Thursday, December 18, 2008
  Language Awards



Professor Polistra is back with a brief year-end collection of odd words and phrases.

(This is her third review ... the awards for 2007 are here, and from 2006 are here.)

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Worst word of the year is liquidity, which appears to have no meaning at all. It generates phrases like 'dislocation of liquidity' and 'flooding with liquidity', which also have no meaning at all. There is a normal and ordinary meaning of liquid asset, namely an asset that you can turn to cash easily, while an illiquid asset would be something like real estate or a CD that can't be cashed in before its maturity date. But liquidity from the mouth of Shotgun Paulson clearly has no connection to reality. It is criminal jargon, a verbal bullet that serves only to confuse the proletariat, to panic easily blackmailed legislators into complicity with Shotgun Paulson's gargantuan theft.

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Prof P also noticed some odd uses of recreational:

The Valley View fire was started by a "recreational fire", which seems to be a euphemism for a teenager exercising his firebug fetish.

A news item on chlorine-resistant bacteria tells people not to drink swimming pool water or other "recreational water".

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Coronate has replaced crown as a verb. This is a good and expectable back-formation from coronation.

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Reign in and take the reigns: An expectable change in spelling. Horses are no longer common, so very few people are familiar with reins; but we are still familiar with the idea that a king reigns (= controls).

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Defibulator: Almost universal. Prof P doesn't know why the amputation of fibulas has become such a common practice.

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MumbaiTheIndianCityFormerlyKnownAsBombay: If you're going to end up saying Bombay after all, why waste all the extra syllables? Just say Bombay. Most Indians call it Bombay, so Mumbai doesn't even qualify as the local name. It's just an affectation of American Elite Communists.

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The Prezlek: Professor Polistra has noted this in detail before. The form varies: sometimes it's Snr Obama Oh Excuse Me I Mean Prezlek Obama, and sometimes it's just The Prezlek. Yes, it is the technically proper title, but Prof P doesn't remember such an extreme and constant use of the term in previous transitions.

After Obama is inaugurated, we'll undoubtedly have to hear several months of adaptation again, as the Expert Idiots gradually switch from Prezlek to President. His title will then be The Prezlek Oh Ha Ha Sorry I Mean To Say The President. Dammit, why can't the Expert Idiots just use plain old names? Obama. McCain. Bush. No confusion, no wasted syllables.

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Finally, a strange sort of Cajun grammar is spreading through news broadcasts. As usual with peculiar grammatical formations, Fox News is the wellspring.

"Treasury Secretary Paulson, he will be making an announcement shortly."

"Las Vegas authorities, they have said OJ was caught on tape..."

"The Iraqi journalist who threw a shoe at President Bush, he goes on trial next week."

This form, it's not truly new; nearly everyone, they'll do it from time to time. But Professor Polistra, she has noticed it spreading like a (recreational) wildfire in the last few months.

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Sidenote: some words noted in earlier Language Awards have disappeared; turned out to be temporary trends. Squirmish for squeamish is gone, and the X's and O's vanished.

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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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