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

Bonnie Taylor-Blake b.taylorblake at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jul 25 11:56:52 UTC 2018

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




"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

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


-- Bonnie

On Tue, Jul 24, 2018 at 11:20 AM Cohen, Gerald Leonard <gcohen at mst.edu>

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
> Strategy reporter
> [
> https://docs.google.com/uc?export=download&id=1Sn9T_3XgKeR6F-qeusXInzzUfdaFEk_m&revid=0B_22AlI77aExWVVkMzFWczF3L0c4T0hKcFoxdU52amg2bUdRPQ
> ]
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> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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