Archive for ‘Language’

August 17, 2022

Hapax Legomenon

Zipf's law

In corpus linguistics, a hapax [hah-paks] legomenon [luh-gaa-muh-naan] (sometimes abbreviated to hapax, plural hapaxes) is a word or an expression that occurs only once within a context: either in the written record of an entire language, in the works of an author, or in a single text.

The term is sometimes incorrectly used to describe a word that occurs in just one of an author’s works but more than once in that particular work. Hapax legomenon is a transliteration of Greek: ‘being said once.’

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February 6, 2022

Raining Cats and Dogs

Rain of animals

The English-language idiom raining cats and dogs is used to describe particularly heavy rain. It is of unknown etymology. One possible explanation involves the drainage systems on buildings in 17th-century Europe, which were poor and may have disgorged their contents, including the corpses of any animals that had accumulated in them, during heavy showers.

This occurrence is documented in Jonathan Swift’s 1710 poem ‘Description of a City Shower,’ in which he describes: ‘Drowned puppies, stinking sprats, all drenched in mud, Dead cats and turnip-tops come tumbling down the flood.’

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November 19, 2021

Akhfash’s Goat

Joey Tribbiani

Akhfash’s goat is a Persian parable in which a philosopher trains his pet goat to nod its head when asked if it had understood a book that it was shown.

The term refers to a person who nods along with a conversation that they do not understand.

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November 1, 2021

Kids These Days

Socrates

Kids these days‘ is the belief that the present generation of young people is inferior or deficient compared to previous generations.

Such beliefs have been reported since 624 BCE. Ancient philosopher Socrates complained, ‘The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.’

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October 28, 2021

Sayre’s Law

Sayre's law

Sayre’s law states, in a formulation quoted by academic economist and historian Charles Philip Issawi: ‘In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake.’

By way of corollary, it adds: ‘That is why academic politics are so bitter.’ Sayre’s law is named after Wallace Stanley Sayre (1905–1972), U.S. political scientist and professor at Columbia University.

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September 28, 2021

Neopronoun

Non-binary gender

Neopronouns are a category of neologistic English third-person personal pronouns beyond she, he, they, one, and it. Neopronouns are preferred by some non-binary individuals who feel that they reflect their gender identity more accurately than any conventional pronoun.

Neopronouns may be words created to serve as pronouns such as ‘ze/hir’ or ‘noun-self’ pronouns where existing words are turned into personal pronouns such as fae/faeself.’ Some neopronouns allude to they/them, such as ‘ey/em’, a form of Spivak pronoun.

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September 9, 2021

Two Minutes Hate

Eastasia

In the dystopian novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ (1949), by George Orwell, the Two Minutes Hate is the daily, public period during which members of the Outer Party of Oceania must watch a film depicting the enemies of the state, specifically Emmanuel Goldstein and his followers, to openly and loudly express hatred for them.

The political purpose of the Two Minutes Hate is to allow the citizens of Oceania to vent their existential anguish and personal hatreds towards politically expedient enemies: Goldstein and the rival superstate of the moment. In re-directing the members’ subconscious feelings away from the Party’s government of Oceania, and towards non-existent external enemies, the Party minimizes thoughtcrime (politically unorthodox thoughts).

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August 22, 2021

Green Knight

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The Green Knight is a character from Arthurian literature. He is a formidable judge and tester of knights, and as such the other characters consider him as friendly but terrifying and somewhat mysterious.

In ‘Sir Gawain, the Green Knight,’ a 14th century alliterative poem by an anonymous poet, he is so called because his skin and clothes are green. The meaning of his greenness has puzzled scholars since the discovery of the poem, who identify him variously as the ‘Green Man,’ a vegetation being of medieval art; a recollection of a figure from Celtic mythology; a pagan Christian symbol — the personified Devil.

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August 20, 2021

Avant-garde

Society of the Spectacle

The avant-garde (French: ‘advance guard’ or ‘vanguard’) are people or works that are experimental, radical, or unorthodox with respect to art, culture, or society. It is frequently characterized by aesthetic innovation and initial unacceptability.

The avant-garde pushes the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo, primarily in the cultural realm. The avant-garde is considered by some to be a hallmark of modernism, as distinct from postmodernism. Many artists have aligned themselves with the avant-garde movement, and still continue to do so, tracing their history from Dada through the Situationists and to postmodern artists such as the Language poets of the 1980s.

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August 15, 2021

Submarine Sandwich

Naval Submarine Base New London

Wawa

submarine sandwich, commonly known as a sub, or a hoagie (Mid-Atlantic and Western Pennsylvania), hero (New York City), Italian sandwich (Maine), or grinder (New England), is a type of cold or hot sandwich made from a cylindrical bread roll split lengthwise and filled with meats, cheeses, vegetables, and condiments.

The Italian sandwich originated in several different Italian American communities in the Northeast from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries. The popularity of this Italian-American cuisine has grown from its origins in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to most parts of the U.S. and Canada, and with the advent of chain restaurants, is now available in many parts of the world.

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August 12, 2021

Gopnik

slav squat

gopnik is a member of a slavic subculture stereotyped as prone to hooliganism. Gopota are often seen squatting in groups ‘in court’ or ‘doing the crab’ with their heels on the ground, a behavior attributed to Soviet prison culture and avoidance of sitting on the cold ground.

The subculture of gopota has its roots in the late Russian Empire and evolved during the 20th century in many cities in the Soviet Union. By the late 2010s, it had faded for the most part, although youth gangs (such as the A.U.E.) that resemble gopota still exist in Russia and in other Slavic and Baltic countries.

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August 1, 2021

Grand Poobah

Mikado

Grand Poobah is a satirical term derived from the name of the haughty character Pooh-Bah in Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘The Mikado’ (1885). In this comic opera, Pooh-Bah holds numerous exalted offices, including ‘First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chief Justice, Commander-in-Chief, Lord High Admiral … Archbishop … Lord Mayor’ and ‘Lord High Everything Else.’

The name has come to be used as a mocking title for someone self-important or locally high-ranking and who either exhibits an inflated self-regard or who has limited authority while taking impressive titles. American writer William Safire wrote that ‘everyone assumes [the name] Pooh-Bah merely comes from [W. S. Gilbert] combining the two negative exclamations Pooh! plus Bah!, typical put-downs from a typical bureaucrat.’

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