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July 09, 2009

Merriam-Webster officially adds nearly 100 new words

Frenemy, locavore among new words in Webster's - Yahoo! News
John Morse, president and publisher of the Springfield-based dictionary publisher, said many of this year's new words are tied to changes in technology, increasing environmental awareness and aging baby boomers' concerns about their health and have become part of the general lexicon. "These are not new words in the language, by any means," Morse said. "(But) when words like 'neuroprotective' and 'cardioprotective' show up in the Collegiate, it's because we've made the judgment that these are not just words used by specialists. ... These really are words now likely to show up in The New York Times, in The Wall Street Journal." There are words such as locavore (one who eats foods grown locally), frenemy (someone who acts like a friend but is really an enemy), waterboarding (an interrogation technique use to induce the sensation of drowning), vlogs (a blog that contains video material) and webisode (a TV show that can be viewed at a Web site). There's also flash mob (a group of people summoned electronically to a designated spot at a specified time to perform an indicated action before dispersing) and green-collar (involving actions for protecting the natural environment). Some words that just now made the cut have been around for generations. The term "sock puppet" — a false online identity used for deceptive purposes — was tracked to 1959 but has taken on new popular use with people using fake IDs on social networking sites.

Hemingway tried to spy for the KGB

Hemingway revealed as failed KGB spy | Books | guardian.co.uk
Last week, however, saw the publication of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (Yale University Press), which reveals the Nobel prize-winning novelist was for a while on the KGB's list of its agents in America. Co-written by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, the book is based on notes that Vassiliev, a former KGB officer, made when he was given access in the 90s to Stalin-era intelligence archives in Moscow. Its section on the author's secret life as a "dilettante spy" draws on his KGB file in saying he was recruited in 1941 before making a trip to China, given the cover name "Argo", and "repeatedly expressed his desire and willingness to help us" when he met Soviet agents in Havana and London in the 40s. However, he failed to "give us any political information" and was never "verified in practical work", so contacts with Argo had ceased by the end of the decade. Was he only ever a pseudo-spook, possibly seeing his clandestine dealings as potential literary material, or a genuine but hopelessly ineffective one? The latter reading would chime with his attempts to assist the US during the second world war in his fishing boat El Pilar, patrolling waters north of Cuba in search of U-Boats, making coded notes but only one sighting.

July 07, 2009

Borders launches dating site for booklovers

Never build a relationship on books | Books | guardian.co.uk Seriously?
Not content with trying to flog us DVDs, coffee, fluffy toys, wrapping paper and greetings cards on top of the traditional books, Borders, it seems, is now intent on selling us happiness, too – with the launch of its very own dating service for bibliophiles. "Unlike other dating services," trumpeted the email bidding to woo me with an offer of joining up for just a quid, "Borders dating is a great place to meet fellow book-lovers." It continues: "In all the best fairytales, girl meets boy and frog turns into prince. If only real life was so simple! Sometimes fate needs a nudge in the right direction." On the face of it, if you're a singleton given to lonely walks on blasted heaths with a copy of a suitably impressive paperback poking eye-catchingly out of your jacket pocket, this might sound like just what you need. But to be honest, you'd be better off hanging out in the Sainsbury's vegetable aisle than on a dating website aimed at book-lovers: a shared appreciation of baby sweetcorn is a far more solid foundation for lasting love than a shared appreciation of Nabokov. In fact, that way madness lies. With bookish tweeness, Borders is calling its service "Happily Ever After" – which betrays a certain naivety about just how nasty book lovers can get when challenged by someone who professes to love a book more than they do. That's why book groups are festering middens of resentment and petty point-scoring. . . .