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Book Review: Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve by Ben Blatt

By Michelle Waitzman

Cover of Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve by Ben BlattCan you tell whether a book was written by a man or a woman, based only on the words the author used? Is the road to hell (or at least to bad writing) paved with adverbs, as Stephen King once claimed? Do American authors write “louder” than British authors? If you’re intrigued by these questions, Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve will satisfy your curiosity.

Author Ben Blatt uses data journalism to apply statistical analysis to a wide variety of topics. In this book, literary works and bestselling fiction are subjected to his big-data approach, often with surprising results. While this isn’t meant to be an instructional book by any stretch of the imagination, writers and editors might find some of the takeaways applicable to their own work. His statistics on sentence length, repetition, gender balance, and other topics may give readers some additional things to think about when they write or evaluate a novel. But generally, Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve is simply an interesting and unusual way to look at writing.

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A holiday get-together!

Editors Toronto members’ holiday dinner invitation

Time is running out to reserve your spot for the Editors Toronto members’ holiday dinner.

Come join your friends and colleagues in an evening of fun and celebration. Grab some food and a drink, and toast the passage of another remarkable year! Partners and friends welcome. See you there!

When: Tuesday, December 11, 2018, at 6:30 pm

Where: The Pickle Barrel, 312 Yonge St. (Yonge and Dundas)

Attendees pay for their own dinner and drinks.

RSVP by Monday, December 10, 2018.

Note: The Pickle Barrel is fully accessible, has a varied menu to accommodate food preferences, and validates parking.

For elevators: Enter through The Atrium doors (just north of The Pickle Barrel entrance on Yonge Street).

The Nitpicker’s Nook: November edition

The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, blog posts, and podcasts. If you read or hear something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion to [email protected].

Nitpickers Nook Image by Deven Knill

By Carol Harrison

Need a five-minute break from hacking and chopping and cursing the English language? Open Culture features a short lesson by Yale linguistics professor Claire Bowern on the roots of English. A sweet, simple, and smart TED Talk, cheekily animated by Patrick Smith.

Speaking of roots, The Independent’s Natasha Salmon reports on how the French language is facing a backlash on gender-neutral words.

I’m a big fan of Words to that Effect, “a literary podcast of the intriguing, the curious, and the unexplored” hosted by Conor Reid from Dublin, Ireland. In episode 9, “Imaginary Countries and the Ruritanian Romance,” Conor talks about making up place names. Lovely stuff!

And for those days when you’ve run so low on dilithium crystals that your flux capacitor just goes kablooey, consider listening to “Technobabble” on Imaginary Words. In this episode, scientists and screenwriters team up to get the words right. It’s the droid you’re looking for.

Carol Harrison is editor-in-chief of BoldFace and quality assurance specialist at CPA Canada. When she isn’t focusing on words, she’s focusing her Nikon D3200.

This article was copy edited by Afara Kimkeran.

The Nitpicker’s Nook: early October edition

The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, and blog posts. If you read something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion to [email protected].

Nitpickers Nook Image by Deven Knill
By Carol Harrison

Thanks to Sara Scharf for her contributions and to Deven Knill for the lovely new banner image!

 

Blimey! The Guardian’s Mona Chalabi reports that data shows the Americanization of English is rising.

“Friends with benefits” and other idioms that may not translate: or that time The Guardian’s Mona Chalabi made her mom guess the meanings of English expressions.

Because, at the end of the day, the bottom line is that idioms can be annoying: So say The Globe and Mail readers.

On people, language, and respect: Alex Kapitan writes about person-centred language in the blog The Radical Copyeditor. 

It is my great honour to introduce a new honorific: Merriam-Webster on Mx.

So, does this mean my computer will swear back? In The Atlantic, Adrienne LaFrance writes about how AI has created its own language.

Carol Harrison is editor-in-chief of BoldFace and quality assurance specialist at FRAS Canada. When she isn’t focusing on words, she’s focusing her Nikon D3200. 

This article was copy edited by Ellen Fleischer.

Nitpicker’s Nook: March “it’s almost spring” edition

The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, and blog posts. If you read something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion to [email protected]

The Nitpicker's Nook, Carol Harrison

Irish editor and “swivel-chair linguist” Stan Carey blogs about how usage snuck/sneaked into The Simpsons.

Writer and teacher John Kelly dishes up some fresh hell on Strong Language. (This blog contains language may not be suitable for some readers).

CBC Ideas host Paul Kennedy interviews Canadian archaeologist Genevieve von Petzinger about some of the world’s oldest symbols.

An un-comic take on Comic Sans. See also Christine Albert’s post, “Promoting Accessibility in Editorial Businesses,” and Ambrose Li’s article, “Web Accessibility: An Editor’s Guide.”

Ryan DeCaire, an assistant linguistics professor at the University of Toronto, seeks to revive the Mohawk language.

Do you know that author who uses the same old, tired word or phrase over and over repeatedly with no end? Here are the famous writers’ favourite words. Got your sharpened red pencil ready?

Ooh, this is fun! How IKEA names its products!

Carol Harrison is editor-in-chief of BoldFace and freelance editor and writer at Muse Ink. When she isn’t focusing on words, she’s focusing her Nikon D3200.

This article was copy edited by Olga Sushinsky.

There’s been a murder!

By Anna (Flickr: records) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Anna (Flickr: records) cc by  2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Saturday, March 25, 2017
1 PM to 3:30 PM

Editors Toronto invites members to participate in Murder at the ROM, organized by Urban Capers. This murder mystery scavenger hunt is not to be missed!

A curator has been murdered at the Royal Ontario Museum, and you have been called in to help track down the culprit. Follow the trail of clues through the collections of natural history and antiquities to piece together a tale of greed, lust, pride, and revenge. There is one victim but there are multiple suspects, and you, the sleuths, must solve the mystery!

Advanced tickets are $34.99 + HST and have been blocked off for Editors Toronto until March 3, so act fast since spaces are limited!

After our adventure, use your museum admission to explore more of the ROM’s world-famous collections.

For more information and to book your tickets, please click HERE.

The Nitpicker’s Nook: February edition

The Nitpicker's Nook, Carol Harrison

The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, and blog posts. If you read something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion to [email protected]

By Carol Harrison

Does the current state of world affairs leave you without words? Thankfully Planet Word, the soon-to-be museum of linguistics in Washington, DC, won’t be. And did you know there is also a National Museum of Mathematics in New York? For me, both celebrate languages.

On January 14, Zhou Youguang died at 111 years old. If you’ve learned to read and write Mandarin using Hanyu Pinyin, you have him to thank.

Pardon me while I geek out. I can’t say enough good things about the movie Arrival, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Finally, a science-fiction film that’s about communicating with aliens, not shooting them up! If you’ve watched the trailer, you’ve seen a sample of how the language looks. Wired’s Margaret Rhodes talks to the people who created the alphabet. Oh, and a shout-out to Jessica Coon, an associate professor of linguistics at McGill University and Canada Research Chair in Syntax and Indigenous Languages, who consulted on the film! Now I’m off to find Ted Chiang’s 1998 novella “Story of Your Life” on which all this is based.

Back down to earth, or perhaps flying a few feet above the ground, the BBC’s Andrew Evans finds out how falconry sank its talons into the English language.

Have current events got you riled? Do you plan to join a march? Want your placard to pack extra punch? Let linguist Daniel Midgley help.

Carol Harrison is editor-in-chief of BoldFace and freelance editor and writer at Muse Ink. When she isn’t focusing on words, she’s focusing her Nikon D3200.

This article was copy edited by Ambrose Li.

The Nitpicker’s Nook: January edition

The Nitpicker’s Nook is a monthly collection of language-related articles, interviews, and blog posts. If you read something that would make a good addition, email your suggestion to [email protected].

The Nitpicker's Nook, Carol Harrison
By Carol Harrison

Forgive me if this is a couple of months old, but it’s funny! Don’t fart in the House.

What you should read before you say fart in the House of Commons.

Kudos to The Weeknd who takes time between hit singles to save a lost Ethiopian language.

And speaking of saving a language, two Fulani brothers invent an alphabet for their language. Now they’re working on a font.

“A rose by any other colour looks just as sweet!” How did colours get their names?

And why you shouldn’t mix your colours in the wash.

Try to or try and; there is no do.

The latest kid on the gender-neutral block: Latinx.

Carol Harrison is editor-in-chief of BoldFace and freelance editor and writer at Muse Ink. When she isn’t focusing on words, she’s focusing her Nikon D3200.

This article was copy edited by Ellen Fleischer.