Here in the Chicago area, we are sweltering through a third day in a row of extreme heat (100+ degrees) and many homes in my community were without power for most of the week due to a powerful storm that barreled through last Sunday. All over the state of Illinois and the Midwest, it's been hot, hot, hot. How hot, you ask? Well, a hot librarian knows where to go for answers to all sorts of questions, including those about the weather!
Hot time in the old town tonight?
How how is it?
Hotter than a honeymoon hotel...
Hotter than a stolen tamale...
Hotter than a fur coat in Marfa --Texas, that is...
(Thanks for my friends at Texas Monthly for those!)
How hot is it?
It's so hot that I have found out (the hard way) that my seat belt buckle could be used as a branding iron.
It was so hot today I saw an Amish guy buying an air conditioner.
How hot is it?
Hotter than the backlog o' hell...
Hotter than hell with the blower on...
Hotter'n a burnt boot...
All from Cowboy Lingo: A Dictionary of the Slack-Jaw Words and Whangdoodle Ways of the American West by Ramon F. Adams (Houghton Mifflin, New York, 2000)
How hot is it?
Hotter than a two-dollar pistol - Very hot, an allusion to cheap 19th-century pistols that got hot when fired.
Hotter than Methodist hell - About as hot as it can get; an expression used chiefly in Maine.
Hotter'n a skunk - 1. Very drunk. 2. Very hot weather or anything hot.
Hotter'n love in hayin' time - Extremely hot.
All from: Facts on File Dictionary of American Regionalisms: Local Expressions from Coast to Coast by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 2000)
How hot is it?
Hotter than an iPad 3 after a couple minutes use...
Hotter than a steel playground slide at noon...
Hotter than a habañero orbiting the sun...
How hot is it?
Hotter than a Times-Square Rolex...
Hotter than a brazen hussy in church...
Hotter than blue blazes...
This actually makes sense from a scientific point of view since the hotter the source of light, the shorter its wavelength, and blue light has the shortest wavelength of the visible spectrum. Well, officially it is called violet, but physicists generally refer to the end of the spectrum that includes violet as the blue end and this is due to how our eyes see color. We have three kinds of color sensing cells, called cones, in our eyes. These cones sense red, green, and blue light. So every color we perceive is some combination of red, green, and blue. That includes yellow, believe it or not. So physicists just talk about those three colors. Maybe they never had the 64-pack of Crayola Crayons to color with as children! But I digress... So hotter than red hot, even hotter than white hot, is blue hot. (Or, for purists, violet hot.)
(Thanks to Amazing Space from the Space Telescope Science Institute's Office of Public Outreach.)
In doing some research, I recently came upon a wonderful website which has a fabulous dictionary of "Diner Lingo," you know, the rich, descriptive and often hilarious language used in those greasy spoons and burger joints by gum-snapping waitresses and short-order cooks. (Okay, that's a stereotype -- but admit it, you did form an immediate picture!) The ingenuity of speakers of the English language never ceases to amaze me, ever enriching our living, breathing vernacular!
For example, in American Diner Slang, Adam 'n' Eve are two poached eggs.
Some other phrases worth a hoot and a half include:
Bark, Bow-wow, or Bun pup: hot dog
Eve with a lid on: apple pie
Burn one, take it through the garden and pin a rose on it: hamburger with lettuce, tomato and onion
Cluck and grunt: eggs and bacon
Dough well done with cow to cover: buttered toast
Drag one through Wisconsin: put cheese on it
Eternal twins: ham and eggs
Family reunion: chicken and egg sandwich
Foreign entanglements: spaghetti
Gentleman will take a chance: an order of hash
Hot Blonde in the sand: coffee with cream and sugar
Jayne Mansfield: a tall stack of pancakes
Mike and Ike: salt and pepper shakers
Nervous pudding: bowl of Jell-O
On the hoof: cooked rare
Put a hat on it: add ice cream
Sinkers and suds: doughnuts and coffee
Skid grease: butter
Steaming Idaho: baked potato
A thousand on a plate, and whistle berries: baked beans
Two dots and a dash: Two fried eggs with a strip of bacon
Zeppelins in a fog: sausages with mash potatoes
Well, there's plenty more where that came from at Diner Lingo!
Sorry if I made you hungry!
I have a confession to make... which I may have already confessed on this blog, but I will confess again or re-confess, whatever the correct terminology may be. As a child, I whiled away countless hours (or perhaps minutes) reading the dictionary. It's true. On a rainy afternoon when outdoor play was impossible... or in the late evening, when there was nothing but mind-numbing reruns on broadcast TV (this was back-in-the-day before cable), I would haul down the old Webster's from the bookshelf in the family room, place my finger in a random notch in its thick side and let it fall open. Who knew what treasures might be found on those tissue-paper thin pages. Yes, I'm a word nerd, always have been, always will be.
So imagine my joy in celebrating "Thesaurus Day." Who cares if Wikipedia blacks out its site to protest the SOPA bill in Congress? Who needs freakin' Wikipedia. I can name four dozen websites where you will find whatever information you need that you might ordinary seek out on Wikipedia just because, admit it, it's at the top of the search results' list. But Thesaurus Day??? Where would a writer be without Roget's in print -- or, in a pinch, any of the online thesauri?? Now that would be a loss!!
Just look at all the epossible synonyms related to speech and the word "remark:" statement, comment, crack [slang], one's two cents' worth [informal], word, say, saying, utterance, observation, reflection, expression, note, thought, mention, assertion, averment, allegation, dictum, declaration, interjection, exclamation, question, answer, address, greeting, apostrophe, sentence, phrase, subjoinder, Parthian shot.
Just like the Inuit have multiple lexemes for snow and snow-related events, we have a wondrous variety of words at our disposal. So put them to use and entertain your friends!
Oxford vs. Urban
No, I'm not talking shirts... It's that time of year when the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (COED) reveals the list of words that will be added to its latest edition. Given that this year COED celebrates its 100th anniversary, inquiring readers and writers may find this event especially noteworthy... or maybe not... maybe one needs to be in love with the English language to begin with.
Okay, so Angus Stevenson, the editor of COED, blogged in mid-August that the 12th edition of the dictionary would include 400 new entries, many of which have their origins in our tech-centered, social media-networked society. A sample of these include:
textspeak: language regarded as characteristic of text messages, consisting of abbreviations, acronyms, initials, emoticons, etc.
retweet: to repost or forward a Twitter message
sexting: sending sexually explicit photos or messages via mobile phone (ex. something often done by congressmen from New York)
cyberbullying: use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically be sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature
The meanings of 'follower' and 'friend' have also been amended to reflect their use in the social media milieu. "Not words" (how else to describe these textspeak acronyms?) also making the cut include: LOL, FYI, OMG, LMAO and POS (which, according to COED, means 'point of sale,' not 'parent over shoulder.')
In the category of fashion, some new additions include mankini ( a brief one-piece swimsuit for men with a T-back) and jeggings (tight-fitting stretch pants for women styled to resemble a pair of denim jeans). Of course, let us hope that their inclusion in the COED heralds their swift demise on the fashion scene, since neither are flattering to humans, regardless of size, age or gender.
If you are thinking that the bulk of these new entries have been spawned by the fervid minds of the youth culture ---(What generation are we on now? Gen Y? the Millenials? Generation Next? Net Generation? Echo Boomers? The myriad expressions used to describe this demographic could fill its own lexicon...) --- anyway, you'd be right!
But that's always been the case. Youth drives the lingo, even with the COED. Its first edition in 1911 included such cutting-edge buxx words as motorist, radioactive, rag-time and flapper. COED has always been the upstart, younger cousin of the dignified, venerable Oxford English Dictionary (OED). OED encompasses the history and the grandeur of our language. COED seeks to capture the verbiage spilling trippingly off the tongues of the times. Its first editors, the Fowler brothers, sought to document the language of the Edwardians and scoured society to include "collequial, facetious, slang and vulgar expressions with freedom, merely attaching a cautionary label." As the decades pass, COED continues to seek words that express the tenor of the times.
The 1930s ushered in 'gamma ray' and 'brassiere.' The 1960s saw the addition of 'beatnik' and 'astronaut.' The decade of the '70s launched 'switched-on' and, one of my favorites, 'urban guerilla.' The 8th edition of COED added '80s jargon such as 'glastnost' and 'global warming.' (We've been talking about it that long and we still haven't really done anything about it?!?!?!?) Since the turn of the century, the COED has added these staples of our everyday conversations: 'Botox,' 'civil partnership,' 'E-reader,' 'subprime' and 'auto-tune' (a synonym for Britney Spears and T-Pain).
However, there exists another dictionary out there in the etherland which trumps the COED for what we librarians and teachers of information literacy refer to as RADCAB: relevancy, appropriateness, detail, currency, authority and bias. And that's the UD: the Urban Dictionary. My daughters turned me on to this website several years ago and it's now my go-t0 guide for the current state of the English language. It is truly a testament to the ever-evolving nature of language and to the astonishing wit and descriptive capacity of human beings. With over 6 million entries and 10 million definitions, it is, as Google notes, a "veritable cornucopia of streetwise lingo, posted and defined by its readers."(Love that phrase, wish I'd coined it!)
Where else can you find such fabulous additions to the lexicon as:
eater's remorse: The deep feeling of regret one feels after eating a large some of food, eating something unhealthy, or just eating in general.
crosswalk creeping: The act of slowing pulling one's car forward into the pedestrian crosswalk while parked at a red light, for the purpose of preempting a green light.
caffeine window: The daily time slot in which you must have some form of caffeine otherwise you will get a headache. No amount of caffeine after this window will cure the headache. A common ailment of coffee addicts who need their morning fix before they can function properly.
fauxpology: When a person makes it sound like they are apologizing when, in fact, they are just shifting the blame or using twisted logic to argue their way out of
responsibility for their actions.
I guess that my point is that by the time words are added to the COED, they are already mainstream. Some may already be past their sell-by date. Domestic goddess? That's so '90s, so Roseanne when she was a sit-com star, not a reality TV celebrity. The Urban Dictionary records language as it is being born, culture as it is being lived. Language should live, breathe, change. Yes, it is often a generational 'thing.' Yesterday's 'far-out' is today's 'awesome,' and both were/are horribly overused. And when parents start using 'word up,' it's definitely time for the kids to mint another phrase. Whether these utterances will be adopted by the many does not matter. Whether they indicate the decline and fall of civilization, I will leave others to decide. I will just revel in the joy of words... a linguistic form that can be meaningfully spoken in isolation, but grows only when shared with others.
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