Crazy English: On Being “Frenemies” With Neologisms

The Misfortune Of Knowing

Welcome to the framily_Misfortune of Knowing

The 5th edition of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary has added 5,000 words, including “chillax,” “selfie,” and “frenemy,” a move that recognizes the evolving nature of the English language (and probably gives younger players an edge!).

According to Merriam-Webster, a “frenemy” is someone “who pretends to be a friend but is actually an enemy.”

That would describe my husband’s perspective on neologisms, new words entering the English language. On the surface, he’s fairly progressive about language—he has no qualms about starting sentences with conjunctions or separating sentences with only one space after the period—but he’s skeptical of new words.

As he says:

I love obscure English words and untranslatable words from other languages. Bring on thetsundoku, thebackpfeifengesicht, thehygge, themamihlapinatapei, because each represents a distinct concept that requires a sentence to explain. That’s the same standard I apply to English neologisms…

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never and almost

How can one miss what she’s never had
How could I reminisce when there is no past
How could my mind pull up incidents recall dates and times that never happened
How could we celebrate a love that’s to late
How could I really mean the words I’m bout to say

I missed the times that we almost shared
I miss the love that was almost there
I miss the times that we use to kiss
At least in my dreams just let me take my time and reminisce
I miss the times that we never had

What happened to us we were almost there
Whoever said it’s impossible to miss when you never had
“Never almost had you”

– Almost by Tamia

The English Language Will Betray You (If You Let It)

The Misfortune Of Knowing

A Quote_Peruse from Merriam WebsterHave you ever passed by a “No Trespassing Without Permission” sign on someone’s private property and felt the urge to take out an enormous red pen and cross out “without permission”? Of course, it would be vandalism, in addition to trespass, to enter the person’s property and cross the words out. It would also be a futile effort to rid the world of redundancies and other grammatical errors.

Such grammatical errors bothered Richard Lederer enough to write a couple of books about it, including Crazy English. Published two decades ago, this book is a humorous account of the grammatical aberrations and errors that make English an interesting — and sometimes frustrating — language to read, write, and speak.

The way Lederer highlights English’s craziness makes portions of the book reminiscent of the way Dr. Seuss played with words in such books as One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue…

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Missing “The”: Is There an Upside to Ambiguity?

The Misfortune Of Knowing

THE Only Font To Use_Whatever It Is

Have you seen “The” lately? Apparently, it hasn’t been around as much as it used to be. I wouldn’t have noticed its absence without those fine folks over at Language Log, who found that “[d]uring the course of the 20th century, the frequency of the English definite article the decreased gradually and radically.”

Linguist Mark Liberman first recognized this trend while analyzing State of the Union addresses, concluding that it could be a sign of increasing informality in the speeches. With the help of an impressive undergraduate paper at Penn, he later discovered that there is an overall trend of “decreasing definiteness” in our language: “the frequency of the has decreased by about half; the frequency of a/an has increased by about a third (though of course the overall frequency of a/an is much lower).” The collections he assessed were mostly of written works in American English, which makes…

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