Every week I see lots of interesting stories about language, grammar, punctuation, and usage. These were my favorites last week.
3. The British Say "Boom" to Mean "Thank You"?
Most Americans I know think the British are more polite than Americans, so I was surprised when I saw an article in The Daily Mail reporting that 40% of British people surveyed think "thank you" sounds too formal and they use all kinds of other words to express gratitude, including "boom," "wicked," and "ta." (Hat tip to @englishblog.)
Lynne Murphy, who writes about the differences between British and American English at her blog Separated by a Common Language, commented on Twitter that the article failed to consider that "thank you" has lost the force of its meaning (become "semantically bleached") in Britain.
2. Using Linguistics to Out JK Rowling
You've probably heard that Robert Galbraith, the author of the crime novel The Cuckoo's Calling, is actually JK Rowling using a pseudonym. What you may have missed, however, is that after getting an anonymous tip, London's Sunday Times enlisted linguists to help determine whether Rowling was likely to be the book's author. Language Log has a guest post by Patrick Joula explaining how his sleuthing worked.
Another interesting tidbit is that before Rowling was revealed as the author, the downloadable audiobook was the best-selling version of the book.
1. Keroauk and Burroughs Came to Blows Over the Oxford Comma
Sean Fagan Books posted a photo of a plaque commemorting a fight between Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs over the Oxford comma. My favorite line is "According to eyewitnesses, Burroughs corrected the spelling and the grammar of the police report before passing out."
I'm delighted, but the tale also has that "too good to be true" feeling, and I couldn't find any other sources that mention the fight. If you can confirm that the story is true, please leave a comment! (Hat tip to @StanCarey.)
Honorable Mentions: Linguist Finds Language in Its Infancy, Neandertals Shared Speech and Language with Modern Humans, Two Sisters Rewrote Alanis Morrisette's Song "Ironic": "It's Finally Ironic," and How the Ohio Accent Became the Standard American Accent.