Thursday, June 14, 2007

Linguists' commentary in the media?

Wonkette announced the passing of Kurt Waldheim with this headline and opening:
Nazi Scumbag Finally Dies
Evil Nazi war criminal KurtWaldheim is finally dead at 88.
You might want to check out the reported cause of death at the end of the piece. But there's a linguistic hook too; Wonkette writes:
Experts say having Waldheim lead the UN is about as absurd as Henry Kissinger winning the Nobel Peace Prize. But as both of these things actually happened, linguists suggested the word “absurd” be replaced with “pretty much par for the course.” The CIA, of course, knew all about his Nazi past long before he became secretary general of the UN in 1971.
Man, I haven't ever gotten used to the military use of 'linguist' for 'language specialist' and now we're, what, copy editors?


The Ridger, FCD said...

You sciency linguist guys created the confusion yourselves. If you'd stuck with "philology" for your field,the problem wouldn't have arisen. Linguist meaning speaker of languages is several (possibly four) hundred years earlier (see Language Hat's post), so you have only yourselves to blame.

Or you could have adopted ... was it Bruce Nevin? ... someone's suggestion of "tonguewit". That's kinda cool

wishydig said...

The differentiation between linguist and philologist became necessary when linguistics became more than lexicography and surface grammar.

But as a linguist in early bloom I've not been inundated by the wave of confusion. More often than not I get "Oooh...I'll make sure to use good grammar" followed by "or is that well grammar."


(By the way: that post was on Tensor, said the Tensor, not Language Hat)

The Ridger, FCD said...

Sheesh. For crying out loud. Of course it was the Tensor. I mean, I was even there.

At least I linked it properly.

jangari said...

I've never been happy with the term philologist, for anyone, because I reckon scope plays a role. If it were to mean 'love of words', then surely it'd have to be logophilia, right? Philology translates as 'the description/study of love' and is therefore more suited to, dunno, sexual therapists?