Evolution of language

18 09 2012

Early this year, the American Dialect Society voted on the 2011 Word of the Year. Glance back through the list to see what has stayed with us and what turned out to be a passing trend. And I wonder what word will occupy us this year?  

Source: Erin Brenner and Copyediting.

And the 2011 Word of the Year Is …

Submitted by Erin Brenner on Sat, 01/07/2012 – 1:10pm


Yesterday, members of the American Dialect Society (ADS) voted occupy as the 2011 Word of the Year at their annual conference in Portland, Oregon. Of all the Word of the Year contests, the ADS’s is not only the oldest but also the most influential. Each year for 22 years, members of the society devoted to the study of language have been choosing the Word of the Year at their annual meeting.

Occupy, as a verb, noun, and combining form, refers to the recent Occupy protest movement. “It’s a very old word, but over the course of just a few months it took on another life and moved in new and unexpected directions, thanks to a national and global movement,” said Ben Zimmer, chair of ADS’s New Words Committee and executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com. “The movement itself was powered by the word.”

Nominations for Word of the Year are accepted all year by e-mailing woty@americandialect.org. Nominations can be single words or phrases. They do not have to be new, either, but they do have to be “newly prominent or notable in the past year,” according to the ADS website.

The Word of the Year contest has grown over the years and now includes subcategories. This year’s subcategory winners are:


humblebrag: expression of false humility, especially by celebrities on Twitter.


Mellencamp: a woman who has aged out of being a cougar (after John Cougar Mellencamp).


bi-winning: term used by Charlie Sheen to describe himself pridefully, dismissing accusations of being bipolar.


job creator: a member of the top one percent of moneymakers.


cloud: online space for the large-scale processing and storage of data.

OCCUPY WORDS (new category)

the 99%, 99 percenters: those held to be at a financial or political disadvantage to the top moneymakers, the one-percenters.

Past Word of the Year winners can be found on the ADS website.

Thoughts on this list? Nominations for this year? Comments always welcome!

Tired of the standard editing marks?

23 07 2012

Mighty Red Pen shares Lesser-Known Editing and Proofreading Marks from Eve Corbel. Funny and useful (?) stuff.

Two of my favorites are “Remove permanently from your lexicon” and “Pls don’t eat Pringles while you work.”

When other editing marks do we need?

A creative break

11 06 2012
Each year, The Washington Post publishes the winning submissions to its neologism contest, where readers supply alternate meanings for common words.
Here are some of my favorites from this year’s winners:
  • Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
  • Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
  • Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
  • Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
  • Negligent (adj.), a condition in which you absent mindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
  • Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.
  • Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
  • Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
  • Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
The Washington Post’s Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are some of this year’s winners:

Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

Karmageddon (n): It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right?And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.

Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.

Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you’re eating.

Source: Scribd.com

Tom Sugita: Behind the scenes

7 06 2012

Tom Sugita emailed me with a story about his tennis buddies. We loved the story and used it on Island Scene Online: A Good Match. After we published it, Tom emailed me again to say thank you.

Here’s a photo he sent with his email:

I love Tom’s outlook on life. Here are some of his comments from a recent email:

Retirement for the past 22 years has not slowed me down one second and I continually look for new adventures and challenges. Yes, we go through life on this planet only once and procrastinating or hesitating is the worst evil one can have. Many times in life we don’t get a second chance.

I will be stepping aside after being the chair for the Honolulu Tennis Advisory Council for the City & County Parks and Recreation Dept. after serving 17 consecutive terms. 

I am looking forward to my next adventure with the HPD Traffic division as a Volunteer Special Enforcement Officer for a two-year term.

I always tell people that “age” is only a figure of the mind. As long as one can remain healthy, nothing is impossible. Yeah, sports, baseball, softball, basketball, running, tennis have been good in keeping me on the go. Lucky me for being involved with the right coaches, the right team, and the right guys/gals to enjoy good physical exercise and, yes, lots of laughter. Didn’t they say, Happy people are healthy people?

Mahalo, Tom, for sharing your story, for your service to our community, and for sharing your wisdom.

We Go Jam

30 05 2012

I can’t quite remember when I first started loving Hawaiian music. It was either when I got Elua by Cecilio and Kapono for Christmas or when my cousin was home from college and played “This is Our Island Home, We are Her Sons” by Keola and Kapono Beamer over and over on the stereo. At any rate, by the age of 13 or so, I was hooked.

At Island Scene, I’ve been trying to figure out ways to feature Hawaiian music in our pages. We’re getting there. We’ve been honored to feature entertainers such as Robert Cazimero, Raiatea Helm, and Noland Conjugacion. I’m mulling an article about Hawaiian music and health (stress management, perhaps). And we’re planning an article to promote next year’s Na Hoku Hanohano awards.

And when I least expected it, the perfect resource fell into my hands. The book We Go Jam: Celebrating Our Music, Our Soundscape, Our Hawaii from the Hawaii Council for the Humanities appeared in my office one day.

It’s a treasure. Works of “memoir and essay, poetry and lyrics, fiction and oral history were selected because they capture how the music of Hawaii has shaped and continues to shape who we are collectively and individually,” writes Susan Yim in the book’s introduction. From Puakea Nogelmeier, Jon Osorio, and Elvis to Na Leo Pilimehana, Bill Tapia, and Buddhist Hymns in Hawaii, it’s a true mixed plate of the music of our Islands.

I even found some old friends in those pages. Liberty Peralta, an Island Scene contributor, penned an essay on her karaoke adventures, and Kevin Griffin, an elementary school classmate of mine, writes about how Hawaii’s music has not been exported to the world at large beyond our shores.

For more information on this collection of stories about Hawaii’s rich and diverse musical heritage, visit the We Go Jam page on the website for the Hawaii Council for the Humanities. Get a copy, sit back, and enjoy!


7 social media lessons from Dr. Seuss

21 05 2012

In true Dr. Seuss fashion, his quotes are worth listening to year round, regardless of age.

Guest blog by Heidi Cohen and ragan.com.

Dr. Seuss’ rhyming wisdom provides social media lessons for all of us. Here are a few:

1. “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.” Be yourself on social media platforms and reveal your true essence. Don’t try to be someone else. To this end, don’t pass someone else’s content off as yours.

Social media tip: Show who you are with your avatar and profiles. Include information that proves you’re human.

2. “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” Great advice for social media where space is limited and participants are constantly bombarded with information. Keep your messages short and on target

Social media tip: Integrate your branding into your social media interactions through your language, voice and graphics. Dr. Seuss’ tweets would sound like Dr. Seuss without needing identification.

3. “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Given broad based use of social media, it’s easy to forget your social media peers may not be native speakers of your language or may have a different understanding of the same event.

Social media tip: Be a social media resource and help others whenever and wherever possible. Support those around you.

4. “For a host, above all, must be kind to his guests.” No place is this truer than on social media platforms where you should be polite and free of all scorn. Remember—you don’t know someone’s background, so err on the polite side.

Social media tip: Be generous in your advice and participation on social media networks and pay-it-forward.

5. “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Dr. Seuss packed a lot of social media sense into a short phrase. In 2011, social media showed how people around the world could support others half a world away during the Egyptian revolution and the Japanese tsunami. On social media platforms, everyone has responsibility to make their forums safe. There shouldn’t be cyber bullying or other issues where real people are hurt by what’s said without thinking.

Social media tip: Social media has social responsibility! Take a stand on social media where appropriate to make them safer for people in need or danger.

6. “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Seuss’ words ring true on social media where it’s important to be transparent. While this involves telling the truth, it doesn’t mean divulging confidential information that would harm an individual or a business.

Social media tip: Help your employees by developing a set of social media guidelines so they know what’s acceptable to say on social media networks when they represent your firm as well as when they’re engaging as individuals. Be aware that privacy on many social media entities can be elusive.

7. “Oh, the things you can find if you don’t stay behind!” Learn to be a social media extrovert and engage with others across a wide variety of interests.

Social media tip: Build a social media tribe to engage with. Pay-it-forward on social media platforms like question and answer sites and participate in group discussions such as Twitter chats.

What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss quote and how does it relate to social media?

As always, comments welcome. Thanks for reading!


Heidi Cohen is president of Riverside Marketing Strategies. Follow her on Twitter @heidicohen.

Writing as sense-making

28 04 2012

Guest blog by Ryan Namba.

I was reading an interview with Pico Iyer, one of my favorite writers, and a few lines jumped out at me regarding the evolving role of the writer. Iyer is a travel writer and novelist, but I believe his insights go beyond just travel journalism here. (All emphases mine.)

Back then:

… my job was to be an information-gathering machine, kind of an emissary, but certainly a representative to go and take in as many sights, sounds, facts, and sensations as possible, and just saturate the page with that almost like verbal television.

And now:

Now I feel like we all have much too much information and what the writer can offer is freedom from information, a way of stepping out of the rush and commotion and acceleration of the day, a way to try to put it in a much larger perspective and make sense of it ….

Writing can’t hope to compete with the Internet or TV or any of our latest inventions, so it has to stake its claim in those places of silence and nuance, the spaces between the words and intimacy that those other mechanisms can’t claim or colonize so powerfully.

From merely communicating facts to weaving together meaning; from saturating the page to cultivating perspective. To hear Iyer describe the writer’s task, it is less about objective retelling and more about subjective curation and explanation.

As a reader in these data-heavy, info-laden times, I wholeheartedly agree.

Read more from Ryan at ryannamba.com.

One more tidbit from Ryan:

“Green green green green green yel- brown.”

–Every banana I have ever purchased. Ever.