Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, November 01, 2021

I’ve always wondered about this:

Is BET’s “Rap City” purposely entitled to evoke the word “rhapsody”? Y’know — “rap city”, “rhapsody”? Say them together fast, if that helps.

Maybe it doesn’t resonate with anyone but me. But rhapsody is a musical term, after all. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the subliminal intent.

- , Wed 11/01/2021 07:04:23 PM
Category: TV, Pop Culture, Wordsmithing | Permalink | Feedback

Thursday, October 26, 2021

Do you need to buy a copy of Paul Dickson’s “Slang: The Topical Dictionary of Americanisms”?

Find out by testing yourself with this excerpt from the book, highlighting modern-day cube-speak:

Britney: Boy, I needed a break from the cube farm.

Kevin: No kidding! Did you catch the prairie-dogging when Caitlin’s coffee-maker exploded?

Britney: At least it provided a little drama to a morning when I was definitely glazing. Although did you get that weird e-mail that was being forwarded around?

Kevin: No, I think the digital hygienist struck again.

Britney: What are you working on?

Kevin: Oh man, I need to get granular on the latest fire drill.

Britney: Yeah, Irving is such a seagull manager. It’s like, you gotta have triorities with that guy. I can’t believe how long the obfun lasted yesterday, as if we didn’t already have enough to do.

Kevin: At least they served lunch. Did you see Tiffany’s canfusion?

Britney: Yeah, and the catering vultures lurking in the hallway? Don’t those people have any shame?

Kevin: Anyway, there was a cloud of bozone in that room. Where are all our idea hamsters?

Britney: I think they realized working here was a big fat wombat.

Kevin: Amen to that. Well, I guess I better get back to my cube. Nice facemailing with you.

Britney: Excuse me, my cell is vibrating.

Kevin: Shhhh! Don’t go all yellular.

Britney and Kevin exit, stage left. Irving emerges from the shadows by the water cooler. He is their boss.

Irving: Darn those young people. I didn’t understand a word they said!

Confused enough yet? No worries, here’s the standard-English translation. If you actually want to admit that you’re not down with the sound in the office. (I’ll admit, I started to lose comprehension at the “cloud of bozone” stage…)

And if you couldn’t figure out who Britney and Kevin are, then I’m afraid you need more help than any slang guide can offer.

- , Thu 10/26/2006 10:20:15 PM
Category: Publishing, Comedy, Wordsmithing | Permalink | Feedback


i, the pod
A couple of days ago, while comment-responding on my post about the iPod’s 5th birthday, I used a unique term to describe Microsoft’s aspirations for its forthcoming Zune media player:

Past the wireless hook, MS is counting on being the “unPod”, thus appealing to people who’ll take anything that’s not Apple.

That “unPod” just came to me. I’d like to take credit for coining it, but of course, someone beat me to that.

Still, a quick Web search indicates it’s not a commonly-employed term. So I’ll gladly post it here, in an effort to have it adopted as the standard descriptor for any portable MP3/media player that doesn’t come from Cupertino. Let the meming begin…

- , Thu 10/26/2006 10:53:26 AM
Category: Tech, Wordsmithing | Permalink | Feedback

Wednesday, October 25, 2021

We already knew that Zune, Microsoft’s answer to the ubiquitous iPod, was going to face an uphill battle to capture digital-media hearts and minds.

I don’t know if the challenge gets harder or easier with word that “zune” sounds a lot like the Hebrew word for “fuck”. I could see it going either way, really: The rabbinical community will denounce the offending device, which in turn will reinforce the street cred that the name will undoubtedly gain in the kibbutz.

If the Zune does a big flop, I suppose it’ll be another footnote reference of the (misunderstood) Spanish-language Chevy Nova/”No Va” example in action.

(Via dustbury)

- , Wed 10/25/2006 05:49:58 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Tech, Wordsmithing | Permalink | Feedback


Office hallway chatter is lately becoming a source of blog raw material for me. Here’s a fresh one from mere moments ago:

A guy who usually sports a goatee came into the office today with all his whiskers shaved off. One of his colleagues saw this, blinked, and she said:

Your face is bald.

Interesting choice of descriptor. Technically, it’s correct — when you remove hair from skin, the result is baldness. It’s usually applied just to the top of the head, but why shouldn’t it be appropriate elsewhere?

That said, whenever I shave off my usually-ominpresent goatee — and it’s been a long while now — I’ve always been told my face looks “naked”. I’m guessing that, because my hair is thin on top, people avoid using the “b” word on me (even though I’m not at all sensitive about it; it’s not like I’m not in on the secret, folks).

Probably because of this semantic subtlety, I think I prefer “naked” over “bald”. Also probably because it sounds dirtier.

- , Wed 10/25/2006 10:56:35 AM
Category: Fashion, Wordsmithing | Permalink | Feedback

Wednesday, October 11, 2021

Robin Williams, on “Late Show with David Letterman” a couple of nights ago, dropped a real peach of a quip to describe what led to his recent rehab stint:

“I was violating my standards faster than I could lower them.”

An appropriate barometer for all of us, actually. Although perhaps rehab isn’t the answer for everyone…

- , Wed 10/11/2021 10:40:31 PM
Category: Celebrity, Wordsmithing | Permalink | Feedback

Sunday, September 24, 2021

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Thus goes the most famous quotation attributed to Enlightenment luminary Voltaire. It’s a pithy summation of the principles behind democratic discourse.

But any scholar familiar with the French philosopher knows that, in fact, that quote is nowhere to be found in his works. For good reason, because while Voltaire espoused the essence of that sentiment, he never put it precisely in those words.

The “defend to the death” soundbite turns out to be a reinterpretation of this snippet from “Essay on Tolerance”:

“Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.”

Not quite as snappy, is it? I guess even the great thinkers need a healthy dose of spin to make their big ideas more relatable to the hoi polloi.

- , Sun 09/24/2006 03:06:58 PM
Category: History, Wordsmithing | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Saturday, September 23, 2021

Something occurred to me while reading this NPR appreciation of George Orwell’s classic essay “Politics and the English Language”.

Note Orwell’s six simple rules for cleaner diction:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Essentially, Orwell advocates lean, mean writing. Which is what has been the basic rule of thumb for Web-writing, pretty much since day one.

Orwell wrote his essay 60 years ago. It was less an effort to dumb-down interpersonal and media communications than an attempt to avoide the general verbal obuscation that accompanies propaganda; the idea was to give socio-political manipulators fewer words behind which to hide.

So… Can we draw from this that the Internet is the ultimate anti-totalitarian communication medium? If the ideal in Web communications is to keep it short and simple, then you could argue that Orwell’s vision has been somewhat realized. And not just for text, but for audiovisual too: Media snippets in the forms of songs, short film clips, podcasts and the like point to short-form as the dominant format for Web content. It’s all short and to the point — Orwell’s vision realized.

I’m not sure Orwell would have envisioned his precepts taking hold as blog posts and IMs. But we can’t always choose the fulfillments of our visions.

- , Sat 09/23/2006 08:06:50 PM
Category: Internet, History, Wordsmithing | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Friday, September 08, 2021

Anybody named Mark out there? Or Marc, even? Hell, I’ll even accept a Marque.

I’m sure there are. And there’s the chance that one or two of them are reading this mess right now. If so, a query:

Have you ever been addressed by someone in the following manner:

“I have a question, Mark.”

Because recently, I overheard someone say just that to somebody else named Mark. And the first thing that came to my mind was the unintentional mention of the punctuation symbol.

I guess I’m funny that way. Or: I guess I’m funny that way?

- , Fri 09/08/2021 08:03:24 PM
Category: Comedy, Wordsmithing | Permalink | Feedback (1)