The usage of the verb snob

Le verbe snober vient du nom anglais snob, emprunté par le français. Mais il ne se dit pas snob en anglais — je parle toujours du verbe —, mais snub. Peu surprenant que certains anglophones s’y perdent. Et même plus que ça : on trouve une foule de formations verbales faites à partir de snob, toutes absentes des dictionnaires.

When the sentence “He [Karl Marx] would probably snob his nose at it [blogging]” flickered by me on IRC some hours ago, I just thought that this was a nice blend of snob n., snub v. and the idiom turn up one’s nose at sth., possibly influenced by the semantically less pertinent snub-nosed. The pure eggcorn snub»snob was bound to be out there, so I set out to find cites and enter it into the Eggcorn Database.

Boy, I got more than I had bargained for. Not only is snob v. tr. a frequent eggcorn, it has also entered certain slangs and dialects, as in this example from the Wingham Chronicle, an Australian paper, talking about sheep shearers in the outback:

  • Good pen mates will share the sheep and work together as a team but as Rod explains […] if you draw a ‘Hungry’ pen mate and he ‘snobs you’ (goes to the back of the pen and picks all the best sheep) your count for the day could be severely affected, or you’d have to work your guts out to give him the same medicine to stop him from ‘snobbing the hell out of you’! (link)

Unsurprising, really — after all, snub so. is snober quelqu’un in French, derived from the borrowed snob.

But the example also contains snob the hell out of so., which, it turns out, opens a whole nother can of fish. In the sense behave like a snob, or close to it, transitive, intransitive or with a prepositional complement, I found snob so. off, snob so. away, snob it, snob so. into sth. and snob at sth.. And then there are the totally non-eggcornish derivatives of snob n.: out-snob so., de-snob, snob sth. up , and the adjectives snobbed up and snobbed out .

Wow. This is truly one of the more versatile English verbs I’ve come across lately. And it’s not even in the dictionaries I’ve checked.#[1]

If you want the whole story with examples, read the Eggcorn Database entry.

[1]: NSOED has snob v. i., marked “obsolete”, as a variant of snub in the sense “sob”.

Commercial ties

J’ai reçu du spam d’un important éditeur qui m’a demandé de publier des liens vers des articles publiés sur son site. Il se trouve que ces articles sont sans aucun doute d’un grand intérêt pour les amateurs de la linguistique. Or, leur propositon de faire de la pub gratuite pour eux me semble rien d’autre qu’une campagne de spam ciblée, vaguement insultante d’ailleurs.

From Anggarrgoon:

I was contacted today [on a recipients suppressed list] by email by a fairly large publisher who was drawing my attention to some articles with a linguistic theme on their site. They were suggesting that I post links to their site. It’s an interesting type of product placement. I will be intrigued to see a) if anyone does, in fact, take them up on their offer, and b) whether they say how they came by the link.

I received what I presume was the same e-mail. It gave me a pause, and I’d considered blogging it even before I saw the post on Anggarrgoon.

Regardless of the articles being without any doubt of linguistic interest, this e-mail was no better than spam in my opinion. I’m running this blog as a non-commercial project. Ads on general-interest sites happen to annoy me, which is why I don’t even want any ads over at the Eggcorn Database, where they would arguably be more justified than on my private playground.

But even if I were open to forging commercial ties, the proper thing would have been to propose payment. The publisher in question can certainly afford it and does advertise in other venues. There is a huge difference between another non-commercial blogger approaching me about some interesting stuff they have written or made available, and a media magnate doing so.

Beyond these matters of principle I felt insulted. See, my interest in language and linguistics currently has no more than very rare and occasional ties to my livelihood. On some levels there are only very few things I’d like more than for this to change — and the reasons it doesn’t are, as these things go, personal and complicated — but as things stand my interests have arguably done more harm than good to my professional outlook. Without breaking out into foul language, I am annoyed that a rich company doesn’t exercise proper care about whom they are asking to do their free advertising. The culture of mutual back-scratching is a pernicious thing, for those of us outside the back-scratching circuit. So no, Sir, I won’t scratch yours, thank you very much, and in particular not for free. You may claim that you “have been reading my site and enjoying it”, but allow me to have some doubts about that as well.

The links have, by the way, been posted on BoingBoing, where a certain Kestrell is credited with recommending them. I’m going to forward a link to this post and to Anggarrgoon’s, to make BoingBoing aware of the spammy context in which they are being promoted. In any case, by getting boingboinged, the goal of the e-mail has been more than achieved.

[La version anglaise est plus complète.]

The Eggcorn Database, notre collection de réinterpretations lexicales (le type d’erreurs que j’appelle poteaux roses en français), se dote d’un forum. Je ne m’attends pas à des foules, mais s’il y a de l’intérêt, on pourrait facilement ajouter un espace francophone…

Qu’est-ce qui ne va pas avec les CAPTCHAs, à part leurs problèmes d’accessibilité ? Ceci : Wikipédia traduit l’acronyme ainsi : « test public de Turing#[1] complètement automatique ayant pour but de discriminer les humains des ordinateurs ». On pourrait chipoter sur la traduction, mais l’idée est claire. Chaque fois que je rate un CAPTCHA, et j’en rate un sur trois […]

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Mellifluous punctuation and somebody else’s umbrella

«The Elements of Style» de William Strunk et E.B. White est, en plus court, à l’anglais américain ce qui est le Grevisse au français. Toute une frange des anglophones instruits, dont un certain nombre de profs, ne jurent que par ce manuel de style et de grammaire.

Malheureusement, les auteurs ont poussé le stalinisme grammatical au point de proscrire des tournures utilisées par les plus grands écrivains depuis des siècles, et s’avèrent occasionnellement incapables de suivre leurs propres conseils. Certains donc, et pas les moindres, vouent le livre aux gémonies et n’ont qu’un désir : qu’il n’eusse jamais été écrit.

Maintenant, une version illustrée par une dessinatrice et auteure de livres pour enfants et un cycle de chants par un jeune compositeur néo-dadaiste font leur apparence sur ce champs de bataille grammaticale et stylistique.

I imagine Geoffrey Pullum has a file on his computer named “Strunk and White adjectives”, and every time he posts about The Elements of Style he chooses a new one and ticks it off as “used”. He’s called the opus a horrid little notebook of nonsense, a stupid little book, a poisonous little collection of […]

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Sur Language Log, nous trouvons une introduction complète et intéressante à l’alphabet coréen hangeul (한글) par Bill Poser. En 1446, le roi Sejong le Grand demanda à un groupe de savants de créer un système d’écriture permettant à la population, largement analphabète, l’accès à l’écrit. Le coréen était alors rarement écrit : la langue utilisée […]

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Avoiding the asterisks … of avoidance

Quelques remarques au sujet des gros mots dans la presse. Et comment éviter les astérisques d’évitement.

  • 2005-10-07
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The software upgrade seems to have gone all right (please report any problems you may have with this site). Posting, on the other hand, has been light; mainly because I’m recovering from a particularly tenacious cold/cough/bronchitis, which has me look at the more substantial posts in the pipeline and shake my head in disgust about […]

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Je suis en train de mettre à jour la version de WordPress qui propulse ce blog. Étant donné que nous utilisons du code légèrement adapté (en particulièrement pour permettre les versions « en bilingue »), il se peut que cette opération génère quelques désagréments. Dans le cas le plus inoffensif, il y aura des liens […]

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Amuse-bouche to zaibatsu

Des entrées nouvelles dans le Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary, l’un des dictionnaires les plus réputés de la langue anglaise.

  • 2005-10-04
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New entries in the 2005 edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary. I was slightly surprised about the new sense of neoconservative. There must have been some semantic variation over the last few years.

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Today’s interminable NPs

Il devrait y avoir une limite supérieure pour les syntagmes nominaux. En voilà deux en anglais, à ne pas imiter.

  • 2005-10-02
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Here are two really-much-too-long-drawn-out noun phrases I found in today’s idle browsing. The first one is from an AP wire (emphasis mine): An independent commission to oversee coastal restoration and hurricane protection work in Louisiana has been proposed by the Louisiana congressional delegation. It would be called the “Protecting Essential Louisiana Infrastructure, Citizens and […]

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