Wordplay

March 2019

Photos: iStock

We’re all about the words (and images) at Twirling Tiger Media … and work-life balance. Take a five-minute break during your workday and read my latest recommendations for what to listen to and watch for pleasure. I cover how we arrived at “OK,” fancy-schmancy words that are rip-roaring funny, and how to have artists and academics read a great American novel to you.


LISTEN

Beantown,* the origin of popular affirmation

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OMG, you’re not going to believe this! Back in the 1830s, editors for Boston newspapers began what is now a digital trend—abbreviating words for none other than entertainment and brevity … LOL. The early fad’s acronyms included OFM for “our first men,” ABRS for the “anti-bell-ringing-society” and OW for “oll wright.”

Language writer and author of The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word, Allan Metcalf of the American Dialect Society points to a humorous article published on March 23, 1839, in the Boston Morning Post where writer and editor Charles Gordon Greene abbreviated the phrase “all correct” with two letters: OK. Metcalf states: “And of course readers were expected to join in the humorous notion or acknowledgement that OK is an abbreviation for all correct that is not correct, since ‘all’ does not begin with ‘O’ and ‘correct’ does not begin with ‘K.’” Over time, other newspapers copied the trend and the use of OK spread … and morphed. (Even today, Twirling Tiger Media proofreaders correct drafts that come through with “okay” and change it to the pre-morphed version—OK).

Metcalf further contends that “OK” is more than an affirming phrase—it’s an expression that most everyone understands worldwide. He also believes the expression distills an American philosophy by stating, “OK allows you to say something positive for something that is less than perfect. I’m not a philosopher, but I argue that’s the American philosophy in two letters.”

Listen to “How Boston Created ‘The American Philosophy In 2 Letters’ — OK?”

*One of Boston’s many nicknames


WATCH

When words are frickin’ hilarious

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Proletarian, confabulate, niggling, odious, patrician, pablum, winsome, assuage … these sesquipedalian (;-) words are side-splitting funny when Schitt’s Creek character Moira Rose, played by comedic genius Catherine O’Hara, delivers them with her breathy upper-crust drawl. With each episode, I delight at what rolls off of Moira’s tongue in this binge-worthy Netflix show. Follow the characters as they take colorful and convoluted routes to mending relationships, evolving, finding simple solutions to challenges, navigating entrepreneurship and much more. Get past the series’ salty title and immerse yourself in this riches-to-rags story that Vanity Fair’s chief critic Richard Lawson gives thanks “for offering up such particular corkscrew kindness, such weird warmth. It’s a show that, when it hits its affable stride, may be, quite simply, the best.”

Watch Schitt’s Creek Season 1 Trailer


LISTEN SOME MORE

Final words

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Think back to the relaxing times you’ve read a story to a child or had one read to you. “Thus, I give up the spear!” (This is what Ahab shouts at Moby Dick as he hurls his last harpoon.) Settle in for a free listen on Big Read to all 135 chapters of the great American novel, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. If you’ve never read or finished immersing yourself in this tale, this is a soothing way to dive in. The Big Read offers narration by a cast of artists and academics with accompanying imagery for each chapter, and the epilogue is read by the late poet Mary Oliver.

And about that elusive hyphen in the title of the book (Moby-Dick): It was a last-minute suggestion by Herman Melville’s brother and published that way in the American edition. The whale within the book was only referred to with a hyphen one time.

BTW, Open Culture also touts 900 free audiobooks.

Listen to Moby-Dick on Big Read

TY for reading this.

—Maureen Joyce