Ah, taxes. As a small-business owner, I know it is true: Nothing is certain except death and taxes. But where does this popular saying come from? Let’s investigate its origin.
That phrase is most commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who wrote to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789: “Our new Constitution is now established. Everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.” (Franklin wrote this in French, and English translations vary.)
However, Franklin wasn’t the first to bemoan this reality. In 1716, Christopher Bullock wrote in his play, Cobbler of Preston, “Tis impossible to be sure of anything but death and taxes!”
Things sure are heating up. Even in my home state of Minnesota (where it just stopped snowing two months ago), I have all the fans running full blast. That’s because we’ve officially entered the dog days of summer.
The dog days of summer are known as being the hottest period of the year, running from July 3 to August 11. However, the name has nothing to do with our beloved Fidos.
The name actually comes from Sirius, the brightest star in our sky. Sirius is known as the Dog Star and is the chief star in the constellation Canis Major. Dog days traditionally began when Sirius rose at the same time as sunrise (heliacal rising), causing Romans to attribute the extra heat to the meeting up of the two stars. (Due to shifts in the equinoxes, this is no longer happens, at least if I correctly understood all of the astronomy articles I’ve been reading.)
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the term dog days comes from the 1530s, when it was known in Latin as dies caniculares, translated from the Greek hēmerai kynades.
Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.
Wondering where the apostrophe goes in the name of a certain April day marked by fools? It looks like this:
April Fool’s day
This is how Merriam-Webster has it and is the placement most agreed upon. To me, though, it seems more fitting to have the apostrophe at the end to make it Fools’ (plural). I mean, certainly there is more than one fool who will be at the wrong end of mean and nasty pranks today. Alas, I am not yet an all-powerful guru, where I can change apostrophe placement and have the world listen. So for now, that’s how you spell it.
It’s New Year’s Eve, a time for making reflections, resolutions, hot midnight smooches—and a pretty vicious New Year’s Day hangover. But for word nerds, it’s also a time to discuss the words of the year.
2011’s selections reflected upheaval. There was occupy, pragmatic, and Dictionary.com’s odd choice of tergiversate. 2012’s top words are more diverse. Let’s give them a look.
This is Global Language Monitor’s selection for 2012. Paul JJ Payack, president of Global Language Monitor, noted, “Apocalypse (Armageddon, and similar terms) reflects a growing fascination with various ‘end-of-the-world’ scenarios, or at least the end of life as we know it. This year the Mayan Apocalypse was well noted, but some eight of the top words and phrases were directly related to a sense of impending doom.”
The organization’s other top words were: deficit, Olympiad, meme, and Frankenstorm.
bluster Dictionary.com selected bluster this year. Why bluster? As they explain on their Hot Word blog: “In Old English bluster meant ‘to wander or stray,’ and today it has a few, closely related meanings. It means both ‘to roar and be tumultuous, as wind’ and ‘noisy, empty threats or protests; inflated talk.’ 2012 was full of bluster from the skies and from the mouths of pundits. As the U.S. Congress faces the looming fiscal cliff, we can only anticipate more bluster from politicians. Hopefully, the bluster will only come from them, not from more nor’easters and early winter storms.”
capitalism & socialism
These two words share the top spot for Merriam-Webster’s words of the year, thanks to the presidential election and debates. Confusion arose as to how the terms are defined.
capitalism: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market
socialism: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
Also on Merriam-Webster’s list were: meme, schadenfreude, and malarkey.
GIF turned 25 this year, but it has never been more popular. As Katherine Martin, head of the U.S. Dictionaries Program for Oxford University Press, explained, “GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun. The GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace.”
Fun fact: Most people pronounce GIF with a hard G, as in good. However, some in the computer world insist this is a mispronunciation, claiming it should be pronounced with a J sound, as in jam. Of course, there’s a website about the debate.
2012 year in slang Gangnam Style
Heard of this thing called Gangnam Style? Okay, duh, you have. “Gangnam Style” is the mega hit by South Korean rapper Psy. It is the first video in history to reach one billion online views.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s the famous video:
YOLO YOLO is short for You Only Live Once. It’s a popular hashtag on twitter and was memorialized in rapper Drake’s song “The Motto.”
Example: Thinking about drinking a pitcher of that mystery punch—well, YOLO.
swag Swag is short for swagger and means being or having something cool. It gained popularity from Justin Beiber’s song “Boyfriend.”
Example: I got so much free stuff because I’m super famous. Swag!
cray/cray-cray Cray is short for crazy. It was popularized in Jay-Z’s song “Niggas in Paris.”
Example: You’re going out with that guy again? Girl, that’s cray.
What are your favorite and least favorite words of the year? Share with us in the comments section.