In my most recent column for the Boston Globe
, I poke fun at new advertising slogans that Apple is using for its iPod line: the latest iPod Nano is "Completely Renanoed," while the iPod Touch is "Engineered for Maximum Funness." Whereas renanoed
at least shows a modicum of creativity (turning Nano
into a verb capable of taking the re-
seems to be an unnecessarily cutesy elaboration on plain old fun
. But hang on: can we make a distinction between fun
This week, there have been many celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the emoticon, the now-ubiquitous use of punctuation marks to mark emotion in online text. On September 19, 1982, at 11:44 a.m., Scott Fahlman posted a message to a Carnegie Mellon bulletin board, proposing that :-)
be used for marking jokes and :-(
for non-jokes. Though Fahlman should get full credit for these pioneering smiley and frowny faces, there were in fact much earlier pioneers in expressive typography.
If there's one expression that seems to have taken over the media landscape lately, it's "doubling down." Deriving from the game of blackjack, "doubling down" has taken on a figurative meaning over the past couple of decades: "to engage in risky behavior, especially when one is already in a dangerous situation," as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it. So why is everyone from Mark Zuckerberg to Bill Clinton talking about risk-taking in this way? And when is it considered a good thing?
Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention, in which he nominated President Obama for re-election, has been hailed as a rhetorical tour de force. The press corps marveled at how Clinton used the prepared speech as a mere starting point, injecting his remarks with ad-libbed folksiness. The result was a speech that managed to elucidate wonky policy specifics in the homespun style of a Southern preacher.
Last week on NPR's Morning Edition, sports commentator Frank Deford said in a piece about Serena Williams and her volatile style that "the proof is in the pudding." After a listener questioned the usage, I was called in to be the arbiter on the idiomatic expression. Is the proof in the pudding? Or is the proof of the pudding in the eating?
Can a simple slangy acronym mark a generation gap? YOLO
, short for "You Only Live Once," has emerged as an age-based shibboleth: all too familiar to members of the millennial set, and all but meaningless to their elders. In my latest Boston Globe column, I dissect the YOLO
phenomenon, but there's much more to say about those four letters.
If there's one thing that dictionary publishers have learned, it's that announcing new words added to their latest editions is good for generating some media attention — and also generating public hand-wringing over what the new entries say about the state of our society and our language.