“Lynchian,” “Kubrickian,” “Tarantinoesque” and 100+ Film Words Have Been Added to the Oxford English Dictionary

Image via Oxford English Dictionary

Get interested enough in anything, and you soon discover its language. Each subject, pursuit, and area of culture has its own slang, its own jargon, even its own grammar: that goes as well for physics and fishing as it does for cooking and cinema. Though quite specialized, the vast lexicon of that last has also contributed a great deal to English as generally used. The latest update to the venerable Oxford English Dictionary has added more than 100 of these terms, from already well-known expressions like "edge-of-your-seat," "not in Kansas anymore," and "blink and you'll miss it" to the less-common likes of kaiju (the Japanese battling-monster genre that gave us Godzilla), and Foley (the art of adding incidental sounds to movies in post-production), and gorehound (an enthusiast of the gorefest, a genre whose sensibility you can well imagine).

Many of the new entries have to do with particular directors and their styles. "The list runs through a range of genres and locations, from the wide landscapes of the American West evoked by Fordian to Swedish soul-searching with Bergmanesque," writes the OED's Craig Leyland. The oldest, Keatonesque, "dates from 1921, near the start of an extraordinary run of success for the comic actor and film-maker, and typically refers to Keaton’s famous deadpan expression and penchant for physical comedy. The most recent is Tarantinoesque, first seen in 1994 – the year Pulp Fiction appeared in cinemas," which refers to qualities like "graphic and stylized violence, cineliterate references, non-linear storylines, sharp dialogue, and more – and is a reminder of the impact these films had on cinema in the 1990s."




Other auteur-specific additions include Spielbergian ("fantastical or humanist themes or a sentimental feel"), Lynchian ("noted for juxtaposing surreal or sinister elements with mundane, everyday environments"), and of course Kubrickian ("meticulous perfectionism, mastery of the technical aspects of film-making, and atmospheric visual style in films across a range of genres"). Several terms denoting broader movements and styles have also made it in, including mumblecore, "a style of low-budget film typically characterized by naturalistic and (apparently) improvised performances and a reliance on dialogue rather than plot or action" which emerged about a decade ago, and Hammer, denoting the horror films made from the 1950s to the 70s by British production company of that name, "still famous and loved for their lurid, melodramatic style."

Master these words and you'll surely hold your own in casual cinephile conversation. But you can only get so deep into talking about movies if you can't confidently bring out terms like arc shotdiegetic, and mise-en-scène. As one of the most capacious art forms, cinema brings together a number of languages all at once, including the visual language as defined by directors like Soviet montage pioneer Sergei Eisenstein (he of Eisensteinian) and the language the screenplay gives its characters to speak (an especially distinctive element in the case of filmmakers like Tarantino). But those are essentially solitary pleasures, enjoyed in a darkened theater or living room. Isn't one of the most enduring joys of filmgoing talking about the movies with other people later — and to sound as expert as possible while doing so?

via OED/Indiewire

Related Content:

What Makes a David Lynch Film Lynchian: A Video Essay

How the Sounds You Hear in Movies Are Really Made: Discover the Magic of “Foley Artists”

Columbia U. Launches a Free Multimedia Glossary for Studying Cinema & Filmmaking

Vintage Film Shows How the Oxford English Dictionary Was Made in 1925

Terry Gilliam on the Difference Between Kubrick & Spielberg: Kubrick Makes You Think, Spielberg Wraps Everything Up with Neat Little Bows

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Why We Say “OK”: The History of the Most Widely Spoken Word in the World

Ok, not to be contrary, but anyone else worry that we may be getting punked here?

Is Coleman Lowndes' clever collage-style video on the ubiquity and origins of the word “ok” a bit too clever for its own good?

His assertion that the word “ok” was the invention of waggish Bostonian hipsters in the late 1830s sounds like an Onion headline.

It’s hard to believe that clever young adults once amused themselves by bandying about deliberately misspelled abbreviations.

Also does anyone else remember hearing that “OK” could be traced to the 1840 reelection campaign of President Martin “Old Kinderhook” Van Buren?

Or folksinger Pete Seeger’s salute to the linguistic melting pot, “All Mixed Up,” which perpetuated the notion of OK as a corruption of the Choctaw word “okeh.”

Both of those explanations sound a lot more probable than a jokey bastardization of “all correct.”

Aka “oll korrect.”

As in OK, pal, whatever you say.

(That was the wittiest jape of the season?)

Etymologist Dr. Allen Walker Read’s considerable research supported “ok” as the lone survivor of 19th-century smart set wordplay, to the point where it was the lede in his obituary.

(The writer noted, as Lowndes does, how “ok” was among the first words out of astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s mouth when he set foot on the moon.)

Oookay…

If you’d like to know more, you can always delve into English professor Allan Metcalf”s book, OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word, which cites the telegraph’s role in the popularization of everyone’s favorite neutral affirmative, as well as our powerful psychological attraction to the letter “k.”

(Kare for a Krispy Kreme with that Kool-Aid? ... The answer is an emphatic yes, I mean, OK, in any language.)

Related Content:

The Largest Historical Dictionary of English Slang Now Free Online: Covers 500 Years of the “Vulgar Tongue”

Read A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, a Hilarious & Informative Collection of Early Modern English Slang (1785)

The History of the English Language in Ten Animated Minutes

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 24 for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

What English Would Sound Like If It Was Pronounced Phonetically

The English language presents itself to students and non-native speakers as an almost cruelly capricious entity, its irregularities of spelling and conjugation impossible to explain without an advanced degree. It wasn’t until graduate school that I came to understand how spellings like “rough” and “knight” survived several hundreds of years of linguistic change, and preserved vestiges of phonetic pronunciations that had long since disappeared in historic upheavals like the Great Vowel Shift and subsequent spelling wars.

The importation of huge numbers of loan words from other languages, and exportation of English to the world, has made it a polyglot tongue that contains a multitude of spellings and pronunciations, to the consternation of everyone. Unlike French, which has a centralized body that adjudicates language change, English grows and evolves wildly. Dictionaries and linguistics departments struggle to keep up.




One almost wants to apologize to non-native speakers for the following sentence: “Though I coughed roughly and hiccoughed throughout the lecture, I still thought I could plough through the rest of it.” As Aaron Alon, narrator of the video above, points out, the “incredible inconsistency” of words with “ough” in them “can make English incredibly hard to master.” What if a governing body of English language scholars, like the Académie française, came together to prescribe a phonetically consistent pronunciation?

For one thing, they would have to deal with the diversity of vowel sounds—like the “a” in “father,” “ape,” and “apple.” As the video proceeds, we hear these regularized in the narrator’s speech. Students of the language's history might immediately recognize something like the sound of Shakespeare's Early Modern English, which did have a more phonetically consistent pronunciation. Soon the sounds of Romance languages—French, Spanish, Italian, Romanian—and the accents speakers of those languages bring to English, start to emerge.

By the time Alon has regularized the vowel sounds, and launched into a recitation of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, his pronunciation begins to sound like Chaucer’s Middle English, which you can hear pronounced above in a reading of The Canterbury Tales. If we hear the accent this way, the exercise shows that English once made far more phonetic sense (and had a more pleasing musical lilt) than it does today. Alternately, we may hear, as Jason Kottke does, an accent that “sounds a little like Werner Herzog doing an impression of someone from Wales doing an impression of an Italian who doesn’t speak English that well.” Which, he writes, “makes sense because that’s pretty much how the language came together in the first place!” More or less….

via Kottke

Related Content:

Where Did the English Language Come From?: An Animated Introduction

The History of the English Language in Ten Animated Minutes

What Shakespeare’s English Sounded Like, and How We Know It

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The 1,700+ Words Invented by Shakespeare*

One of the favorite reference books on my shelves isn’t a style guide or dictionary but a collection of insults. And not just any collection of insults, but Shakespeare’s Insults for Teachers, an illustrated guide through the playwright’s barbs and put-downs, designed to offer comic relief to the beleaguered educator. (Books and websites about Shakespeare’s insults almost constitute a genre in themselves.) I refer to this slim, humorous hardback every time discussions of Shakespeare get too ponderous, to remind myself at a glance that what readers and audiences have always valued in his work is its lightning-fast wit and inventiveness.

While perusing any curated selection of Shakespeare’s insults, one can’t help but notice that, amidst the puns and bawdy references to body parts, so many of his wisecracks are about language itself—about certain characters’ lack of clarity or odd ways of speaking. From Much Ado About Nothing there’s the colorful, “His words are a very fantastical banquet, just so many strange dishes.” From The Merchant of Venice, the sarcastic, “Goodly Lord, what a wit-snapper you are!” From Troilus and Cressida, the derisive, “There’s a stewed phrase indeed!” And from Hamlet the subtle shade of “This is the very coinage of your brain.”




Indeed, it can often seem that Shakespeare—if we grant his historicity and authorship—is often writing self-deprecating notes about himself. “It is often said,” writes Fraser McAlpine at BBC America, that Shakespeare “invented a lot of what we currently call the English language…. Something like 1700 [words], all told,” which would mean that “out of every ten words," in his plays, "one will either have been new to his audience, new to his actors, or will have been passingly familiar, but never written down before.” It's no wonder so much of his dialogue seems to carry on a meta-commentary about the strangeness of its language.

We have enough trouble understanding Shakespeare today. The question McAlpine asks is how his contemporary audiences could understand him, given that so much of his diction was “the very coinage” of his brain. Lists of words first used by Shakespeare can be found aplently. There’s this catalog from the exhaustive multi-volume literary reference The Oxford English Dictionary, which lists such now-everyday words as “accessible,” “accommodation,” and “addiction” as making their first appearance in the plays. These “were not all invented by Shakespeare,” the list disclaims, “but the earliest citations for them in the OED” are from his work, meaning that the dictionary’s editors could find no earlier appearance in historical written sources in English.

Another shorter list links to an excerpt from Charles and Mary Cowden Clarke’s The Shakespeare Key, showing how the author, “with the right and might of a true poet… minted several words” that are now current, or “deserve” to be, such as the verb “articulate,” which we do use, and the noun “co-mart”—meaning “joint bargains”—which we could and maybe should. At ELLO, or English Language and Linguistics Online, we find a short tutorial on how Shakespeare formed new words, by borrowing them from other languages, or adapting them from other parts of speech, turning verbs into nouns, for example, or vice versa, and adding new endings to existing words.

“Whether you are ‘fashionable’ or ‘sanctimonious,’” writes National Geographic, “thank Shakespeare, who likely coined the terms.” He also apparently invented several phrases we now use in common speech, like “full circle,” “one fell swoop,” “strange bedfellows,” and “method in the madness.” (In another BBC America article, McAlpine lists 45 such phrases.) The online sources for Shakespeare’s original vocabulary are multitude, but we should note that many of them do not meet scholarly standards. As linguists and Shakespeare experts David and Ben Crystal write in Shakespeare’s Words, “we found very little that might be classed as ‘high-quality Shakespearean lexicography’” online.

So, there are reasons to be skeptical about claims that Shakespeare is responsible for the 1700 or more words for which he’s given sole credit. (Hence the asterisk in our title.) As noted, a great many of those words already existed in different forms, and many of them may have existed as non-literary colloquialisms before he raised their profile to the Elizabethan stage. Nonetheless, it is certainly the case that the Bard coined or first used hundreds of words, writes McAlpine, "with no obvious precedent to the listener, unless you were schooled in Latin or Greek.” The question, then, remains: “what on Earth did Shakespeare’s [mostly] uneducated audience make of this influx of newly-minted language into their entertainment?”

McAlpine brings those potentially stupefied Elizabethans into the present by comparing watching a Shakespeare play to watching “a three-hour long, open air rap battle. One in which you have no idea what any of the slang means.” A good deal would go over your head, “you’d maybe get the gist, but not the full impact,” but all the same, “it would all seem terribly important and dramatic.” (Costuming, props, and staging, of course, helped a lot, and still do.) The analogy works not only because of the amount of slang deployed in the plays, but also because of the intensity and regularity of the boasts and put-downs, which makes even more interesting one data scientist’s attempt to compare Shakespeare’s vocabulary with that of modern rappers, whose language is, just as often, the very coinage of their brains.

Related Content:

Do Rappers Have a Bigger Vocabulary Than Shakespeare?: A Data Scientist Maps Out the Answer

Hear 55 Hours of Shakespeare’s Plays: The Tragedies, Comedies & Histories Performed by Vanessa Redgrave, Sir John Gielgud, Ralph Fiennes & Many More

What Shakespeare’s English Sounded Like, and How We Know It

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

Hear Beowulf and Gawain and the Green Knight Read in Their Original Old and Middle English by an MIT Medievalist

Many a mocking critique floats around pointing out that some people who tell their multilingual neighbors to “speak English” seem to have a lot of trouble with the language themselves. I must confess, I find the observation more sad than funny. I’ve met many English speakers who struggle with understanding the peculiarities of the language and do not know its history. Increasingly, such things are not taught to those who don’t devote themselves to language study.

When people do learn how the language evolved, they can be shocked that for much of its history, English was unrecognizable to modern ears. Indeed, the study of Old English—or Anglo-Saxon, the language of Beowulf—satisfies foreign language requirements in many English departments. Originally written in runic before it incorporated the Latin alphabet (and retaining some of those early symbols afterward), this Germanic language slowly became more Latinate, and gave way among the reading classes in Britain to Anglo-Norman, a Germanic-French cousin, for a few centuries after 1066.




That's the very short version. These strains and more eventually commingled to form Middle English, the language of Chaucer, which also sounds to modern ears like another tongue, though we recognize more of it. In the video above, Medievalist and MIT professor Arthur Bahr gives us demonstrations of both Old and Middle English in readings of Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as part of his 2014 course, “Major Authors: Old English and Beowulf." (You can still visit the course site, read the syllabus and download course materials.)

Bahr reads the first 20 lines of the ancient epic poem, which begins:

Hwæt. We Gardena in geardagum, 
þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon, 
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon. 

“Besides being the language of Rohan in the novels of Tolkien,” he writes, “Old English is a language of long, cold, and lonely winters; of haunting beauty found in unexpected places; and of unshakable resolve in the face of insurmountable odds.” For all its distance from us, we can still recognize quite a lot in Old English if we listen closely. Much of its vocabulary and inflections survive, unchanged but for pronunciation and spelling, in modern English, including many of the language’s most basic words, like "the," “in” and “are,” and most common, like "god," “name,” “me,” “hand,” and even “old.”

After the Viking and Norman invasions, Old English became “the third language in its own country,” notes Luke Mastin at his History of English site. More spoken than written, it “effectively sank to the level of a patois or creole," with several distinct regional variants. English seemed at one time “in dire peril” of dying out but “showed its resilience once again, and, two hundred years after the Norman Conquest, it was English not French that emerged as the language of England," though it remained a diffuse collection of dialects. As you’ll hear in Bahr’s Middle English reading, it was also an English entirely transformed by the languages around it, as it would be once again a few hundred years later, when we get to the English of Shakespeare.

via Laughing Squid

Related Content:

Hear Beowulf Read In the Original Old English: How Many Words Do You Recognize?

1,000-Year-Old Manuscript of Beowulf Digitized and Now Online

Seamus Heaney Reads His Exquisite Translation of Beowulf and His Memorable 1995 Nobel Lecture

Hear What Shakespeare Sounded Like in the Original Pronunciation

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Professional Scrabble Players Replay Their Greatest Moves: Their Most Improbable, Patient & Strategic Moves of All Time

If ever the creators of the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee are casting about for sequel-worthy source material, we suggest they look no further than The New Yorker’s video above, in which professional Scrabble players replay their greatest moves.

The bingo—a move in which a player uses all seven tiles on their rack, earning a bonus 50 points—figures prominently.

It seems that top ranked players not only eye their racks for potential bingos, they’re constantly calculating the odds of drawing a next-turn bingo by getting rid of existing tiles on a three or four letter word.




And what words!

The desire to win at all costs leads top seated players to throw down such ignoble words as “barf” and “mayo” in an arena where rarified vocabulary is the norm.

How many of us can define “stopbanks," 2017 North American champion Will Anderson’s winning word?

For the record, they're continuous mounds of earth built near rivers to stop water from the river flooding nearby land….

The pros’ game boards yield a vocabulary lesson that is perhaps more useful in Scrabble (or Banangrams) than in life. Look ‘em up!

aerugo

capeskin

celom

enginous

gox

horal

jupon

kex

mura

oxeye

pya

uredele

varve

zincate

Don’t neglect the two-letter words. They can make a one-point difference between a major win and total and unmitigated defeat.

ag

al

da

ef

mo

od

oe

qi

xi

yo

Careful, though—“ir” is  not a word, as Top 40 player Jesse Day discovered when attempting to rack up multiple horizontal and vertical points.

Bear in mind that challenging a word can also bite you in the butt. Busting an opponent’s fake word play costs them a turn. If the word in question turns out to be valid, you sacrifice a turn, as top 100 player, Princeton University’s Director of Health Professions Advising, Kate Fukawa-Connelly, found out in a match against David Gibson, a previous North American champ. Had she let it go, she would’ve bested him by one point.

Appear even more in the know by boning up on a glossary of Scrabble terms, though you’ll have to look far and wide for such deep cuts as youngest North American champion and food truck manager, Conrad Bassett-Bouchard’s “forking the board,” i.e. opening two separate quadrants, thus preventing the opposing player from blocking.

Reader Content:

With Or Without U: Promoting a Scrabble Book to the Tune of U2

A Free 700-Page Chess Manual Explains 1,000 Chess Tactics in Plain English

Garry Kasparov Now Teaching an Online Course on Chess

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on March 20 for the second installment of Necromancers of the Public Domain at The Tank. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Read A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, a Hilarious & Informative Collection of Early Modern English Slang (1785)

A deep appreciation for profanity may rate high as a mark of a sophistication and authenticity. Cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker has made the neuroscience of swearing an object of study; legendary comic actor, writer, and “language enthusiast” Stephen Fry declares the practice a fine art; studies show that those who swear may be more honest than those who don’t; and if you have any doubt about how much swearing contributes to the literary history of the English language, just do a search on Shakespeare’s many profane insults, so rich and varied as to constitute a genre all their own.

Not all vulgar speech is considered “swear words,” referencing sex acts and bodily functions, but many a critic and lexicographer has nonetheless decided that slang, obscene or otherwise, doesn’t belong in polite company with formal diction. Samuel Johnson, the esteemed 18th-century essayist, poet, and compiler of the 1755 Dictionary of the English Language deemed slang “unfit for his learned tome,” writes The Public Domain Review. So, enter Francis Grose to correct the error thirty years later with his Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, a “compendium of slang” chock full of hilarious idioms of every kind.




There is the bawdy (“Sugar stick—the virile member”), the scatological (“Cackling farts—eggs”), the oddly obscure (“Kittle pitchering—to disrupt the flow of a ‘troublesome teller of long stories’ by constantly questioning and contradicting unimportant details, especially at the start”). Puns make their inevitable way in (“Just-ass—a punning name for justice [judge]”), as of course do comic images for body parts (“Tallywags/Whirligigs—testicles”). Much of this Early Modern English slang sounds to American ears just as colorfully askew as contemporary English slang does (“Dog booby—an awkward lout”; “Captain queernabs—a shabby ill-dressed fellow”).

Grose, compiler of the dictionary, “was not one for library work” and preferred to collect his specimens in the field where slang lives and breathes—the streets, pubs, and houses of ill-repute. “Supported by his trusty assist Tom Cocking [your joke here],” Grose “cruised the watering holes of Covent Garden and the East End, eating, boozing, and listening. He took pleasure in hearing his name punningly connected to his rotund frame. And he produced a book brimming with Falstaffian life.” Very much a Shakespearean bon vivant, Grose appears as something of a ribald doppelganger of the rotund, yet moralistic and often scowling Dr. Johnson. (See his portrait here.)

The so-called “long 18th-Century”—a period lasting from the restoration of the Monarchy after the English Civil War to around the French Revolution—presents a tradition of lewd witticism, from the poetry of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, to Jonathan Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room,” to the sordid fantasies of the Marquis de Sade. Such pornographic humor and rude earthiness offered a counterweight to heady Enlightenment philosophy, just as Shakespeare’s insults provide needed comic relief for his bloody tragedies. Grose’s dictionary can be seen as adding needed comic local color to the many serious dictionaries and studies of language that emerged in the 1700s.

But A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue is also an important academic resource all its own, and “would strongly influence later dictionaries of this kind,” notes the British Library—those like J. Redding Ware’s 1909 Passing English of the Victorian Era: A Dictionary of Heterodox English, Slang, and Phrase. We can see in Grose’s work how many slang words and phrases still in common use today—like “baker’s dozen,” "gift of the gab," “birds of a feather,” “birthday suit,” and “kick the bucket”—were just as current well over 200 years ago. And we get a very vivid sense of the world in which Grose moved in the many metaphors employed, most involving food and drink. (A “butcher’s dog,” for example, refers to someone who “lies by the beef without touching it; a simile often applicable to married men.”)

But we needn’t worry too much about scholarly uses for Grose’s work. Instead, we might find ourselves motivated to do as he did, hit the streets and the bars, and maybe bring back into circulation such locutions as “Betwattled” (surprised, confounded, out of one’s senses), “Chimping merry” (exhilarated with liquor), or, perhaps my favorite so far, “Dicked in the nob” (silly, crazed).

Page through Grose’s dictionary above or read it in a larger format (and/or download as a PDF or ePub) at the Internet Archive.

via Public Domain Review

Related Content:

The Largest Historical Dictionary of English Slang Now Free Online: Covers 500 Years of the “Vulgar Tongue”

The Very First Written Use of the F Word in English (1528)

People Who Swear Are More Honest Than Those Who Don’t, Finds a New University Study

Stephen Fry, Language Enthusiast, Defends The “Unnecessary” Art Of Swearing

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

More in this category... »
Quantcast