Damp Squid

Damp Squid

Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare, by Jeremy Butterfield, Oxford University Press, 2009*

A book for those of you who are passionate about English or for those interested in upgrading your skills by reading specialised literature. The author has a humorous and informative approach to the wonders of the English language, with lots of interesting facts, and if you know a bit of linguistics and grammar, this is a really nice read.

Here are a few things that caught my eye:

Interesting and funny web-related coined words:
Blogstipation = the blog equivalent of writer’s block;
Cobwebsite = a site which hasn’t been updated for a long time, so that figuratively it has cobwebs hanging off it;
Data smog = the overwhelming excess of information that the internet provides;
Doppelgoogler= someone with the same name as you whose existence you find about through the internet (try it and the results might surprise you);
Egosurfing = seeing how many hits your name gets when you search for it on the web”

J. Edgar Hoover, the feared head of the FBI, insisted that memos he received had wide margins so that he had room to write in them. One day he got a memo whose margins were too narrow. In big letters on the top, he wrote: “Watch the borders!” The next day, 200 agents were dispatched to Mexico and Canada.

A group of people with a vital interest in collocation are translators. They are interested because the translation of a word in another language generally changes according to which words it’s associated with in the original language. For instance, rich may have one translation when associated with family, but quite another when associated with sauce. IF you ask any translator worth their salt how to translate a word, their first question will be: “What’s the context?”

*The title itself is an allusion to taking things out of context and to making incorrect word associations: as the cover illustrates, “damp squid” is the wrong and commonly used pronunciation of “damp squib”, a poor quality explosive device of the 19th century (this phrase is also explained in this article, where you can see a top of misused phrases in Great Britain).

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