Erudite As We Wanna Be
Get ready for some 21st century linguistics!!!
Hello Dames Nation!
A very accurate depiction of what our jobs look like, thanks to Amy Adams for dramatizing it so perfectly in Arrival.
We may not have been called on to decipher an alien language (yet?), but we are definitely the kinds of people who periodically get messages from friends that we haven't talked with in a decade asking us to solve a troublesome etymological issue. While this is very flattering, we also want to say that linguists don't actually know all the etymologies! We just know where to look for all the etymologies, and you can look there too! Here is our top etymology tool to impress your friends and dazzle people who happen to be sitting next to you in coffeeshops -- it's called Etymonline!
Of course, it's also very nice if you can get your hands on a subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary for deep etymological dives (and many public libraries do have a subscription that you can use!) but for quick, free lookups, Etymonline is our go-to!
We've taken the liberty of looking up the etymology of "dame" for you, and here are the choicest excerpts:
around 1200, "a woman of rank or high social position" and an address for a woman of rank or position, used respectfully to other ladies, from Old French dame "lady, mistress, wife," from Late Latin domna, from Latin domina "lady, mistress of the house," from Latin domus "house" (from PIE root *dem- "house, household").
From early 14c. as "a woman" in general, particularly a mature or married woman or the mistress of a household. Used in Middle English with personifications (Study, Avarice, Fortune, Richesse, Nature, Misericordie).
Are there images of Dame Fortune? Why yes, yes there are:
Need a copy of this image? snag it here!
Does the full list of Dames (Study, Avarice, Fortune, Richesse, Nature, Misericordie) lend itself immediately to a tag-yourself meme? Also yes. We are Dame Misericordie and Dame Richesse, though possibly more for the excellence of the words than the accuracy of their reflection on our characters.
Which brings us to a key question: how do we know each other? We met through our respective linguistics blogs, which eventually migrated to Twitter, and to email, and to videochat, and then we finally met offline at a linguistics conference in Alaska. Under a midnight sun which only slightly addled our wits, we discovered that we had both been thinking about starting a linguistics podcast. (Each of us now swears that this was the other person's idea first. The truth may never be known.) A few months later, we officially launched Lingthusiasm, a podcast that's enthusiastic about linguistics!
The sun would just barely dip below the horizon, not enough to get dark.
Three years later, and the videochat sessions where we plan and record our episodes are still some of our favourite parts of the week. Here are a few of our favourite Lingthusiasm episodes:
Translating the untranslatable - Lists of ‘untranslatable’ words always come with… translations. So what do people really mean when they say a word is untranslatable?
Why do C and G come in hard and soft versions? - C can be soft, as in circus or acacia, or hard, as in the other C in circus or acacia. G can be hard, as in gif, or soft, as in gif.
What Does it Mean to Sound Black? Intonation and Identity Interview with Nicole Holliday - Dr. Nicole Holliday works on the speech of American Black/biracial young men, prosody and intonation, and what it means to sound Black.
We’re also podcast listeners! We love podcasts that are thoughtful, well-researched and made by people who sound like good friends having a chat. We’ve both long been fans of Gastropod, a show about the history and science of food. Lauren is currently powering through the back-catalogue of You’re Wrong About, which revisits mis-remembered stories of the late 20th century (and reminds us how badly we have treated women like Anna Nicole Smith and Monica Lewinsky). Finally, if you want to up your Bumble game, live vicariously through other people's relationship woes, or figure out what’s up with the texts from your current crush, Subtext is a podcast all about the language of dating and relationships.
And Now, A Brief History of Gretchen Doing Internet Linguistics
Hi, it's me, Gretchen, yr resident internet linguist.
I searched for a gif gif and this is what I got.
Here's a couple of links on how I got into this gig:
A Linguist Explains the Grammar of Doge. Wow. (The Toast, RIP) - I'm pretty sure doge now qualifies as a vintage meme, but this was my first proper foray into public internet linguistics and it retains a special place in my heart.
Why the pronunciation of "gif" really can go either way (Mental Floss) - I wrote this whole really solid research-backed article about why either pronunciation of gif was totally fine, and then it was all for naught because recording my audiobook meant that I had to pick a side.
Then I had this several-years-long period when I didn't write many articles because I was working on a whole book about internet linguistics, which came out THIS WEEK! Ahhh!!!
This baby is correct, this is what it feels like to write a book.
The Archive of Our Own has a really impressive tagging system (Wired) - Once I finished writing the book, and handed it off to the good people at Riverhead for the production side, I started writing shorter articles again! This is one of them, about how tech should start taking fandom seriously as a model for how to make the internet better.
I've also been working with Lauren lately on analyzing how emoji are like gestures, which involves fascinating forays into the gesture literature, one of her areas of expertise.
I would read a full academic paper about gestures in Disney movies, thank you.
This is Lauren. You should go buy Gretchen's book. It's called BECAUSE INTERNET and you can read an excerpt in Wired here or the glowing review that the New York Times (!!!) gave her here. To give you an idea of the scope of internet magic Gretchen has captured, here are some highlights from the index at the back. It goes from aesthetic typography to You’ve Got Mail, but here's a snippet from the "s" section:
scare quotes, 134, 138
Schuyler, Philippa, 116
screennames, 74, 80
Second Life virtual world, 156
“smol” (small), 22
Snapchat, 164, 216, 222
snek meme, 249, 250
Snow Crash (Stephenson), 156
sparkle enthusiasm, 127–28, 135
sparkle sarcasm, 137–39, 149
spellcheckers, 46–47, 49, 61
spelling standards, 46–47, 49–50. See also respellings, creative
subtweeting practices, 232–33
Sun, Jonny, 60, 146
swearing, 24, 28, 29, 35
Lauren has actually been responsible for several books that Gretchen has really enjoyed recently, so here are some things she's been reading:
Gretchen and I both love scifi and fantasy, so we’re always sharing what we’ve read.
I’m really excited that Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti novellas have been reissued as a single volume, including a new story. We’re looking forward to a new chapter in the life of our favourite space-travelling Himba mathematician. I have really been leaning into the novella vibes lately, with Martha Wells's 4-novella Murderbot series, about a gloriously snarky robot who doesn't actually enjoy murdering all that much and would rather watch TV. (Gretchen: I was also lucky enough to read an advance copy of This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, another novella that I am recommending to everyone in earshot! Lauren, it came out last week so that means you too! It is queer timetravel and the writing is like cut glass, so beautiful and sharp.)
Watching robots be barely competent at tasks that are extremely easy for humans is one of the great pleasures in life
I also can’t wait to share P.M. Freestone’s Shadowscent with Gretchen when it’s out in North America in November (the UK version is out now, but it doesn’t have the pretty hardcover or map). Shadowscent is not only a lush YA fantasy adventure that I’m totally obsessed with, but it includes a constructed language that I invented. (Note from Gretchen: stay tuned for an upcoming Lingthusiasm episode where we'll be talking about the linguistics of smell and how Lauren invented a scent-based language!)
Caption: Until they they invent Smell-o-vision, you'll have to trust this good boy, and enjoy the magical writing in Shadowscent
Some Thought-Provoking Linguistics Articles That We Endorse
The moral of this New York Times story is not to expect artificial intelligence to be fair or impartial or to have the faintest clue about what our goals are.
Scientists and policy makers seek to better understand and prepare for the effects of climate change. Often overlooked are the effects on the world’s languages.
Court stenographers often misunderstand Black English, and their mistakes could affect people’s lives at crucial junctures.
Anyone Speak K’iche’ or Mam? The New York Times covers Immigration Courts Overwhelmed by Indigenous Languages.
A history of the word slut.
Emerging sign languages could reveal how all language evolved – but keeping these fragile languages isolated for research may mean the people who rely on them lose out.
If you are not already following the delightful and charming Nyle DiMarco, we strongly endorse doing so
Special Feature On Nerdy Professional Wear
We are delighted by the ever-growing range of stylish professional threads available for the academic conference-goer or freelance thinker. We particularly love Svaha for going from XS-5XL and Shenova for doing zero-waste made-to-order. Here’s a list of some of our fave items:
Svaha bioluminescent jellyfish dress (glows in the dark!!)
Svaha bookspines maxiskirt (perfect for hiding in the library stacks)
Svaha typewriter keys A-line skirt (clicky-clack)
Svaha cardigan with tiny books (tiny books!!)
Svaha nebula hairclip (so out of this world, it’s currently sold out, but you can sign up for an alert when it’s back in stock)
Svaha resveratrol molecule scarf (AKA the thing that makes red wine red wine)
Svaha tentacles hoodie (you’ll never escape its cozy grip)
Shenova dark matter weekender tote (who knew dark matter could look so colourful?)
Shenova constellation dress (for the astronomer or astrologist)
Shenova serotonin molecule skirt (this one makes us happy)
We also made a line of merch for linguists and language nerds for the podcast, including a tshirt that says NOT JUDGING YOUR GRAMMAR, JUST ANALYSING IT, and scarves & ties with a variety of our favourite Unicode symbols (including fan favourites like the interrobang, the paragraph sign, and the old school monochrome snowman, along with many even more obscure symbols).
Tag us in your favourite linguistics things on twitter, where we hang out as @superlinguo and @GretchenAMcC, or jointly as @lingthusiasm! Or if you don't have a favourite linguistics thing yet, follow us and we'll fix that!
Two Bossy Dames is brought to you by:
The Dames-iest moniker we’ve seen out here on the Internet in a minute, courtesy of Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey
Some really creative typographic voice-signaling, courtesy of the Good Omens fandom
And the grooviest custom Because Internet gif we can imagine.
Every time you tell a friend to subscribe, some woman, somewhere, publishes her book about Internet Linguistics to wide acclaim! (Your Dames are already reading & loving it, obvs!)
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