Flippant? Oxford Dictionaries? Who said so? Oh, Oxford Dictionaries.
Just for the record, here’s Oxford Dictionaries’ definition of ‘flippant’:
‘Not showing a serious or respectful attitude’
And here’s why (as reported in the Guardian today) Oxford Dictionaries fessed up to such undictionary-like behaviour:
A Canadian anthropologist, Michael Oman-Reagan, tweeted Oxford Dictionaries last week to ask it why “rabid feminist” is its … usage example for the word “rabid”. Oxford Dictionaries responded by suggesting Oman-Regan may be a rabid feminist. It has since apologised for the “flippant” response and is reviewing the example sentence.
Here is the definition of ‘rabid’ Michael was referring to (reproduced below in case it’s – hopefully – taken down in the near future):
‘Having or proceeding from an extreme or fanatical support of or belief in something: a rabid feminist’
Oh dear. And good.
Wordwatch Towers has previously pointed out examples of sexism within the (virtual) pages of Oxford Dictionaries and we’re (me, the butler, and my reader, Gladys) are glad to see this being given a prominent airing over the Interwebs.
Since this – um – discussion surfaced on Twitter, Oxford Dictionaries has published an article about how it chooses examples of word use. It has humbly eaten humble pie and is to be commended. Brace yourself, the key paragraph rambles on a bit, but the upshot is that Michael has been vindicated:
‘In the case of an example which has recently received much attention, of the phrase “rabid feminist” to exemplify the sense of rabid meaning ‘having or proceeding from an extreme or fanatical support of or belief in something’, the example is an accurate representation of the meaning of the word: rabid is used in this way to denigrate the noun it modifies, and the real-life sentence from which the example was taken involved someone denigrating a person described as being a feminist. However, it was a poorly chosen example in that the controversial and impolitic nature of the example distracted from the dictionary’s aim of describing and clarifying meaning. A more generic example, like “rabid extremist” or “rabid fan”, would also have been supported by evidence on our corpora, and would have illustrated the meaning of the word without those negative impacts.’*
*Just in case you’re interested in a plain language version of this explanation, here you go:
‘We used a sexist example to explain the word ‘rabid’. Sorry. We’ll put that right now.’
A big thank you to Wordwatchers all over the world who continue to visit my blog: an amazing 99,000 visitors from over 180 countries made their way to Wordwatch Towers in 2015. The butler is no longer threatening to resign, Champagne is chilling (pink), and we remain open for business. (99,000 people can’t be wrong :)) Here’s to 2016.
Here’s an excerpt from the Wordwatch Towers annual report for 2015 created by the stats experts at WordPress :
The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 99,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.
The other day, while *cough* accidentally reading an article in the Guardian about the X Factor (a TV competition for wannabee singers that I never watch except for sometimes every week), I noticed that the comments thread had segued into a discussion about spelling and punctuation.
It began because someone had written ‘here here’ in response to a previous comment. Someone else said this should be either ‘here hear’ or ‘hear here’, while a third said it should be ‘hear, hear’, contracted from ‘hear him, hear him’.
Well, how interesting. (Although not to another commenter who pointed out that people who spend their time correcting others’ spelling are a bit sad.)
I (sadly) turned to the trusty Oxford Dictionaries site which informed me that the correct spelling and punctuation is: ‘hear! hear!’. It doesn’t bother with the derivation, though Wikipedia confirms that it’s a shortened form of ‘hear him’ (its punctuation is a bit dodgy).
Note that there isn’t universal agreement about this. Cambridge Dictionaries online says it should be punctuated ‘hear, hear!’. Which does, I admit, look a little less intrusive on the page.
Feefle and flindrikin
Which brings me rather neatly (ahem) onto snow. Just a quick note of interest: did you know that our Scottish friends in the north of the UK have 421 words for snow?
One of my favourites is ‘skelf’ meaning a large snowflake. Every language should have a word for a large snowflake. 🙂
Finally, while in a newsagent’s the other day, I caught sight of the cover of Acoustic Guitar magazine. The cover picture was of blues musician Robert Johnson who is supposed to have made a pact with the devil. The words next to the pic read:
Paying the devil his blues
‘Paying the devil his blues’ is based on the common proverb ‘give the devil his due’ (scroll down). So, of course, the play on words in this MUSICAL example should have been:
Playing the devil his blues
Subeditors, eh? *sigh* Fings ain’t what they used to be.
That’s quite enough from me for now. I probably need to lie down.
Butler: ‘Hear, hear!’ (He prefers the single exclamation mark.)
The loyal reader of this blog (Hi, Gladys – how’s the arthritis?) will know that Guy Keleny, The Independent‘s grammar maven, refuses to marry me. Yet somehow fate brings us together: I got interested in the expression that people sometimes use when they want to suggest that something is a money-spinner. It’s kerching, or ker-ching, or ka-ching. But which is correct?
Googling found Guy. *sigh*. He’d picked up on this very issue in one of his columns (scroll down to the end). A journo on the paper had used the spelling ‘kerching’ which, as Guy points out, sounds like a verb. The spelling, he says, should be ker-ching.
But Oxford Dictionaries apparently disagrees. Its spelling is ‘ka-ching’ (follow the link to hear how it’s pronounced.). The entry explains that the word is a noun. It’s also onomatopoeic in derivation – mimicking the sound of a cash register.
Ker-ching it is then. Not that I’m biased.
No, not the ancient Mesopotamian (from the Greek meaning ‘between two rivers’, by the way) city of Ur, or textspeak for ‘you are’, but this, from the introduction to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, Wordsworth Classics edition:
‘Scholars describe various ur-versions of Tender is the Night…’
I kind of guessed what it meant, but had to consult Oxford Dictionaries for the exact meaning (translation: I didn’t know what it meant). It’s from German and means ‘primitive’, ‘original’ or ‘earliest’.
Interestingly, Oxford Dictionaries uses it without the hyphen, its example being ‘urtext’. Horrible, isn’t it? Looks horrible, sounds horrible – with or without the hyphen. And as unnecessary as something very unnecessary indeed. Here’s my rewrite, Wordsworth Classics:
‘Scholars describe various earlier versions of Tender is the Night…’
I had some more stuff to share, but this post is already too long. Watch this space! The butler’s fine, thanks. He’s writing a novel. Don’t ask.