Interview on WNYC’s “Radiolab” about unfortunate search-and-replace errors. Did you know Queen Elizabeth lays up to 2,000 eggs a day? (June 28, 2010)
You come up with a great idea. You devise a brilliant plan. You control for every imaginable variable. And once everything’s in place, the train hops your carefully laid tracks. Oops. In this hour of Radiolab, unintended consequences abound.
Interview on WNYC’s “The Takeaway” about what to call the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. (June 23, 2010)
Ben Zimmer joins us; he writes the On Language column for The New York Times. People are passionate about the language we’re using to define the oil catastrophe (from “oil-apocalypse” to “runaway oil”). Zimmer says that we’re searching for a term that helps embody the magnitude of the Gulf spill. He looks at historical connotations behind some of the words in use like “gusher” and “rupture,” as well as at the language that was used to describe the Ixtoc blowout in the Gulf of Mexico 20 years ago to see if it can help put these words in perspective.
Over the weekend, I — and many other blogging types — were directed to an item on the Language Log blog from a few years back, suggesting that Manute Bol may have played a role either in creating or popularizing the phrase “my bad.” He certainly was one of the first NBA players to be quoted using it, in early 1989. … Well, since I may have played some extremely minor role in us reaching that point, I figure it’s only fair for me to do my part to debunk it. Ben Zimmer, who writes the On Language column for the NYT Magazine, just presented at least five “my bad” usages that pre-date Bol’s first “my bad” quote, one of which was uttered by Rex Chapman, of all people. And one of these came in 1985, more than three years before Bol used it in print.