Abundant Vital Quenching and Wondrous – WIF WATER

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The Many

Marvelous Mysteries

of Water

Water is, by far, the most abundant natural resource on Earth, as around 72% of the planet’s surface is covered with it. It’s also the driving factor behind the origins of life, as we do not yet know of a life form that’s not water-based. The same cannot be said for anything else. We know of organisms that don’t require light, oxygen, warmth, or even the Earth’s atmosphere to survive – as many microbes can stay alive in space, too – though every one of them absolutely requires water to function.

Humans and animals alike love to frolic in it, when it’s warm enough.

While the reasons for all that may be obvious to most – it makes sense that life evolved around the most abundant resource in the environment – it doesn’t have anything to do with the Earth or the environment at all. Water is – in itself – one of the weirdest substances to ever exist, with mysterious properties that aren’t just unheard of on Earth, but anywhere in the universe. Right from its highly-debated structure to the baffling Mpemba effect, it’s exactly these unexplained properties that give water its unique position as the single biggest factor behind all life we know of today, and why finding life based on any other substance anywhere else in the universe is more unlikely than we think.

8. Water’s Inexplicably-High Surface Tension

One of water’s most unique – and mind-boggling – properties is its surface tension. While nothing unusual in itself, as every liquid has some surface pull that keeps its molecules together in that state, water’s surface tension is much higher than any other liquid we know of. This unique property has some far-reaching consequences for the evolution of life on Earth. For an example, it’s how blood – over 80% of which is made up of water – can overcome the force of gravity and circulate around the body.

As for why this is, you guessed it: we’re not sure. Scientists previously believed that it’s because of the uniquely strong hydrogen bonds found in the water molecules, though if a recent study is to be believed, that’s not the case, and water is actually even weirder than that. Apparently, its surface tension isn’t even static, and could change according to how water is feeling that day.

As the study found, it’s the stickiest just when its surface is formed – like the exact time a water droplet falls down. Surprisingly, it takes unusually long for it to come down to its original value, too, something the researchers didn’t understand. What they did clear up, however, is that it has nothing to do with the hydrogen bonds, or anything else we know of.

7. We Don’t Know Why Water Expands On Cooling, Or Vice Versa

That things expand when they’re heated up and shrink in size on cooling is one of the fundamental rules of nature. We can see it in play all around us, and a lot of our infrastructure takes this rule into account. Almost every building has expansion joints, allowing it to breathe in or out depending on the season. Rules, however, do not apply to water, as it remains the only known substance that expands on cooling and vice versa, and we still don’t know why.

It’s not even difficult to verify this. Just take some ice in a container, note its general volume and wait for it to warm up and liquify. It would always take up less space than its solid form, which also happens to be one of water’s weirdest properties. Science has been trying to answer it for a while, though the potential answers – much like everything else about water – make the whole thing even more mysterious.

According to recent research, there is a perfectly good explanation for this unique property: liquid water doesn’t really expand when it’s cooled, but actually oscillates between two distinct states of liquid matter. If you cool it down below 0 degrees Celsius, it may seem to be expanding, but if you lower it even further, you’d start to notice that it’s contracting, too. Keep taking it closer to its freezing point – which is around -60 Celsius for pure water – and at one point it would seem to be expanding and contracting with almost the same frequency.

While that does seem to explain exactly how and what happens to water when it’s cooled – in the way that it clarifies that the real process is even weirder than we imagined – it still doesn’t touch on the ‘why’. It may have to do with the inherently weird structure of water molecules and how they interact with each other, but then it’s not like we’re sure about how that works, either.

6. No One Can Agree On Its Structure

Most of us would probably not believe it, but water – perhaps the most studied natural material in history – incites some pretty strong opinions in the scientific community, for the simple reason that there’s still a lot of debate around how exactly it’s structured. A lot of its weird properties could be explained if we just knew how the hydrogen and oxygen bonds in water interact with each other. Surprisingly, though, even with our modern research techniques, we still have no idea.

While traditional wisdom previously suggested that despite its weirdness, the structure of water is still a natural tetrahedron, one recent study found that the shape is actually a more loosely bonded collection of closed rings and chains, which is actually what gives water its weird properties. It’s still not a widely accepted opinion yet, though, as other researchers say that the results aren’t due to looser bonding at all, but because of the water molecule’s ability to rearrange itself in entirely new shapes. Whatever may be the case, it’d be a while before we could even understand the structure of water, let alone the plethora of its other mysteries.

5. The Mpemba Effect

While there’s no doubt that water possesses many abilities that may as well be magic to the scientists studying them, a lot of them have been recent realizations. It’s only thanks to recent experiments that we’ve come to understand the full extent of water’s weirdness, as for the majority of history, it was the simplest substance we know of. One of its properties, however, has baffled keen thinkers and amateur scientists alike for centuries – possibly even millenia. Water, contrary to all common logic, freezes at a faster rate when it’s hot. Again, it’s unlike anything else we know of, and has been verifiably observed since at least the ancient Greek times.

Also known as the Mpemba Effect, after an African physics student who wrote the first peer-reviewed paper describing the phenomenon, it’s by far the most enduring of water’s mysteries. Many experiments have confirmed it throughout the years, though we’re still no closer to figuring out why it happens.

4. The Mystery Of The Cambrian Explosion

Our understanding of the evolution of life on Earth is pretty linear; that simple, single-celled organisms gradually gave way to more complex animals, leading up to all the diversity of life we see around us today. However, that is not the case at all. Complex life is a rather recent, and likely accidental, development. For an overwhelming period of our history – about 2.5 billion years – life existed as simple, largely immobile creatures, most of whom didn’t even need oxygen to survive. It may as well have been an alien landscape altogether, filled with animals (if we can even call them that) that have little to no resemblance to the mostly water and oxygen-based life forms of today.

Then about 540 million years ago, the variety and complexity of life suddenly exploded in the oceans, and to this day we have no idea what triggered it. The Cambrian Explosion, as it’s called, was the single most important event in our pre-evolutionary history, as well as the oldest mystery of the oceans. Some researchers think that it was triggered by the rise of oxygen levels in the atmosphere, or the accidental evolution of vision, or something else really. They’re not sure, but almost all of them agree that the importance of the Cambrian Explosion cannot be overstated. It was the beginning of complex life as we know it, and gave way to almost every life form in the world today, from the simplest of microbes to the entirety of human civilization, and everything in between.

In the end, it could be a God-thing.

3. Where Did All Of Earth’s Water Even Come From?

As we’ve well established by now, there would have been no life on Earth without water. Thanks to its unique and weird properties, water may just be the answer to ‘why us?’, as almost no other substance found in nature behaves like it. Moreover, it’s also rather convenient to have the one substance required to kickstart life to even show up on Earth, completing the unique set of highly-improbable factors that eventually gave birth to life. It begs the question; where did all the water on Earth even come from?

If that sounds like a simple question to answer by something obvious like ‘clouds, duh’ or ‘trees, or something’, it’s really not. As it happens, we still don’t know exactly what brought water to Earth in the first place. Some claim that it came on the back of a comet in the form of ice, though given how the Earth didn’t have an atmosphere around that time, all of that water would have evaporated into the open universe. Another theory says that hot vapors escaping from cracks in the Earth’s surface gave way to the first clouds, setting the cycle of evaporation, cloud formation and rains in motion for the first time. Though again, it’s still just a theory.

2. Water Shouldn’t Even Be A Liquid

If you take a look at the elements that make up water on the periodic table – provided you know how to read the periodic table – you’ll notice something peculiar. They exist right next to gases like hydrogen sulphide and hydrogen selenide; ‘gases’ being the key word. If water were to behave like other chemicals with similar properties, it would not be a liquid at all, especially at Earth temperatures. Water is supposed to freeze somewhere around -100 Celsius and evaporate at around -80 Celsius, as is the case with other gases of its family.

As it’s clear by now, water doesn’t adhere to expectations, which is why it’s the only substance we know of that can exist in all the three states at temperatures hospitable for human life. It can stay liquid at a surprisingly low temperature, too, provided that it’s free of any impurities.

1. The Weird Properties Of Water Make Life On Earth Possible

Reading through the absolutely rebellious chemical nature of water may give you the impression that it’s abnormal. After all, these properties are not found in any natural substance, and we even have a hard time replicating them in the lab if we want to. That’s pretty accurate, though these mysterious properties don’t make water alien. In fact, they explain why water has fit in so well with the life-giving ecosystem of the planet, and is perhaps the most Earthly thing there is.

If water didn’t have a higher surface tension than other liquids, it would be impossible for it to stick to and circulate among plant roots. Its ability to expand when frozen allowed water bodies during ancient ice ages to freeze from top down, allowing life below the surface – which was all life at one point – to survive and adapt for when it was over. If it adhered to laws of liquids, water would start turning into ice from the bottom, ensuring that any signs of primitive life died down long before they could adapt and evolve.


Abundant Vital Quenching and Wondrous

WIF WATER

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 15a

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 15a

CHAPTER TWO

Complications

research-001

Oblivious to any real-time happenings back on Earth, with all its own twist and turns, the Space Family McKinney operates in a space they are making their own. At this moment, in related orbits of Mars and Earth, they are 142.55 million miles from the nearest living life form, or at least that is the conventional wisdom. They are free from the incessant strife that is a direct result of 8 billion people who are urged to coexist, for the common good. It only complicates things when you add a million individuals per month to the pot.

Mars

Mars

Boiling it down to two, with the same last name, should simplify things, but there is a marriage override system that, when an order is given, it is magically turned into a request. The time-tested respectful salute from one commander to another is replaced by a loving peck on the cheek. When you share a bed, as well as a career, you are partners by the strictest measure.

“Have you looked at the spectroscopic analysis Sam?” asks Celeste of her Colony-mate, who is currently doing 4 things at once.

“No, but as you can see, I have my hands full getting these confound systems to talk to each other. I am doing the heavy lifting out here. Sometimes I wish they had assigned Rick Stanley to this mission; he would be giving more help with this nuts & bolts BS.”

I am the Research Officer here, Commander Crabby Ass. Do you think Stanley would have prepared that gourmet meal last night or massage your  *^#?>  like only I can?”

“Okay I give,” he heads her off at the pass, “what did the spectro-photographic soundings turn up?”

periodic-table-001“As I expected, there are substantial deposits of Iridium, Rhodium and Columbium, pretty rare stuff as we thought, but the real kicker is that there is Lithium in vast quantities down there everywhere.”

“You’re kidding. Curiosity, Spirit and what’s-his-name didn’t find much on their side of this dusty rock. We could start our own battery factory. Let’s keep this under our hats. If word gets out every spacecraft in the solar system will race each other to get here.”

“Isn’t it ironic? We can tell Talibanistan to take a flying leap, them and their 80% stash!” The enormous consequence of this lithium mother lode may well reach back into time, to pay down long overdue bills that piled up earlier in the Century.

texicali“Let’s stake a claim Cel. I could buy you and the boys the whole state of Texacali! Do you want Saturn my sweet? I’ll throw a lasso around it and make it yours!”

There was a time, back in their cadet/Space Academy days, when an influx of funds would have been welcome. As aspiring astronauts, they did not toil in the higher tax brackets.

Sacrifice. It isn’t just a word used around Easter; it has something to do with a life’s intended focus. Space, and the conquering of it, is a worthy endeavor. Both Celeste & Sampson have chosen this as their space-walk-of-life.

And it seems like yesterday…..

Continued


THE RETURN TRIP

Space Academy

Episode 15a


page 14

World Wide Words Issue 920 – WIF Style

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WIF Grammar 101-001

World Wide Words

Issue 920

from the UK’s Michael Quinions

 

Feedback, Notes and Comments
Lots of letters

Lots of letters

Thank your mother for the rabbits. Bruce Warne provided a personal memory of the expression: “When I was a little boy in Middlesbrough, in the very early 1950s, my older sisters often visited an elderly neighbour. When they returned home, or when he noticed them over the common garden fence, he always said ‘Thank your mother for the rabbit’. I was only about four or five years old at the time, but the expression is fixed in my memory as my sisters were perplexed by it, and constantly referred to it.”

Edna Heard, formerly of Liverpool, commented that the expression “reminded me of my father’s greeting when he met someone: ‘How’s your belly where the pig bit you?’ I often wondered if it was from an old music hall song. He was born in 1902.” That sounds like a variation on the equally weird and mysterious one that my father used to say: “How’s your belly off for spots?”

Thank your mother for the rabbits put many readers in mind of a phrase in Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books. Book four of the “trilogy” has it as its title: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. This was said by the dolphins as they left Earth just before it was destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass, so it was intended literally, not as a nonsense phrase, though fans have adopted it as humorous way to say goodbye. I would have included it in the original piece had I thought of a neat way to work it in.

Goon. Many American readers told me about Woody Guthrie’s Union Maid, a labour song written in 1940, which includes the line “goons and ginks and company finks”. Someday I must write about gink and fink

Australians introduced me to the goon bag or goon sack , a bulk dispenser of cheap wine of variable quality. I know the device as a wine box, but Australian producers seem to prefer wine cask, which is a truly pretentious term for a plastic bag in a cardboard container. Its construction led to the contents sometimes being identified as château de cardboard. Goon was used in Australia from the 1970s for cheap wine in large glass bottles called flagons and was later transferred to wine in boxes. How the wine got known as goon is uncertain. Some argue that it’s from an Aboriginal word for a pillow but the general feeling is that it’s a short form of flagon , perhaps with a nod to the other senses of goon.

Peradventure

The online Oxford English Dictionary has added a note to each entry showing how often it appears in current use. Peradventure appears in band 2, which the dictionary says contains “terms which are not part of normal discourse and would be unknown to most people.” The Times mocked Labour MP Harriet Harman in April 2015 for using it on a BBC television discussion programme (“if I make it absolutely clear, beyond peradventure …”). The Times writer admitted he had to look it up.

Peradventure means “uncertainty” or “chance”. Beyond peradventure (sometimes as beyond a peradventure) is a fixed phrase that can pop up from the subconscious of a well-read but stressed person without allowing its owner time to think about whether it would be understood. It may be rendered in everyday English as “beyond question” or “without doubt”.

It may be adventurous to use it but where’s the adventure in it?

Historically, there is none. It comes to us from Old French per aventure, by chance. Aventure has had a mildly exotic history. We can trace it back to Latin adventūra, a future form of the verb advenīre, to happen — so something that may occur. By the time it reached Old French it could variously mean destiny or fate, a chance event, an accident, fortune or luck. The sense of aventure that was first taken into English was that of a chance event or accident.

The French word also came to be used in English as adventure, also at first for some chance event, but then for a risk of danger or loss. (Marine insurers still sometimes use adventure to mean the time during which insured goods are at risk.) Its sense shifted to a hazardous undertaking or audacious exploit — especially the sort carried out by medieval knights — but much more recently softened to sometimes mean merely a novel or exciting experience.

Read with me

Read with me

  • An article about Chinese railways introduced me to ferroequinology, literally the study of the iron horse. This mock Latinism turns out to have been around for yonks . An early example is from the Walla Walla Union Bulletin of 19 August 1951. It noted that it was “among those easily drummed up latinizations designed to lend a certain amount of prestige to any profession from medical specialist to garbage collector” and described ferroequinologists as “avid fans, who really get a kick out of the romance of the railroads, who thrill to the shotgun cough of the engine on a long drag up a heavy grade or the raucous kaleidoscope of color that is a hundred-mile-an-hour streamliner on the high iron.” Those were the days.

  • On 30 December, four new chemical elements were added to the periodic table, bringing the total to 118 and instantly making all science textbooks out of date. Like other elements created in accelerators and not present in nature, they have existed only for small fractions of a second. The research institutes that made them have yet to name them and they’re currently known by placeholder names derived from Latin numerals: ununtrium, ununpentium, ununseptium, and ununoctium, for elements 113, 115, 117 and 118. The first of these was created in the Nishina Center in Japan by a team from the Riken Institute, so the names japonium, rikenium and nishinarium are being considered.
  • Watching dramatisations of historical events on television often makes me wince internally at anachronistic word usage. An example appeared in the current BBC adaptation  by Andrew Davies of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Prince Vassily Kuragin tells Pierre Bezukhov that one doesn’t own possessions but curates them for one’s heirs and generations to come. Curate has been fashionable in the past decade in the broad sense of editing, selecting or presenting anything at all, from blogs to playlists to trendy menus to corporate mission statements. (The Times on 29 December defined curated sarcastically as “Assembled, cobbled together with no care or talent or purpose”.) The verb was previously limited to the function of museum curators — preserving and studying objects. Though Kuragin’s meaning is close to this, the verb isn’t recorded before 1935, so definitely not right for 1805.

Sconce

Q. From Bill Waggoner: We are doing some home renovations and were looking at lighting options. Sconces were one of the items we considered. I was curious what the origin of the word is but when I looked it up the meanings were a weird collection: a wall bracket, a skull, or a punishment. Strange dictionary-fellows indeed. Can you help clear it up?

A. It’s even more weird than those suggest, because the word originates in the Latin verb abscondere, to hide, from which we also get the verb abscond, originally and specifically to flee into hiding.

In Latin the term absconsa laterna literally meant “hidden lantern”. We used to call this in English a dark lantern, a portable device with a door that could be closed to obscure the light when needed. The Latin name was shortened to absconsa and after many centuries became the Old French esconse. When it turns up in English at the end of the fourteenth century, as sconce, it referred to a portable lantern with a handle. Not long after, the name was transferred to a wall bracket for holding a candle, often with a mirror behind it to reflect the light. The light source is nowadays often electricity but the name stuck.

In the sixteenth century, sconce became a slang term for a head:

A curled Sconce he hath, with angrie frowning browe.

Epitaphes, Epigrams, Songs and Sonets, by George Turberville, 1567.

Most dictionaries avoid explaining how this came about. However, there was another meaning of sconce, one you don’t mention, for an earthwork or fortification. This has a different and unconnected origin, the old Dutch schans, brushwood. It could be a bundle of sticks, a screen of brushwood for soldiers or a protective earthwork made from gabions, cylindrical baskets filled with earth. (It’s also the source of ensconce , to settle somebody in a safe or comfortable place.) In this context, sconce seems to have shifted to refer slangily to a type of helmet as protection for the head and was then transferred to the head itself. This association was made specific in the 1823 edition of the slang dictionary Lexicon Balatronicum: “ Sconce. The head, probably, as being the fort and citadel of a man: from sconce, an old name for a fort.” Despite some dictionaries, it doesn’t seem often to have been used for a skull, if ever. The other linked figurative meaning was of a function of the head, one’s intelligence, brain or native wit. A pig-sconce was once a foolish or pigheaded person.

So far, so good. Now to the punishment sense, which is associated specifically with the University of Oxford. This is the way it was described by John Camden Hotten in the 1874 edition of his Slang Dictionary:

Sconce, to fine. Used by Dons as well as undergrads. The Dons fined or sconced for small offences; e.g., five shillings for wearing a coloured coat in hall at dinner-time. Among undergrads a pun, or an oath, or an indecent remark, was sconced by the head of the table.

Sconcing still exists in some colleges in Oxford in a minor way; a piece in the student newspaper Cherwell in 2007 noted it was most common among rowers (that is, sporting persons in boats, not those of a quarrelsome disposition) and one in The Telegraph in 2013 associated it especially with crewdates , social events for Oxford sports teams.

 

This sense puzzles etymologists. A clue may be in a work by a contemporary of Shakespeare named John Minsheu; in 1617 he published a monumental dictionary in eleven languages, which was, incidentally, the first book ever sold by subscription. He defined sconce to mean “to set up so much in the buttery book upon his head to pay for his punishment”. The buttery book was the ledger that itemised purchases of food and drink by undergraduates from the college buttery (which has nothing to do with butter but was historically the place where the butts, large barrels, of ale were kept). The book would seem from this to have also recorded fines. “Upon his head” we may presume refers to the entry in the book which was headed with his name. So this usage may be linked to the head sense of sconce.

The same sense appears in another long-obsolete phrase, build up a sconce, to run up a big bill at an inn or tavern, especially with the intention of never paying it, and in the related verb sconce, to defraud somebody.

Orchidelirium

This word turned up in a review I read over the holiday break of Richard Mabey’s new book, The Cabaret of Plants. Checking my files, I found that I’d seen it in two earlier articles in British newspapers in the past decade. Both say, as Mabey does, that it was a word invented in the nineteenth century as a derogatory reference to the obsessive collection of rare orchids.

A search found other examples in British and American books and newspapers, most of which likewise suggested that it was well over a century old. The earliest was in the Daily Herald of Chicago in April 1999: “the Victorians coined a word, ‘orchidelirium,’ for their peculiar obsession.” However, searches in databases of nineteenth-century books and newspapers in Britain, North America, Australia and New Zealand failed to find a single example. Nor was there any usage on record of the full phrase orchid delirium, though orchid mania was used.

What struck me also was how uncommon a coinage of the period it would have been. Though blended words — what Lewis Carroll called portmanteau terms — were invented and used to some extent, they weren’t usually devised by joining the final letter of one word to the first letter of the second.

So if it wasn’t Victorian, where did it come from?

The clue came in the journal Biology Digest of 1986. A reference there led me to an article in the July-August 1986 issue of Garden magazine, published for the New York Botanical Garden. It was about the avid orchid collectors of the nineteenth century and was written by Peter Bernhardt, now Professor of Biology at St Louis University, Missouri.

His article was entitled Orchidelirium. However, he tells me he didn’t invent the word: it was most probably coined by the editor of the magazine, the late Ann Botshon.

It’s yet another example of people copying from one another. Somebody must have mistakenly thought Prof Bernhardt had encountered the word during his research. Others reproduced the assumption. As time passed, the link with the original article was lost and the factoid about when orchidelirium was invented took on the status of received truth.

[ My thanks to Professor Bernhardt and to Esther Jackson of the New York Botanical Garden’s library for their assistance with this article. The image is reproduced by kind permission of The LuEsther T Mertz Library of The New York Botanical Garden.]

Words of the Year-001
After Oxford’s choice of a non-word — an emoji — for their word of the year, the editors of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary followed suit. They noted that internet users have been searching its site in their masses this year for words such as fascism , racism, terrorism , feminism and socialism. So they chose the suffix -ism as their Word of the Year 2015.

This ending has an wide range of associations, such as a distinctive practice, belief, system, or philosophy, often a political ideology or artistic movement. Socialism was the form most often searched for, mainly because of the assertion by the Democrat presidential candidate Bernie Sanders that he’s an adherent of democratic socialism.

Merriam-Webster’s editors commented that there are 2733 English words ending in ‑ism in their unabridged dictionary, surely enough for everybody to find something to suit them. Incidentally, the word ism as a mildly disparaging term is recorded from as long ago as 1680.

The Word of the Year 2015 from the Australian National Dictionary Centre strictly speaking also isn’t a word: it’s the phrase sharing economy. The Centre defined it as “an economic system based on sharing of access to goods, resources, and services, typically by means of the Internet” and commented that “it had a special prominence in Australia in 2015 partly due to the impact of debates around the introduction of ridesharing service Uber into Australia, which has been seen as threatening the taxi industry.”

The American Dialect Society gently mocked Oxford’s choice by adding the category of Most Notable Emoji to its nominations for Words of the Year. These were voted on by participants at its annual meeting in Washington DC on 8 January.

The Word of the Year 2015 went by a landslide to they, the gender-neutral singular pronoun, often used when the speaker doesn’t know the gender of the person being referred to, but also more recently as a conscious choice by a person who rejects the traditional gender binary of he and she. After years of controversy the usage is at last becoming widely accepted— late last year Oxford Dictionaries had it as one of their runner-up words of the year and Bill Walsh, the style editor of the Washington Post , officially adopted it for his newspaper.

In other voting, the Most Creative word went to ammosexual, a firearms enthusiast;

Most Unnecessary was manbun, a man’s hairstyle in a bun; the Most Outrageous award went to fuckboy, a derogatory term for a man who behaves objectionably or promiscuously; the Most Euphemistic award went to the phrase netflix and chill, a sexual come-on masked as a suggestion to watch Netflix and relax; the word Most Likely to Succeed was the verb ghost, to abruptly end a relationship by cutting off communication, especially electronically; the Least Likely to Succeed category was won by sitbit, a device that rewards a sedentary lifestyle, a play on fitbit. The winner of the new category Most Notable Emoji was the image of an eggplant or aubergine, mainly because in social media it’s often sexual innuendo for the penis. The other new category this year was Most Notable Hashtag, building on the success last year of #blacklivesmatter as Word of the Year. The winner was #SayHerName, the Twitter call to bring attention to police violence against black women.

At the same meeting, the American Name Society chose its Names of the Year. The brand name of the year was Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine that lost many staff members in a shooting a year ago; the place name or toponym award went to the new name of the tallest mountain in the US: Denali, formerly Mt McKinley; the personal name (or anthroponym if you’re feeling highfalutin) was that of the transgender person Caitlyn Jenner; and the fictional name category was won by three individuals from the new Star Wars film, Rey, Finn and Poe. The Grand Name of the Year award went to Caitlyn Jenner.

Sic

SIC

  • Crows are renowned for being clever, but this headline in the Los Angeles Times on 24 December startled Dean Riley: “Wild crows use tiny cameras to film themselves using tools.”
  • According to the menu of the Sun restaurant in Dedham, England, as seen by Alan M Stanier: “Our coffee comes direct from two growers in El Salvador who are paid 50% more than Fairtrade and roasted by Tate Gallery’s Phil Gevaux and Hamish Anderson.”
  • The law moves at a gentle pace in Gloucester, where on 28 December John Gray spotted a headline in the local newspaper: “Speeding drivers caught in Seymour Road as police launch 20mph crackdown.”

 

  • Irene Johnson submitted an email from the UK firm Cotton Traders she received on 9 December: “We have some unclaimed £5 off vouchers down here. We thought it would be great to offer these to our wonderful customers before they expire as part of the 12 deals of Christmas campaign.”
  • In South Africa, Gerhard Burger found this on a Port Elizabeth-based community website just before Christmas: “Nearly 10 000 vehicles were screened for alcohol use while 194 were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.”
  • The wonders of spellchecking: David Overton found this on the front page of The Telegraph on 7 December: “Britain’s response to terror attacks was called into question last night after uninformed officers were left to deal with a suspected Islamist fanatic.”

World Wide Words

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– WIF Style

About this newsletter: World Wide Words is researched, written and published by Michael Quinion in the UK. ISSN 1470-1448.

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