Anglo-Saxon Word of the Week: Greetings!

10553562_10100176996954118_4207795420290634935_nShwmae! Ic gréte eów ealle.

It’s Diwrnod Shwmae/Su’mae here in Cymru – a day when everyone is encouraged to begin every conversation yn Cymraeg. As an English speaker from the United States, I rarely used any other language than English in my daily life; since moving to Wales, my use of multiple languages I use to move through a day has steadily increased. Most of my work day is spent with Anlgo-Saxon (which, as I’m sure you know, or are discovering if you follow the blog, can be a very different animal to contemporary English), and English is still the primary language I communicate in, but lately I increasingly use Welsh to speak to my friends, to greet my colleagues  and hallway-mates in the Welsh department, and even to order food in pubs. The fact that ASWotW and Diwrnod Shwae/Su’mae have fallen on the same day gives us a chance to embrace a little linguistic diversity.

For example – were you to say “Shwmae!” to an Anglo-Saxon, she might answer you back, “Wes þu hál!” (lit., ‘be thou hail’ ). If you wished an Anglo-Saxon a good morning – “Bore da!”, she might wish you “Gódne morgen!” as well.

In further celebration of the Welsh language, and to continue our month-long storytelling theme, here’s a little bit of information about the blog mistress:

Shwmae! Ashley ydw i.  Dwi’n byw yn Aberystwyth, ond dwi’n dod o Dennessee yn wreiddiol. Dwi’n fyfyrwraig ôl-raddedig ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth, a dwi’n astudio barddoniaeth Eingl-Sacsonaidd a chyfieithu. Nid Cymraeg mo fy iaith gyntaf, ond dwi’n mwynhau ei dysgu yn fawr iawn! Dros y penwythnos nesaf, ar 25 Hydref, byddaf i’n mynd i Gaergrawnt ar gyfer gŵyl adrodd straeon – gobeithio y gwelaf i chi yno!

You daily language lesson.

So, after hearing it in countless songs, movies, tv shows, and random conversations on the street, I finally let my curiousity get the better of me. I just had to know what the hell “shorty” meant and how on earth it has ended up with contextual definition of “hot girl,” or possibly just “girl,” full stop.

I am no wiser on how this came to be, unfortunately (slang etymology, anyone?), but ye olde Urban Dictionary had several definition offerings. My hands-down favourite:

Shorty, n.

“A term contrived by some asshole or group of assholes to mean a sexy or attractive female.

A term I wouldn’t ever use to describe a girlfriend, close female companion or a desirable female with whom I’d like to get better acquainted.

I buy mah shorty diamonds and call her shorty because she is very sexy yet has the brains of a turtle and thinks shorty is a cute adorable term instead of what it really is.

Another mindless slang invented by people that live their lives in dance clubs.”

Grammar revolution?


LONDON (Reuters) – About 16,000 words have succumbed to pressures of the Internet age and lost their hyphens in a new edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

Bumble-bee is now bumblebee, ice-cream is ice cream and pot-belly is pot belly. And if you’ve got a problem, don’t be such a crybaby (formerly cry-baby).

The hyphen has been squeezed as informal ways of communicating, honed in text messages and emails, spread on Web sites and seep into newspapers and books.

“People are not confident about using hyphens anymore, they’re not really sure what they are for,” said Angus Stevenson, editor of the Shorter OED, the sixth edition of which was published this week.

Another factor in the hyphen’s demise is designers’ distaste for its ungainly horizontal bulk between words.

“Printed writing is very much design-led these days in adverts and Web sites, and people feel that hyphens mess up the look of a nice bit of typography,” he said. “The hyphen is seen as messy looking and old-fashioned The team that compiled the Shorter OED, a two-volume tome despite its name, only committed the grammatical amputations after exhaustive research.

“The whole process of changing the spelling of words in the dictionary is all based on our analysis of evidence of language, it’s not just what we think looks better,” Stevenson said.

Researchers examined a corpus of more than 2 billion words, consisting of full sentences that appeared in newspapers, books, Web sites and blogs from 2000 onwards. (side note: word researcher? I want this job. How, oh how, do I get this job?)

For the most part, the dictionary dropped hyphens from compound nouns, which were unified in a single word (e.g. pigeonhole) or split into two (e.g. test tube).

But hyphens have not lost their place altogether. The Shorter OED editor commended their first-rate service rendered to English in the form of compound adjectives, much like the one in the middle of this sentence.

“There are places where a hyphen is necessary,” Stevenson said. “Because you can certainly start to get real ambiguity.”

Twenty-odd people came to the party, he said. Or was it twenty odd people?

Some of the 16,000 hyphenation changes in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, sixth edition:

Formerly hyphenated words split in two:

fig leaf

hobby horse

ice cream

pin money

pot belly

test tube

water bed

Formerly hyphenated words unified in one: