Wednesday, 18 February 2015

What's a VINmelier?

The other morning I heard a quotewordunquote on the radio that saddened me hugely. Man‘s inhumanity to man is bad enough, but what he does (well, come to think of it , the perp was a she, not that women are notable for their crimes against lexicography) is, as they used to say, ‘the outside of enough‘.

The object of  my abreaction ...
When I first  met that one I thought I‘d never find a use for it. I have a suspicion my usage is questionable...
"(psychoanalysis) the release and expression of emotional tension associated with repressed ideas by bringing those ideas into consciousness" 
says Collins, so my version is an instance of semantic broadening.  Or,  to put it another way, vulgarism.
           but  it‘s a good try.
was selmelier – which I haven‘t found in any credible dictionary. Its earliest use that I can find is here – a post dated in 2011:
It isn’t in the dictionary (yet), but it’s a great twist on the French word sommelier (suh-muhl-yey), meaning a wine expert. A selmelier is someone who can suggest an appropriate gourmet salt to complement your food.
(This attributes the coining to Mark Bitterman (an aptonym if ever I heard one),  though I can‘t find it in the parts of  his 2010 book that Amazon will let me see. Anyway, it is a  [bastard?] child of the millennium.)

A "great" twist, the post says, though I can‘t say I share their enthusiasm. The first syllable of sommelier has nothing to  do with  wine. The etymology that etymonline provides traces it to saddle. And rather than quote the more interesting bits I‘ve done a whole screengrab, to capture the serendipity of the advert that Big Data chose to throw up:

So why did the neologizer treat it as though it  meant "wine" and behead the word, replacing it with another comestible? And, adding vulgar  pretension to ignorance, why did they first translate that word?

The reason, as some of you will have already shouted at their screen, is that that's the way people treat words when they feel the need to invent a new one. I've cited the example of gyro-copter somewhere in this blog I think [or maybe it ended up on the cutting room floor, along with many another digression].  A helicopter is,  etymologically, a helico- -pter. But, as helipad/port and gyrocopter demonstrate, successful neologisms pay little heed to etymology; insisting that they should  is another form of a tendency that I really have mentioned  elsewhere (in a footnote to this):
An interesting blog from the OED stables [ed. an apt place for saddle metaphors - I‘ve just realized, inconsequentially] refers to this tendency to be hung-up on a supposed 'original' meaning based on etymology and calls it the 'Etymological Fallacy'.
Another example that comes to mind is hamburger – originally a reference to a place rather than to a foodstuff. But cheeseburger, lambburger etc. (and indeed 'burger' itself) are proof that modern understanding and current needs trump etymology.

So "selmellier" is OK. [ But I reserve the right to treat it with the contempt that some people reserve for eXpresso, which cropped up on the TV the other day.  Susie Dent corrected Jimmy Carr's X, and some wag quipped "...unless you want it quickly  - then it‘s an eXpresso". Especially, I thought, if you're in a bistro. You can pick the bones out of that here.]

Is that the time?

Update 2015.03.13.15:30 – Updated TES stats (at last). Things are still a bit iffy; before the TEStizz

downloads of "BobK99"'s  one resource totalled well over 800.  The latest TES  mail says they‘ve gone down to just 9. On the other hand, downloads  of that one resource have   increased from 0 to 40.  Meanwhile "BobK"'s views have lost more than 1,000, and downloads increased by about 250. Still, I'm using the  new numbers (and resisting the temptation to edit a bunch of old posts ;-).

Update 2015.02.21.14:15 – Added this note:

PS I've come across another example, which I wrote about in an old post, taken from Brian Foster's  The Changing English Language.
 He writes:
'Cavalcade', etymologically a procession  of horsemen, has given rise in American English to a series of words in which the -cade element denotes the idea of 'spectacular display', e.g. aquacade, musicade and motorcade. Of these only 'motorcade' has penetrated into British use.... It remains to be seen  how productive this ending will be in Britain....
Well, he was writing in 1968 (or before), so I think we can stop holding our breath; -cade's hopes of becoming a productive suffix in British English, can wave  forlornly to that slow-moving motorcade, or cortège, that follows many a linguistic speculation like this.
Update 2015.05.14.09:35 –  Fixed a couple of typos.

Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  
well over 46,500 views  and over 6,800 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with over 2,500 views and over 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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