Sticks and Stones May Break Bones...

The only time a nickname has ever offended me was in kindergarten, when my teacher started calling me Jason the Mason. See, Jason the Mason was a brick-working pig from a book we were reading. I didn't take kindly to being called a pig, so I broke down in tears. Now, with 15 more years of experience under my belt, I've learned that words really will never hurt me, so I was more excited than weepy when a friend turned me on to the drawbacks section of Babynamer is a site run by the Oxygen network ostensibly for new parents, but I found it plenty interesting. Even though it's got tons of information about every name, from origin to alternate spellings to namesakes, the highlight is the drawbacks, which lists the most creative ways to make fun of someone's name. These lists can prepare children for all kinds of bullies, be they oddly creative ("˜Caterer' for "˜Kaitlyn'), cruel (the Mitch page is obviously ruthless) or remarkably intelligent ("˜Anatomical John,' a reference to famed anatomist John Hilton).

Because I know all the bullies who read our site want more ammo, here are some drawbacks for Mental Floss writers, courtesy of babynamer.

David- Crazy Davey, Dave the Slave
Becky- Becky the Techie, Beckalini
Chris Higgins- Rye Crisp, Chris Piss
Will- Will the Pill, Iron Will
Jason- Space Case Jase, Jaywalk
InternJason- InternSpace Case Jase, InternJaywalk
Sandy- Sandy-tized for your Protection, Sandy Beach
Maggie- Mag-a-Rag, Maggie who Brings her Lunch in a Baggy

Mangesh, Ransom and Miss Cellania all escaped without any drawbacks, but feel free to suggest some in the comments.

The Surprising Link Between Language and Depression

Skim through the poems of Sylvia Plath, the lyrics of Kurt Cobain, or posts on an internet forum dedicated to depression, and you'll probably start to see some commonalities. That's because there's a particular way that people with clinical depression communicate, whether they're speaking or writing, and psychologists believe they now understand the link between the two.

According to a recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science, there are certain "markers" in a person's parlance that may point to symptoms of clinical depression. Researchers used automated text analysis methods to comb through large quantities of posts in 63 internet forums with more than 6400 members, searching for certain words and phrases. They also noted average sentence length, grammatical patterns, and other factors.

What researchers found was that a person's use (or overuse) of first-person pronouns can provide some insight into the state of their mental health. People with clinical depression tend to use more first-person singular pronouns, such as "I" and "me," and fewer third-person pronouns, like "they," "he," or "she." As Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Reading and the head of the study, writes in a post for IFL Science:

"This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words."

What remains unclear, though, is whether people who are more focused on themselves tend to depression, or if depression turns a person's focus on themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with depression also use more negative descriptors, like "lonely" and "miserable."

But, Al-Mosaiwi notes, it's hardly the most important clue when using language to assess clinical depression. Far better indicators, he says, are the presence of "absolutist words" in a person's speech or writing, such as "always," "constantly," and "completely." When overused, they tend to indicate that someone has a "black-and-white view of the world," Al-Mosaiwi says. An analysis of posts on different internet forums found that absolutist words were 50 percent more prevalent on anxiety and depression forums, and 80 percent more prevalent on suicidal ideation forums.

Researchers hope these types of classifications, supported by computerized methods, will prove more and more beneficial in a clinical setting.

[h/t IFL Science]

Pete Toscano, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Here's the Right Way to Pronounce 'Pulitzer'
Pete Toscano, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Pete Toscano, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The Pulitzer Prize has been awarded to top creative and scientific minds for over 100 years. Named after late 19th-century newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, the prize is a household name, yet its pronunciation still tends to trip people up. Is it “pull-itzer” or “pew-litzer”?

Poynter set the record straight just in time for today’s announcement of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize winners. Emily Rauh Pulitzer, wife of the late Joseph Pulitzer Jr., told Poynter, “My husband said that his father told people to say ‘Pull it sir.’”

If you’ve been saying it wrong, don’t feel too bad. Edwin Battistella, a linguist and professor at Southern Oregon University, said he pronounced it “pew-lit-zer” until a friend corrected him. Battistella looked to Joseph Pulitzer’s family history to explain why so many people pronounce it incorrectly. He writes on the Oxford University Press's OUPBlog:

“[Joseph Pulitzer] was born in Hungary, where Pulitzer, or Politzer as it is sometimes spelled, was a common family name derived from a place name in southern Moravia, the village of Pullitz. In the United States, the spelling Pulitzer would have quite naturally been Anglicized as PEW-lit-zer by analogy to the other pu spellings like pure, puritanical, pubic, puce, and so on.”

Ultimately, though, it’s up to the family to decide how they’d like their surname to be pronounced. Here it is, pronounced just how the Pulitzers like it, in a YouTube video:

[h/t Poynter]


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