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practik commented on the word callback
The last Wiktionary definition given above (“a joke which references an earlier joke in the same routine”) is a bit behind the times: I now see “callback” being used for references in all kinds of art forms.
Case in point: Merriam-Webster doesn’t list “reference” or anything like it among its definitions (yet), but the word is used in exactly that way in the two (automatically selected) usage examples on https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/callback today:
“This hasn’t been Cox’s only callback to Friends on Instagram.” —Erica Gonzales, Harper’s Bazaar, “Courteney Cox Revisited Her Friends Apartment With a Perfect Instagram Tribute,” 21 Mar. 2019
“Nostalgia is a clear selling point in this regard — the movie makes the most of its retro setting, with copious use of The Smiths, appearances from Mr. T cereal, and other 1980s pop-culture callbacks.” —Bryan Bishop, The Verge, “Bumblebee proves Transformers movies can actually be resonant and emotional,” 20 Dec. 2018
April 11, 2019
practik commented on the word divot
I’ve always understood divot to refer to an indentation (as billprice notes in his comment below) and was surprised to discover today that Webster’s, Oxford, and American Heritage all define it as the stuff removed from an indentation. I notice that all the non-golf examples listed on this page use it to refer to indentations as well – I’ll copy a few here in case Wordnik replaces them sometime in the future:
“About 2 hours ago: ‘I think he wore an earring at some point, you could see the little divot in his earlobe — how long ago and why?’”
“But as McDonagh followed through on his shot, the toe of his left skate lodged in a divot, and he crumpled to the ice with what seemed a serious leg injury.”
“He placed the first trap in the divot, sprinkling enough snow over top that the Indian would not be able to see it if he was moving with any speed.”
A couple of the examples in that list also acknowledge the shift in meaning, even if they don’t agree with it:
“The ball-mark repair tool (often incorrectly called a divot-repair tool), has been around for decades and is iconic for many golfers.”
“Gulley said there was a bleeding ‘divot’ in his head likely caused by fallen ceiling matter.”
Finally, a few more examples I collected today – including a golf one:
“The bump might have a single hair coming out of it, Dr. Georgopoulos says, as well as a tiny divot.”
“But recurring pain in mid-October prompted Morrow to undergo a CT scan, which revealed ‘a divot in the bone that you can’t see on the MRI,’ Morrow said.”
“A day after an astonishing temper tantrum in a bunker, he vandalized five greens, one so badly that he left a divot in the putting surface.”
February 19, 2019
practik commented on the word antifa
For a couple of years now American conservatives and libertarians have been having fun claiming that antifa is actually short for “anti–First Amendment.” Some examples:
I would quote them, but they all just say some version of what I wrote above: “antifa stands for ‘anti–First Amendment.’” In all four cases, it seems clear that the authors know the word really stands for antifascist and assume their readers know it too.
In the next example, though, it’s unclear whether the author is unaware of the word’s real meaning or is simply omitting mention of it:
“In addition to the student activists at Berkeley — nicknamed by their opponents as ‘Anti-First Amendment,’ or ‘anti-fa’ for short — there have been members of the mainstream press that have taken controversial positions on the Coulter clash.”
I don’t know whether this fake etymology is catching on or not, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of native English speakers found the actual etymology a little dubious.
For one thing, antifa is a very German kind of abbreviation, both in the way it’s formed (by simply dropping some of the sounds and syllables of a longer word, like WaMa for Waschmaschine) and in the structure of the resulting word (in which each syllable consists of just one vowel and one consonant, like Haribo and Adidas). We don’t normally shorten words like that in English, I don’t think.
For another, the final a in the original German word, Antifa, is pronounced exactly the same as the corresponding a in Antifaschismus, but the final a in the English word antifa is pronounced differently from the corresponding a in antifascism.
So to an American ear, a derivation from “anti–FA” might seem at least as plausible as a derivation from antifascist, if not more so.
February 18, 2019
practik commented on the word lambda user
Sighted today in the wild in a software developers’ discussion of whether a potentially dangerous preference should be hidden from average users (https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1420514):
We should remove (or move under an advanced option) the options to disable updates. I don’t see any good in this option as we fix critical issues in every release of Firefox. Of course, the options should remain available under a pref but not available to lambda users.
Further research turned up some good discussion (https://lwn.net/Articles/646777/), starting with an example of the word in use and a query:
“a lot of the visitors are just lambda users that will get scammed by their new trick.”What is a lambda user?
And three great answers, including two suggested etymologies:
I’m not the guy who wrote it, but I read “lambda” with the connotation of a lambda function (meaning anonymous closure): a lambda user is a nameless user who only uses the site once.
it means “any anonymous user with a random basic knowledge of the tool”
I think it’s a Gallicism. In French, “individu lambda” means “average individual”, in the sense of “layman”. It is attested since at least the 1950s, and became widely used in the 1980s. The origin is unknown, and while it most probably comes from mathematical usage, I doubt it originated in the lambda-calculus.
September 25, 2018
practik commented on the word huckleberry
“Seriously. If you've ever wanted to laugh in amusement/sadness/resignation at something your non-sciencey friends & family will never understand, this is totally your huckleberry.”
December 31, 2015
“To be one’s huckleberry — usually as the phrase I’m your huckleberry — is to be just the right person for a given job, or a willing executor of some commission.”
‘I’m your huckleberry
‘19th century slang which was popularized more recently by the movie Tombstone. Means “I’m the man you're looking for”. Nowdays it’s usually used as a response to a threat or challenge, as in the movie.
‘“Who thinks they can beat me?”
‘”I’m your huckleberry.”’
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