A livingstone, I presume?

A brand new coinage from Chris Warren

Today’s offering from Word of the Day is a present from my esteemed friend and learned colleague Chris Warren – a brand new coinage, no less. We therefore break our usual custom and provide guidance on its meaning and usage, as you will not find this word in dictionaries – yet:


First, please notice the lack of an initial capital letter. This is not the Livingstone daisy, nor does it refer to the Scottish missionary and explorer of Africa – though it does derive from the latter. A livingstone is a missing file, originally a word processor file or ‘lost doc’ (as in: “I’m suffering from a livingstone since that hard disc crash”). It is possible to predict that this will lead to the finding of the same becoming known as a stanley (‘Ah! I’ve found the lost doc! “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”‘).

Readers of a linguistic bent (aren’t we all bent a little that way?) will recognise that this word is in the class that includes three which featured in Word of the Day earlier this month: hoover, dewar and newton. These are names which have lost their initial capital letters. It seems, according to Wikipedia, that these are capitonyms: ‘A capitonym is a word that changes its meaning (and sometimes pronunciation) when it is capitalized.’

After this lengthy and (we hope you’ll agree) special Word of the Day, the service will be taking a whole week’s rest whilst we roam. Or, to capitalise it: Rome. If you’d like to receive a copy of the (more or less) daily email, please visit the Word of the Day page.

What does it mean to be American? British?

US high school students give us their perspective on what it means to be ‘American’ and ‘British’

This YouTube video gives a fascinating insight into what US high school students think it means to be ‘American’ and ‘British’.

It was created by students at Sacramento New Technology High School, USA to help students at Ninestiles Technology College in Birmingham, UK, with a project about identity. Ninestiles doesn’t seem to have produced a reply, which is a pity – but also a great opportunity for others.

See the video on YouTube, where you can choose high quality streaming and see related material.

Interesting footnote: Weed is where George and Lennie have fled from in Of Mice and Men.

Hard-earned clichés

There’s a cliché crisis

It's a sign - of some kind...A writer to The Guardian worried about the linguistic backwash from the roller-coaster ride in the financial markets. Subsequent correspondence proved, as might be expected, that Guardian readers have readily rallied to the cause:

I notice that there a world shortage of clichés that could see the media teetering on the edge of a black hole tsunami. Is it time for a government injection of new metaphors to stop the drought?
Adrian Greeman 14 October 2008

Adrian Greeman is so right. We need to go back to basics; clichés need to be sexed up 24/7 to win hearts and minds. This government’s lack of action beggars belief.
Adele Zaslawska 16 October 2008

Government hand-outs of taxpayers’ hard-earned clichés (Letters, October 14) will only further dilute international metaphor reserves. Provision of “meltdowns” from the private sector has already reached an eye-watering number.
Henry Fryer 18 October 2008

Byron’s day comes at last

Day of celebration for Byron – in Greece

The Guardian reports today that Lord Byron has won the belated honour of a ‘day of celebration’ in the country he romanticised, Greece. It will fall on April 19, the date Byron died in 1824 at Messolonghi in Western Greece. It’s more recognition than he has won in his home country – where we don’t seem to honour writers at all. Even Shakespeare’s (supposed) birthday and date of death, 23 April, is honoured rather as St George’s Day. The paper points out that it took until 1969 for Byron to receive any commemoration in Westminster Abbey, having been too scandalous to be buried there.