Lexicon

10 May 2007

Lashing the Wind

Submitted by Karl Hagen
Topic: 
From Wired Blogs comes news that HBO's Chief Technology Officer, Bob Zitter, wants us to stop using the term "DRM" (digital rights management) and start using "DCE" (digital consumer enablement) to refer to the system by which media blood-suckers intellectual property owners make sure that we can only view their material on exactly the terms that they dictate.

If Mr. Zitter is serious he needs a crash course in semantics, and perhaps the history of English.

11 Jan 2007

Craplet

Submitted by Karl Hagen
Topic: 
This is a word that deserves more attention. Two different senses show up in different on-line dictionaries. The Urban Dictionary defines it as a small piece of excrement floating alone in a toilet bowl. That's a fairly prosaic instance of derivation, just the dimminutive -let tacked on to crap.
14 Aug 2006

On and Off

Submitted by Karl Hagen
I've been neglecting this blog for a while, largely the result of going on vacation. I spent two and a half weeks in Malaysia, and another two weeks recovering from jet lag and trying to catch up with other work. We went to introduce our son Aran (now 14 months old) to his great grandmother and the rest of my wife's very large clan. We all had a wonderful time, even Aran, who, after getting over some stranger anxiety, seemed to lap up the attention from all his cousins.
15 Jun 2006

Either Literal or Actual

Submitted by Karl Hagen
Topic: 
Before I got sidetracked by vagueries, I was actually checking out a variation on the ongoing reanalysis of literal(ly) to mean "figurative(ly)" (i.e., the opposite of literal in its traditional sense).

The usage I mean is most familiar in contexts such as

"I skipped breakfast and lunch, so by dinner I was literally starving to death."

Usage books object to this construction on the grounds that the speaker here is certainly not actually starving. But it's easy to see such constructions as simple hyperbole, which of course speakers deploy all the time.

The question is whether the speaker intends the expression as exaggeration or has actually reanalyzed the word's meaning, thinking that literal means figurative. In sentences such as the one above, it's not really possible to tell, since either reanalysis or exaggeration could explain the sentence. Indeed, a simple substitution of "virtually" or "metaphorically" in the sentence above actually weakens the intended emphasis, so even if reanalysis has occurred, a sense of exaggeration remains.

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