Language guru Ben Zimmer has tracked down what he believes to be the source of the phrase. He writes that the term originated in the 1960s in Philadelphia. Traffic was so bad the day after Thanksgiving that police officers had to work 12-hour shifts. So they gave the day a negative — and memorable — name.
Ben Zimmer is a self-described all-around word nut. He is the former On Language columnist for The New York Times Magazine, the executive producer of VisualThesaurus.com (an entirely useful tool when you’re looking to add color to your prose) and vocabulary.com.
In a recent New York Times Sunday Review column where he claims that “Twitterology” is the latest hot new science, he writes that “Twitter is many things to many people, but lately it has been a gold mine for scholars in fields like linguistics, sociology and psychology who are looking for real-time data to analyze.”
Now in its 16th edition, The Chicago Manual of Style is the must-have reference for everyone who works with words. On November 8th a panel of experts convened at International House to discuss both the history of this authoritative text and its relevance in an era where instantaneous global publication is only a tap, text, or tweet away. Audience participation was encouraged via live polling on matters of usage and style and submitting comments and questions via Twitter. The discussion was moderated by Alison Cuddy, host of WBEZ’s award-winning news magazine Eight Forty-Eight.
Former “On Language” columnist for the NY Times Magazine and executive producer of VisualThesaurus.com Ben Zimmer’s LANGUAGE DETECTIVES,” examining how new technology developments, from Siri to “sentiment analysis,” are transforming the ways we use and interpret language, to Eamon Dolan for his imprint at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, by David Black (NA). Lori.Glazer@hmhpub.com.
A civil rights activist named Sheila Michaels claimed to have created the title in 1961, but she admits that it was Gloria Steinem’s co-optation of the word for the 1971 launch of her magazine that put “Ms.’’ on the map. Language maven Ben Zimmer, who did much of the archeology on “Ms.,’’ notes that Michaels was plugging her new word on a public radio show.