Friday, April 9, 2010

It's on the Tip of My Tongue

“Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.”
~ Benjamin Lee Whorf

Some say the Internet will be the death of proper English, since the language is so frequently mutilated online. However, it's equally true that for anyone who loves language, the Web overflows with ways to feed your word Jones.

Today's subject: word sites and word bulletins I like enough to have delivered to my in-box; on another day I'll explore some language blogs I follow. I'd love suggestions for both lists, so please speak up.
  • A.Word.A.Day. from My first and still favorite word of the day is the creation of Indian-American author and computer scientist Anu Garg. He began A.W.A.D. in 1994 as a labor of love for friends; over the years what began so casually has accumulated 900,000 subscribers, all by word of mouth, and inspired three books. Each weekday brings a word, its pronunciation and definition, a brief bit of etymology, a usage quote and, a final gift, "A Thought for Today," a philosophical quote. On the weekends he sends the often fascinating Wordsmith newsletter, in which readers talk back.

  • Fritinancy is "recovering journalist-turned-name-developer with a love of words" Nancy Friedman's always witty and sometimes exasperated examination of names — products, places, businesses and babies — as well as language trends. (Her latest topic: a restaurant named "The Dead Fish.") Fritinancy's blog roll is a great place to research still more word-obsessed Web sites.

  • M-W's Word of the Day from Merriam-Webster usually offers insight into everyday words, but sometimes strays farther afield. Each e-mail includes pronunciation, meaning, usage and etymology.

  • OED Online Word of the Day from Oxford English Dictionaries offers an exhaustive and sometimes exhausting look at the many uses and meanings of words and terms you think you know.

  • Urban Dictionary is all about the latest slang coinages. Readers make suggestions and vote on the slanguage entries they like and dislike. I am frequently surprised by what people like.

  • The Web of Language from Dennis Baron, a professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois, is an occasional rumination on language and how it is used and abused.

  • Word of the Day from roughly follows the A.W.A.D. model (word, pronunciation, definition, usage quotes), but of course chooses different words. If you're like me and can't get enough words, sign up.

  • WordSpy calls itself "The Word Lover's Guide to New Words" — all entries are recent coinages, not all are likely to last. A recent favorite: "cosmophobia n. The strong and irrational fear that in the near future the earth will be destroyed by some cosmic event."
“I speak two languages, Body and English.”
~ Mae West


  1. Many years ago.

    In conversation about words with an International crew that spoke various flavours of English, we as a group in a flash of diviniportent realised that words were fun but the computer was working against the use of unusual words and local (in global terms) ways of spelling and meaning. In a big soft pillow smothering breast sort of way.

    So does the Internet despite your collection of links.

    Using the iChing (new Apple version) and casting the sticks four times four by four the divinipotent book hexagrammed me and worded me to build a site to promote Scottish words to the world in the sure and certain hope of keeping some of them alive and in use.

    Since pictures are better than words (obviously) but more than that, because I draw better than I can write, I illustrated the words with cartoons.

    Keep up the good work and keep that one word alive.

  2. What a happy-looking site you've created. Just looking at it cheered me up. And what a worthy cause. Every language deserves to be saved, and yours has quite a rich history. I'm generally ignorant when it comes to Scottish, but two of my friends had Scottish boyfriends for a while and together they would do something that sounded like "dondering up the brae." Does that sound familiar, even though spelled phonetically?