On Scandinavian Roots, the Goodreads Choice Awards, the Publishing Person of the Year, the Business Side of News and Social Media Wars

December 1 to December 7, 2012

Last week had our inboxes and feeds oozing with stories on language, social media, journalism and books. First, a controversial theory that traces the English language’s roots to Scandinavia sparked debate among linguists. Next, J.K Rowling’s new (non-Harry Potter) book won this year’s Goodreads Choice Awards. Publishers Weekly, meanwhile, declared E.L. James as Publishing Person of the Year. Completing the news lineup: the end of The Daily, Book Week Scotland and the mystery book sculptor, and the launch of Socl and the new MySpace.

Image credit: "Day 168 - October 28, 2012" by Sonia Belviso on Flickr. Used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

Image credit: “Day 168 – October 28, 2012” by Sonia Belviso on Flickr. Used under a CC BY 2.0 license.

Goodreads Choice Awards

Users of social cataloguing site Goodreads voted on their favorite books for 2012. Dubbed as the People’s Choice Awards for books by EW.com, the Goodreads Choice Awards has 20 categories and is “unique” in the sense that it is the only book awards to be decided by readers, with “[n]o secret committees, no panel of insiders, no lobbying committees involved.” J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy was a “surprise” winner for Best Fiction.Check out the full list of winners on Goodreads.com and see which of your favorites made it to the winners list.

Scandinavian Roots

Professors Jan Terje Faarlund from the University of Oslo and Joseph Emmonds from the Palacký University in the Czech Republic claimed that English descended from Scandinavia, rejecting the idea that the language came from Anglo-Saxon. In an article from ScienceDaily.com, Faarlund said, “Modern English is a direct descendant of the language of Scandinavians who settled in the British Isles in the course of many centuries, before the French-speaking Normans conquered the country in 1066.”

However, Sally Thomason on Language Log refuted Faarlund’s theories and countered his claims that “languages in contact can be counted on to retain their own grammar” and that “the only reasonable explanation for parallelism between syntactic structures of Scandinavian languages and English is that English is a Scandinavian language.” Mark Liberman also listed other materials for those who are “[t]hose interested in the whole ‘English is a Scandinavian language’ kerfuffle.

The Economist’s Johnson wrote on the issue and concluded, “If Prof Faarlund’s case falls short, it remains clear that Old Norse had a heavy influence on English.”

Publishing Person of the Year

Publishers Weekly declared Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James as the Publishing Person of 2012:

The level of the trilogy’s success, the speed with which it achieved that success, and the fact that it was launched in an untraditional manner, led us to select its author as the most significant player on the publishing stage this year.

– Publishers Weekly

The announcement was “greeted with horror in America” according to the Guardian, quoting reactions from publications and comments from PW’s own site. The Washington Post’s Ron Charles reacted on the news with a video.


The Hobbit movie. Social media analytics company CoverCake says conversations around The Hobbit are “astronomical.” “Advance sales and social media chatter for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey suggest the studios will get what they want,” Michael White wrote on Businessweek.

Book Week Scotland: the Edinburgh book sculptor strikes again. Over a year ago, a mysterious Scottish artist caused a stir by leaving book sculptures in unexpected places in Scotland. Last week, the artist and her intricate sculptures resurfaced and even participated in Book Week Scotland, a perfect time for her comeback.

The anonymous artist, who has been revealed to be a woman, has created five unique book sculptures inspired by classic Scottish stories and hidden them in five secret locations across the country.  Every day of the week-long celebration, treasure hunters locate the sculptures by following clues released online by the artist.  This Book Sculpture Treasure Hunt has become one of the most exciting events during Book Week Scotland.

Marc Lambert, the CEO of Scottish Book Trust, which hosted the event, said: “Book Week Scotland is an ideal time to celebrate these unique pieces of art, inspired as they are by a love of books, reading, and libraries. We are delighted that the artist has agreed to come out of retirement, if not hiding, to give booklovers across Scotland a chance to own one of these amazing homages to literature.

Who would have thought celebrating literacy could be as fun (and mysterious) as this?

Image credit: Claire Stewart.


The Daily shutdown. News Corp. announced that it is shutting down TheDaily, its iPad-only newspaper, almost two years after it was launched in February 2011. Several commented on the news with some saying it was not a surprise given its simple math problem. The Nieman Journalism Lab summarized what its Twitter followers thought was the cause of the shutdown. “Whatever the reason, I doubt The Daily’s absence will register on many people’s awareness,” Kira Goldenberg wrote on the Columbia Journalism Review.

Ethics and the New York Post subway death photo. The New York Post faced criticism after publishing a photo of a man who was about to be crushed by a train. There are cases when “editors could argue the photos held significant journalistic purpose of informing the public of gross tragedies and holding the powerful accountable,” wrote Kelly McBride on Poynter. “[But this] photo doesn’t have any of those redeeming journalistic qualities.” “The proper thing to do would’ve been to put down the camera and try to get the guy out. I can understand why people are upset,” said John Long of the National Press Photographers Association in an interview with Forbes’s Jeff Bercovici.

The business side of news. Rick Edmonds looks at the paywalls implemented by three different content companies, while Matt Thompson encourages journalists to get involved in the business side of the newsroom.

Social Media

Going public. Microsoft’s Socl and the new MySpace recently opened its doors to the public. Mashable called the reborn site “beautiful” while described Microsoft’s attempt at a social network as “a solid time-waster.

Facebook vs. Twitter. On December 5, Facebook announced that it would change “subscribers” to “followers.” On the same day, Twitter posted that Instagram removed support for Twitter cards integration.  Meanwhile, Robert Plant wrote about the dark side of social media, and William Germano questioned what Facebook counts as a “story.


Persuasive words. “The toolbox of the writer is filled with words.” And here, Copyblogger.com lists five of the most persuasive words in English with studies to support how powerful they are.

Deleted and odious words. Ben Zimmer reacted on the issue of omitted words from the Oxford English Dictionary and criticized the [British] press who covered the news. Also, John McIntyre wrote about Steve Kleinedler’s guesting on a Boston radio show and offered advice on how to treat words you “particularly dislike.”

Why new words survive. What would make words permanent? Allan Metcalf gave five rules of survival for words.

Words involving theft. Merrill Perlman discussed usage of “robbery,” “burglary” and other words related to theft.

Tuxedo verbs. Constance Hale posted on Grammar Girl about verbs with dressed-up synonyms or what she called “tuxedo verbs.”

Longest word. It’s 189,819 letters and takes three and a half hours to pronounce.

Other Stories

Copyediting. “I write today in sorrow that the organization I once worked for had to thin its ranks of more experienced copy editors,” Pam Nelson lamented on The Grammar Guide blog on the American Copy Editors Society site as she points out errors in the newspaper she once was part of.

Search engines. Think you’ve mastered using search engines to get the most relevant results you want? Think again. “How to use Google was once so easy: I’d type in a search term, hit Search, and learn something. But now, they personalize results,” wrote Get-It-Done Guy. In this post, he offered a few tips on how to use search engines better.

Writing. Young, aspiring writers who “fret about writer’s block or about never having the time to write” (but “spend a whole lot of that precious time posting cartoons about writing on Facebook or putting up statuses about how if they only had more free time they just know they could get their novels written”) may benefit from Silas House’s advice: Take time to be still. Meanwhile, a new study “found that text messages, blogging and social media can actually help hone the skills of youngsters.”

We at Project Chiron aim to encourage the use of social media for knowledge exchange and skills development. We’re not necessarily about current events; we are about relevance, credibility and innovation. With millions of content spread and shared through social media networks every day, we want to help you see what’s important so you won’t have to sweep through all your news feeds and tweets. Our weekly roundups are curated by Dan Dupale, Mina Jesuitas and Mark Hilaria and edited by Adrian Claudio.


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