ARL Archive · Reference News Roundup

Reference News Roundup! (vol. 2)

dics-on-fire
Don’t look now, but dictionaries are cool again. (And yes, this is a terrible graphic!)

Greetings Papercutters! It’s Sunday, so that means it’s time for a little RNR (aka: Reference News Roundup)!

I know, the RNR is supposed to be on Friday, but I posted something else last Friday, so I thought I’d do it now. Besides, let’s be honest … it really doesn’t matter.

Anyway ….

As mentioned last time, this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of reference and reference-related news from the past week. Rather, the items contained herein are those that struck my fancy and/or say something important about our world and the role reference books play (or should play) in it.

Not mentioned last time, because I didn’t include them, are two fun reference factoids that are not related to the week’s news, but still kinda fun and interesting nonetheless: a symbol of the week and an allusion of the week.

With that, I’ll say thanks for tuning in and, if you feel like discussing any of the contents below, leave a comment and we’ll chat!

Word.

PS) If you like what we’re doing here, link to it, share it on your channels, or tell your peeps the old-fashioned way and talk to them (or send a note via the trained bird of your choice).

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I. NEWS ITEMS OF THE WEEK:

Move Over, Wikipedia. Dictionaries Are Hot Again
New York Times

“Dictionaries are not regarded as sexy or interesting, but what dictionaries are known for is telling the truth,” said Jesse Sheidlower, a lexicographer and past president of the American Dialect Society. “Right now there are a lot of questions about what is true. We want clear statements about what things are, and dictionaries provide that.”

[By the way, this item is our News Item of the Week!]

How the Word ‘Terrorism’ Lost Its Meaning
CBC News

Terrorism is political invective, nothing more. It’s a great favorite of demagogues, widely accepted by audiences, and is almost always applied exclusively to the other, never to ourselves.

Merriam-Webster Adds New Words
Times-Tribune (Scranton)

In addition to elevating “surreal” in 2016 to word of the year, the dictionary company on Tuesday added about 1,000 new words and new definitions to existing listings on its website, Merriam-Webster.com.

Additional articles on this matter. The first does a good job of putting this news about Merriam-Webster’s additions in some sort of context:

Merriam-Webster Keeps Up with the Times
MassLive.com

To maintain any usefulness in the modern age, the dictionary cannot be only an archive of traditional language. It must be a living, breathing document that changes with the times.

Check Out Which Sports Words Have Been Added to the Dictionary
Dayton Daily News

Since we can’t be bothered to learn the real words for things anymore, Merriam-Webster has made a regular habit out of adding new ones to the dictionary to make things easier. The latest crop is out, and it includes a few from the world of sports.

‘Plyscraper’ Named Word of the Year Finalist
ArchitectureNow

Among the lesser-known finalists in Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary’s 2016 Word of the Year choices was the word “plyscraper,” which has been spawned from a building typology with growing popularity around the world.

II. And Now for Some Stuff that Wasn’t in the News:

anchor
From the A Dictionary of Symbols

Symbol of the Week

Anchor: A sign of Hope for “Boatloads” of Christians

In the emblems, signs and graphic representations of the early Christians, the anchor always signified salvation and hope. It was often shown upside down, with a star, cross or crescent to denote its mystic nature.

– A Dictionary of Symbols

Attribute of various sea gods — because the anchor symbolizes a ship’s only stability during a storm — it is a symbol of hope, especially in Christian symbolism (appearing frequently on grave stones and coffins), and a symbol of consistency and fidelity. It was used as a secret symbol (anchor cross) in early Christianity by the addition of a crossbar.

Continuum Encyclopedia of Symbols

alcyone

Allusion of the Week

Halcyon Days

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Allusions defines “halcyon days” as calm, peaceful days, a happy golden period; prosperous, affluent times.

Halcyon is the Greek name for the bird we know as the kingfisher. The ancient Greeks believed the bird nested at sea at the winter solstice and calmed the waves while it incubated its eggs. This halcyon period lasted 14 days.

There is an explanation in Greek mythology, of course. Halcyon was the daughter of of Aeolus, god of the winds. She was married to a mortal who died at sea, and threw herself into the ocean to be near him. The gods changed them both to kingfishers–it is unclear whether this was an act of compassion or anger.

There’s only one problem with this explanation. According to both the Dictionary of Classical Mythology, Religion, Literature, and Art and the Penguin Dictionary of Classical Mythology, it seems Aeolus’s daughter was named Alcyone, not Halcyon.

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