June 05, 2007

Revelry in verbiage

This month's Southwest Airlines Spirit magazine features "8 Diversions":

  • a hardback (The Obvious, containing "All the business advice you’ve ever heard wrapped in one easy-to-read package");
  • a paperback (Learning to Kill, a collection of "bite-size whodunits, perfect for the beach");
  • a TV show (Passport to Latin America, in which "Host Samantha Brown travels to Central and South America, guiding viewers to the best cafés, parks, museums, shopping, and nightlife spots");
  • a movie (Ratatouille, Brad Bird's "first feature-length film since 2004's Oscar-winning The Incredibles");
  • a DVD (the Lucille Ball Film Collection, because "Who doesn't love Lucy?");
  • a CD (The Best of Both Worlds, "in which Disney star Miley Cyrus shares her pop-rock bebut with her alter ego, Hannah Montana ... a mini-Hilary Duff");
  • a blog; and
  • a website (How Stuff Works, which is "Wikipedia by way of David Macaulay ... Quick answers to dozens of common head-scratchers").

The blog? Language Log, described as "revelry in verbiage".

Here's the full passage (as it appears on the web):

THE CONCEPT Revelry in verbiage, especially when it comes to media and pop culture
BACKSTORY In 2003, University of Pennsylvania phonetics professor Mark Liberman and University of California, Santa Cruz, linguistic professor Geoff Pullum joined forces to create the Language Log blog. These profs know their allomorphs from their morphemes, but their posts are anything but pedagogic.
A SAMPLER “The Language of Stargate,” “Freedom of Speech: More Famous Than Bart Simpson,” “Tighty-Whities: The Semantics,” “The Coming Death of Whom: Photo Evidence,” “Irritating Clichés? Get a Life,” “Ray Charles, America, and the Subjunctive,” “You Say Nevada, I say Nevahda”
FIRST-TIMER’S GLOSSARY Eggcorn: a word coined by Pullum to describe the misuse of a homophone. It originated from an anecdote Pullum heard about a woman writing “egg corns” where she meant “acorns.” Snowclone: term used to describe fill-in-the-blank clichés often used by the media. Examples: “X is the new Y,” “have X, will travel,” and “what happens in X stays in X.”
FIGHTING WORDS “Strunk and White were a pair of hypocritical old grousers whose inaccurate grammar and usage edicts dated not from the last century but the one before that. Yet people not only treat them as if their words came from God and had been chiseled into granite slabs during an encounter up a mountain, they also fail to read those words to see if the old fools practice what they preach. Of course they don’t.”

According to Wikipedia, Southwest Airlines "is the largest airline in the United States by number of passengers carried domestically for any one year and the third largest airline in the world by number of passengers carried". So obviously they know their blogs.

We are now free to move about the country, in Spirit anyhow. (Did we get any free tickets? Alas, no.)

But Language Log, on a shortlist of diversions for Southwest Airlines' passengers, along with Lucille Ball, Brad Bird and Hannah Montana? Priceless.

[Hat tip: Kenny Easwaran.]

Posted by Mark Liberman at June 5, 2007 08:35 PM