Word Spy Blog

Where Were We?


With this edition of Word Spy’s Monday newsletter, I “hop” back into the swing of things to talk about bunnies, bros, snark, the “internet,” and the type of people who point out grammar errors. Absolutely no gobbledygook.

Words Spied

acroname n. A name that is the acronym of a longer name. [Deseret News]

bunny market n. A stock market with no discernible trend (i.e., one that “hops” around). [Wells Capital Management (PDF)]

double celling n. A form of isolated confinement in which two inmates are housed in a single cell. [The Marshall Project]

megaboard n. A massive billboard. [Spacing]

snarkenfreude n. Snide pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. (snark + schadenfreude) [Terrible Minds]

Word of the Week

grammo n. A grammatical error. (c.f. typo)

Less agreeable participants showed more sensitivity to grammos than participants high in agreeability, perhaps because less agreeable people are less tolerant of deviations from convention.
Julie E. Boland and Robin Queen, “If You’re House Is Still Available, Send Me an Email: Personality Influences Reactions to Written Errors in Email Messages, PLOS One, March 9, 2016

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“Less agreeable participants showed more sensitivity to grammos…”

Cruft* of the Week

bro-liferation n. The increased prevalence of young, aggrieved white men. [The New York Times]

* “Poorly built, possibly over-complex; generally unpleasant” —The Jargon File.

Internet vs. internet

It was a big deal (in certain circles, anyway) this past week when the AP Stylebook announced it would sanction the all-lowercase form of internet beginning June 1. The backlash was swift and furious (see, for example, the Slate article in the Quick Links, below), but this argument isn’t new. In fact, I wrote about it in IEEE Spectrum way back in 2004 when Wired magazine announced that it would be lowercasing internet. Here’s an excerpt from my column:

But then there’s the “distinct entity” argument: yes we’re all used to the Internet’s existence, but it still seems different somehow. Its not an amorphous quantity like the word television implies (as in, everything on television stinks); and its not a natural phenomenon, like the atmosphere. The Internet is a specific, man-made thing with a unique place in our world.

Ah, I hear you say, but so is the power grid, and nobody writes this phrase as Power Grid. True, but theres an always-on everywhereness to the power grid (recent blackouts notwithstanding), and this mainstream quality makes the all-lowercase spelling feel right. Maybe thats the meat of the matter. When (not if) the Internet becomes as ubiquitous and as unnoticeable and as mainstream as the power grid, perhaps then we’ll come naturally to writing internet.

Are we there yet? Let me know what you think.

Quick Links

A Million Little Boxes (FiveThirtyEight)

Forget being ‘ghosted’ — have you ever been Frankensteined? (The Guardian)

The AP Stylebook Will No Longer Capitalize Internet. What a Shame. (Slate)

The Great Transmogrification of Atoms to Bits (Me in IEEE Spectrum)

The Gobbledygook Memo: Rhodri Marsden’s Interesting Objects No.106 (The Independent)

Shrill voice of Oxford Dictionary shows grating gender bias (Sydney Morning Herald)

Quote, Words, Unquote

“When a term is so devastatingly apposite as gobbledygook, it walks unquestioned into the vocabulary.”
—Eric Partridge, Chamber of Horrors: A Glossary of Official Jargon Both English and American,  A. Deutsch, 1952