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More People Are Using the Word Jedi in Everyday Life

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From gaslight to d’oh, many common terms we use today have their roots in pop culture. Now, Merriam-Webster reports that the word Jedi, which originally referred to a member of the fictional knightly order in the Star Wars universe, is increasingly cropping up in contexts that have nothing to do with the franchise.

The dictionary cites a few examples of its usage from the past several years. In May 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported an increase in employers looking to hire a "Jedi," and in February 2016, The Salt Lake Tribune wrote that Liev Schreiber portrayed Boston Globe editor Martin Baron as a "newsroom Jedi" in the 2015 film Spotlight.

When both writers use the term Jedi, they aren’t talking about someone who has mastered the Force and knows their way around a light saber. In this context, a Jedi can refer to a person who is exceptionally skilled at anything.

According to Merriam-Webster, the phrase "Jedi mind trick" has also entered the lexicon, and it's used to talk about something a little different. When removed from its Star Wars origins, it means "coercing someone into a different state of mind," like in this excerpt from a February 2011 issue of Redbook.

"So how do you hold on to your Zen when your husband's in a bad mood? Leave him alone ... To get him to sync with you (and not you with him), just sit back and let your good vibes work a Jedi mind trick on him."

Star Wars isn’t the only major franchise to have an impact on language. The first Harry Potter book debuted decades after the premiere of A New Hope, and the word muggle already has an entry in Oxford Dictionaries. When used outside the context of the films and books, its meaning is the exact opposite of a Jedi: "A person who is not conversant with a particular activity or skill.”

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How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
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Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

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Designer Reimagines the Spanish Alphabet With Only 19 Letters
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According to designer José de la O, the Spanish alphabet is too crowded. Letters like B and V and S and Z are hard to tell apart when spoken out loud, which makes for a language that's "confusing, complicated, and unpractical," per his design agency's website. His solution is Nueva Qwerty. As Co.Design reports, the "speculative alphabet" combines redundant letters into single characters, leaving 19 letters total.

In place of the letters missing from the original 27-letter Spanish alphabet are five new symbols. The S slot, for example, is occupied by one letter that does the job of C, Z, and S. Q, K, and C have been merged into a single character, as have I and Y. The design of each glyph borrows elements from each of the letters it represents, making the new alphabet easy for Spanish-speakers to learn, its designer says.

Speculative Spanish alphabet.
José de la O

By streamlining the Spanish alphabet, de la O claims he's made it easier to read, write, and type. But the convenience factor may not be enough to win over some Spanish scholars: When the Royal Spanish Academy cut just two letters (CH and LL) from the Spanish alphabet in 2010, their decision was met with outrage.

José de la O has already envisioned how his alphabet might function in the real world, Photoshopping it onto storefronts and newspapers. He also showcased the letters in two new fonts. You can install New Times New Roman and Futurysma onto your computer after downloading it here.

[h/t Co.Design]

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