Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Come Party with KPBS!

If you're in San Diego at the end of this month, you can catch me and fellow verbivore Richard Lederer at this spectacular event on the Embarcadero, when we'll be part of the program with the San Diego Symphony.

News about "A Way with Words"

We're about to go on our usual summer hiatus, so Grant and I can see what other kind of trouble we can get into for a few weeks.

So, if you're listening over the airwaves, you'll hear a few reruns. But Grant and I wanted to keep in touch with you podcasters, so we're trying something new. Each Wednesday -- starting this week -- we’ll post a new podcast in which we share whatever's on our minds. We’ll also play some word games, share your emails and insights, share a few calls that we didn't have room for on the air -- and maybe even bring you a couple of surprises along the way.

Think of these mini-podcasts as, well, “ears d’oeuvres” before the main course starts up again in the fall. If you're already subscribed to our feed, you don't need to change a thing. If you'd like to sign up, you can do so through iTunes (it's free!) Or right here.

This week, I'll elaborate on my rant about the serial comma, which some of you have already been discussing here.

In the meantime, I'll continue to post here, so please keep checking in! And do let us know how you like the ears d'oeuvres!

I'm Like, OMG, What Happened to "I'm All"??

Wow, I didn't realize this. In today's "On Language" column, Nathan Bierma reports that a locution that's the bane of many sticklers' existence may in fact be on the way out:
A recent study in the journal American Speech, by Stanford University linguist John Rickford and three co-authors, looks at what linguists call the "quotative" use of "all" -- when the word "all" introduces a quotation, as in, "I'm all, 'No way.'" This usage showed up in American English in the early 1990s, Rickford says, but it's now giving way to an equally informal quote signal: the word "like," as in, "He was like, 'No.'"

. . . . But now, "I'm all" is starting to disappear, the American Speech study says. In a 2005 survey of California high school and college students, Rickford and a team of researchers at Stanford University found that the quotative use of "all" had plummeted since the early 1990s. In their study, speakers used "all" less than 5 percent of the time they introduced quotations, down from 45 percent in 1994. "All" had even fallen behind the word "said," which was used 12 percent of the time.
What do you think? Will you be all upset about the demise of "I'm all"?

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Making of a Writer

From the "Well, There Could Be Worse Reasons" Department, Andrew O'Hagan gives the opening address at the Sydney Writers' Festival and reveals his own inspiration for becoming a writer:
My brothers and I were always hanging around our house at night looking for things to burn, but this night I found myself watching Dr Zhivago. There’s a scene in that movie when Omar Sharif comes gliding down the stairs in a flowing dressing gown, Omar Sharif, you know, following his rather impressive moustache down the stairs. Well, he arrives in this room – a giant study, you know, French windows, flowery armchairs, the lot. He sits down at this elegant ecritoir and looks out of the windows, where he sees, in quick succession, a host of daffodils, a bank of snow, a full moon and a herd of deer. (God bless Hollywood.) Anyhow, I’m watching this with wide eyes. Next thing he lifts up a feather pen and – without any ink blotches or crossings out or mistakes, and it takes him about 3.4 nanoseconds – he writes the "Sonnet to Lara’. After which he goes upstairs and goes to bed with Julie Christie. I remember watching that very closely and thinking, "I could do that."


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tusk, tusk

How cool is it that they just discovered the remains of a mastodon here in San Diego County?

Almost as cool as the fact that this animals name derives from Greek words that mean "nipple-tooth." (And yes, "mastodon" a linguistic relative of all those breast-related words that start with "mast-," and to tooth-related words like "orthodontist.")

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

And That Other Blog Is . . .

And since you asked, here's that other blog Grant mentioned on the show last weekend: The Name Inspector.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Blog This!

Several folks have written to ask the name of the Wall Street Journal's editing blog that Grant mentioned during this past weekend's show. (You know, the episode in which my co-host explained that yes, he actually does subscribe to hundreds of blogs, and reads a daily shortlist of about 40 to 50.) Anyway, the blog that he recommended is Style and Substance.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

So, Go See This Play

If you're a word lover in the San Diego area, you still have time to check out a hilarious series of vignettes at the Sixth Avenue Bistro. You should.

The segment about trying to learn a universal language is priceless (and nearly indescribable). The one about Philip Glass buying a loaf of bread sends the production out on a high note (actually, several of them). And a wacky vignette featuring a newly murdered Leon Trotsky has some surprisingly moving moments.

It's a cabaret-style theater, so you can order munchies and libations while treating your brain to an energetic, entertaining workout.

Read more about the play, directed by Glenn Paris and Claudio Raygoza, here and here.

Of Stud Muffins and Hotties

Well, of course Grant Barrett knows from hotties. I mean, the guy works with ME, right? Anyway, William Safire quotes him in the New York Times about the word's origin.

Friday, June 08, 2007

And Speaking of the Chicago Tribune

I understand that the Trib is considering eliminating its weekly "On Language" column by Nathan Bierma, whom I've quoted several times here and on "A Way with Words." That would be a shame. If you agree, please take a moment right now to drop a quick line to the editors. Let them know that there are plenty of us language lovers out here who remain eager to "read all about it": ctc-tempo@tribune.com.

What's in a Name?

A Chicago Tribune columnist questions journalists' frequent use of a female candidate's first name, while all her male opponents are referred to by their last names. What do you think?

Monday, June 04, 2007

A Rosewater by Any Other Name?

Steve Rivkin, an occasional guest on our show, offers up a product name from the "What They Thinking?" Department.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Problems with Entourage email program

Does your email program ever make you feel like this?

That's how I felt this weekend after I tried to create a bunch of rules for the Entourage email program I use with this MacBook. I was trying to direct various sorts of emails to different folders, which I have done without problems in the past. This time, though, the email program proceeded to go nutso -- even when I deleted all the rules and the new folders that I'd created. Having nosed around on the net, I've come to believe that my database may be corrupted. In any case, if you email me and I don't respond, it may be because my email program has stuffed it behind a cybercouch or dropped it through the cybercracks. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go back to saying, "Arrrrrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh!"