Tag Words

Astonishment, Excitement, Embarrassment, Etc.

Bethany L. King/flickr

It is, I think you will agree, the rather rare headline that contains a total of eleven exclamation marks. Nonetheless, there it was, on the editorial page of the April 5 New York Times: “OMG!!! OED!!! LOL!!!!!“—a lighthearted, unsigned opinion celebrating the addition of a pair of Internet- and text-message-boosted Three-Letter Initialisms1 into the greatest TLI of them all: the Oxford English Dictionary.

There were a lot of similar headlines that week, conveying much the same news: that the OED had announced, as they do from time to time, a set of new and revised definitions—part of their lexicographers’ never-ending task of making sure the flagship dictionary of the English language remains up to date. Hence, this month, the new inclusion of fnarr-fnarr, singledom, banh mi, smack-talking, stonewash, tinfoil hat, behavioral economics, wassup, biker, runathon, happy camper, Second Coming, rumble-de-thumps (along with dozens of other R-words), and as a headliner, OMG: “colloq. (freq. in the language of electronic communications) . . . Expressing astonishment, excitement, embarrassment, etc.: ‘oh my God!'”

A graphical analysis of national anthem lyrics

With attention to religious expression, Olympic performance,
and general bloodthirstiness

One of my 2010 New Year’s resolutions was simple: I wanted to learn the words to the French national anthem. My reasons for memorizing “La Marseillaise” were twofold: first, I’d always wanted to sing along with that climactic scene in Casablanca where Bogart, Bergman, and the whole gang at Rick’s Café Américain join together to drown out an annoying chorus of Nazi officers. And second, for the past few years I’ve undertaken an unsuccessful effort to teach myself the language of Voltaire and Hulot, largely by watching Le 20 Heures, the French national broadcaster’s nightly newscast.

Mix CD | Hold On

Wimbo Zuri Catalog No. 040.1A08-1

For a while I’ve been interested in the ways that repeating a word over and over can change it—sometimes it loses meaning, becoming a simple babble of repeated sounds. In other cases, the repetition increases the strength and depth of the word. Sometimes, indeed, it feels like—transcendently, I guess—both is happening at once.

I started to wonder whether it was possible to make a coherent mix where every song was different but had the same title. Which titles are universal enough for this to be possible? Which titles lead to themes so various to make such repetition bearable, something more than a joke? I feel like “Hold On” succeeded at this, far beyond my wildest hopes. I find myself sharing this mix with friends and people I’ve never met, not as a joke so much as an offering, a pointer towards hope.

Click to enlarge

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