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January 6, 2007

Oxford English Dictionary + 'Balderdash & Piffle' = Word Up


From London, England and the Washington Post's Kevin Sullivan came the news on January 4, 2007 that the origin of words in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) — all 600,000 of them — is now actively in play.

Long story short: The OED last year asked viewers of the BBC lexicology TV program "Balderdash & Piffle" to send in what might be the origin of words or phrases mentioned on the show as part of its "Wordhunt" collaboration with the Oxford University Press, the OED's publisher.

The BBC said 7,000 emails came in about the 47 words on last year's shows.

As a result, 35 entries in the dictionary were changed to incorporate the newly received information.

Here's the Post article.

    Oxford Editors Are No Wazzocks, Putting Public to Work on Words

    According to the august Oxford English Dictionary, going bananas was simply not done before 1968, nobody went bonkers before 1957 and no one went to the loo before 1940.

    But the publishers of the 600,000-word reference book, billed as "the definitive record of the English language," are willing to be proved wrong. So they are asking language-loving British television viewers to help them trace the murky etymological roots of 40 common English-language expressions, from "wolf whistle" to "regime change" to "sick puppy."

    Oxford University Press, the publisher, is teaming up with "Balderdash & Piffle," a BBC television lexicology program, to run down the origins of such acutely British expressions as "wally" (a fool), "wazzock" (an idiot) and "whoopsie" (excrement). As far as the dictionary's 400-plus researchers have been able to make out, crazy people became "daft as a brush" in 1945 and "one sandwich short of a picnic" in 1993.

    Before 1976, "marital aids" were known by less genteel names, and using them, along with other more sexually adventurous behavior, became "kinky" in 1959. Some terms on the list are too naughty to be printed here. But the Oxford editors are as interested in their X-rated beginnings as they are in "identity theft," "spiv" (a sharply dressed hustler), "mucky pup" (a messy child) and "prat" (a fool or a jerk).

    "Words do have a real fascination," said Peter Gilliver, associate editor of the dictionary. "It's all knowledge, and it is worth tracking down."

    The English have a special relationship with the language named for their land. From Chaucer to Shakespeare to Dickens, this country has given the world some of its most memorable literature. The spoken word is also revered here, and English debaters articulate even the most mundane ideas with remarkable music and vocabulary. Americans puzzle over Britons keeping their spare "tyre" in the "boot" of their car, but most admit that they sound clever doing it.


    So it came as little surprise early last year when nearly 2 million people tuned in for each episode of the first "Balderdash & Piffle" "Wordhunt" collaboration with Oxford University Press. BBC officials said viewers sent in about 7,000 e-mails about the 47 words on last year's list. Gilliver said viewers turned up uses of common phrases in old letters, magazines, unpublished papers and other sources not available to the dictionary's researchers. As a result, he said, 35 entries in the dictionary were changed.

    "Bog standard," which means the basic, no-frills model of something, had been listed as a term arising from the world of computers in the 1980s. But Gilliver said a British man found a 1968 automotive magazine in his garage that mentioned the term in relation to a model of a car. A "nit nurse" refers to a British nurse who traveled from school to school checking students for head lice. Gilliver said the term was thought to date from the mid-1980s, but a viewer last year dredged up a reference from 1942.

    "It's a very democratic process," he added, noting that the dictionary's editors have solicited public input since they started compiling the first volume in 1879.

    The dictionary is in the middle of its first cover-to-cover revision, a process that Gilliver said started in the early 1990s and might take another 20 years. In the meantime, he said, the English language continues to evolve, and editors are constantly updating.

    Every three months, they publish revisions to an alphabetical slice of the dictionary — the one released last month covered entries from "pomander" ("a ball or perforated container of mixed aromatic substances used to perfume a room or cupboard") to "Prajnaparamita" (a Buddhist deity). Editors also include any new words from other parts of the alphabet that come to their attention.

    Some of the most recent new additions — such as "Talibanization," "La Niña," "webcast" and "in-line skating" — reflect changing times. "Bake sale," "pork-belly futures," "pom-pom" and "Porta Potti" seem to plug obvious gaps. "Mr. (and Mrs.) Potato Head" was long overdue, and what dictionary is complete without "pond scum"? Some additions acknowledge ever-changing colloquial usage: "Power" alone had at least 70 variations added, including "power shopping," "power walking," "power breakfast," "power lunch," "power shower" and "power nap."

    Gilliver chuckled when asked about two new discoveries by the world's most sophisticated etymologists: "poopy" and "booger."

    "Every kind of language is worth investigating," he said.


Much of the best of bookofjoe derives from my wonderful readers around the world.


Girl [and guy] — you know it's true.

January 6, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here 5 p.m. tomorrow.

January 6, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Why the Cincinnati Bengals are watching the NFL playoffs instead of playing


It just struck me (it's 1:58 p.m. ET Saturday, January 6, 2007, with kickoff for the Chiefs v Colts game only 152 minutes away — but who's watching the clock?).

The benighted Bengals have not one, not two but three — count 'em, three (Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chris Henry) — head case wide receivers.

No possible way to win with three.

One, perhaps, maybe two — if the rest of the team is really good — but three guys complaining, whining about not getting the ball enough and all that goes with being a prima donna wide receiver in the NFL will never fly.

Being one of the good hands people is not enough — gotta consider the good mouth posse.

Marvin Harrison, call your office: your victims are out there in the Kansas City secondary, quaking in their high-top shoes.

January 6, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Total + Steen's = My new fave dessert


As good as anything I'm likely to be served anywhere is the über-simple and inexpensive concoction I created a few weeks ago and have been dining out on — as it were — ever since.

And the best part is that it doesn't require really bizarre or exotic ingredients nor does it take any effort to prepare.

You know how that kind of thing talks to lazy moi.

But I digress.

1. Buy a container of Fage Total plain yogurt.

2) Buy a bottle of Steen's Pure Cane Syrup.

Pour a little syrup on top of the yogurt and you're done.

Except for the pure pleasure that awaits your mouth.

After I learned of the yogurt I tried it with honey or maple syrup on top but neither was quite right, although both were quite good.

Then I twigged to Steen's.

This concoction is totally — as it were — a New York Times baby: I first heard of Total yogurt in Julia Moskin's story of September 20, 2006; Steen's came along in a December 13, 2006 article by Ms. Moskin and Kim Severson.

If you can't find Fage Total yogurt you can buy it here.

If you can't find Steen's they'll ship you four bottles direct from Abbeville, Louisiana for $23.25.



January 6, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack



Earlier today I received this email:

    Check it!

    Dbyt3 has made you a contact on MyBlogLog.

    Click below to visit their profile, where you can learn more about them and add them as a contact as well.


    Congratulations on your growing sphere of influence.

    Today, MyBlogLog; tomorrow, the world!



I figured since I had all these extra free tickets for admission, I'd share them with you.

Sure hope that's okay with Dbyt3.

January 6, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Amish Cake Tester Broom


From the website:

    Amish Cake Tester Broom

    Handmade by Amish artisans in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, these authentic corn-husk straws are used to test the readiness of a cake.

    Hang the straws near the oven, break one off and insert it into the center of your cake.

    If it comes out clean, your cake is done.

    Straws are disposable.

    2"L x 2"W x 5.5"H.

    Poem included.



$6.99 (cake not included).

January 6, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

'Cioran Handrail' — by Urs Fischer


The sculpture (above), currently on view in a show entitled "Defamation of Character" at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in New York City, is the first work of art I've ever come across that includes the name of my favorite philosopher, E.M. Cioran.

Haven't heard of him, much less read anything by him?

You should — no one is more bracing and capable of improving your life — if that's what you're after.

But I digress.

Roberta Smith's review in the December 29, 2006 New York Times featured the photo up top.

The show runs through Monday, January 15, 2007.

P.S. 1 is at 22-25 Jackson Avenue (46th Avenue), Long Island City, Queens, New York; 718-784-2084.

January 6, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Breezy Singers — 'World's most advanced pet toys'


Nicole Donohoe recommended them to me so you know they've got to be good.

Breezy Singers: http://www.advancedpetproducts.com/breezy_singers.php

She wrote, "I just bought them for my mom and they exceeded expectations."

Back in the day that was how they described an A grade, as best I recall.

Though I believe a differentiation between "Sometimes exceeds expectations" and "Consistently exceeds expectations" was the difference between a B and an A.

But I digress.

Nicole continued, "Or if you really insist on over paying: http://www.dwr.com/productdetail.cfm?id=6779

The appearance, movement and sound of these birds make them totally charming AND
they are triggered by a motion-activated photo-sensor. What is not to love?"

From $12.95.

January 6, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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