Attention, Nerds!

Did you know that Yahoo! has released, or is soon to release, its own style guide for editing and publishing on the Web? On, yes, “the Web,” capital-W. So sayeth Yahoo! In this it falls in line with the AP, which tackled a lot of new Internet (capital-I) lingo more than a decade ago. And while Yahoo! prefers “Web” and “Web Feed” and “Web hosting” it also demands “webcast,” “webpage,” and “website.” This seems arbitrary, but then again what style guide isn’t? And who wants to keep writing “You can find it on my Web site” for the rest of our lives?

Strangely, you have to buy a print copy of the style manual to read it all, but you can browse through a sampling of the official Yahoo! word list here. Let the outrage commence.

A New Coinage

verb, trans.
1. to fashion an object out of thin air, or to improve the general quality of a pre-existing object, using the vague powers that have seemingly been placed within you by a pair of horny experimenting teens: I’m starving; it’d be great if someone could weird-science me a pizza | Huh, this sweater must have gotten weird-scienced in the dryer because it totally fits now.

2. to influence or affect something far beyond any expectations or senses of logic and reason: I think eight days without sunshine has weird-scienced my brain. | Gee, thanks, Massachusetts, now the right is totally going to weird-science health-care reform.

Use with caution.

NYTimes’ Changing of the Guard

Safire_WilliamDid anyone catch the Magazine’s On Language column? Maybe you heard last week that its longtime columnist, William Safire, died. This week’s is written by Ammon Shea, who recently achieved fame in that newly named genre of annualist nonfiction by reading the OED over the course of a year.

I didn’t make it a habit of reading William Safire, despite my shared interests in language, but from what I knew he was a pretty strict prescriptionist when it came to grammar and usage. Sure, he tried in his column to get a perspective on new, hip coinages, but prescriptive usage—the insistence on following certain established authorities in the constructions of utterances—and maybe of course conservative punditry are what he built his long career on.

Shea’s column isn’t just descriptivist—i.e., insisting on the inherent authority of any native speaker in constructing utterances—it’s basically a manifesto for the beleaguered descriptive grammarian. “My aim here,” Shea writes near the top, “is not to illustrate how to be annoyed by those who insist on correcting your language (that will come naturally) but rather to provide a guide for how to make them go away.”
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