bloodygranuaile: (ed wood)
A few weeks ago, at the ACES conference in St. Petersburg, I had the privilege of being in the audience at the very first reading for Kory Stamper's new book, Word By Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries. I'd followed Kory Stamper on Twitter for a while, even before Merriam-Webster became the unlikely voice of The Resistance. Reading her blog, Harmless Drudgery, had definitely turned me into one of those people for whom being a lexicographer sounds like the best job ever, although now that I've read the book, I must concede that it's entirely possible I wouldn't be very good at it if by some miracle I did land a lexicographer job, since I'm prone to burnout about stuff generally, and because apparently it's not really possible to tell if your sprachgefuhl is quite strong enough until you've put it to the test.

Anyway. The book.

I loved it.

Inasmuch as it has a narrative thread, it is Kory Stamper's memoirs, starting with her job interview and walking us through her training and the major lexicographical challenges and triumphs of her career, for the purpose of illustrating what making dictionaries requires and what kind of weirdos make them. Within this basic framework we take many detours -- into Kory's pre-lexicographical life, into the history of the Merriam-Webster dictionary and of dictionaries in general, into the histories and uses of a lot of weird words, and many other odd and interesting places.

This book contains many footnotes, many of which are in the form of definitions, which is quite cute, but they also have jokes and funny asides in them, like Terry Pratchett footnotes. (My favorite bit was the one I found an error in and then I felt smart.)

Stamper's general style is one I tentatively dub Internet Witty, a form of speech that is marked not necessarily by fancily formal sentences, but by a wide range of registers, references, tidbits, factoids, wordplay, and other things that word nerds have fun with. It shows off a wide-ranging rather than a narrowly specialized education and worldview on the part of the writer. It's the playfully nerdy style that was elevated to an art form on The Toast, basically, highbrow and lowbrow and middlebrow at the same time. It gives us phrases like memento moron: "remember you, too, will fuck up." It marks Stamper as one of the tribe of people who know a lot of obscure liberal arts things but who do so because obscure liberal arts things are hilarious -- i.e., my people. In short, it is very, very far from the dry, objective, personality-less style mandated by the dictionary itself. Squeezing all the color out of a dictionary definition is quite a process, and one which Stamper walks us through with self-deprecating and sometimes juvenile good humor.

If you love words, you'll love this book. If you're a bit of a snob about words, it will challenge a lot of your assumptions -- one of my favorite bits of the book is Kory's journey to becoming an "irregardless" apologist -- but if you like rolling around in them and banging them together and pulling them apart to see what's inside, then boy is this book for you.
bloodygranuaile: (edward gorey clara)
So, back when I last whined about the state of my healths (I have multiple healths... spiritual, ecumenical... grammatical) on the Internet, we learned that I was having chest pains and shortness of breath and that, after going to the dentist and some clinic on the Friday, I drove through Boston (cos I'm nuts) to get X-rays on the Saturday. Verdict: my lungs were not imploding or anything serious like that. They were just inflamed, and I should sit around and do nothing and not put any stress on them until it goes away. Since it hasn't 100% gone away, I haven't been to the gym in two weeks, which is having a serious influence on the state of my current healths. I have spent the past two weeks going through Claudia's Stages of Exercise Withdrawal, which go as thus: 1) Feel stiff, 2) feel like eating (and then eat) "comfort" foods such as pizza and mac'n'cheese, 3) feel fat and lazy (and still stiff), 4) have trouble sleeping. Today we hit Stage 5) ability to eat deteriorates. Usually this stage manifests as lack of appetite; this is the good way. Today the bad way happened, which is when I eat a normal-sized meal and my body goes "WHAT THE HELL DID YOU EAT A WHOLE MEAL FOR, YOU'RE NOT DOING ANYTHING WITH THAT ENERGY" and tries to convince me that I would feel better if I threw it back up. I did not do this, but I did go home from work early and I think I am going to take a shower and a nap and just drink orange juice for the rest of the day.

Also, today I squished a gigantic bug at work, this thing was at least four inches long and two inches wide not counting the scary jumbo shrimp antennae; it crawled out of my desk before nine o'clock (which is SUPER rude) and I screamed like a girl in a 1950s movie, but then I killed it with my eminently sensible shoes, so I came out looking okay. I think it may have been a cockroach of some sort, but my expertise with bugs is basically limited as follows:

DOES THIS LOOK LIKE A WASP? Yes/No
If NO --> Kill it
If YES --> Make someone else kill it

Also also:

cat
see more Lolcats and funny pictures, and check out our Socially Awkward Penguin lolz!

Two things I sees much of lately, predominantly from highly educated people, many of whom are writers:

Fracking is when rich companies come and pummel the shale in the ground near your house to extract oil, and it sets your drinking water on fire.
Frakking is what you say when you're mad at some Cylons.
So when the oil companies come and make your drinking water inflammable and you're so mad you think they must be Cylons, you say "Frakking fracking! Those assholes fracked our shale and it frakked up our water supply!"

Barack is President Obama's first name.
A barracks is a dormitory for the military.
Barrack is not a real goddamn word, although Wikipedia tells me it is the name of a video game.

The first one is quite forgivable, particularly if you are not a BSG geek and do not realize that there are two definitions of "fra(c/k)king", but I figured I'd clear it up for anyone who wants to know. Now, the second one kind of makes me bang my head against my desk in frustration, just a little bit, and I beg anyone and everyone who ever wants to mention Barack Obama in writing again to STOP DOING THIS.

Off to take that shower and nap now.
bloodygranuaile: (grammar dont's)
...please do us a favor and learn to write in proper English. Especially if it's important enough to put in CAPS.

From a Clark e-mail about phone services:

ALL PHONE LINES AND NUMBERS ARE THE PROPERTY OF CLARK UNIVERSITY. FOR THIS REASON YOU MAY NOT EXCEPT COLLECT CALLS, OR CHANGE TO ANY OTHER CALLING PLAN, LONG DISTANCE, OR OTHERWISE. THERE WILL BE CHARGES AND SURCHARGES ASSESSED TO COVER EXPENSES IN THE EVENT THIS OFFICE RECEIVES CHARGES FOR ANY PERSON MAKING SUCH A REQUEST.

Dude. ACCEPT. Basic word. If I weren't allowed to "except" the calls, that would probably mean I wasn't allowed to decide NOT to accept them, if it means anything, which it only sort of does.

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