Friday, August 24, 2007

More on More on Spoonerisms, Chairs of Bowlies and Thimilar Sings

Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Podcast)

Russell Frank's blog Spankly Freaking

Away With Words and Wordworking

Dave Brondsema

The Wunder Blog and their Daily Bug posting titled
Balking Tackwards


The Grumpy Old Man has some Pedantic Moans in this direction and gives a nice list of Spoonerisms

Goonerisms Spalore!
has a list (Parental Guidance recommended)

Joho the Blog has an on-the-borderline list (Parental Guidance definitely recommended)

Home is where The Horse is in the posting The man behind the muddle talks about Spooner

and see, generally,
Figures of Speech
with "Many definitions from: The American Heritage ® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from InfoSoft International, Inc. All rights reserved."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Spoonerisms and other Verbal Blunders: Um ... by Erard

Um ... er .... ah. Having trouble speaking or writing? Do you suffer from lips of the stung? Do you sometimes write there for their? You are not a loan. The process of communication by words is beset with surprising linguistic obstacles.

Micheal Erard is "a journalist who writes mainly about language at the intersection of technology, policy, law, and science." He has a new book out Um...: Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean.

Erard talks about those slips of the tongue that befall most of us at tome sime or another. It is an instructive world of verbal blunders made famous in our own day by US President Bush's "Dubyaspeak", which led to Erard's Um.

But the problem of dubyaspeak is older than President Bush. Former US President Herbert Hoover was, for example, also famed indirectly by a spoonerism, a lexical flip by radio announcer Harry von Zell, who referred to Hoover once as Hoobert Heever (read this account as a general lesson in evidence).

In his review of Erard's book, Dennis Lythgoe at the Desert Morning News writes as follows about "Um" and "Dubyaspeak":

"Erard became interested in the subject of verbal blunders during the 2000 presidential campaign, when George W. Bush’s malapropisms were referred to as “abnormal” in media reports. Erard thought critics were too hard on Bush, because he believes all of us commit verbal blunders.

He is convinced that making mistakes in speech is not a sign of a lack of intelligence. It is often caused by anxieties — people repeat words and restart sentences if they’re nervous. Or they may simply be accidental."

That may in part be confirmed at the blawg Yayarolly goes to law school, where "a 30-something's adventure in law school writes" in "Stick a fork in 1L, I'm done":

"Seriously. I'm tried. That's really the only way to describe what I am feeling right now. Not euphoric, not relieved, just tired. And a little concerned if my speech will ever be the same again... I've been spitting out spoonerisms over the last week like it's going out of style."

For more details about malopropisms , spoonerisms, and similar verbal blunders, see these reviews of Erard's book.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Wordgloss : The Meaning and Origin of Words

The following is our book review of Jim O'Donnell's book, Wordgloss : A Cultural Lexicon , which we have reviewed at

"Was this the wish of the Demiurge? Boston to Washington DC is a conurbation! Cui bono?! Do we live in a lexical dystopia awaiting a thaumaturgic gloss revival? Who today knows that "pleonasms are tautologous and should be avoided"? Errata need not be repetitive - a verisimilitude!

Do you need this book? Do you know the words?

Author Jim O'Donnell (book Foreword by John Banville) writes in his preface that "the extraordinary expansion of modern knowledge and its fission into micro-specialties" has created "a niagara of words and concepts flowing from a wide range of disciplines that we have never explored."

The everyday result is that our increasingly sophisticated modern world of communications is confronted by the Hydra-headed cultural stumbling block of a classics-based "verbal universe" manifesting an erstwhile lexical heritage to which most readers no longer have any personal or educational connection.

Wordgloss is not a quintessential corrective panacea for this problem, but O'Donnell writes that "Wordgloss is full of the words and concepts you always meant to look up. It tells you where they came from and how they acquired the meaning or meanings they now have."

The book is written "associatively", which is "pedagogically" more effective than the "linear" scientific style of dictionaries.

Definitely a fun and educating vade-mecum read.

Fons et origo!

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