Thursday, August 9, 2007

Language Profiling

Number 238
August 8, 2007



This PO is a short vacation issue, because we’re taking a short trip.


What’s annoying, if not actually wrong, about this sentence:

The briefing was very informational.

The word should be informative, but neither in dictionaries nor usage books can I find either word. Informative is given as a an adjectival form of information meaning increasing knowledge, but informational does not appear. It’s one of those “unnecessary variants”. We do hear about informational meetings or informational literature, where the purpose is to give information, whether or not that purpose is achieved, though presumably an information meeting would do as well, as would a plain brochure. Informative means information is actually conveyed. In any case, you don’t say “very” informational.


I bought a can of Spam in a 70th anniversary collector’s can for the meat nostalgia. We used to have fried Spam sandwiches occasionally when I was a kid. It’s not bad, though too salty. The Hormel company is good humored about Spam’s kitsch factor. I couldn’t find anything on the web site about the e-mail kind of spam. If only it were possible for Hormel to put e-mail spammers out of business for trademark infringement or something.


Did you ever notice that long-winded is not the opposite of short of breath?


In response to a newspaper article outlining how to identify a house that has a meth lab inside, I amused myself by writing this letter to the editor:

Sounds like residential profiling to me. Where’s the ACLU?

They printed it.

If you say it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, have you profiled something that might actually not even be a fowl?


Cited from a newspaper interview with a local musician:

Never used a pickup line ... anyone who uses one should be shot on site.

As opposed to dragging him off the premises first? Don’t shoot till you see the sights of his eyes!


Is an expatriate an ex-patriot also? Usually an expatriate is someone who is living outside his own country, while an ex-patriot is someone who used to be a patriot.


Bill R. responded to the wind eye:

Just as "daisy" comes from "day's eye" ~ John Ciardi pointed out the differing referents by noting that the same flower is marguerite in the Romance languages. The eye of the day is pretty, and so is the girl (Margaret), but they're not the same.

According to Wikipedia, Margaret means pearl, with roots in the Persian for pearl, Morvarid; and also the old-Indian word for pearl, mandjari (which sounds like Margery). Daisy is a nickname for Margaret, but why? Perhaps a pearl looks like a day’s eye too. I also can’t see how Peggy became a nickname for Margaret.

As for my own name, I’ve read several meanings for it (Celtic woman, rhododendron), but it is Welsh, possibly meaning “good lance” (spear good), or it may have come from the city in Wales named Rhondda, from the River Rhondda which means “noisy”.


Word of the week: What word appears on a T-shirt sold in New York City by Arab Women Active in Art and Media, whose spokeswoman is Dhabah "Debbie" Almontaser, principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, an Arabic-language school scheduled to open in Brooklyn next month? This is a new tax-payer supported public school for Islamic studies. The T-shirt says “Intifada NYC”. Almontaser said the Arabic root meaning of intifada is “shaking off” as in, Muslim women are shaking off oppression, or something like that. Sort of like jihad really means the internal spiritual struggle. Homework assignment for the week: look up madrassa. No, it’s not about the neat madras shorts ‘n’ shirts you used to wear (always better when they bleed).

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