ARL Archive · Reference News Roundup

Reference News Roundup (Vol. 5)

newspaper-peepsGreetings Papercutters!

It’s Friday … and I’ve got my proverbial shit together, so you know what that means: it’s time for another installment of the Reference News Roundup!

Once again, I’ve corralled the latest word, dictionary, and reference-related news and put it all together so you don’t have to go looking for it! I know, that might not sound like much, but I’ve been drinking, so pulling this together was a bit tougher than usual!

But hey, you don’t want to hear about me, so let’s get right to it, shall we? As usual, I’ll kick things off with my news item of the week.

Thanks for reading!

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NEWS ITEM OF THE WEEK:

This one isn’t really about words, dictionaries, or references, but it’s super awesome, which is why I’ve given it top billing. Dig it.

Night time word vigilante goes out in dead of night to correct signs with rogue apostrophes

By day the he is a highly-qualified professional with his secret known only to a handful of close family and friends.

But at night he becomes a shadowy figure who patrols the streets of Bristol, armed with his homemade ‘apostrophiser’ and purpose-built trestle.

His specially-made tool reaches the higher signs on shopfronts and road signs, replacing or covering rogue apostrophes wherever he sees them.

WORDS:

Trump says he has the ‘best words.’ Merriam-Webster disagrees (Op-Ed)

Words, like facts, have absolute meanings and spellings, despite Trump’s efforts to revise both.

Meet the Woman Behind Merriam-Webster’s Viral Twitter Account

After Ivanka Trump told CBS’ Gayle King that she didn’t know “what it means to be complicit,” Merriam-Webster took up the case.

How did the word “liberal” become a political insult? (UK)

Liberal is becoming a political insult. Used in such a fashion, it has little or no determinate meaning. Instead, it denotes that the liberal in question is wealthy and, precisely because he or she is doing well, out of touch with people who are not. It’s a stupid usage, and it is time to speak for liberal Britain, or at least to ask who can do so.

DICTIONARY ADDITIONS:

I’m just going to say it: the addition of these stupid, trendy words smacks of desperation and I wish dictionaries, whether in print or online, would cut it out. I mean, “hangry”? Who the fuck will be saying that in five years? Make it stop.

Weed Rules At Dictionary.com: 420, ‘Dabbing’ And ‘Kush’ All Included

Hangry, struggle bus and smackdown among 300 “new” words

LANGUAGE & USAGE:

You can now spell ‘Earthling’ with a capital ‘E,’ and here’s why

Hear ye, hear ye! From this point forth, and for the rest of time, it shall be permissible to spell the word “Earthling” with a capital “E” — just so long as you are judicious about it and don’t overuse the term as a synonym for humans, okay?

This ruling comes to you via The Washington Post copy desk and the fine folks at the Merriam-Webster dictionary after a spelling debate that called into question the dignity of humanity itself.

Universities are telling students to use “gender-neutral” language or be penalized

Universities are telling students that they should use “gender-neutral” language in their essays, or risk being marked down.

[Editorial remark: I am sensitive to and a user of non-sexist language, but this is ridiculous. Here’s to hoping this is “fake news.”]

DICTIONARIES OF ….

Merriam-Webster editor on her new book — and why dictionaries matter

” A dictionary is a living record of a living language, and they’re important because language is important to us.”

‘It’s part of what makes people Canadian’: Updated dictionary compiles ‘Canadianisms’

An updated dictionary provides a fascinating look at words and expressions distinctively Canadian, with entries from “all-dressed” to “zed.”

Beloved lexicon for wordsmiths

Dictionaries are not closed archives but ceaseless endeavours; mere fractions of an impossible whole. They are “glorious gallimaufries”, observes the writer Robert Macfarlane in his own comprehensive glossary of place-words, immediately driving us all back to our dictionaries to discern his meaning.

A Modern Dictionary Of London Terms

“London changes so fast, [the writers of this piece] decided it was time to create a dictionary of contemporary words and phrases.”

[Editorial remark: It’s basically a list of terms snarkily defined. Think The Devil’s Dictionary, but not as clever.]

A Visual Dictionary for Sign Language

Although American Sign Language, used by 250,000 people in the United States, is widely recognized as a rich, complex language, ASL learners and researchers have never enjoyed the kind of large, comprehensive database available in other languages—until now.

ENCYCLOPEDIAS:

Clark Professor’s Encyclopedia of LGBTQ Studies Named Best Reference Title

The text includes over 400 signed entries by top researchers and clinicians from the fields of psychology, sociology, human development and gender/queer studies and offers an appendix with information on organizations, journals and websites related to various topics within the larger field of LGBTQ studies. It was designed for undergraduate students, graduate students, scholars of LGBTQ sexualities and lives, and others.

New Pa. German encyclopedia includes the devil even

This is a comprehensive study of Pennsylvania German history, geography, culture, society, the arts and anything else that relates to the unique people — plain and fancier — who live in or have migrated from central Pennsylvania.

Remembering encyclopedias

“I bought an Encyclopedia Britannica so my kids could do all their school research at home. It came with its own bookcase. It was classy. I felt smart.”

[Editorial remark: I don’t thing this guy was really into encyclopedias at all….]

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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.