Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Archive for October, 2012

Romnesia in the Lamestream Media

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

President Obama has introduced a new word into the political debate: romnesia. Romnesia is a good word, politically loaded in just the right way. It is better than the Repuslican near synonym, flip-flop, because flip-flop existed previous to the Bush – Kerry faceoff and when we hear this word we see a pair of plastic sandals. The runner-up comes from the last presidential campaign, Sarah Palin’s lamestream media, a blend of lame-brained and mainstream media.

Romnesia edges out lamestream media by a hair since it is a properly constructed single-word blend of Romny and amnesia. It really isn’t a strict synonym of flip-flop or even etch-a-sketch. Because of its implication of loss of memory, it has a jocular implication that Romney can’t keep up with where he stands on a particular issue from appearance to appearance.

All these words are all nonce words, of course, used for political purposes over the course of presidential campaigns. There is little chance that they will remain in the language after the election. (Flip-flop is the exception since it was in the language already.)

Do Blonds or Blondes Have More Fun?

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Tom Schomer writes:

“Is there a preferred spelling for the word blond(e), and why does it have two
possible correct spellings?”

It was borrowed from French and, like fiancé versus fiancée, one originally referred to men (blond) and the other, to women (blonde). That distinction was pointless and since has been appropriately lost. Spell it blond.

Malapropisms Again

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Seth Twiggs writes: “We who teach find malapropisms often in student writing, of course. One should not take such occurrences for granite.”

My reply: I hope you didn’t think we have the same a devil-make-hair attitude about them that students have. Far from it.

The Origin of ‘Aryan’

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

Lena Åseth raises an interesting question I’ll bet many of the readers of this blog would be interested in. It has to do with the first word in the name of a racist organization called “The Aryan Brotherhood”.

“I need your expertise on the word aryan. Where does this word come from, and is it still in use? I know that it was used during the Nazi-war, under Hitler, but it’s a bit older than that, right?”

—Lena Åseth, Oslo, Norway

Although the word is still around, it is now used only in its racist sense. It comes from the Sanskrit word arya “noble, of a good, high-ranking family”. The word originally referred to the Proto-Indo-Europeans, but the inherent elitism of the word’s etymology led to its demise as a technical term.

The word was then picked up by the Nazis, who thought the Indo-Europeans must have been a race of exclusively white people (excluding Jews, of course). They attached this word to that mythical race. The elitism of the word’s etymology aligned itself quite nicely with the new meaning.

Most intellectuals now use Indo-European, while police departments and laymen use the more nearly descriptive term Caucasian, in referring to the original sense of Aryan. The Indo-Europeans, of course, did not originate in the Caucasus, but in an area now occupied by eastern Poland, Ukraine, and southern Russia. So, even this term is misleading.