New Horizons in “Sport”

Nancy Friedman points out a new hashtag campaign by Nike, seemingly launched yesterday on Twitter:

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That’s the British “sport” rather than American “sports.” The usage has been noted on this blog from time to time. With Nike buying in, I expect it to surge.

“Hotchpotch”

Sometimes NOOBs are entertaining, often they’re useful, but once in a while they are purely pretentious. I’d say that’s the case when the term is very rare in the U.S. and there is an exact or very nearly exact American equivalent. The word used in a tweet by the San Francisco Business Journal and flagged to me by Nancy Friedman certainly qualifies.

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The word is “hotchpotch” and the American equivalent is “hodgepodge.”

The etymology is complex and interesting. The original English term is “hotchpot,” dating from no later than 1381, and deriving, the OED says, from the “Anglo-Norman and Middle French hochepot (French hochepot ) dish containing a mixture of many ingredients, especially kind of stew made with minced beef or goose and various vegetables (c1214 in Old French).” “Hotchpot” took on metaphorical meaning, as “A confused mixture of disparate things; a medley, a jumble” by 1405, followed five years later by a rhyming version, “hotchpotch,” referring both to the stew and the figurative jumble. “Hotchpot” and “hotchpotch” both acquired yet another continuing meaning, in law, as “The reunion and blending together of properties in order to secure equality of division; bringing into account, esp. on intestacies.”

“Hodgepodge” came on the scene in 1579, according to the OED, from the pen of poet Edmund Spenser. In the Dedication to The Shepherd’s Calendar, “E.K.” decries writers who have found the English language to be insufficient:

they patched up the 
holes with pieces and rags of other languages, borrow- 
ing here of the French, there of the Italian, every, 
where of the Latin ; not weighing how ill those tongues 
accord with themselves, but much worse with ours: 
so now they have made our English tongue a galli- 
maufray or hodgepodge of all other speeches.

“Gallimaufry” is another name for a mishmash, both of food or anything else.

I’m not sure why “hodgepodge” became the preferred American version, but it did, starting in about 1900, as this Google Ngrams Viewer chart illustrates.

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My guess is that the chart actually overstates the frequency of American “hotchpotch.” The New York Times has used it 37 times in its more than 150-year-history, all but a handful coming from British or other foreign speakers or writers. The most recent exception came from a 2002 article about (American) football, noting that the New York Giants had a hotchpotch offensive line.” In 1954, movie critic Bosley Crowther referred to The Golden Coach as having “a spectacularly hotchpotchly cast.”

On the chart, it’s interesting to see that in 1880, “hotchpot” (combined British and American, red line) was the most popular form, while it barely exists today. I take my hat off to the few souls who use it; they are really owning their pretentiousness.

WC

I was informed via Lynne Murphy of this map for an event held yesterday in Portland, Oregon.

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The key at the bottom says that WC (British term for public lavatory, short for “water closet”) indicates “restrooms” (an American term for same), thus effecting a nice trans-Atlantic hybrid.

American WC tends to turn up in special circumstances, as in the Portland map, where the customary symbol for such facilities, a version of this–

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–might end up too small to be legible. (Or maybe, Portland being Portland, the binary imagery was viewed as politically incorrect.)

The American company Kontextur uses the term for their range of bathroom-cleaning tools:

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And it’s helpful in headlines, where space is at a premium. This 2004 New York Times article is about being stuck on a bathroom-less corporate jet:

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WC is useful term, not only in being concise but in having a Goldilocksean just-right level of euphemism, not explicit about its function but, being willing to acknowledge “water,” nowhere near as opaque as “rest room” or “facilities.” I hope it catches on.

 

 

“Bell-end”

Lynne Murphy alerts me to a line in a Facebook post by the American author Catherynne Valente: “y’all can’t stop being hateful and I’m tired of getting notifications that someone else is being [an] absolute bell-end about their fellow man on NextDoor.” (NextDoor is a regional communication platform, and apparently in Valente’s town, people have been making virulent anti-immigrant comments.)

“Bell-end” (it’s variously printed as hyphenated, two words, and one word) is categorized by the OED as “British coarse slang.” Two definitions are offered, the first being “The glans of the penis”; the earliest citation is the 1961 edition of Eric Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, where it’s listed along with the comparable terms “blunt end” and “red end.” The second definition is “A foolish or contemptible man or boy.” It shows up in 1992 and the most recent citation is from 2008 in The Guardian: “Clearly, no one’s ever taken them aside and said, ‘Er, you sound like a bit of a bell-end here. Perhaps you ought to sit down and be quiet.’”

None of the citations are from the U.S., and indeed, I have not been able to find it used by anyone here other than Valente. And speaking of Valente, her website bio notes: “She graduated from high school at age 15, going on to UC San Diego and Edinburgh University, receiving her B.A. in Classics with an emphasis in Ancient Greek Linguistics.”

I gather that along with the B.A. she picked up some salty language.

 

 

“Drugs party”

In his review of the English nature writer Robert MacFarlane’s book Underland, Dwight Garner wrote in the New York Times:

There’s the prickling sense, reading Macfarlane like [Geoff] Dyer, that a library door or a manhole cover or a bosky path might lead you not just to the end of a chapter but to a drugs party or a rave.

The sentence has led me to add a new category to the blog: “Ventriloquism.” By that I mean cases where an American writer is writing about British people or topics, and consciously or not adopts British lingo. One example in the Garner sentence is “bosky,” which Google Ngram Viewer suggests has consistently been used roughly 50 percent more in Britain than the U.S. (The word, which means “wooded,” is now pretty rarely used on either side of the Atlantic, and when it is generally precedes “glen” or “dell.”)

But I feel “bosky” is a one-off and will devote my attention to Garner’s choice of the word “drugs” instead of “drug” to describe a party in which presumably taking drugs is the dominant feature. It’s a case of pluralizing an attributive nouns, and I’ve written about it before, in the cases of “drinks menu” (instead of “drink”) and and “covers band” (instead of “cover”). Other examples include “books editor” (for the person in charge of book coverage at a newspaper or magazine) and “jobs report” (for studies and statistics about employment trends). In the post on “covers band,” I summarized some of the surprising amount of research done on the topic. For example:

In a 2002 paper, the linguist Elisa Sneed refines the work of Maria Alegre and Peter Gordon in determining the circumstances in which plural attributives tend to be used. There seem to be two important factors. The first is “abstractness.” Sneed writes: “Something not easily imagable, such as a process (admissions), an action (assists), a thing (benefits), or something that is otherwise complex (dissertations) is abstract; something easily imagable and simple conceptually, such as pencils or flowers, is concrete” (italics added).

So dissertations index sounds okay; *flowers pot does not.

The second factor is heterogeneity in the head (final) noun of the phrase. Sneed gives the example of analyst as a head noun that promotes “diversity among the entities denoted by the internal noun” and pile as one that highlights homogeneity. So we might say weapons analyst but weapon pile, as well as cookie jar and sock drawer….

Three other wrinkles. First, irregular plurals tend to be more acceptable than regular plurals as attributives. We might say mice droppings but never *rats droppings. Second, as noted by David Crystal, the plural is often used in cases when meaning might otherwise be ambiguous or misleading. Thus, in baseball, a batter who doesn’t have enough power to produce doubles, triples, or home runs is a singles hitter. To call him a single hitter might mean that he’s just one hitter, or that he’s unmarried. Finally, the plural is used in cases when a possessive apostrophe is understood, such as farmers market.

But here’s the funny thing. It seems self-evident to me that plural attributives are a strongly British phenomenon … but I’ve never seen it referred to as such in any scholarship or commentary, and I even got pushback when I asserted this in previous posts. So I’ll try to support my contention, a little at a time. In the “covers band,” I included an Ngram View chart showing British preference for the plural and American for the singular. (And by the way, Google being an American company, it’s “Ngram” not “Ngrams.”)

As for “drugs party” vs “drug party” here’s the Ngram Viewer chart for use in American books, 1990-2000:

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And here’s the one for British use:

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2000 is the most recent year for reliable Ngram Viewer data, but the News on the Web (NOW) Corpus, which tracks postings from 2010 to the present, shows “drugs party” being used exclusively in Britain and Commonwealth countries (though admittedly not very often).

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So can I get an “amen” that Dwight Garner’s “drugs party” was a NOOB?

Next up: “jobs report.”

 

 

 

 

Double-L spelling

Brian Hitchcock writes in to the American Dialect Society listserv:

When did Americans start putting two ells in “canceled” and “canceling”?  I am well aware that two ells are preferred in British spellings, and that “cancellation” with two ells has been long preferred on both sides of the pond; for some reason Americans seem to be adopting British practice for the other forms as well.

I can’t tell you how many times I have looked up home pages of people who post on Facebook, wondering they are Canadian, Indian or Australian, only to find they are Americans who just use the spellings favoured (sic) elsewhere.

I expect they will soon start wasting ells on “levelled/levelling”, “bevelled/bevelling“, “travelled/travelling”, “pencilled/pencilling”, “parcelled/parcelling”,
“carolled/carolling”,”devilled/devilling”, “cavilled/cavilling”  et al. as well?

note: or maybe they already have—in the above list, Apple spell-chequer (sarcasm) did NOT flag bevelled, travelled, pencilled, or pencilling as misspelled.

I confess I was not aware of the double-L trend — except, of course in The New Yorker, a fairly recent version of whose stylebook I have in my possession.

IMG-6503(Note the banning of “transpire.”)

The whole single-L notion started with Noah Webster, who in the dictionaries he published in the early nineteenth century promoted new (and what he considered simpler and more logical) spellings for the new American continent. But according to this Google Ngram Viewer graph of word frequency in books published in the U.S., it took until about 1940 for “canceled” to catch up, and until the early ’80s for it to start surging ahead.

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Interestingly, “traveled” took hold in the U.S. much earlier, in the 1910s.

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Reliable data for Ngram viewer only goes up to 2000, at which point the American double-L trend perceived by Brian Hitchcock trend hadn’t come on the scene. The Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) takes up the story, and suggests that things started to change right about then. The bottom number indicates that “cancelled” occurred .94 times per million words of text in 1995-1999, and 3.53 times in 2015-2017. (“Canceled” appeared 9.85 times/million in that period–still nearly three times as often.)

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Yet another database, the Corpus of Global Web-Based English, crunches a couple of billion words of text from 2012 and shows “cancelled” appearing 7.17 times per million words of text, compared to 6.13 for “cancelled.” The number is presumably that high because spelling is looser on the web, while most American publishers and periodicals still adhere to the traditional “canceled.” Here are some of the U.S. “cancelled” hits:

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Bringing us up to the present, a Google News search for “cancelled” yields eight of ten American hits on the first page, including these:

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So to Brian Hitchcock, I will say, you are right, and to answer the question you start out by posing: 2000.

 

“Anorak” (the jacket)

My learned colleague Lynne Murphy regularly tweets a “Difference of the Day” (#DotD), pointing out cases where the U.K. and the U.S. use different terms for the same thing. A few days ago, she tweeted

Screen Shot 2019-05-13 at 11.46.57 AM

Several commenters pointed out the similar word “anorak.” And indeed it’s hard to tell them apart by their OED definitions:

Anorak: “A weatherproof jacket of skin or cloth, with hood attached, worn by the Inuit in Greenland; a similar garment elsewhere.” (The first citation is from 1924, the first one in a non-Innuit general sense from 1937.)

Cagoule: “A lightweight, waterproof (or windproof) hooded garment resembling an anorak, worn originally by mountaineers and now generally.”

The first cite for “cagoule” is in 1952 but it didn’t start climbing in popularity till the late 1970s, as this Google Ngram Viewer graph suggests (it still hasn’t taken off in the U.S.):

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Why then? Lynne cleverly suggested, “Looks like ‘cagoule’ in UK is partly motivated by avoiding ‘anorak’ b/c it has a negative sense in BrE.” Negative is right. Here’s the relevant OED entry for “anorak”:

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This insulting “anorak” (similar to “train-spotter”) hasn’t caught on in the U.S., but the literal term has. It’s been used 414 times by the New York Times, including nineteen since the start of 2018. For example, this is from a December 2018 fashion article on “war-core” clothing.

A surfeit of dystopian apparel was evident on the men’s wear runways this year.
Junya Watanabe showed nylon anoraks, wool lumberjack jackets and firefighter coats adorned with the kind of bright reflective tape usually seen on school crossing guards.
Prada trotted out padded nylon vests that look like they could repel bullets and oversize rain suits that looked like they could protect against nuclear fallout.
And for his Calvin Klein Collection show in February, Raf Simons, the creative director, dressed the male models in safety-cone-orange jumpsuits, knee-high waders and knit balaclavas, all of which gave new meaning to the term “fashion emergency.”
16WARCORE-COMBO-superJumbo

“War-core” garb. On the left, a Watanabe anorak. I think.