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Sunday, November 05, 2006

My attempt to be one of the cool kidz

Tonight I happened to be out for drinks with an old friend, and he brought along a new friend of his: Aaron Peckham. Who is Aaron Peckham, you ask? He's the creator and owner of Urban Dictionary, one of the most trafficked sites on the internet. It's an interesting website, essentially a user-driven descriptive dictionary of slang. If you don't know about it already, you are not a college student. You might (because you're a totally out-of-touch academic) think of it as the OED, if the OED were filled with words for sexual parts and sexual acts that you have never heard of, much less ever imagined were physically possible.

Anyway, Aaron was a very nice guy, and sincerely committed to the principles behind a descriptive, as opposed to a prescriptive, dictionary. I urged him to consider basing it, as the OED does, on historical principles, having users add etymologies and dated citations. Most of the citations would be to other websites, for reasons that will become clear if you spend any time at all browsing the dictionary--these words don't get into the New York Times. But I think he was just humoring me when he said he thought it was a good idea.

So, in honor of my brush with internet greatness, I decided to add a word to Urban Dictionary. The word I chose was our old favorite: windfucker. It seemed in keeping with the general thrust of the dictionary. My definition: "a blowhard; an obnoxious, ambitious person; a social climber." My sentence usage, with a nod to Ben Jonson: "Did you ever hear such a windfucker as this?"

The way Urban Dictionary works is that any user can vote thumbs-up or thumbs-down on any definition. The higher a definition's ratio of up to down votes, the higher it appears in the list of definitions for a word. Fingers crossed for my word and definition ...

P.S. The Urban Dictionary "word-of-the-day" recently: bardcore. Definition #1 is the relevant one for BtR readers. It's pretty good.

  • At 11/06/2006 01:30:00 PM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    good choice with "windfucker." should we think about adding "sycophronian"? Or is that just an abuse of non-executive power?


  • At 11/06/2006 03:15:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Windfucker update: currently 5 thumbs up and 0 thumbs down. Either our BtR readers have been kind, or there are more fans of Renaissance insults than we knew among the college crowd.


  • At 11/06/2006 04:07:00 PM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    I up-thumbed it. Do the thumbs actually have any effect on that site? Or do they just serve as vague evaluations of a definition's authority?


  • At 11/06/2006 05:51:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Do the thumbs actually have any effect on that site? Or do they just serve as vague evaluations of a definition's authority?

    You don't read so good, Truewit. Check it: The higher a definition's ratio of up to down votes, the higher it appears in the list of definitions for a word.

    Now, in this case, it has no effect because there's only one definition. But if you search for, say, some obscene sexual practice (pick one, any one), you'll see that some definitions have 10-20 definitions. So the ones with more up-votes get placed higher up towards #1.


  • At 11/06/2006 10:34:00 PM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    can I just say that I am now addicted to urban dictionary?? In fact, I just discovered that I am a Lactard! And any dictionary that has nearly 2,000 entries involving the f word is ok with me! Fuckwhistle is a personal favorite. Let's see if we can't work that into a post here?


  • At 11/07/2006 01:17:00 AM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    I'm with you, Truewit. It's pretty enthralling. And also pretty disgusting.


  • At 11/07/2006 06:21:00 AM, Blogger bdh wrote…

    Urban Dictionary still needs to catch up on some of the more obscure racial slurs. For these, the Racial Slur Database is a good supplement.

    I only wish they'd include etymologies - for instance, "bagel dog" is an early American (40s? 50s?) antisemitic slur.


  • At 11/07/2006 09:23:00 AM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    Actually, I think the correct spelling nowadays is "bagel dawg." As in, "Yo, pick me up a bagel, dawg. I want mine toasted with tofu scallion spread."


  • At 11/07/2006 11:04:00 AM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    Right, no cream cheese for the lactard.


  • At 11/07/2006 12:18:00 PM, Blogger The Marquis of Montferrat wrote…

    Why no passing mention in this post that the encounter took place on Guy Fawkes Day, an occasion of some significance for Early Modern types, I would imagine?



  • At 11/07/2006 12:30:00 PM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    One of the things I love about the Urban Dictionary is the number of neologisms that have recently sprung up. "Bardcore" is one, "procrasturbating" is another. These are like 21st century inkhorn terms!


  • At 11/07/2006 12:53:00 PM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    Though "inkhorn," alas, is not up there. We should perhaps invent a filthy second meaning for the word and give it a new lease on life.


  • At 11/08/2006 12:47:00 AM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    How about applying conversion and thinking of it as an adjective, i.e. "inkhorny"?


  • At 11/11/2006 04:02:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Oh man! Someone totally dissed my definition. I now stand at 21 up, 1 down. Who could not like windfucker? No doubt some anti-Jonsonian.


  • At 12/11/2006 10:12:00 AM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    I just want to say that I upthumb H's def for windfucker about once a week... and I encourage our readers to do the same. This is the only way we'll make our mark on the language, people (besides writing illustrious books about Renaissance literature, I mean).


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