[Ads-l] Media request (Business Insider) about language and nature

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jul 25 11:29:14 EDT 2018


DARE labels "firefly" as "widespread, but less freq South, South Midland,"
and "lightning bug" as "widespread, but slightly less freq North, Pacific."
The maps from DARE data show that there's no simple isogloss boundary that
can be drawn between "firefly" and "lightning bug" regions of the country.

firefly: https://www.daredictionary.com/view/maps/firefly1map.png
lightning bug: https://www.daredictionary.com/view/maps/lightningbugmap.png

In the 50 or so years since the DARE surveys were conducted, I don't think
the distinction has become any clearer. But slight variations in regional
distribution can be exaggerated in heat-map presentations of dialectal
data, as can be seen by comparing Vaux and Golder's original maps to Josh
Katz's heat-map versions (with regional smoothing).

--Ben


On Wed, Jul 25, 2018 at 7:56 AM, Bonnie Taylor-Blake <
b.taylorblake at gmail.com> wrote:

> About this "firefly" vs. "lightning bug" issue ... Bert Vaux's and Scott
> Golder's original data, published in 2003, shows pretty even distribution
> of "firefly" and "lightning bug," with many people (like me) using the term
> interchangeably.
>
> https://www4.uwm.edu/FLL/linguistics/dialect/staticmaps/q_65.html
>
> and
>
> http://www.tekstlab.uio.no/cambridge_survey/maps/305
>
> "Firefly" dates to at least 1655, with (as far as I can tell) British
> usages as the earliest. "Lightning bug" seems to be more recent, dating
> back to at least 1778. Perhaps the latter is an American coinage. If
> anything, that might suggest that Americans were more influenced by
> lightning than fire in how they called these critters, but I'm not
> suggesting that.
>
> In the face of this data, I honestly think there's no weather-based
> distribution of "firefly" and "lightning bug" in AmE. (I'm no linguist, but
> even I recognize the value of understanding the history of these terms and
> how they may have spread, east to west, across the country. And I have no
> comment on the larger idea of how weather may influence word
> formation/usage.)
>
> BTW, Ben Zimmer has an important piece on how Vaux's and Golder's original
> data is overlooked in some of these recent "heat maps" about dialect
> variety.
>
> http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4676
>
> -- Bonnie
>
> On Tue, Jul 24, 2018 at 11:20 AM Cohen, Gerald Leonard <gcohen at mst.edu>
> wrote:
>
> This morning I received the request below from Mark Abadi of
> >
> > Business Insider, and with his permission I now forward it to
> >
> > ads-l.  Can anyone on our listserv provide him any information?
> >
> >
> > In a follow-up message he clarified:
> >
> > Essentially, my questions are:
> > - In what ways does the natural world influence our language, on a
> >        dialectal level to specific words and phrases?
> > - Do any other examples come to mind of the environment seeming to
> >      dictate what we call something?
> > - Why is it important to know about the interplay between language
> >      and nature?
> >
> > I'm sure any assistance would be very gratefully received.
> >
> > Gerald Cohen
> >
> >
> > ________________________________
> > From: Mark Abadi <mabadi at businessinsider.com>
> > Sent: Tuesday, July 24, 2018 9:29 AM
> > To: Cohen, Gerald Leonard
> > Subject: Request for comment on a dialect map — Business Insider
> >
> > Hi there Gerald, I'm a reporter with Business Insider, and one of my
> areas
> > of coverage is language and linguistics.
> >
> > A recent tweet<https://twitter.com/Chasin_Jason/status/
> 1018209864416362497>
> > from meteorology researcher Jason Keeler caught my attention —  he
> compared
> > a map of where Americans use the terms "firefly" vs. "lightning bug" to a
> > map showing wildfire and lightning-strike activity in the USA.
> > Interestingly, there is strong overlap between wildfire country and
> > 'firefly' country, as well as lightning country and 'lightning bug'
> country.
> >
> > I wanted to use Keeler's tweet to explore the interplay between language
> > and nature, and wanted to know if you could offer a comment on the map.
> > Basically, I'd like to ask about the ways the natural world has
> influenced
> > our language, perhaps with some other specific examples, and what we can
> > learn from them.
> >
> > Would you be available for a brief phone chat, no more than five or six
> > minutes, sometime today? Let me know and we can figure out a time that
> > works. Alternatively, if you know have someone in mind who you think is
> > well-suited for a topic like this, feel free to send them my way. Hope to
> > hear from you!
> >
> > Best,
> >
> >
> > Mark Abadi
> >
> >
>

------------------------------------------------------------
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