03 February 2008

A Generative Grammarian by any other name...

As a warning, this post is going to be decidedly off-topic. However, I feel the right to include it on HL because while it's not strictly about linguistics, it is (dubiously) about a linguist. The linguist, some might say.

My good friend and esteemed colleague, Ray Myers, Squire of the Lambda Calculus, Computer Scientist, DJ, and humorist, who can juggle flaming chainsaws and scale tall buildings in a single leap, and I, tend to have lengthy discussions about a wide variety of completely serious topics that often have something to do with a certain American linguist, philosopher, political activist, author, and lecturer. (As a note, this past sentence makes me question whether embedded clauses are evil.)

Now, it's not hard to have a conversation that references this man, as his work has more than a considerable amount of influence on my field, and has some influence on Ray's.

It was out of frequent mentions of the linguist's name, and partially out of affection, that Ray and I began to develop various monikers for this man. By request from the Squire, here is the most complete list of these nicknames so far:

  • Chommers
  • Chomchom
  • Chomplestiltskin
  • Noamycakes
  • Chommadoodle
  • Chom. Noam Chom.
  • Octochomsky
  • The Noam who Chomsky
  • Chom Solo
  • Chom Juan
  • Sean Chommery
  • Snoop Chomm
  • Genghis Chom
  • Choms Away
  • Chomino
  • Malibu Chomsky
  • Noamulus Maximus
  • Tutenchomen
  • Hunter S. Chomson
  • Noamstradamus
  • Chomsky and the Chom-colate factory
  • Chompoopie, Chompoopie, the girl who's hard to get.
  • Chom Chommery, Chom Chommery, Chom Chom, Cheroo
  • Chom be Noam-ble, Chom be quick
  • Indiana Noam
  • Chom Bon Jovi
  • Dance Dance Revoluchom
  • The Chompanion Cube
  • Oh Noam on the Range
  • Noam is where the heart is
  • Chom of the Dead
  • Quentin Tarantinoam
  • Noampoleon Bonoamparte
  • Chommers and Chommerstein's OklaNoama!
  • Albert Chomus
  • Hapax Legomanoam
  • Good Noamens
  • Chombawumba
  • Noam the Wet Sprocket
  • Chom Valchom
  • Pope Chom Paul
  • Chom Paul Gaultier
  • Prince Chomming
  • Snoam White
  • Noaman Holiday
  • Chomtilly Lace
  • Chom "Puffy" Noams
Liz: 47
Ray: 32

01 February 2008

Hapax Legomenon

I named this blog after my favorite term in linguistics, "hapax legomenon." Now, there's a twofold reason for this: first, I love the way the word sounds, I like the way it feels when I say it, and English-speakers just don't pepper their speech with enough Greek words these days.

The second reason has to do with the definition of hapax legomenon, also called nonce formations or occasionalisms. "There is a lovely technical term for a word that appears once in a body of text: a hapax legomenon... Greek for 'once said'," wrote Steven Pinker in his book, Words and Rules. Basically, it's a fancy term for a constructed word.

Now, it's agreed among linguists that one of the most fascinating thing about language is the fact that anyone can take a language and create an infinite variety of phrases and utterances with the words they know. Usually we talk about the way that words can be forever arranged and rearranged to fit within the patterns we call 'grammar' to create sentences of an unending variety.

But it goes further than that, to the fact that humans can also use words and parts of words, or simply series of sounds to create a new term that expresses exactly what the speaker wishes to express. Furthermore, the listener will generally understand the term.

With that I give my kudos to language, and everyone who uses it.

Yes, this blog is dedicated to you.