Geoff Nunberg http://peoriapublicradio.org en Hackers? Techies? What To Call San Francisco's Newcomers http://peoriapublicradio.org/post/hackers-techies-what-call-san-franciscos-newcomers "There goes the neighborhood." Every so often that cry goes up in San Francisco, announcing a new chapter in American cultural history, as the rest of the country looks on. There were the beats in North Beach, then the hippies in the Haight, then the gays in the Castro. Now it's the turn of the techies who are pouring into my own Mission neighborhood, among other places. Thu, 16 Jan 2014 19:21:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 17679 at http://peoriapublicradio.org Hackers? Techies? What To Call San Francisco's Newcomers Sorry Assiduous (adj.) SAT-Takers, Linguist In Dudgeon (n.) Over Vocab Flashcards http://peoriapublicradio.org/post/sorry-assiduous-adj-sat-takers-linguist-dudgeon-n-over-vocab-flashcards When I took the SATs a very long time ago, it didn't occur to us to cram for the vocabulary questions. Back then, the A in SAT still stood for "aptitude," and most people accepted the wholesome fiction that the tests were measures of raw ability that you couldn't prepare for — "like sticking a dipstick into your brain," one College Board researcher said.<p>It wasn't until the test-prep industry took off a few years later that people realized you could work the system, and students began boning up on the words that were likely to appear on the exam. Mon, 23 Dec 2013 19:27:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 16732 at http://peoriapublicradio.org Sorry Assiduous (adj.) SAT-Takers, Linguist In Dudgeon (n.) Over Vocab Flashcards Narcissistic Or Not, 'Selfie' Is Nunberg's Word Of The Year http://peoriapublicradio.org/post/narcissistic-or-not-selfie-nunbergs-word-year I feel a little defensive about choosing "selfie" as my Word of the Year for 2013. I've usually been partial to words that encapsulate one of the year's major stories, such as "<a href="http://www.npr.org/2011/12/07/143265669/occupy-geoff-nunbergs-2011-word-of-the-year">occupy</a>" or "<a href="http://www.npr.org/2012/12/20/167702665/geoff-nunbergs-word-of-the-year-big-data">big data</a>." Or "privacy," which is the word Dictionary.com chose this year. Thu, 19 Dec 2013 16:26:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 16559 at http://peoriapublicradio.org Narcissistic Or Not, 'Selfie' Is Nunberg's Word Of The Year Was Rand Paul's Plagiarism Dishonest Or A Breach Of Good Form? http://peoriapublicradio.org/post/did-rand-paul-commit-plagiarism-or-just-faux-pas Even taken together, the charges didn't seem to amount to that big a deal — just a matter of quoting a few factual statements and a Wikipedia passage without attributing them. But as Rand Paul discovered, the word "plagiarism" can still rouse people to steaming indignation. Samuel Johnson called plagiarism the most reproachful of literary crimes, and the word itself began as the name of a real crime. In Roman law, a plagiarius was someone who abducted a child or a slave — it's from "plaga," the Latin word for a net or a snare. Tue, 12 Nov 2013 18:11:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 14797 at http://peoriapublicradio.org Was Rand Paul's Plagiarism Dishonest Or A Breach Of Good Form? The Internet's 'Twerk' Effect Makes Dictionaries Less Complete http://peoriapublicradio.org/post/internets-twerk-effect-makes-dictionaries-less-complete Evidently it was quite fortuitous. Just a couple of days after MTV's Video Music Awards, <a href="http://goo.gl/wqIzKX">Oxford Dictionaries Online</a> released its quarterly list of the new words it was adding. To the delight of the media, there was "twerk" at the top, which gave them still another occasion to link a story to Miley Cyrus' energetic high jinks.<p>And why not add "twerk"? It's definitely a cool word, which worked its way from New Orleans bounce music into the linguistic mainstream on the strength of its expressive phonetics, among other things. Thu, 12 Sep 2013 18:30:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 11837 at http://peoriapublicradio.org Bracing For Google Glass: An In-Your-Face Technology http://peoriapublicradio.org/post/bracing-google-glass-your-face-technology The likes of you and I can't buy <a href="http://www.techradar.com/us/news/video/google-glass-what-you-need-to-know-1078114">Google Glass</a> yet. It's available only to the select developers and opinion-makers who have been permitted to spring $1,500 for the privilege of having the first one on the block. But I've seen a few around my San Francisco neighborhood among the young techies who commute down to the Google and Facebook campuses in WiFi-equipped shuttle buses or who pedal downtown to Zynga and Twitter on their fixies.<p>You've probably seen pictures of one of these. Mon, 05 Aug 2013 18:22:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 9936 at http://peoriapublicradio.org Bracing For Google Glass: An In-Your-Face Technology Calling It 'Metadata' Doesn't Make Surveillance Less Intrusive http://peoriapublicradio.org/post/calling-it-metadata-doesnt-make-surveillance-less-intrusive "This is just metadata. There is no content involved." That was how Sen. Dianne Feinstein <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/06/06/transcript-dianne-feinstein-saxby-chambliss-explain-defend-nsa-phone-records-program/" target="_blank">defended</a> the NSA's blanket surveillance of Americans' phone records and Internet activity. Before those revelations, not many people had heard of metadata, the term librarians and programmers use for the data that describes a particular document or record it's linked to. Fri, 21 Jun 2013 18:47:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 7729 at http://peoriapublicradio.org Calling It 'Metadata' Doesn't Make Surveillance Less Intrusive 'Horrific' And 'Surreal': The Words We Use To Bear Witness http://peoriapublicradio.org/post/horrific-and-surreal-words-we-use-bear-witness Mass shootings, bus crashes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks — we've gotten adept at talking about these things. Act of God or act of man, they're all horrific. At least that was the word you kept hearing from politicians and newscasters describing the Boston bombings and the explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas.<p>That may not strike you as surprising — the events were horrific, weren't they? But it's actually a new way of describing things. "Horrific" is an old word; it turns up in Thackeray and Melville. But until recent times it was rare and literary. Fri, 26 Apr 2013 15:51:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 4633 at http://peoriapublicradio.org 'Horrific' And 'Surreal': The Words We Use To Bear Witness Even Dictionaries Grapple With Getting 'Marriage' Right http://peoriapublicradio.org/post/even-dictionaries-grapple-getting-marriage-right It's a funny thing about dictionaries. First we're taught to revere them, then we have to learn to set them aside. Nobody ever went wrong starting a middle-school composition with, "According to Webster's ..." but that's not how you start an op-ed commentary about terrorism or racism. Thu, 04 Apr 2013 17:23:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 3477 at http://peoriapublicradio.org Even Dictionaries Grapple With Getting 'Marriage' Right Historical Vocab: When We Get It Wrong, Does It Matter? http://peoriapublicradio.org/post/historical-vocab-when-we-get-it-wrong-does-it-matter Has there ever been an age that was so grudging about suspending its disbelief? The groundlings at the Globe Theatre didn't giggle when Shakespeare had a clock chime in <a href="http://goo.gl/07bvN">Julius Caesar</a>. The Victorians didn't take Dickens to task for having the characters in <em>A</em> <em>Tale of Two Cities </em>ride the Dover mail coach 10 years before it was established. But Shakespeare and Dickens weren't writing in the age of the Internet, when every historical detail is scrutinized for chronological correctness, and when no "Gotcha!" remains unposted for long. Tue, 26 Feb 2013 20:05:00 +0000 Geoff Nunberg 1585 at http://peoriapublicradio.org Historical Vocab: When We Get It Wrong, Does It Matter?