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Dennis Baron's go-to site for language and technology in the news
Results for "February, 2011"

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  • Cyber-laugh: everything old is new again, haha

    A New York Times report about a spoof of the disjointed television speech that Muammar Qaddafi made to the Libyan people as protests against his regime were gathering steam notes that one viewer signaled his approval of the YouTube clip by "sign[ing] off with the international cyber-laugh, 'Hahaha'" (Isabel Kershner, "Arab World Embraces Israeli's YouTube Spoof of Qaddafi Rant," Feb. 27, 2011, nytimes.com). "Cyber-laugh" may be new, but "haha" is older than English itself.

  • Samuel Johnson's definition of lexicographer, 'a writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge.'

    When news breaks, people look it up in the dictionary

    The internet may be the new newspaper, but it's also become the new dictionary, and the two are inextricably linked: when news breaks, people rush online to find out what it means, and whether it's a noun or a verb.

  • #twitterrevolution--reforming Egypt in 140 characters?

    Western observers have been celebrating the role of Twitter, Facebook, smartphones, and the internet in general in facilitating the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt last week. An Egyptian Google employee, imprisoned for rallying the opposition on Facebook, even became for a time a hero of the insurgency. The Twitter Revolution was similarly credited with fostering the earlier ousting of Tunisia's Ben Ali, and supporting Iran's green protests last year, and it's been instrumental in other outbreaks of resistance in a variety of totalitarian states across the globe. If only Twitter had been around for Tiananmen Square, enthusiasts retweeted one another. Not bad for a site that started as a way to tell your friends what you had for breakfast.

  • The government's definition of writing is seriously out of date

    There's a federal law that defines writing. Because the meaning of the words in our laws isn't always clear, the very first of our federal laws, the Dictionary Act--the name for Title 1, Chapter 1, Section 1, of the U.S. Code--defines what some of the words in the rest of the Code mean, both to guide legal interpretation and to eliminate the need to explain those words each time they appear. Writing is one of the words it defines, but the definition needs an upgrade.