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Results for "August, 2010"

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  • All your face belong to us

    Facebook says, "All your face are belong to us."

    Facebook wants to trademark the word "face." The social networker which connects more than 500 million users has already shown how we can all live together as one big happy set of FBF's by forcing other sites to drop "book" from their names, and now, in application no. 78980756 to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Facebook is asserting its ownership of the word "face" as well. Controlling how the rest of us use common words like "face" and "book" is nothing new for corporate America. Coca-Cola has a long history of suing competing cola products (they successfully forced Sweetie Cola off the market, but they couldn't budge Pepsi), and Xerox still reminds us that xerox, a term which has long been synonymous with photocopy, is not actually a synonym for photocopy, but a trademark to be used only for copies made on Xerox Corporation machinery (Merriam-Webster defines the verb "xerox" as "to copy on a xerographic copier").

  • Dr. Laura announces on 'Larry King Live' that she's quitting radio

    Dr. Laura's n-word and the First Amendment

    On August 10, the radio pop psychologist Dr. Laura, who has a Ph.D. in physiology, not psychology (her thesis was about insulin in rats), got into trouble for saying the n-word on the air to a black caller who was complaining about frequent racist comments made by her white husband and his friends. Speech may be free, but language has consequences. The next day Dr. Laura, who claimed her caller was being oversensitive, apologized for "articulat[ing] the n-word all the way out--more than one time. And that was wrong. I'll say it again--that was wrong." And a week after that she told CNN's Larry King that she was quitting radio to "regain my First Amendment rights" that were "usurped by angry, hateful groups who don't want to debate--they want to eliminate"--which suggests that Dr. Laura thinks her articulation of the n-word "all the way out" was not so wrong at all, because it is her First Amendment right to say it and anything else that's on her mind.

  • Good grammar leads to violence at Starbucks?

    Apparently an English professor was ejected from a Starbucks on Manhattan's Upper West Side for--she claims--not deploying Starbucks' mandatory corporate-speak. The story immediately lit up the internet, turning her into an instant celebrity. Just as Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who couldn't take it any more, became the heroic employee who finally bucked the system when he cursed out nasty passengers over the intercom and deployed the emergency slide to make his escape, Lynne Rosenthal was the customer who cared so much about good English that she finally stood up to the coffee giant and got run off the premises by New York's finest for her troubles. Well, at least that's what she says happened.

  • Technology Update: Flying books can be dangerous

    The take-off and landing mantra--"At this time please turn off all electronic devices and return your seat backs and tray tables to their full upright positions"--is as familiar to fliers as the Miranda warning is to criminals and fans of "Law and Order." But when Amazon brought out its Kindle ebook reader in 2007, one prescient blogger warned that the traditional formula would soon change: "'Please turn off your book for takeoff' is going to be a real wake-up call for early adopters who think they don't need to carry a book anymore," a sentiment that was echoed in a New Yorker cartoon last Spring. Readers of conventional books thought they were sitting pretty, that they could read on a plane anytime they wanted. But it turns out that flying books can be dangerous too.

  • Entry for 'thon' in Webster's Second New International Dictionary, 1934

    The gender-neutral pronoun: after 150 years still an epic fail

    Every once in a while some concerned citizen decides to do something about the fact that English has no gender-neutral pronoun. They either call for such a pronoun to be invented, or they invent one and champion its adoption. Wordsmiths have been coining gender-neutral pronouns for a century and a half, all to no avail. Coiners of these new words insist that the gender-neutral pronoun is indispensable, but users of English stalwartly reject, ridicule, or just ignore their proposals.