January 31, 2008

Nanoblahblah in The New Scientist

The latest issue of The New Scientist includes an article by Jim Giles entitled "Word nerds capture fleeting online English" (PDF here [Removed at the request of The New Scientist]). I'm quoted alongside such word buffs as Grant Barrett (of Double-Tongued Dictionary fame) and Mark Peters (Mr. Wordlustitude) on the subject of amateur lexicography in the digital age. The "amateur" versus "professional" dichotomy made in the article is a bit of an exaggeration, and it's certainly unfair to conflate carefully edited sites like Grant's and Mark's with the free-for-all of Urban Dictionary. (Grant, after all, has worked as a professional lexicographer, for instance in his capacity as project editor of the Historical Dictionary of American Slang.) Still, the article offers an enjoyable look at some of the fringe vocabulary lying outside the realm of traditional lexicography — often of the one-off variety catalogued on Wordlustitude, such as nanoblahblah, henchgoon, and celebufreak. (And for the record, I wrote on Language Log about Mark's "in-the-wild discoveries," not his "wild discoveries"! Wild, wacky stuff.)

[Update: Grant Barrett's take on the article is here.]

Posted by Benjamin Zimmer at January 31, 2008 12:16 AM