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The 10 best words the internet has given English

The 10 best words the internet has given English
My book Netymology: A Linguistic Celebration of the Digital World is about the stories behind new words. I've been an etymology addict since I was a teenager, and especially love unpicking technological words. It's a great reminder of how messily human the stories behind even our sleekest creations are – not to mention delightful curiosities in their own right. 1. This word for our digital incarnations has a marvellously mystical origin, beginning with the Sanskrit term avatara, describing the descent of a god from the heavens into earthly form. Fusing notions of virtual world-building and incarnation, it's the perfect emblem of computers as a portal to a new species of experience. 2. In 1920s America, the # sign served as a shorthand for weight in pounds (and they still call it the pound sign). 3. Computing can be as much combat as collaboration between people and machines, and the Scunthorpe problem is a perfect example. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Related:  Change: lexical-semanticInternet

Texting is “miraculous”: 6 ways we are redefining communication John McWhorter asks us to think of texting less as “written language” and more as “fingered speech.” Photo: James Duncan Davidson Texting is not a blight on the English language, says linguist John McWhorter in today’s talk, given at TED2013. Rather, texting is a “miraculous thing”: a novel linguistic mode that’s redefining the way we communicate with each other — for the better. John McWhorter: Txtng is killing language. If we think of texting as “fingered speech,” as McWhorter puts it, it also opens our eyes to texting’s distinct linguistic rules, structures and nuances. As the mediums through which we communicate quickly multiply, our modes of communication are following suit. Like “lol,” hashtags started out with a literal function: making topics easy to tag, and thus search for, on Twitter. John McWhorter was a part of TED’s worldwide talent search, giving a shorter version of his talk at the New York stop of the tour.

Rebuilding the Web We Lost We have the obligation to never speak of our concerns without suggesting our solutions. I've been truly gratified to watch the response to The Web We Lost over the last few days; It's become one of the most popular things I've ever written and has inspired great responses. But the most important question we can ask is: How do we rebuild the positive aspects of the web we lost? There are a few starting points, building on conversations we've been having for years. Take responsibility and accept blame. Overall, there are lots of ways that the current generation of social sites are vulnerable. As is obvious from the responses I've gotten, many, many people care about a social web that honors certain human and creative values. These new companies will be recognizable in that they'll impact culture and media and government and society, and that they'll invent great new technologies.

Twitter shows language evolves in cities - tech - 17 November 2012 WHERE do new words come from? On Twitter at least, they often begin life in cities with large African American populations before spreading more widely, according to a study of the language used on the social network. Jacob Eisenstein at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and colleagues examined 30 million tweets sent from US locations between December 2009 and May 2011. Several new terms spread during this period, including "bruh", an alternative spelling of "bro" or "brother", which first arose in a few south-east cities before eventually hopping to parts of California. Residents of Cleveland, Ohio, were the first to use "ctfu", an abbreviation of "cracking the fuck up", usage that has since spread into Pennsylvania ( After collecting the data, the team built a mathematical model that captures the large-scale flow of new words between cities. New Scientist Not just a website! More From New Scientist Promoted Stories What is 64-Bit Mobile Computing?

The Internet as we know it is dying It was a week of rage, nostalgia and despair on the Internet. Sure, you could say that about any week on the Internet. But last week delivered some prime material. All is not well on the Web. At Twitch TV, the gamers are worried that Google’s “copyright monster” will tame their freewheeling Wild West and obliterate years of work. It’s a big mess. That’s easier said than done. If you’re not an avid gamer, the kind of person who enjoys watching other gamers narrate their own adventures through the latest first-person shooter, you’ve probably never heard of Twitch TV. But for the gamers who produce much of the content, the idea that Google’s copyright cop, ContentID, might suddenly be patrolling their world is a nightmare. From a copyright holder’s point of view, bringing a new sheriff into town probably seems entirely just and proper. Happily, the MetaFilter community is stepping up with donations that may ensure the continued future of MetaFilter. But that’s not entirely fair.

Grexit, drachmail and eurogeddon - the new eurozone words As the eurozone crisis consumes billions of pounds and leaves people fearing for their jobs, it has given people one thing - a totally new vocabulary. MP David Miliband has already warned us of drachmageddon - the chaos which would be caused to us all by the return of the former Greek currency. That then leads us to drachmail - the term coined by our own Economics Editor Faisal Islam, which describes Greece's attempts to secure a better deal from its concerned Euro partners, anxious to save the world from a euro collapse. If the worst comes to the worst, we could have a Grexodus or Grexit which would see the departure of Greece from the euro currency. Italy is also feared to be the next troubled country to leave the single currency - which would make it Quitaly. And what if the entire single currency system collapses? The best Channel 4 News can muster today from its own ranks is "Cont-aegean" - but an you come up with any new terms to describe the euro-crisis?

How We Lost the Web When I wrote about the web we lost a few months ago, I thought the idea that we'd strayed from some of the philosophical and cultural underpinnings of the social web's early days would be of note to a few old-timers like me, and that most folks would sort of shrug their shoulders at this obscure concern. Instead, that piece and the conversation that have followed have gotten more of a response than almost anything else I've written. As a result, I found myself, astonishingly, asked to speak at Harvard's Berkman Center earlier this week about the topic. If you have an hour to spend on the topic and don't mind the sound of my voice for that long, you can actually watch the entire talk, complete with my slides shown inline, here: The Berkman page for the talk also offers downloadable formats for the talk, including a 41MB MP3 if you're the type who listens to podcasts. Some key links if you'd like to further explore the themes in the talk:

'Hobbitses' and Frankenstein: how pop culture's words become official | Kory Stamper | Comment is free Water cooler conversation at a dictionary company tends towards the odd. A while ago I was chatting with one of my colleagues about our respective defining batches. "I'm not sure," he said, "what to do about the plural of 'hobbit'. There are some citations for 'hobbitses', but I think they may be facetious uses. I did: "We enter 'hobbit' into the dictionary?" Pop culture is a goldmine of neologisms, and science fiction and fantasy is one rich seam that has been contributing to English for hundreds of years. Don't be surprised. Which brings us to the familiar and more modern era of sci-fi and fantasy, ones filled with tricorders, lightsabers, dark lords in fiery mountain fortresses, and space cowboys. All fields have their own vocabulary and, as often happens, that vocabulary is often isolated to that field. In some cases, the people who gave us the word aren't keen to see it taken outside of its intended world and used with an extended meaning.

The internet is fucked In a perfect storm of corporate greed and broken government, the internet has gone from vibrant center of the new economy to burgeoning tool of economic control. Where America once had Rockefeller and Carnegie, it now has Comcast’s Brian Roberts, AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, and Verizon’s Lowell McAdam, robber barons for a new age of infrastructure monopoly built on fiber optics and kitty GIFs. And the power of the new network-industrial complex is immense and unchecked, even by other giants: AT&T blocked Apple’s FaceTime and Google’s Hangouts video chat services for the preposterously silly reason that the apps were "preloaded" on each company’s phones instead of downloaded from an app store. We’re really, really fucking this up. But we can fix it, I swear. We can do it. Go ahead, say it out loud. There, you’ve just skipped past a quarter century of regulatory corruption and lawsuits that still rage to this day and arrived directly at the obvious conclusion. None. This shit is insane.

How emoji became the first truly global language | Technology | The Observer Emoji: growing in complexity all the time. I sent one this morning. My pal texted to say that she was in that most invidious of contemporary social tangles: someone was offering her a Kate Bush spare but she had already committed herself elsewhere. Me, I was busy thinking about emoji. I didn't have time to deal with someone else's heartache or their moral scruples vis-a-vis ditching an apparently iron-clad prior engagement. Obviously, I could have replied simply: "AAAARGH!!!". But my timid scrunch-face puts me so behind the curve that I might as well start training carrier pigeons. Want to make yourself feel slightly nauseous and utterly baffled? All of which brings us a very long way from the end of the last millennium, when Japanese teenagers started using emoji on their pagers (the word itself consists of e-, picture, mo-, writing, ji, character). Beyoncé (feat.

How the web lost its way – and its founding principles | Technology In 2009, an American civil rights lawyer created a mashup mapping a neighbourhood called Coal Run, Ohio. It showed which houses were connected to the town's water supply and which houses were occupied by black or white families. A mashup uses data from more than one source, usually publicly available information, and almost always presents it on a map. The results were extraordinary: the map showed that almost all the white households in Coal Run had water piped to their homes, while all but a few black households did not. For more than 50 years, Coal Run's African American residents had called on local authorities to remedy this inequity. "We could articulate the case in words," said civil rights lawyer Reed Colfax who represented the residents. Since Coal Run was connected to the city's water supply, a federal jury has awarded its residents $11m in damages from the city of Zanesville and Muskingum County. Sceptical is right. Yes, you might well reply.

War of the words: the global conflict that helped shape our language | Mind your language | Media War: the mother of invention. The phrase (a tweak of the proverb “necessity is the mother of invention”) refers to military technology. But a new book demonstrates how it is also true of language. The Word at War: World War Two in 100 Phrases is by Philip Gooden and Peter Lewis, who brought us the fascinating Idiomantics – a thrill-a-page tour of international idioms. Next year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the second world war. The neologisms with which the second world war enriched our language range from the utilitarian to the racy: “The heightened conditions of warfare provide a boost to the human propensity to use jargon, slang and bad language,” the authors say. Spam is a portmanteau of “spiced ham” and, developed in 1937, became popular warfare tucker for the ration-starved masses owing to its long shelf life. The second world war is also responsible for the mugs, tea towels and numerous other souvenirs telling us to Keep Calm and Carry On.

The Internet's Original Sin Ron Carlson’s short story “What We Wanted To Do” takes the form of an apology from a villager who failed to protect his comrades from marauding Visigoths. It begins: What we wanted to do was spill boiling oil onto the heads of our enemies as they attempted to bang down the gates of our village. But as everyone now knows, we had some problems, primarily technical problems, that prevented us from doing what we wanted to do the way we had hoped to do it. What we’re asking for today is another chance. There’s little suspense in the story—the disastrous outcome is obvious from the first paragraph—but it works because of the poignancy of the apology. The fiasco I want to talk about is the World Wide Web, specifically, the advertising-supported, “free as in beer” constellation of social networks, services, and content that represents so much of the present day web industry. The talk is hilarious and insightful, and poignant precisely for the reasons Carlson’s story is.

The Linguistics of LOL - Britt Peterson Post Typography When two friends created the site I Can Has Cheezburger?, in 2007, to share cat photos with funny, misspelled captions, it was a way of cheering themselves up. To a linguist, all of this sounds a lot like a sociolect: a language variety that’s spoken within a social group, like Valley Girl–influenced ValTalk or African American Vernacular English. Like lolspeak, other Internet sociolects tend to start as a game or a kind of insider-y one-upmanship, then snowball in complexity. Because online sociolects develop so quickly, and leave such an extensive record, they offer linguists a chance to observe linguistic change with a precision that would be impossible for an oral dialect. Community: Hackers and wannabes (n00bs) trying to disguise their bulletin-board messages in the 1980s; gamers in the ’90s Features: Words deliberately disguised via alternate characters (1337 to write “elite”; plurals ending in z); suffixes like xor and ness Example: “Wow.