Sunday, January 27, 2008

Quick Hits

  • Michael J. has a contest for you: Are you smarter than a Reuters photo desk editor?

  • If Obama keeps winning, look for more of this. No sensible writer or editor would use a taboo race word. But there are plenty of words that fall into someone's gray area ("cakewalk"). And plenty of words that are perfectly clean, but have some fancied resemblance to taboo words ("niggardly") and thus land on some people's taboo list either because someone might use them suggestively, or because the list-compiler is just a dumbass who can't be bothered.

    So, whose list will prevail? If Obama is the agent of "change," the language is one of the likely objects.

    FWIW, it's not at all clear that the insulting word for black person that begins with jig- (and sometimes is abbreviated to just that) has any relation to the group of words that includes the verb jigger meaning "to shake up." The insult has not been traced back further than 1909. The verb comes from the old noun jig meaning "lively dance" (attested from c.1560), which is of obscure origin. This also is the source of jigsaw "vertical reciprocating saw" (1873), and thus jigsaw puzzle (1909), which was originally one with pieces cut by a jigsaw. Look for jigsaw puzzles to join the taboo list. Jigger "1.5-ounce shot glass" seems to be a different word entirely, and comes from a jigger that was an 18th century random alteration of chigger "tiny mite or flea."

  • Again with the fonts. I agree wholeheartedly with this critique.