Thursday, March 31, 2011

'to app' - my favourite new verb

Last night I went out with some of my lovely friends to a local brewery that opens the doors to its own bar once or twice a week. It was a great chance to catch up with friends - but it never matters how pleasant the company is, how tasty the food is or how beery the beer is in these situations there's a part of my brain that just never stops thinking linguistics.

And so, at the end of the night when one of my responsible friends pulled out her phone to summons a taxi my ears pricked up when she said:

'I'm going to app a cab'

App a cab! This is excellent and mysterious, I thought. I asked my friend to explain. It transpires that there is a smart phone app that lets you order a cab and check the progress of your order. For the act of summonsing a cab using this app my friend appropriated the word app as a verb. This is not very exiting in itself, English is always taking nouns and making them verbs, it's something that English does very well - think of things like 'to email', 'to fax', 'to kindle' which all started out as nouns.

The linguist in me immediately set about trying to discern the meaning of the verb. It turns out that by checking TramTracker (A staple on any Melburnian's app list) one does not 'app a tram' but if there were an app that let you order pizza one could perhaps be 'apping a pizza' - among my small test group the jury was still out on that one.

I wonder whether 'to app' will make it into wider use. My friend told me that she acquired the verb from the same friend she acquired the app from, so it's not just a one-off coinage. It made me realise just how far 'app' has come from simply being the shortened form of 'application software' - it now has a life of its own. It's a potentially pertinent point given that Microsoft and Apple are currently having a bout of legal fisticuffs over the trademarking of 'App Store.'

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What a Shocker of a gesture

It looks like it's taken some front page gesture news to shake me out of my lethargy and get back into the swing of posting.

Over on The Age website this afternoon Jarryd Blair made a public apology following a 'hand gesture' that he made while his team were being photographed following their pre-season cup win. You can read the story here. Obviously events in Japan mean that it didn't stay as the main story for long - but longer than any other gesture related events in recent times.

The story centres around whether it was an offensive gesture or not. The offensive gesture in question is colloquially named as the 'shocker' which, if you're not too faint-hearted you can read about the meaning of here. Which, if you read it, gives some idea why people might have found it offensive.

But there are some questions - such as whether he was really making that gesture. Blair's thumb is not curled back and his two fingers aren't quite brought together. His apology conveniently sidesteps mentioning whether he knew the offense caused by his gesture, instead labelling his own actions as merely "careless and inappropriate."

But lets assume that he did intentionally pull that gesture, I'm sure the large majority of people would have been oblivious. This is an emblematic gesture, and like the 'peace sign' or rotating your finger near your temple to indicate 'crazy' the meaning of these gestures is only apparent if you already knew it. As far as the rest of us were concerned he's just doing a bad impression of a heavy metal music fan.

The irony is that the prudish folk who made this an issue by forcing an apology from Blair have made the event into a news item and drawn the attention of people who, like me, were happily ignorant of this little gesture until today.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Trip Stats 2010/2011

Because it wouldn't be a field trip without keeping track of the important stats.

Days away: 160

Number of words currently in dictionary: 1215

Number of notebooks used: 9
Number of pages: approx. 464

Number of individual audio recordings made: 181

Weigh change: +6kg

Weight of bags on way to Nepal: 16kg
Weight of bags on way home: unknown
Number of bags of biscuits given to airport staff, thus avoiding knowing how over-weight my bags were: 1

Amount over budget: 23:47AUD

Number of hours spent on buses: approx 96

Top three most embarrassing moments:
1. Hitting a young child in the face with a frisbee
2. Burning a child's hair with a stick of incense
3. Having to step over a crying woman in a doorway at the funeral