Christmas songs: On city sidewalks and every street corner... from Black Friday through New Year's... they're broadcast inside and out, they stick in our heads, they are parodied and rewritten, and yet many of us, even as we sing along, don't give much thought to what the words mean.
Earlier this week, an article in the Guardian
reported that "an eminent former editor of the Oxford English Dictionary covertly deleted thousands of words because of their foreign origins and bizarrely blamed previous editors." But it turns out that this seemingly sensational story is "completely bogus," according to OED editor at large Jesse Sheidlower. Read Sheidlower's explanation on The New Yorker's Culture Desk blog here
. (Update, 12/3
: Our own Ben Zimmer has a column about the pseudo-controversy on the New York Times op/ed page
On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, Americans kick off the holiday shopping season with a bang. In his Word Routes column last year, lexicographer Ben Zimmer explored the origins of the phrase "Black Friday." It is not, as many believe, the day when retailers' balance sheets change from red to black.
For the fifth consecutive year, the Visual Thesaurus assisted the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses with its annual Spelling Bee supporting the work of independent literary publishers. As in past years, the VT supplied the words to challenge some of New York's leading literary lights, and this year singer-turned-memoirist Rosanne Cash emerged victorious.
The knuckleballer R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets has won the National League's Cy Young Award, given to the league's best pitcher. We've been Dickey fans ever since we learned that he keeps a dictionary and a thesaurus in his locker. At the beginning of the 2011 baseball season, Ben Zimmer devoted a Word Routes column to Dickey, who had already emerged as a fan favorite, "not just for his way with a knuckleball, but for his way with words." Read it here
It's hard to believe but it's already the time when dictionary programs begin selecting their "Words of the Year." Oxford University Press has selected one Word of the Year for the UK and one for the US. The UK word is omnishambles
("a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged"), while the US word is the acronymic verb GIF
("to create a GIF file of an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event"). The UK announcement is here
, and the US announcement is here