Don’t wear it out.

We call it a rose. A remarkable number of languages have a word similar to the English, though of course some languages break the pattern. The Turks say gül, the Romance languages say rosa, except for Romanian, which rebelliously uses trandafir, and the Slovenians, like most Slavs, remove as many vowels as they can manage with their word vrtnica. While it’s true that the physical object of a rose would not change character were we to call it by any other name, we still call it a rose because that’s the word that belongs to it in English. A rose is a rose.

Not a rose.

The flowers may not care what we call them, but names mean more to us. Our names are linked to our identities in a much more complete way, to the point that when someone calls us by a different name, it feels wrong, like we are not recognized. How many times have we said, “He called me Stacey? That’s not right! I soooo don’t look like a Stacey.” If it happens enough, we might even feel insulted. Names – and the act of naming – are powerful. Continue reading

Saturday night’s all right for tweeting.

To sneeze. Ah, to sneeze, perchance to breathe…through both nostrils.

We can be such geeks sometimes.

Sneezing has been around for as long as noses have been, and the word ‘sneeze’ has been part of the English language for centuries. It came to us so long ago that its roots are in the so-old-that-it-is-merely-conjectural Proto-Germanic, in which the root is said to have been *fneu-s-.

Sneezing – quite a lot of it – is what I was doing last weekend, as well as sniffling, wheezing, and crying when the sneezes faked me out and mocked me on their way back into my sinuses.

Oh, I live a wild, wild life, my friends.

Something good did come out of my lovely little stint in sick bay. On Sunday night, still relegated to the couch, surrounded by tissues and half-drunken cups of tea, I was catching up on some grading for my summer class. After a long stretch, I needed a break and hopped on Twitter. There, I found I was just 2-3 minutes away from a “101 Troublesome Words” Twitter party hosted by Grammar Girl. I figured I was ready for a good discussion about troublesome words, so I decided to join the party. Continue reading

What’s the craic?

Irish immigrants have had a significant influence on the history of New York and the surrounding areas. One of the lingering effects is that Saint Patrick’s Day has become a day on which almost everyone, regardless of ethnicity, takes pride in being “Irish for a day.” Unfortunately, this generally translates into nothing more than wearing green, drinking a lot of green beer, and wearing “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” buttons as a way to get a little guilt-free touch from strangers.

Folks should at least learn a little bit more about the Irish as a way to celebrate. Most of us adore an Irish accent (I know it makes me a bit weak in the knees!), though trying to imitate it is a daunting prospect: most mangle it beyond recognition. A better place to start would be a bit of slang that they could pick up to impress their friends over a jar of the black stuff (a pint of Guinness). Continue reading