and then reappears many decades later. “Sleeping beauty” is one term used to describe such situations.

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Dude, why are you even calling me dude anyway?

Monday, 4 November, 2013

The other week I watched The Notebook, a movie set, at times, during the 1940s, and it seemed men of the period used the term “Mac” to address other males they didn’t know.

In the same way people today might say “mate”, “bud”, or maybe “boss”. So what’s the deal there anyway? Using a word that has one meaning, in an entirely different context? Who knows, but that such words slide off the tongue easily might have something to do with it.

Then there’s “dude”… now what’s the story with that word?

Dude has a comparable quality. Just think of the last time you did something awesome in the presence of a friend who affirmed your awesomeness with the exclamation Duuude! Or the last time you said something objectionable to someone who began setting you straight with a firm and sober Dude. There may not be any obvious difference in denotation between these cases, but the difference in connotation is, you’ll appreciate from experience, pretty major.

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What is it that pilots and air traffic controllers say to each other?

Friday, 25 October, 2013

Learning to fly an aircraft is one thing… equally important though is grasping the lingo, the… language with which pilots and air traffic controllers use to speak each other:

November 435 Sierra Romeo is cleared to Bravo Tango Victor airport, via: On entering controlled airspace, expect radar vectors to Westminster VOR. Then Victor 457 to Lancaster VOR, Victor 39 to East Texas VOR Echo-Tango-Xray, Victor 162 to Huguenot VOR Hotel-Uniform-Oscar, then as filed. Climb and maintain three thousand feet, expect five thousand feet ten minutes after departure. Departure frequency 128.7, squawk four-six-three-five.

Yep, that sounds a lot like the way I used to speak during my academy, or buzzing over the country side in a Cessna, days.

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From back to front, a list of single word palindromes

Tuesday, 22 October, 2013

From a resource, A Collection of Word Oddities and Trivia, compiled by US high school teacher Jeff Miller, an extensive list of single-word palindromes… being words, sentences, or numbers, that read the same way backwards or forwards.

And if you’re playing Scrabble and have the letters x, y, and z, especially z, in abundance, this list of last words, that are often found in the last pages of dictionaries, could prove invaluable.

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Skills for life that can be acquired in about ten minutes

Thursday, 12 September, 2013

Learning how to tear a telephone directory, if you can find one, in half, is certainly a great party trick, or handy if you need to light a fire perhaps. It takes a few minutes to learn, and it’s a skill you’ll likely remember for the rest of your life.

Why stop at knowing how to rip up the phone book though? You can also learn how to speed read, change a tire, crack an egg single-handedly, and learn how to read Korean (most interesting), in ten to fifteen minutes, if you wish.

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What sort of shelf life do new words really have?

Wednesday, 11 September, 2013

A number of new words were added to the Oxford online dictionary recently, but will any of them still be in use ten years down the line, or might they have long since faded from memory?

According to Alexis Madrigal, writing for The Alantic, the chances are about even, after he checked up on how “words”, including lol and dot-com, that were added to dictionaries during the 1990s, are travelling today.

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Next we’ll be naming “twerk” as the word of the year

Friday, 6 September, 2013

Surprise, surprise, the word “twerk” has recently, along with a stack of other “buzzworthy” neologisms, been added to the Oxford online dictionary… no need, I’m sure, to go into what the word means, or why its inclusion at this juncture merits a mention.

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If you minus the hyphen, we could make a dash for it

Wednesday, 31 July, 2013

A dash is a dash, is it not? That’s kind of true, expect the dash in question may in fact be a hyphen, a minus sign, or either an En, or Em, dash.

You probably know the most common uses of hyphens, the stubby, multipurpose half-dashes. They push apart and tie together suffixes, prefixes, words, and phrases. The often-derided mark, hated for its careless and prevalent misuse, has quite a few proper uses, hyphenation for one.

Regular readers have probably noticed I pretty much use a minus sign or a hyphen to do the work of all four punctuation marks… while I appreciate the En or Em dashes have a function and purpose, I’m really not a fan of the space they chew up to do so.

So there. Still, it’s good to know the rules before you go breaking them.

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