Churchill's wartime worries - beer, grammar, rubbish
Even in the middle of World War Two, Winston Churchill still
had time to worry about rubbish in the streets, the finer points
of English grammar and whether his troops had enough beer, secret
files released on Tuesday [18 June 2002] showed.
As he planned the June 1944 invasion of France's Normandy
beaches, Britain's wartime Prime Minister did not neglect the
environment, while German bombs rained down on London during the
"Just below the Foreign Office on the grass opposite St James's
Park there is a very untidy sack with holes in it and sand leaking
out... Such a conspicuous place ought not to look untidy, unless
there is some real need which can be satisfied in no other way," he
wrote in March 1944.
Churchill's thoughts came to light when Britain's Public Records
Office opened dossiers of Churchill's personal minutes and telegrams,
some never seen before.
Later in May, the doughty politician railed at his Director of Military
Intelligence for sloppy use of the English language. "Why must you write
'intensive' here? 'Intense' is the right word. You should read Fowler's
Modern English Usage on the use of the two words," he fumed...
(extract from Reuters, article by Georgina Prodhan)
Rumpy pumpy, Weakest Link and Full Monty get into Roget's Thesaurus
Alternative words for sex have made it into the 150th anniversary edition of Roget's Thesaurus.
Rumpy pumpy joins The Weakest Link and The Full Monty as new featured phrases.
Also included are 24/7 instead of continuously and yob culture for ill-breeding.
And the internet supplies dozens of new words from webcam to dotcom, ebook and cybersex.
The latest edition is published by Penguin on July 4 and has 300,000 words, reports the Daily Mirror.
(extract from the Ananova site referencing the Daily Mirror)
Aue's Truly Donovan Publishes!
A missing husband ... a mysterious portrait ... a twenty-year-old crime ...
The only clue is a portrait of an unknown woman, painted by an equally mysterious artist, but it proves to be enough as Lexy discovers once again that there is no limit to the evil people are capable of inflicting on others in the name of love.
Lexy's search takes her from the lush landscapes of the Mid-Hudson Valley of New York to the stark mountain ridges of Nevada before it ends in a confrontation with a killer in the Rocky Mountains of her own backyard.
Truly Donovan's second novel, "Winslow's Wife" is now available at Amazon
Use the link below to read the first chapter!
'Er' cautions listeners to stay on side: 'Ums' and 'uhs' contain meaning, say US psychologists.
(Accents and speech)
...'Uh' and 'um' send information to listeners just like proper words, say Herbert Clark of Stanford University, California, and his colleague Jean Fox Tree at the University of California, Santa Cruz. They analysed transcripts of conversations between academics and from phone conversations and answering-machine messages.
English speakers lob in 'um' before a long pause and 'uh' in front of a brief hiatus, the analysis revealed. People even create compounds such as 'the-um' or 'and-uh', says Clark, showing that speakers know that there is going to be a problem after the word even before they begin it.
The researchers believe that speech contains two streams of information, which speakers blend and listeners unravel. One strand contains the meaning. With the other - asides such as 'um', 'uh', 'like' and 'y'know?' - speakers comment on how smoothly their train of thought is running. "Remarkably, we do these things more or less simultaneously during conversation," says Clark.
Speech researcher Robin Lickley agrees that 'uh' and 'um' should be treated as genuine words. "People tend to think of these things as sloppy, whereas they're perfectly normal," says Lickley, who works at Queen Margaret University College in Edinburgh.
He also likes the idea that speech contains parallel strands. But he doubts that 'uh' and 'um' really perform the function that Clark and Fox Tree claim for them. "I don't think they're inserted to help the listener - about half the time people don't notice them," he says. "They just keep the flow of speech going."
Other studies have shown, however, that listeners process speech more quickly with the 'ums' and 'uhs' left in than when they are taken out. And beginning an answer with 'um' is interpreted as showing greater uncertainty than a silent pause of the same length.
(extract from the "Nature" site, article by John Whitfield)
Speech for you .com
Having to give a formal persuasive speech, toast or eulogy can be one of the most tense and nervous ordeals you experience. It may be a wedding speech, an emotional eulogy at a funeral, a birthday speech or a resignation speech. Regardless the task is not an easy one. It is indeed likely that this is the first time in many years that you have had to speak in public.
SpeechForYou.com consists of a broad range of speeches, toast and eulogy tributes pre-written by professional writers. We can email a pre-packaged speech, wedding speech, wedding toast, birthday speech, retirement toast or eulogy to you within seconds or we can custom write a persuasive speech, toast or eulogy for any occasion within 72 hours (normally 48 hours). Our pre-packaged speeches, toasts and eulogies include, as an option, selected quotations from famous people including John F Kennedy, Sir Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and Margaret Thatcher.
(extract from the "Speech for you" site)
OED Adds "Bonkbuster" to its List
The Oxford English Dictionary has added the word
``bonkbuster'' to its online version, defining it as ``a type of
popular novel characterized by frequent sexual encounters between the
The word was among 1,764 new and revised entries added to the
electronic version of the dictionary on Monday.
The OED says the term is chiefly British in its use and dates it
back to 1988, when it was used by Sue Limb.
Limb told the Guardian: ``It's an unexpected event. People keep
telling me I've made my place in history, so I can die happily now.''
She said that for someone like herself who regularly played with
words it was an easy step from blockbuster to bonkbuster after a
publisher asked for a ``big thick book with lots of bonking in it''.
(extract from Deutsche Presse Agentur)
J. R. R. Tolkien and the OED
As one of the assistants of Henry Bradley, the second of the four Editors of the First Edition of the OED, Tolkien worked on words near the beginning of the letter W. The first entry in the published Dictionary on which he is known to have worked is that for the noun waggle; he also worked on the verb, the main sense of which he defined as 'to move (anything held or fixed at one end) to and fro with short quick motions, or with a rapid undulation; esp. to shake (any movable part of the body)'. The great majority of the entries for which slips of paper in Tolkien's distinctive handwriting survive in the OED archives lie in the alphabetical range waggle to warlock.
Some words, including walnut, walrus, and wampum, seem to have been assigned to Tolkien because of their particularly difficult etymologies. In the case of walrus, he wrote out many different versions of the etymology - six of which, remarkably, have survived in the archives thanks to Tolkien's habit of recycling discarded slips by turning them over and writing on the other side. In fact walnut, walrus, and wampum were among the few entries singled out by Henry Bradley when the fascicle W to Wash was published in 1921 as containing 'etymological facts or suggestions not given in other dictionaries'. Characteristically, Tolkien continued to puzzle over some of these etymologies long after he had left the OED to take up a post at Leeds University: a notebook survives in the Bodleian Library in Oxford containing many pages of notes on walrus written in the 1920s, and he may have lectured on this topic in Leeds.
Other words, such as waistcoat, wake (noun), wan, and want, posed rather different challenges. Teasing out fine distinctions of meaning is a key part of a lexicographer's job, as is the selection of words to convey precisely the connotations, as well as the simple meaning, of a word: Tolkien evidently took great pains over both. He relished the task of distinguishing the different garments denoted at different times by waistcoat (as he later grew to relish the garment itself); among the numerous drafts of his definitions of wake which survive are many colourful turns of phrase which he considered in his attempts to convey the spirit of a wake; and he was clearly fascinated by the change in meaning undergone by wan, which in Old English was applied to dark or gloomy things, and carried no suggestion of pallor or faintness. His biggest challenge, however, must surely have been want, one of the commonest of all verbs, which eventually required nearly thirty separately defined senses and subsenses.
(extract from the "Oxford English Dictionary News")
Wonga, dosh or bread, it's cash, depending on where you live
... A new "cash map" of Britain, drawn up by Barclays, suggests there is more slang for sterling, than for almost any other everyday item.
The Fluent in Finance report from the bank, catalogues the rich vocabulary which has grown up around money over the past 300 years and celebrates the language of money from the times of Shakespeare to the latest terms in use today.
Across the whole of the UK, "dosh" - which derives from dollar and cash - is the favourite term for money, while in Scotland the word "dough" is most commonly used.
"Wonga" is the top slang term in London, while in the west country, cash is referred to as "lolly". In the south it is "moolah" and in Wales its known as "readies".
Folk in the north-east of England refer to the contents of their purses or wallets as "bread", while in the north-west and Yorkshire its "brass". The term "wad" is favourite in the West Midlands.
The Barclays report also found bizarre terms for money such as "rogan josh" and "orange squash" as cash gains its own rhyming slang.
John Ayt , editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Slang and author of the report, said: "When it comes to language, money is one of the most prolific and productive sources of vocabulary across the world.
THE Top 10 money terms in the UK are:
(extract from "The Scotsman", article by Andrew Murray-Watson)
Volunteers Sought for Real-Time Web Translator
"Worldwide Lexicon prepares peer-to-peer network of online dictionaries, people to promote on-the-fly translation.
Imagine being able to communicate via instant messaging with people who don't speak your language, or translate a foreign-language news bulletin automatically when you open it in your browser.
These are just two of the applications envisioned by promoters of the Worldwide Lexicon, an all-volunteer project founded by Brian McConnell. His concept: a distributed computing architecture drawing on nodes of participating PCs--and people--around the globe. At its heart is a simple protocol that links Web-based dictionaries, encyclopedias, and translation servers. It can even query human translators via a Gnutella-like peer-to-peer network.
'The Internet has eliminated physical boundaries, but there are still language boundaries,' McConnell says, describing the project at the recent O'Reilly Emerging Technologies conference. He proposes the Worldwide Lexicon as a simple, effective way to provide access to the wealth of language resources on the Web. Potential volunteers can inquire at the site, and the first components are expected to go live this summer. As WWL project leader, even McConnell is a volunteer; he is a cofounder and developer at Trekmail.com, a dictation service that enables customers to send e-mail by telephone....
The last piece of the puzzle is development of applications that let people access WWL servers for language translation in near-real time, according to McConnell and others on the project. By embedding hooks to WWL in instant messaging clients, for example, people could request automatic machine translations of incoming and outgoing messages. They could also request a translation of slang, metaphors, or other words not in the dictionary, by one of the volunteer client translators....
McConnell foresees the WWL will eventually automatically translate news reports and other topical information. Client translators could volunteer to work on small parts of long documents in a translation process called "segmentation." The separate translations are recombined automatically and output in HTML." [PC World]
(extract from Jenny Levine's "Tech Goddess" site referencing an article in "PC World" by Dennis O'Reilly)
What is the etymology of "Pizza Margherita"? "Pizza Margarita"?
The pizza, made in the colors of the Italian flag, was named for
HRH Margherita Maria Teresa Giovanna, Principessa di Savoja-Genova (born
at Torino, November 20, 1851; died at Bordighera near Imperia, Liguria,
January 4, 1926), subsequently (1878-1900) Queen of Italy. At the
Duomo di San Giovanni Battista, Turin, on April 22, 1868, she married
HRH Umberto Rainerio Carlo Emanuele Giovanni Maria Ferdinando
Eugenio, Principe di Savoja (born at Torino, March 14th, 1844; acceded
to the throne of Italy on January 9, 1878; assassinated at at Monza near
Milan, July 29, 1900.
Text from a website: Windows on Italy -- The History of Pizza
Considered a peasant's meal in Italy for centuries, modern pizza is
attributed to baker Raffaele Esposito of Napoli (Naples) in the
Italian region of Campania. In 1889, Esposito of Pizzeria di Pietro
(now called Pizzeria Brandi) baked pizza especially for the visit of
Italian King Umberto I and Queen Margherita and for one of the pizzas
embellished the classic Pizza Alla Marinara with mozzarella and basil.
The pizza was very patriotic and resembled the Italian flag with its
colors of green (basil), white (mozzarella), and red (tomatoes), and
was favored by the Queen. This pizza was named Pizza Margherita in
honor of the Queen...
Some writers have considered the pizza an invention of the man who is
responsible for making it an international phenomenon (but the fact
that this man worked in a pizzeria makes it difficult to call him the
father of pizza!). In 1889, Rafaele Esposito of the Pizzeria di Pietro
e Basta Cosi (now called Pizzeria Brandi) baked pizza especially for
the visit of King Umberto I and Queen Margherita. To make the pizza a
little more patriotic-looking, Esposito used red tomato sauce, white
mozzarella cheese and green basil leaves as toppings. Queen Margherita
loved the pizza, and what eventually became Pizza Margherita has since
become an international standard. Pizzeria Brandi, now more than 200
years old, still proudly displays a royal thank-you note signed by
Galli Camillo, "head of the table of the royal household", dated June
(extract from the aue archives, article by Frank Young)
The Philosophy of Punctuation
Punctuation absorbs more of my thought than seems healthy for a man who pretends to be well adjusted. The subject is naturally attractive to all with character structures of the sort Freud dubbed anal, and I readily confess to belong to that sect. We anal folk keep neat houses, are always on time, and know all the do's and don't's, including those of punctuation. Good punctuation, we feel, makes for clean thought. A mania for punctuation is also an occupational hazard for almost any teacher, as hundreds of our hours are given over to correcting the vagrant punctuation of our students.
One approach to punctuation is by way of rules. In my very favorite book, The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E. B. White, we may read, for example, Rule Number 2: "In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last." I couldn't agree more heartily, and I love the quaint formulation. Better than that, I have inserted the missing comma in countless sentences written by students and colleagues of mine. I have also suffered no little distress seeing that comma removed from my own prose after it has been sent to the New York Times Book Review or (yes, I'm sorry to say) the New Republic, both of which clearly have adopted policies of eliminating this serial comma so beloved by purists.
Periods and commas are lovely because they are simple. They force the writer to express his ideas directly, to eliminate unnecessary hedges, to forgo smart-aleck asides. They also contribute to the logical solidity of a piece of writing, since they make us put all our thoughts into words. By way of contrast, a colon can be used to smooth over a rough logical connection. It has a verbal content ranging anywhere from "namely" to "thus," and it can function to let the writer off the hook. Periods and commas, because of their very neutrality, make one an honest logician.
Semicolons are pretentious and overactive. These days one seems to come across them in every other sentence. "These days" is alarmist, since half a century ago the German poet Christian Morgenstern wrote a brilliant parody, "Im Reich der Interpunktionen," in which imperialistic semicolons are put to rout by an "Antisemikolonbund" of periods and commas. Nonetheless, if the undergraduate essays I see are representative, we are in the midst of an epidemic of semicolons. I suspect that the semicolon is so popular because it is the first fancy punctuation mark students learn of, and they assume that its frequent appearance will lend their writing a properly scholarly cast. Alas, they are only too right. But I doubt that they use semicolons in their letters. At least I hope they don't.
More than half of the semicolons one sees, I would estimate, should be periods, and probably another quarter should be commas. Far too often, semicolons, like colons, are used to gloss over an imprecise thought. They place two clauses in some kind of relation to one another but relieve the writer of saying exactly what that relation is. Even the simple conjunction "and," for which they are often a substitute, has more content, because it suggests compatibility or logical continuity. ("And," incidentally, is among the most abused words in the language. It is forever being exploited as a kind of neutral vocalization connecting two things that have no connection whatever.)
(extract from the University of Chicago Press site, article by Paul Robinson)
Snobs Are Made, Not Born
Everyone knows a snob when he sees one, he notes. But there is considerably less agreement about exactly what makes one a snob. Virginia Woolf, who confessed to uppity impulses - like keeping letters from her titled friends in conspicuous view - in her 1936 essay "Am I a Snob?," claimed that "the essence of snobbery is that you wish to impress other people."
Marcel Proust, a famous snob from a country generally thought to be teeming with them, defined snobbery as "admiration of something in other people unconnected with their personality." He also called it "the greatest sterilizer of inspiration, the greatest deadener of originality, the greatest destroyer of talent." Perhaps, Mr. Epstein suggests, the philosopher George Santayana put it best when he said that to call someone a snob "is a very vague description but a very clear insult."
Lexicographers can provide no further help. The origins of the word snob are a total mystery, though Mr. Epstein comes up with four intriguing theories: 1) it is derived from a Scandinavian term for dolt or charlatan 2) it comes from an abbreviation of the Latin sine nobilitate, supposedly used to distinguish commoners from bona fide nobles on official lists 3) it is an antonym for the word nob, British slang for a person of genuine wealth and stature or 4) it is derived from French peasants' elision of the phrase "c'est noble," meaning "it's noble."
But whatever its roots, scholars generally agree that before the 19th century, the word snob simply did not exist. And in Mr. Epstein's view, this makes sense. Snobbery, he contends, is a peculiarly modern disease: a byproduct of democracy. "The social fluidity that democracy makes possible, allowing people to climb from the bottom to the top of the ladder of social class in a generation or two," he writes, "provides a fine breeding ground for snobbery and gives much room to exercise condescension, haughtiness, affectation, false deference and other egregious behavior so congenial to the snob."
(extract from the "New York Times" site, article by Emily Eakin)
Welcome to The Wordtree - - the world's only full-language Reverse Dictionary
HELLO!-- AND WHAT IS A REVERSE DICTIONARY? Well, today's world requires you to use ever more specific words. And a Reverse Dictionary can find them precisely. But do you know them? What, for example, is the difference between penetrating something and cutting it? (Jot down your answer, and soon you can compare it with our answer number 1; press the button.)
Do you seek a precise term, only to find that it stays on the tip of your tongue but can't be remembered? Now there is a discovery that helps anyone wishing to use English correctly, and especially for the following occupations: Authors. Journalists. Advertising copywriters. Technical writers. Editors. Lawyers. Product namers. Patent attorneys. Word gamesters. Natural scientists. Social scientists. Linguists. Multi-national corporation personnel. English-learning foreigners. Translators. Engineering specification writers. Public relaters (PR). Librarians. Artificial intelligists. Teachers & students.
All these wordsmiths require verbal precision to execute their plans. For example, suppose you're trying to remember the word that means delaying a vote by debating endlessly. Up to now, there has been no systematic way to answer questions like these. Yet such knowledge is absolutely needed by many occupations.
(extract from the "Wordtree" site)
Is English the only language that has spelling bees?
No, but they're not as common in other languages as they are in English.
French-speaking schools in Quebec hold a yearly Concours D'allation, or spelling bee, said Aladin Legault d'Auteuil, trade commissioner at the Canadian Consulate in Minnesota.
In Germany, the rechtschreibungwettbewerb, or spelling bee, is not a big thing, according to Michaela Smith of the German Consulate.
"I personally don't remember spelling contests while growing up," she said. Reading contests, yes, but not spelling bees.
A spelling bee in Spanish is called concurso de ortografia, according to the Oxford Spanish Dictionary. But they're not typical in Mexican schools, according to the Mexican Consulate in Chicago.
Nor are they common in Norway, according to Liv Dahl, of the Norwegian Consulate in Minneapolis.
Several foreign countries send spellers to the annual Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee in the United States, according to William Dolan of the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee. They include American Samoa, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Mexico, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But these spellers compete in English.
(extract from the "StarTribune" site)
Origin of "piffy on a rock", "piffy on a rock-bun" (Appeal)
We are searching for a definitive etymology for the expression, "piffy on a rock", or "piffy on a rock-bun". This expression has been used on "Coronation Street", and is commonly heard in England's Manchester area. Anyone with a definitive etymology is asked to contact the English Usage Webmistress (contact details are given below).
Grammar, Punctuation, and Capitalization: A Handbook for Technical Writers and Editors
The four chapters making up this reference publication were originally written as part of an ongoing effort to write a style manual for the Technical Editing Branch of the NASA Langley Research Center. These chapters were written for technical publishing professionals (primarily technical editors) at Langley. At the urging of my branch head, I am making this part of the style manual available to the technical publishing community.
This publication is directed toward professional writers, editors, and proofreaders. Those whose profession lies in other areas (for example, research or management), but who have occasion to write or review others' writing will also find this information useful. By carefully studying the examples and revisions to these examples, you can discern most of the techniques in my editing "bag of tricks"; I hope that you editors will find these of particular interest.
(extract from the NASA site, article and handbook by Mary K. McCaskill)
YOUTH WINS NATIONAL SPELLING BEE WITH 'PROSPICIENCE'
Pratyush Buddiga, a 13-year-old speller from Colorado Springs, Colo., won
the 75th Annual Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington after
spelling correctly the word "prospicience," meaning foresight.
The son of Rekha and Jayasimha Buddiga represented the Rocky Mountain News
in Denver in this year's competition. It was the first year he competed in the
National Spelling Bee.
The spelling competition began Wednesday with 250 competitors who qualified
to compete in the national spelling bee by winning locally sponsored bees in
their home communities.
Pratyush received a $12,000 cash award, an engraved loving cup, a set of the
Encyclopedia Britannica, one set of the Great Books of the Western World and
the 2002 Britannica CD. He also received a $1,000 U.S. savings bond and a
reference library from Merriam-Webster.
Finishing second was Steven Matthew Nalley of Starkville, Miss., the son of
Barbara and Timothy Nalley, who represented the The Commercial Appeal in
Memphis, Tenn. Steven received a cash prize of $6,000.
The Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee is the nation's largest and longest
running educational promotion.
Frank Neuhauser, the winner of the first National Spelling Bee in 1925,
attended the final rounds of this year's competition. The 88-year-old retired
patent attorney of Potomac, Md., won the 1925 contest by correctly spelling
the word "gladiolus." He received a cash prize of $500 in $20 gold coin pieces.
After watching some of the spellers trip up on words such as "roriferous," "tiralee," and "objicient," Neuhasuer commented that the words were much more difficult than in his day.
Searchable, Browsable Directory of Medical Eponyms
Whonamedit.com is a biographical dictionary of medical eponyms. It is our ambition to present a complete survey of all medical phenomena named for a person, with a biography of that person. Eventually, this will include more than 15.000 eponyms and more than 6.000 persons.
To find a particular person, use the "List persons by last name"-function. Just click on the first letter of the person's last name. Alternatively you can find all persons linked to a particular eponym listed at the top of the eponym description.
To find a particular eponym, you may either browse through the categories or perform a free text-search. In addition, all eponyms relevant to a particular person are listed in his or her biography. (extract from the "Whonamedit" site)
LAST CALL FOR PAPERS: 6th CONFERENCE ON CONCEPTUAL STRUCTURE, DISCOURSE AND LANGUAGE
RICE UNIVERSITY, Houston, Texas OCTOBER 12-14, 2002
KEYNOTE SPEAKERS: JOHN LUCY, University of Chicago (tentative); RONALD LANGACKER, University of Californa, San Diego; SUSANNA CUMMING, University of California, Santa Barbara
CSDL 6 welcomes papers in the fields of Cognitive Linguistics, Discourse, Functional Linguistics, and Speech and Language Processing, dealing with all aspects of language (structure, acquisition, variation, change) and all
levels of language (phonology, morphosyntax, lexicon, discourse, and neural processing).
(use the link below for the conference website)
Political success is as easy as ABC...
The excellent backbench Labour MP Dr Tony Wright complains of discrimination. He says politicians like him whose names occur at the very end of the alphabetical order don't seem to reach the top flight as easily as As, Bs and Cs such as Asquith, Attlee, Baldwin, Blair and Callaghan. And indeed the pattern seems at first sight astonishing. Of the 20 prime ministers of the 20th century, 17 had names in the A-M range and only three from the N to Zs, one of whom was Lord Salisbury (family name Cecil).
FACT: Of 19 poet laureates, five had names occurring somewhere between the beginning and Dickins; three had names between Dickins and Kernkraut; just two, including the present one, came in the Kernkraut-Pusinelli sequence; and a whacking great nine came at the end, between Pusinelli and Zzaman. Reverse alphabetism here, I think.
FACT: Group scores for the forenames of 42 English kings and queens since the conquest are as follows: 1st Eltham Scouts to Dickins, 3; Kernkraut to Pusinelli, 2, including Mary II who reigned jointly with William III, but excluding both Matilda and Maud; Pusinelli to Zzaman, 9; but Dickins to Kernkraut, a mind-boggling 28, including every one since Victoria. Just see how different things are when, as with poets laureate, you don't have to face an electorate.
(extract from the "GuardianUnlimited" site, article by "Smallweed")
Singapore filmmaker launches campaign to save local patois
SINGAPORE - A Singapore filmmaker Saturday responded to a government push for citizens to speak proper English and cut down on local slang with a campaign of his own - to save the local patois known as Singlish.
Singlish is a unique blend of English, Malay, Tamil and various Chinese dialects.
Filmmaker Colin Goh's "Save Our Singlish" campaign launched Saturday is an unabashed marketing ploy by him and his colleagues to promote their comedy film and new book, a dictionary of Singlish.
"Singlish is to Singapore what Creole is to the Cajuns, what Cockney is to Londoners," said Goh.
The Singapore Broadcasting Authority could not be immediately reached for comment Saturday.
Goh's campaign follows the launch last week of the government's second annual "Speak Good English" campaign, aimed at making trade-dependent Singaporeans more comprehensible to the people they do business with.
(extract from the "Yahoo News" site, article by the Associated Press)
Mr Blunkett should watch his words
David Blunkett knows the power of emotive political language. One day last week he spoke on Radio 4's Today programme, expressing his concern that some doctors' surgeries were being "swamped" by asylum-seekers. The next day he was interviewed again, and stated that he stood by the use of the word "swamped", only his concern now was that some schools were being overwhelmed. The precise details did not matter to Mr Blunkett - it was surgeries one day and schools the next. What did not change was his unapologetic use of the word "swamped". On his second appearance, the Home Secretary said he had checked the dictionary definition and he was entirely relaxed about it all.
The use of the dictionary was Mr Blunkett at his most disingenuous. He deliberately deployed the term in an attempt to convey his toughness on the asylum issue, to demonstrate that he was no weak-kneed liberal. At the same time he sought to affect an innocence by suggesting the word was entirely neutral. Margaret Thatcher's use of the word in the late Seventies purged the term of any neutrality. It is anyway a provocative term, nearly always used in a negative context. Mr Blunkett enjoys his reputation of being a straight, tough talker. He was not being straight in his mischievous defence of this bout of rhetoric.
On highly sensitive issues the language used by politicians is as important as the policies. Enoch Powell had ceased to be a minister when he became famous for his provocative speeches on ethnic minorities from 1968 onwards. Mr Powell's influence was solely in his use of words, articulating and legitimising prejudices. In contrast to Mr Powell, Mr Blunkett has real power. More to the point, his actual policies are worthy and well targeted. One of his main objectives is to integrate genuine asylum-seekers into the community, rather than segregate them in ghettos. His populist language will help to achieve the precise opposite of his objectives.
(extract from the "Independent" site)
Young Scots breathe new life into auld slang rhymes
Are ye corned beef? I said sit doon on yer chorus and we'll have a wee Salvador. Mine's a Mick Jagger by the way.
The Scots tongue, already incomprehensible to many south of the border, is about to become even more abstruse with the emergence of a new form of Scottish rhyming slang.
Researchers compiling a series of Scottish language dictionaries say devolution has spawned a distinctive rhyming vernacular, especially among the country's young.
So now, on top of the glottal stop and the distinctive burr, translators will have to contend with such obscure Scots phraseology as corned beef, as in "deif", as in deaf. And chorus, as in chorus and verse, as in "erse", as in arse. Salvador, as in Dali, as in "swallie", as in swallow, as in drink. Jagger as in lager.
Pauline Cairns, a senior editor for the new dictionaries, said there had always been examples of rhyming slang in Scots but its use had become much more widespread thanks to a growing national pride in the country's native tongue following the creation of the Scottish parliament and the breakdown of the class system.
Language expert Iseabail Macleod said researchers working on the new dictionar ies had noticed that rhyming slang was becoming more common north of the border, particularly in Glasgow, but said the Scottish version would fall hard on English ears.
"The use of rhyming slang was always thought of as a London thing. But one interesting thing which will tell you that this way of rhyming is different is that it won't work in English," she said.
"For example, we say corned beef to mean 'deif', but beef doesn't rhyme with deaf. And 'pottit heid' means 'deid', which doesn't rhyme with the word dead."
But with a political leader (Jack McConnell) whose surname doesn't easily lend itself to verse, Scots still have to refer south of the border on some matters. As in "yer Tony's in a real state". As in hair. As in Blair.
(extract from the "GuardianUnlimited" site, article by Kirsty Scott)
The etymology and pronunciation of "Padraig Breathnach"
(People - recorded by Padraig Breathnach)
This item has been moved to the main aue site.
The Difference Between Saving A Buck Or Two And Blowing $20 Is Spelling COLLECT Right
"Dial 1-800-CALLL-ATT or 1-800-COLLETC and instead of saving a buck or two, your answering friend or relative will see a $15 charge for a one minute call. Instead of AT&T or MCI handling your collect call, a company based out of Knoxville, TN, called ASC Telecom will gladly handle your collect call for nearly $10 more," beelerspace writes. "No big surprise there; those who are net-literate understand the peril of misspelling fat-fingered url typing. What is a surprise is that ASC is 100% wholly owned by Sprint. Despite that ASC even has a dummy Sprint collect number, Sprint hasn't canceled its ties with the company in face of building news media (video clip) and a pending lawsuit. Me? I just hope ASC doesn't plan to add to the dearth of horrible collect call commercials by hiring Gilbert Gottfried to make dumb jokes about phones."
(extract from the "Plastic" site)
Recordings from World War I and the 1920 Election
(Accents and speech)
The Nation's Forum Collection consists of fifty-nine sound recordings of speeches by American leaders from 1918-1920. The speeches focus on issues and events surrounding the First World War and the subsequent presidential election of 1920. Speakers include: Warren G. Harding, James Cox, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Samuel Gompers, Henry Cabot Lodge, and John J. Pershing. Speeches range from one to five minutes.
The Recorded Sound Reference Center provides access to the commercial and archival audio holdings of the Library of Congress. The collection dates from 1926 when Victor Records donated over 400 discs to the Library's Music Division to supplement its print and manuscript holdings. In the custody of the Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division since 1978, the collection has grown to include over 2 million items encompassing audio formats from cylinders to CDs. The holdings complement the field recordings of the American Folklife Center and the moving image collections served in the Motion Picture and Television Reading Room.
(extracts from the U. S. Library of Congress site)
How to Write a Better Weblog (Other)
THERE'S BEEN A RECENT retread of the weblogging phenomenon following a few articles at PC Mag, Time, and The Morning News. After posting my own short list of things that ought to be banned from weblogs, I realized that a list of things to be encouraged would be more useful. Some people are new to weblogging. Others want to raise the bar. In the end, everybody wants better sites, and some of these suggestions might help.
The bulk of this advice focuses on writing, which is generally at the heart of weblogs. All of them are obvious yet often ignored, to the detriment of both the readers and the writers. They're aimed at people trying to improve the general appeal of their weblogs, but folks writing privately for friends and family might also find them useful.
(extract from the "A List Apart" site, article by Dennis A. Mahoney)
Book Review, They Have a Word for It (Other)
They Have a Word for It, Howard Rheingold, Jeremy P. Archer, Inc., St. Martins's Press (c) 1988, ISBN: 0-87477-464-0
This a delightful book that introduces one to the fact that there are many words and concepts in various foreign languages that do not exist in the English.
Here is a summary of the author's (plus some personal additions) list of foreign words that address some strange or interesting ways of looking at things: (Some of which we just might be able to use in English!)
(extract from book review by E. Stiltner)
Interstellar Travelers Will Have to Watch Their Language
If you speak English, you have a linguistic leg up on becoming an interstellar traveler. But there is a snag.
Everybody knows that hopping between stars is tough, no matter how you cut time and distance. Looking at the voyage today, such a trek might take multiple generations.
At issue is how will Earthlings communicate with people returning from a 200-year space excursion?
That was one question grappled with during a session on interstellar travel and multi-generational space ships, held last month during an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts
Making a space ark that's not just comfy, but also a sociological and behavioral "safe haven" for a cooped up couple-hundred folks is one tall order.
A way to keep everybody on an even keel is picking the space vehicle's vernacular. Forget any tongue-defying melding of languages, like Esperanto. That deliberately designed idiom has too shallow a pool of speakers. Such a language would not permit enough flexibility in choosing the space travelers in the first place.
Those are a few talking points from Sarah Thomason, a professor of linguistics at the University of Michigan.
Thomason told the AAAS session-goers that English is the obvious and best choice, basing her decision on practicality.
Given the length of a cosmic commute between stars, one concern is what changes might occur to language over the passage of time. Thomason doesn't think there will be major alterations. "Modern English speakers are able to read Shakespeare, who wrote about 400 years ago," she noted.
So returning space travelers to Earth should be able to talk to English speakers on arrival.
However, changes in vocabulary may take place, because the travelers' environment will be so different from any Earthly setting, she said. Also, there's the issue of "techno-speak" - words that will evolve as humans interact with the technology that keeps everyone alive and in ship shape condition.
"For any interstellar space traveler, you'll have a whole New World onboard that space ship. People are going to have words for it that are going to be different from anybody's language on Earth," Thomason said.
They might want to distinguish themselves linguistically from the people they left behind. This is not an unusual happening, Thomason said. The reasons are not linguistic, but social. And with the English-speaking travelers coming from various parts of the world with a variety of English dialects, the travelers will undoubtedly establish their own dialect.
Thomason said that children born on a star ship would create a unique dialect of English.
"You can call it 'space English' without being too fanciful," the linguist said. "You'll have teenagers growing up and inventing slang too. That slang is going to be different than slang used by teenagers on Earth. Some words will stay in the language, but some won't. Slang can become old hat ... which is an old slang term in itself," she said.
"The first generation of children born on the space vehicle will surely speak in a dialect that differs from all of the parents' dialects, and from every other dialect of English spoken on Earth," Thomason suggested.
(extract from the "Space.Com" site, article by Leonard David)
New book challenges theories of black speech
A new book by two North Carolina State University linguists challenges a half-century of sociolinguistic theory and takes a fresh look at the history of the controversial and highly visible ethnic English dialect Ebonics, also known as African-American Vernacular English (AAVE).
The book, titled "The Development of African American English," was written by Dr. Walt Wolfram, William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of English, and Dr. Erik Thomas, associate professor of English, and is scheduled to be released in England by Blackwell Publishing this week. It asserts that African-American speech is derived both from British-based dialects, which would have been adopted by blacks as they were enslaved and brought to colonial America, and vestiges of an African-based Creole language markedly different from British-based dialects. Based largely on research conducted in Hyde County, N.C., Wolfram and Thomas call into question the dominant linguistic theories of the past 50 years. The book concludes that earlier African-American speech was much more regional, but that it coexisted with language roots from its African heritage.
The history of sociolinguistic theory on African-American English has been dominated by three main theories, according to Wolfram and Thomas: the Anglicist hypothesis of the 1950s, which asserts that blacks spoke British dialects just like any other immigrant ethnic group; the Creolist hypothesis of the 1960s and '70s, which maintains that AAVE has its roots in an expansive Creole language brought from Africa; and the 1990s neo-Anglicist position, which reasserts the Anglicist hypothesis while acknowledging that AAVE radically diverged in the 20th century, making it far different from white vernacular speech.
"One of the ways African-Americans have become increasingly black is by disassociating themselves from local white speech," Wolfram says. "Young African-Americans from Hyde County don't sound like Hyde County folks. Instead, they sound more like a national norm of what African-American speech is supposed to sound like."
Wolfram and Thomas believe that one of the major ways black speech norms in the 20th century have been transmitted is by interregional contact among African-Americans.
"In effect, African-American speech in Hyde County turned away from local, rural norms toward the norms of African-American English found in other settings throughout the United States, particularly urban contexts," the book states. "It is now well established that there is a core set of AAVE structures regardless of where AAVE is spoken in the United States. This generalized core of features seems to be the norm that younger African-American speakers are turning to as their vernacular model at the same time they are moving away from the Hyde County regional dialect norms."
Wolfram and Thomas' research takes a different tack in another portion of Hyde County, though it still supports the new theory. Muzial Bryant is a 97-year-old African-American whose family has lived on Hyde County's Ocracoke Island since the 1860s. In fact, her family has been the only African-American family living on the island, and she now is the only black resident on the island. Yet she does not sound completely like the white Ocracokers she's been around all her life. Most people listening to her say she sounds black.
Current research of an isolated pocket of African-Americans in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina also supports Wolfram and Thomas' thesis. African-Americans sound a lot like whites, but use vestiges of African speech that aren't present in white speech, Wolfram says. Moreover, blacks use these same African vestiges in both Hyde County and in the mountains; Wolfram believes these people have not had any contact, so only his new theory would explain their speech similarities.
"Other theories of African-American speech haven't understood the dynamics of race historically, and therefore of language as it existed and continues to project identity in the 20th century," Wolfram says.
The book was supported by the National Science Foundation and the William C. Friday Endowment.
A noted scholar and past-president of the Linguistic Society of America, the American Dialect Society and the Southeastern Conference on Linguistics, Wolfram has pioneered research on a broad range of vernacular dialects over the past three decades. Under his direction, the program in language variation studies at NC State has become one of the top research programs in language variation in the country. Thomas is a specialist in phonetics who focuses on the computerized measurement of vowel sounds. (extract from the ASA site)
Has Grammar Lost Its Technological Edge?
Bruce Wampler is nostalgic for a not-so-bygone era when software developers battled each other feature by feature for the affections of personal computer users.
Dr. Wampler, a computer scientist, was the principal author of Grammatik, which from the mid-1980's until the early 1990's was one of four leading grammar-checking programs for the desktop PC.
That all began to wind down in 1992 when Microsoft chose to include grammar checking as a feature in its dominant writing program, Word. Other word processing companies quickly followed, and in the last half-decade grammar checking has become a technological backwater.
Today, with the great majority of all PC users writing with Word, the consequence is a ubiquitous grammar-checking feature - a wavy green line that appears, seemingly at random in a PC user's word processing window, underscoring possibly errant phrases. Many users are baffled; others turn the feature off as an annoyance.
When a professor of English recently compared the grammar-checking features in Word and WordPerfect, which is owned by Corel, he found that Word 2000's grammar checker was unable to identify any of the most common errors. WordPerfect did somewhat better, but still found fewer than half.
Similarly, professional writers and editors tend to turn a jaundiced eye toward grammar checking. James Fallows, a writer at The Atlantic Monthly who once worked at Microsoft to try to improve the value of Word for writers and editors, said he could not recall a single instance in which he accepted the advice of Word's grammar checker.
He said that when he complained about Word's poor grammar-checking performance, Microsoft's developers defensively likened the grammar checker to an artificial leg - something useful for people who cannot walk otherwise.
When grammar checkers were being developed as stand-alone programs, things were different, he argued. "The grammar checker you get today in Word is not significantly better than the grammar checker you might have used almost 10 years ago," he wrote in the Internet posting. "This is really sad because we were making great improvements in the quality and accuracy of the software, and had the development continued, there is little doubt that many of deficiencies of grammar checking would have been overcome."
Years ago Mr. Fallows teased Barbara Wallraff, the resident grammarian at The Atlantic Monthly, asking her when a computer might replace her. The comment, he said, "was puckish then and is even more absurd today."
Ms. Wallraff, who wrote a long piece detailing the shortcomings of grammar checkers in the January 1988 issue of the magazine, said she still saw little evidence that great progress was on the horizon.
She said her original interest in the question was motivated by seeing writers make mistakes that she thought a machine could obviously correct. "You quickly begin to see how complicated a problem it is," she said.
Indeed, at least one computer scientist has a straightforward answer to the problem: "Competent grammar checking would be great in principle," said Peter Neumann, a scientist at SRI International and an amateur grammarian. "But there is no substitute for a high school and college education that teaches writing."
(extract from the "New York Times" site, article by John Markoff)
Reflections on Creative Writing Class
on Thursdays we sang. We sang American and Irish folk songs and it didn't matter that my students were Chinese, Hispanic, African, Russian, Jewish, Korean -- the usual New York City agglomeration. We sang "The Yellow Rose of Texas" and "The Rocky Road to Dublin." Not once in 15 years would they ask, "Why are we singing all these songs in a writing class?"
In 1972, the head of the English department at Stuyvesant High School in Lower Manhattan asked if I'd take over three creative writing classes. I thought this might be a nice change after teaching "regular" English. My predecessor in creative writing was happy to return to literature, grammar, spelling, vocabulary. He said the literature textbooks were terrific -- big, glossy things with pictures and charts and discussion questions galore so that you didn't have to trouble your own brain. Teacher guides and booklets bristled with tests: multiple-choice tests and fill-in-the-blanks tests and matching-column tests that would knock your socks off. All this put teachers way ahead of the kids, and my predecessor couldn't wait to hit them with the first test on "The Iliad."
So how do you teach creative writing? When in doubt, tell a story. That's what I advised my students when they complained they had nothing to write about. I assured them that "Once upon a time" was good enough for the Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault and even James Joyce. My students resisted. They were comfortable and middle class and everything was programmed and they were in this school because they were strong in science and mathematics. They would graduate from high school to the best universities and have no adventures because that's the way it was with their families. They had no stories to tell, and in their lives there was no once upon a time. They envied me my miserable Irish childhood and wished (almost) they could be poor so they'd have something to write about.
Food. Every week we read Mimi Sheraton in The Times. Her restaurant reviews were stories with beginning, middle, end. There was structure, abundance of detail, humor and descriptions that had my students swooning with hunger. "Go now," I told them, "and do likewise. Do a Mimi Sheraton on lunch in the school cafeteria or dinner at home tonight."
They ransacked the English language for new ways of describing the school hot dog, the beans, the ice cream and, above all, the ambience. They commented on the service and found it wanting and when it came to the final evaluation only one student awarded the cafeteria a satisfactory rating, and he had recently arrived from Russia.
They wanted to know why I was asking such crazy questions. I told them to figure it out for themselves. The last thing a writer needs is answers -- the end of thought and the dream. But I could have told them what they sensed already: they were beginning to notice what they had previously taken for granted, ritual or the lack of it, the dance of the family dinner.
Where are the dreams and fantasies of childhood? The heads of adolescents are clogged with media images and sounds. The teacher, then, is the Knight or Fair Maid of the Imagination and the battle lines are drawn. Pull the plug, cut off the juice, let the batteries die. Just sit there and dream.
And when in doubt, tell a story.
(extract from the "New York Times" site, article by Frank McCourt - author of "Angela's Ashes")
Aue's Lars Eighner creates online version of "Lavender Blue"!
"The best lessons in getting lucid prose onto paper since Strunk and White." --Louise Weiss, Co-executive, Editorial Freelancers Association
The online edition will be an electronic, hypertext document, frequently revised. Please consult the Preface to the Online Edition frequently for notices concerning the state of revisions and frequently asked questions (FAQs) about this document and its author (rather than the subject matter).(extract from Lars Eighner's site)
Michigan Court Revokes 1897 State Law Against Swearing (AP) (Current usage/news)
A Michigan court revoked a 105-year-old state law that banned the use of vulgar language in front of women and children as it overturned the conviction of a canoeist who swore repeatedly after falling into a river, the Associated Press reported.
The appeals court declared the law unconstitutional, saying it was vague and could subject "a vast percentage of the populace to a misdemeanor conviction," AP said.
The law, enacted in 1897 and slightly reworded in 1931, says that anyone using "indecent, immoral, obscene, vulgar or insulting language in the presence or hearing of any woman or
child shall be guilty of a misdemeanor," AP said.
Use of 'whence' that makes one wince (Definitions)
QT Grammar "R" Us Seminar on the English Language (Election Edition): Mayor Daley says Rahm Emanuel isn't one of those people who will 'forget from once they come from.' What do you think he was actually saying?
QT consulted the transcript.
Mayor Daley seems to have been saying Emanuel isn't one of those people who will forget "from whence they come from."
"Whence," by itself, means "from where," as you may recall.
So Mayor Daley was talking about people who forget from from where they come from.
(extract from the "Chicago Sun-Times" site, article by Zay N. Smith)
Of Nerds And Words: The etymology of technology terms we know and love (Current usage/news)
When Gulliver came across that race of brutes known as Yahoos during his travels to fantastic lands, who could have guessed that one day that name would be worth $200 billion on Wall Street? Coined by Jonathan Swift in his masterly 1726 satire "Gulliver's Travels," the word has come a long way in its nearly 300-year-old journey to becoming one of the best-known Internet addresses in the world. It was Swift's genius that led to several coinages from his famous book entering the English language, including "Brobdingnagian" (something very big), "Lilliputian" (something very small) and "Laputan" (impractical visionary).
But the most popular among them is the one picked in 1994 by David Filo and Jerry Yang for their newly incubated brainchild, Yahoo! According to the Yahoo! Web site, Filo and Yang chose it because they liked what the word represented: someone uncouth and unsophisticated. However, they later explained that the name was an acronym for "Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle."
Their idea was, no doubt, brilliant, as later events have proved, but one has to wonder whether their company would have been as successful if it had been named, say, Acme Internet Solutions.
While it took an 18th-century satirist to name the world's best-known Internet directory, another site, Google, the darling among Internet search engines, owes its name to a 9-year-old boy. In the 1930s, mathematician Edward Kasner asked his nephew, Milton Sirotta, what he thought would be a good word to describe a laaaarge number -- say, 1 followed by 100 zeros. With a twinkle in his eye, Milton promptly suggested the word "googol."
And nothing bugs Netters more than spam. So how did we come to refer to that bane of all e-mail users as "spam"? According to Hormel's Spam Web site, it came from one of the skits of the British comedy troupe Monty Python's Flying Circus, in which a group of Vikings patronize a restaurant where every dish comes accompanied with Spam (Spam being, of course, SPiced hAM, made by Hormel Foods). The Vikings get carried away and sing a rousing chorus of "Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam," drowning out all other conversation.
Internetters, a good number of whom are fans of Monty Python -- guess where the name for the programming language Python comes from? -- seized on the term to describe the torrent of unwanted e-mail messages that sadly drowns out other useful messages, just like "Spam" did for the Vikings.
(extract from the "SF Gate" site, article by Anu Garg)
Speaking in tongues (Current usage/news)
The language barrier used to present no problem for the Brit non-linguist abroad. As a citizen of a post-imperial power you had options. If you didn't understand you could shrug, present placatory upturned palms and ask, 'Didn't some soldiers in red shirts charge through here a few hundred years ago firing muskets, stealing the odd pig and passing on a great international language?'
Not any more. Two weeks ago I was forced to try the old 'Anyone here speak English?' ruse. But this was Los Angeles and the only person who didn't talk the lingo was me. On a pavement cafe on Melrose Avenue I was 'shooting the breeze' with a fellow luncher. Talk turned to the British Olympic skiing bronze achieved with our famous gritty underdog determination. And drugs.
In the UK over the last 15 years, the slang advance has been driven by home-grown dance and US hip-hop scenes. In UK club culture, if your 'joint' is 'bangin' it's going to get 'rinsed'. If it's 'mingin' it's going to be 'sacked'. And as that trio of 'buff' south London speed garage 'hotties' Mis-Teeq explained to Johnny Vaughn on his chat show a few weeks back, you're a 'coot' (idiot) if you don't know a 'messy' (good) tune when you hear it.
You hardly need the Enigma code-breaking machine for this stuff since, in the way of club culture, its vernacular is always about a) how good a record/pair of trainers/club is, or b) how 'off your tits' you are. But for a baffling slang lexicon which covers all aspects of the global urban youth lifestyle (from jewellery - 'bling bling') to how you die ('sucking a Glock lolly' - a Glock is a type of handgun) you must turn to hip-hop, though be warned, the complexities of the new tongue could soon be getting 'all up in your grill'. Examples include 'crunk' (stoned, drunk or just cool), 'fiendin' (hungry, thirsty but not for a sandwich or cup of tea) and 'You're tha bomb!' (term of endearment. Banned on the streets of Tel Aviv).
Except, perhaps, Radio 1 DJ Tim Westwood. Westwood's work 'blowing up the spot' with the hottest hip-hop 'joints' has long been recognised. But his parallel efforts to forge a linguistic link between the natural vernacular of a West Country Vicar's son and the street argot of hip-hop's 'big ballers' surely deserves some kind of 'respect' or 'Big up!'.
Westwood should be installed as Wu Tang Chair of Street Slang at Muthafucking Cambridge University with immediate effect. We're 'fiendin' for a CD-rom of current street slang from him and his homies and if he doesn't 'knowledge us' soon we'll end up like those ruddy-faced cottage-burning yokels still talking Cornish. And for someone who worked his 'bozack' off to get English A-level, that would be a BFD.
(extract from the "Guardian Unlimited" site, article by Michael Odell)
For Most-Favored Term, a Presidential Workout (Current usage/news)
President Bush said recently that the United States has a "fabulous" military. On other occasions, he has proclaimed himself proud of such a fabulous country, and of his fabulous cabinet. Texas and Alaska are both fabulous states. Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, is a fabulous senator.
Laura Bush is doing a fabulous job as first lady, and Mr. Bush's father is a fabulous man. Last fall, Mr. Bush attended a fabulous World Series, and last summer proclaimed baseball a fabulous sport.
That was around the same time that Mr. Bush said he hoped to make "some fabulous history" with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Last year, despite all the tragedy, was a fabulous year for Mr. Bush and his wife. He expects 2002 to be fabulous, too.
In the Bush lexicon, the word seems rooted in Connecticut, a subconscious verbal tic revealing the president's preppy past - a second- generation version of his father asking for "a splash more coffee" at a New Hampshire truck stop, or explaining that he lost a straw poll in Iowa because his backers preferred to attend "coming-out parties."
Presidential verbal tics are nothing new. Former President Bill Clinton used the phrase "a big deal" all the time - on more than 75 occasions between January 1993 and May 1996, in fact, to describe everything from a pending crime bill to a Western buffalo preserve to the joys of homeownership to the deer population of Arkansas. At the time, Mr. Clinton's excessive use was cited as an example of a president sounding too many notes and failing to distinguish what was really important from what was not.
Jesse Sheidlower, the principal editor of the Oxford English Dictionary's North American editorial unit, said that all people, not just presidents, have individual "ideolectal" patterns that distinguish their speech.
"Everyone speaks particular dialects, which are usually regionally and socially distinguished kind of language," Mr. Sheidlower said. A person's ideolect, for example, encompasses pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, tonal qualities and speed. Presidential ideolects, Mr. Sheidlower said, are simply noticed more than others.
(extract from the "New York Times" site, article by Elisabeth Bummiller)
'A Is for American': The Republic of Letters (book review) (Language history)
...But apart from a proud disavowal of ties to both Indians and Europeans, what, exactly, would Americans' common bonds be made of? Lepore's new book, ''A Is for American,'' demonstrates that in the 18th and 19th centuries no potential building block of the new nation was considered too small. The alphabet, in her telling, was far from child's play: ''Letters and other characters -- alphabets, syllabaries, signs and codes -- hold nations together,'' she writes. Or at least that was an article of faith among the seven men she puts at the center of this book.
Since the United States had no language that was entirely its own, patriots of every stripe tried to revamp the ways in which American English was represented symbolically. The nativist Noah Webster fought for an Americanized spelling system, while William Thornton, a West Indian-born polymath with a utopian streak (who also designed the Capitol rotunda in Washington), promoted his idea of a ''universal alphabet.'' It would contain a letter ''for every sound possible in any language,'' making regional dialects less divisive and rendering written English easier for immigrants and slaves to learn.
Neither man succeeded. As Lepore shows, intervening in linguistic matters is always dicey; even a desired outcome can veer off in unintended directions. The Cherokee printer George Guess, known as Sequoyah, devised a writing system for his people's language that some called a virtually perfect alphabet, with a symbol for every distinct sound. But while Cherokee literacy rates rose, Sequoyah's goal of Cherokee separatism foundered. His syllabary became a tool for promoting Christianity among the Cherokees, and was used to empower an elite that had ties to whites and wanted to translate and disseminate English texts.
(extracts from the "New York Times" site, article by Maria Russo)
British Spam week cooks up old memories (Current usage/news)
Monty Python immortalised it, the Soviet Union went to war on it and fish can't resist it.
Spam, the processed ham and pork luncheon meat that started life in America and was wolfed down by war-time Britons, is 65 years old this year and has no plans to retire gracefully.
For British Spam-lovers, this is national Spam week, a chance to celebrate flabby pink memories of meals past and find modern converts to an old pantry standby.
"We're trying to take it to a new audience," said Vicki McDonald, head of Britain's 2,000-strong Spam fan club.
Retro-themed "Spam Glam nights" at British universities tap into nostalgia for school dinners of old. As McDonald says: "There's a certain amount of Spam nostalgia out there."
Marguerite Patten, a TV chef of the 1940s, told Reuters that Spam fritters in her cookery demonstrations at London's Imperial War Museum still produced gasps of "Ooh -- my favourite!"
And humans are not the only fans.
"The bigger fish seem to prefer it," said Dave Tarrant of Ron Summer's Tackle shop, which supplies London fishermen.
"We flavour it with turmeric, garlic or curry, or we colour it -- we use it a hell of a lot," he said.
Carp, barbel, roach and chubb are big Spam eaters but, said Tarrant, "There's nothing that won't take it."
Spam's origins lie in Austin, Minnesota -- since renamed Spamtown -- where in 1937 J.C. Hormel spotted an opportunity to use beer canning technology to can ham. Spam was born.
Since that first can, Hormel Foods has produced more than six billion more and has registered the name, derived from the words "spiced ham", in 111 countries.
Spam's ubiquity was such that the Monty Python comedy team wrote a trademark absurd sketch in homage, featuring two Vikings in a restaurant which served only dishes containing Spam.
The sketch names Spam 102 times, not counting an accompanying song whose only words are "lovely", "wonderful" and "Spam".
Since 1994, the term has been embraced in reference to the Internet -- as a verb, meaning to send unsolicited, or "junk" electronic mail, or as a noun, for the e-mail itself.
But the meat really came into its own in World War Two, doled out in U.S. ration packs and used to keep allies in the Soviet Union fighting.
"Without Spam we wouldn't have been able to feed our army," Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev later recalled.
For war-time Britons, Spam was a delicacy provided by the "lend-lease" American aid programme in 1941, but U.S. troops found it much easier to come by.
"The American forces, I think, had an overdose of Spam," said Patten, whose "SPAM: the cook book" advises chefs instead to turn the old-world meat into thoroughly modern Thai cakes, Italian risotto and Spanish paella.
(extract from the Reuters site)
Did you say "Highjacking" or something else? (Accents and speech)
If you've ever listened in on the conversations between air traffic controllers and jet pilots you know that if you're not "one of the guys" it's often difficult to understand what is being said. But, seasoned pilots and
controllers are often able to hear "through the noise" and make out what is being said. Occasionally, static gets the best of everyone. Witness what happened this week during a conversation between an Air France Airbus A320 and
According to published reports the pilot of the plane, on a domestic flight within France, radioed to say that he "had a fire on board." The controller thought he said "I have five on board" ... meaning five hijackers. The tower radioed France's emergency forces and fighters were scrambled to escort the
The fire was a minor one but the confusion was major. One contributing factor may have been the fact that those engaged in the conversation were speaking English, as required by international air transport law.
(extract from United Press International)
''I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe-I believe what I believe is right." (Current usage/news)
Bush on Bushisms!
"Most of you probably didn't know that I have a new book out. Some guy put together a collection of my wit and wisdom-or, as he calls it, my accidental wit and wisdom. [Laughter.] But I'm kind of proud that my words are already in book form."-Radio-Television Correspondents Association dinner, Washington, D.C., March 29, 2001
(extract from the "Complete Bushisms" page at "Slate")
Global English? (Current usage/news)
Is English on the way to becoming the world's lingua franca? Has the globalization of English -- and, in particular, its use on the Internet -- affected the way you work and live? Join readers from around the world in this special forum...
(The Global English forum at the "Atlantic Monthly" site)
I Say Tomato (Pondial differences)
When we were first looking into setting up a web site especially for Holiday Inn guests from Britain, we did some research on the differences in language that still remain between British English and American English - with particular attention to words related to travel. We thought you might be interested in the results, or even find them useful on your next trip stateside. We haven't bothered with mere spelling or pronunciation differences (of which there are in any case too many to list) or words which are now definitely in both versions of the language. We just list phrases that could actually confuse.
What's interesting is that the list is not static. You might expect, with globalisation and the Microsoft spell-checker, that the two versions of the language would be getting closer together - and in some ways that's true. But as some differences get eliminated, new ones crop up in their stead. We know, of course, that a vacation is a holiday, and thanks to Ronald McDonald we know that a French fry is really a chip. But do we know what we're letting ourselves in for if we order granola? And which vehicle would you prefer to hire: a sedan or an SUV?
(extract from the "Holiday Inn" site)
Spelling errors dominate education fight (Spelling)
The government couldn't help but chuckle last week when students opposed to reforms aimed at raising education standards released a flier calling for demonstrations with a glaring spelling mistake.
Now it's the government's turn to blush.
A letter written in Catalan, signed by Environment Minister Jaume Matas and sent to tens of thousands of homes in northeastern Spain, contained 13 spelling errors and two geographical errors.
The letter defends a controversial hydrological project in which water is to be diverted from the Ebro River, which flows through the Aragon and Catalonia regions, to the Mediterranean coast.
Education and Culture Minister Pilar del Castillo, the architect of the education overhaul, reacted to the flier by saying, "Students who call demonstrations are the ones who get the worst grades." She has said repeatedly in recent days that Spain's schools are churning out uneducated young people.
Responding to minister Matas' multiple slip-ups, a Socialist Party leader in Catalonia, Jaume Antich, said: "Are you trying to prove Pilar del Castillo right when she talks about low cultural levels? In view of this letter, I don't know if you'd pass the exam she wants to reinstate."
(extract from the "CNEWS" site)
A Tale of Two Languages (Pondial differences)
Winston Churchill famously said that Britain and America were two countries separated by the same language. And in spite of (or because of) decades of globalization there are still big differences between the American and British versions of the English language. Not to mention Australian, Canadian and Indian usage.
There are usages in "international" English, the lingua franca of nonnative speakers and travelers, that are neither typically British nor American. Germans speaking in English refer to a cell phone as a "handy." A native French speaker is likely to start a meeting with the expression "dear colleagues," from the French word confreres.
After all these expatriate years, and heaven knows how many misunderstandings, I like to think of myself as a perfectly bilingual practitioner of the written, if not always the spoken word. I love to exasperate friends and enemies on both sides of the Atlantic with offbeat expressions in British and American.
Everyone knows that a vacation is a holiday and french fries are chips. But how many people know that a credenza in American means a "sideboard" in British and that a crib is a "cot"? (Americans ask for a cot to be put in their room - a makeshift bed, for an adult, not a baby.) Most British know that drapes are "curtains" (but not necessarily that sheers mean "net curtains" or that comforter means a "duvet"), that a sidewalk is a "pavement," and that entre in American is a main course, not a starter. And the British might be confused to hear beltway used for "ring road," or ramp for "slip road."
Britons renting a car in the States should know that the amount of insurance excess in the case of an accident (collision) is the "deductible" in American. And that to "table" a motion at a meeting in America means to shelve it, whereas in England it means to put it up for discussion, exactly the opposite.
Even as some differences disappear, new ones emerge. Try telling an American to "text me on my mobile" (cell-phone or cell), or asking an Englishman if he has been "carded." These are not questions of different spellings or pronunciations, but a wholly different vocabulary and use of language.
Help is at hand from Holiday Inn, of all places. It has put online - at www.holiday-inn.co.uk/ISayTomato.shtml - an amusing and informative dictionary of popular travelers' terms that differ in Britain and the United States. Check your semantics for "sleep and your hotel room," "at breakfast," "eating/drinking," "getting around," "money" and "hotel phrases." In "Some British-American Translations," point your mouse to a word to uncover its exegesis.
Frequent travelers will recognize most words and expressions. But it's worth being reminded that "off-license" means liquor store; "Bob's your uncle," you're all set; "central reservation," highway median; "dual carriageway," a divided highway; and "coach," a bus for traveling long distances.
There is a peculiar subset of British English known as cockney rhyming slang (born in East London). The idea is to replace a word with a different word that rhymes with it. For example, you may hear someone say, "Let's have a butcher's." This means "Let's take a look," which rhymes, if you hadn't guessed, with "butcher's hook." Some examples: "Aristotle" (bottle); "Adam and Eve" (believe, as in "Would you Adam and Eve it?"); "Clare Rayners" ("trainers," British for sneakers); "Tony Blairs" (flares, an unfashionable variety of ample-ankled pants/trousers); "cream-crackered" ("knackered," very tired, indeed) or "Pete Tong" (wrong, as in "It's all gone Pete Tong." Pete, as if you didn't know, is a radio DJ.)
Damien Hinds, vice president of e-commerce for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Six Continents
Hotels in London, says: "Off-line marketers have always understood that to sell your product most effectively you need to segment the market and speak to each segment in a tailored way. And nationality, language, is the most basic segment."
The idea for the on-line dictionary came from the success of the Six Continents' separate British and U.S. Holiday Inn sites. Hinds says that taking note of customer differences and expectations from country to country has had a marked impact on sales.
When Express by Holiday Inn launched a British version of its site a few months ago, he says, Internet sales rose by 30 percent. The British parent company, Six Continents Hotels, has created "portal sites" in eight other languages, including German, Dutch, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese.
"Imagery, humor, how you lay things out are part of those cultural nuances that make a Web site more American-friendly versus British-friendly," Hinds says. "Basic layout works the same with menu options on the top of the screen and booking forms on the top left because that's where the eye goes. But graphically, you end up doing something different. I haven't found the person who can put into words what it is that makes the graphics different in British and American. It's like TV, there is a British look to a sitcom as opposed to an American. It's too simplistic to say it's soft focus; it's a lot more than that. But you know it when you see it."
The Economist's city guides series at www.economist.com/cities is an exemplary on-line resource for business travelers, with quick and easy information on everything from business etiquette to
hotels, restaurants, business services, museums, sightseeing, economic profiles and monthly news briefings. Well worth printing out before you leave, however familiar you are with the destination.
I have learned, for example, that I should never open or close a taxi door in Tokyo (leave it to the driver), should not be surprised if a cab driver in Washington stops to pick up a stranger who is headed in my general direction and how to negotiate passport control at the dreaded Sheremetyevo-2 airport in Moscow.
Sixteen guides have been published so far: Berlin, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Johannesburg,
London, Mexico City, Moscow, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Tokyo, Washington, Zurich. Milan will appear next month.
You often read about "two for one" promotions from airlines and credit-card companies whereby you qualify for a second free ticket when you buy a full fare ticket in business or first class. A new site, www.2for1flights.com, helps to match one traveler with another with a similar itinerary, thus enabling both to save up to 40 percent on the price of a ticket. If a similar itinerary is not found, you can register your travel plans in the hope that someone else will search the site and want to partner up. Travel agents offer details on behalf of customers who want to take advantage of a "two for one" deal.
(extract from the "International Herald Tribune", article by Roger Collis)
Seoul City to hear from foreigners on faulty English usage (Current usage/news)
Seoul City opened yesterday an exclusive link on its English Web site (www.seoulnow.net), and a telephone hot line to receive reports of incorrect usage of foreign languages from expatriates, city officials said.
The link, called "Report Incorrect English," on its bulletin board, offers space for expatriates and travelers in South Korea to report incorrect or peculiar expressions written in foreign languages on road signs and public facilities.
Foreigners can also report by calling the Seoul City Marketing Team at (02) 731-6315~6316, the officials said.
The English Web site link and hot line are part of the city government's efforts to provide reliable information to foreign residents and visitors ahead of the World Cup soccer finals and other international events this year.
(extract from the "Korea Herald", article by Lee Joo-hee)
Alphabet Soup (Other)
Alphabet Soup is a project which attempts to determine a number of things about the shapes of letters in several different writing systems. First, it hypothesizes a set of basic building blocks that all letters are built up from. Second, it hypothesizes a set of rules, a grammar or syntax, which defines how those pieces combine to make different letters.
The project will eventually include the letters in the Roman alphabet, upper and lower case Arabic numbers, the Cyrillic alphabet, the International Phonetic Alphabet, and much of the uppercase Greek alphabet. It currently has the capability to generate 2,099,776 letter-like symbols, most of which are not in any alphabet, although they look quite plausible.
Alphabet Soup is implemented in a computer program which uses the building blocks and grammar to do several things. It can generate individual letters. It can take a input string and randomly vary the letters, producing a string which is readable but strange looking. Or it can generate random strings of symbols. The program includes an optical kerning algorithm to ensure that the letters are kerned sensibly.
(extract from the "Alphabet Soup" site)
Sentence Diagramming Makes a Comeback (Education/learning English)
Kudos to Gaithersburg High School English teacher Robyn Jackson and all of her colleagues for their efforts to teach sentence diagramming ["Putting Grammar Lessons on the Line; Students' Writing Problems Prompt Some Teachers to Dust Off Sentence-Diagramming Method," Metro, Feb. 3].
The article highlights again the bankrupt notions of what I call "educationists": those who have thrown out hard but effective teaching methods in favor of unproven shortcuts such as cultural relativism, ebonics, "whole language" and something called "multiple intelligences." Of course, learning any new skill is hard work, and not all hard work will be seen by the student as worthwhile, fun or useful.
When I was an eighth-grader I found diagramming to be fun, much like working a crossword puzzle. Coincidentally, the same edition of The Post featured a letter from a high school football coach, Mike Foristiere, to Ann Landers. He quoted the head of the English department of Erasmus High School in Brooklyn: "Football may be the best taught subject in American high schools because it is the only subject we haven't tried to make easy."
I review hundreds of written job applications and writing samples. It is clear that the late 1960s and early '70s marked a downturn in literacy in this country. Many people who graduated from colleges and high schools during that era deeply regret the easy, feel-good education that left them with few cognitive skills. I think it is a national disgrace that universities must give remedial writing classes for freshmen who have been in the education system for 12 years. God bless those teachers who will fight to impart knowledge.
(extract from the "Washington Post", article by Christopher Walsh)
Spelling Fines for Swiss Journalists (Current usage/news)
A leading Swiss newspaper is to fine journalists for bad spelling or grammar in an attempt to persuade sloppy writers to reform their ways.
Le Temps plans to fine journalists nearly three dollars for each mistake - whether it is an incorrectly spelled place name, a badly constructed sentence or missing punctuation.
"We are a quality newspaper, and our readers get annoyed when we make mistakes - which we do too often," deputy chief editor Jean-Jacques Roth told BBC News Online.
"This isn't about policing the staff, but making clear that spelling is important."
But they are not the first to face fines for their poor spelling. A Norwegian daily, Bergensavisen, was last year reported to be charging its journalists more than one dollar for each mistake made.
And in Britain, journalists had a field day last year when it was revealed that Prime Minister Tony Blair had difficulty spelling the word tomorrow.
Downing Street initially suggested that it was Mr Blair's handwriting that made the word seem as though it were spelt as "toomorrow" three times in a letter, but the prime minister eventually admitted to having a problem with the word.
(extract from the BBC News site)
Dictionary celebrates centenary (Current usage/news)
Matinee idol and manic depressive were among the words that featured in the first edition of a pocket dictionary now celebrating its centenary.
But other words that were included in the Collins Gem dictionary in 1902 such as spike-bozzle and bovrilize have not stood the test of time.
The search is now on to find this year's defining word as the dictionary celebrates 100 years in print.
Collins Gem has compiled a list of words considered to define each year since the dictionary was first sold for a penny.
Pink Viagra and in silico are among those vying for the title of 2002's defining word.
Last year's word was B4, the abbreviation used in mobile phone text-messaging to mean before.
And dictionary experts claim Teddy Bear was the defining word of 1902.
Collins claims that in silico - computer programming in virtual laboratories - is one of the most used words of 2002 so far.
But Pink Viagra described as Viagra for women, a pill for improving sexual pleasure, may yet be this year's defining word.
(extract from the BBC News site)
Anglo-French language row over new African Nations Cup trophy (Current usage/news)
BAMAKO, Feb 6 (AFP) - The age-old tensions between anglophone and francophone factions in African football have come bubbling to the surface in a row over the wording on the new-look trophy used at this year's Nations Cup.
The newly designed spiral-shaped African Nations Cup trophy was supposed to be used for the first time next Sunday when it was handed to the 2002 winners.
But the trophy has been hurriedly sent back to its European
designers after anglophone Confederation of African Football (CAF) members complained that the wording on the prize was only in French and not in English as well.
Now a replica of the five kilogramme gold trophy will be used at Sunday's final, officials told AFP.
"The new trophy is back with the designers after an executive committee member pointed out that the name on it was only in French even though the two official languages of CAF are English and French," a CAF official told AFP.
(extract from Agence France Presse Sports News Service)
Oxford English Dictionary plans growth in U.S. staff (Current usage/news)
The United States and the United Kingdom may share a common language, but until recently, some feel, our dictionaries have separated us. The Oxford English Dictionary, which originated in Britain in 1857, aims to chart the history of every word ever used. It took 70 years to finish the first volume of 414,825 words, but until two years ago, the OED had no office in America.
The OED's central office in Oxford, England, employs about 60 editors. In contrast, Jesse Sheidlower, the principal editor of the OED's new American office, has a staff of three, including himself. He and his two assistants have just moved into expanded quarters at the Oxford University Press Building in lower Manhattan, where he hopes to build his staff to 10.
Yankee English is the increasingly dominant form of an overwhelmingly dominant global language, says Mr. Sheidlower, who is American. That makes some uncomfortable in the land of fish and chips.
"Many English think that American English has a part in the language declining over there," he says. "You read newspapers, and every month there are articles saying [American] slang is bad for the language."
(extract from "Oxford English Dictionary plans growth in U.S. staff ", Jon Ward, "The Washington Times")
Aue's Sara M. Lorimer publishes! (People)
For as long as ships have sailed the seas there have been pirates. And for as long as there have been pirates, some of those pirates have been women.
And why not? Piracy offered everything to a woman that was denied her on land. At sea she had freedom and autonomy. She kept her own hours and spent them playing cards, drinking, gambling, sailing, eating, killing, and plundering. No household to run, no family to support, no chamber pots to empty. No arranged marriages, churchgoing, or financial dependency. Some of the women profiled here followed their lovers into piracy, others turned mercenary after a cross-dressing stint in the military, still others were born into piracy and carried out the family tradition. Fanny Campbell led a mutiny to find her fianc; bizarre twists of fate landed Charlotte de Berry and Mary Read at sea; and Cheng I Sao turned pirate to escape a grim life of prostitution.
Many prowled the seas during the Golden Age of Piracy, between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries -- an era that saw a great deal of trade between Europe and the Americas. Shipping lines were well established and most pirates simply had to wait patiently for a ship to sail into their traps. Several accounts of capture and pillage remain from that era, and from these come many clues to our pirates' way of live. A section at the back of this book on the "Classic Pirate Lifestyle" includes short descriptions of what life was like for women on pirate ships during the Golden Age -- the rules and regulations, punishments, victuals, fashion, and frigging. I've also included a short list of books for anyone interested in reading further about the adventures of these marauding women.
Sara Lorimer has lived in four countries, and her travels have taken her to regions ranging from Fiji to the Arctic Circle. She now lives in New York City. Although not a pirate herself, like most pirates she is a terrible swimmer.
(extracts from the "Pirate Women" site)
Dictionary celebrates centenary (Current usage/news)
Matinee idol and manic depressive were among the words that featured in the first edition of a pocket dictionary now celebrating its centenary.
But other words that were included in the Collins Gem dictionary in 1902 such as spike-bozzle and bovrilize have not stood the test of time.
The search is now on to find this year's defining word as the dictionary celebrates 100 years in print.
Collins Gem has compiled a list of words considered to define each year since the dictionary was first sold for a penny.
(extract from BBC News)
'In silico' and 'pink Viagra' will be buzzwords for 2002 (Current usage/news)
Over the past 100 years, the defining word or phrase of the year has swung from Teddy bear to depression, from Blairite to economy-class syndrome. In 2002, it could be the turn of In silico.
In silico? According to the creators of a new compilation of current buzzwords, it is set to be one of the most used terms of 2002. Perhaps it's best known to the readers of the publication ISB (In Silico Biology - an international journal on computational molecular biology). It means computer programming in virtual laboratories.
However, the competition is not exactly challenging. Pink Viagra, describing a pill for improving the sexual pleasure of women, is another of the bookies' favourites.
It is joined among the front-runners in the competition to find words that define the year by brain finger-printing (a form of lie-detection that works by monitoring brain waves) and dead tree edition (paper edition), according to the dictionary publisher Collins, which is compiling the list.
Following the modern penchant for abbreviation - the beloved term of the text messenger, B4, was the word of the year in 2001 - the list is joined by e-day, the day that Europe switched to the euro.
Collins claims Teddy bear was the defining word of 1902, when its dictionary first went to print, depression in 1905, Blairite in 1997 and economy-class syndrome in 2000. A spokesman for Collins said: "There is a defining word for every year and although these are the suggestions for 2002, it is still early days yet."
(extract from article by Paul Peachey, "The Independent")
'Apostrophe-box' for spelling errors (Current usage/news)
A war of words has started over punctuation and grammar among the 14,000 staff at Nottingham City Council.
Fed up with incorrect use of apostrophes, the Council's leader Graham Chapman decided enough was enough.
He challenged his chief executive, John Jackson, to pay a forfeit to charity every time a council document prepared by officers contained a grammatical error.
(extract from The BBC News)
What is the etymology of "Enron"? (Etymology)
"En" from "energy," "ron" from "electron." By analogy to "Enco," which was the name Humble Oil put on its service stations a few decades ago (pre-Exxon), "En" from "energy," "co" from "company."
I'm pretty sure I'm right about "Enco." The "Enron" derivation is a
guess, but I suspect it's pretty close to the truth.
(aue's Bob Lieblich, from the Deja archives)
Let a Simile be your Umbrella (Current usage/news)
We're always happy to see another book on language by William Safire, because it is not another book on politics, which he has been known to write but we have never been known to enjoy, his politics being what they are. This, though, is harmless and entertaining. He begins, after a friend orders a salad for lunch, by wondering who "Bibb" was, as in "Bibb lettuce." And of course, he has a
suggestion: A leading American horticulturist of the 1800s was Major John Bibb. The rest of the book is taken up with many of his "On Language" columns that have appeared each Sunday in The New York Times. Among his subjects: the strange association of the words "warm" and "fuzzy" (not to mention "touchy" and "feely"); the difference between "gauntlet" (glove) and "gantlet" (which means,
according to Safire, "a course of discipline that you run past guys with clubs whacking at you from both sides"); and Daylight Saving Time - and do not let us see you put an "s" on the word "Saving." It's fun and apolitical. We don't ask for more.
(Gannett News Services)
How bona to varda your eeks! (Language history)
so, palare, palyaree, palary or polari...
however you want to spell it, it's a largely extinct dialect argot cobbled together from backslang, romany, italian, shelta (that's irish tinker slang, maybe explaining the scots connection leon pointed out) and lingua franca, the proto-esperanto argot of 14th-18th century sailors (and travelling actors) that was used in much the same way as latin was by academics of the time. by the 20th century, the words were pretty much exclusively being used by gay men as a means of speaking in public, where they might get arrested for shouting 'nice cock!' instead of 'bona bagadga!'
there's a fair few words in common currency, like naff (possibly an acronym: not available for f*u*cking), trade or cottaging (and a prissy brighton hairdressers called 'bona riah') but most people of a certain age know a bit of palare thanks to the round the horne characters julian & sandy, played by hugh paddick and kenneth williams, who livened up british radio in the late 60s with some seriously filthy double (and triple) entendres in palare. recently, there seems to have been something of an upsurge in usage, thanks in part to articles like this, and a lot more in the way of academic study...
(extract from the "Submit Response" blog)
New Gender-Neutral Bible Planned (Current usage/news)
The International Bible Society said Monday that America's best-selling modern Bible is about to get an update using gender-neutral wording, despite past criticism of that idea from conservatives.
The revision will be called "Today's New International Version," or TNIV. The original "New International Version," which has sold more than 150 million copies worldwide since 1978, will remain on the market.
The New Testament of the latest version goes on sale in April with the full Bible including Old Testament books expected by 2005.
Zondervan of Grand Rapids, Mich., owned by HarperCollins, holds North American rights for both versions. To date, the Bible society and Zondervan have spent $2 million to develop the new translation but they did not disclose other financial terms.
Examples of some changes from 1978 to 2002: "sons of God" to "children of God" in Matthew 5:9, and "a man is justified by faith" to "a person is justified by faith" in Romans 3:28.
A publicity release says "the TNIV is not merely a gender-accurate edition of the NIV," because 70 percent of the changes do not relate to gender. Also, terms referring to God and Jesus Christ have not been altered.
(extract from "New Gender-Neutral Bible Planned", Richard N. Ostling, Associated Press)
Girlfriend out at the Times (Current usage/news)
The New York Post's Page Six column reports that the venerable New York Times is no longer using the phrase "girlfriend" in reference to adults in its news pages because it offends feminist sensibilities.
The Post said a Times writer was interviewing an architect when the man referred to his girlfriend. The architect was informed that editorial overlords at the paper had nixed the phrase, preferring instead the term "whom he dates."
(extract from the "Fox News" site)
Voice Squad (Accents and speech)
Estuary English is a confusing term because it refers to a wider area than its name suggests. Coined in 1984, it is taken to mean the popular speech of south-east England - itself based on the speech of London - somewhere between broad Cockney and Received Pronunciation. There are a million shades in-between, and most of us are infected by it, even if very subtly. Almost every one of my generation, and many of my parents' - though not of my grandparents' - shares its most common characteristic, the glottal stop. You might manage to resist the odd 'innit?', but you may well soften or omit the 't' in 'isn't it?'. Valentine points out that when I say 'it seems', I pronounce the 't' only very softly, if at all.
Speakers of Estuary English are also fond of the word 'basically', and tend to add tags to their conversation ('don't I?'). Transforming the 't' at the beginning of a word to a 'ch' sound is also common ('Tuesday', for example, sounds more like 'chooseday'). Someone with a more pronounced Estuary accent will insert a sound like 'w' next to an 'l' (so 'milk' sounds like 'miwk'). But, unlike Cockney, Estuary uses standard grammar and doesn't drop its aitches or replace 'th' with 'f' or 'v' (''and on 'eart, Muvver').
Although it's been hailed as some revolutionary new way of speaking, there's nothing very new about Estuary English. London has always been the main source of linguistic trends. What is revolutionary is such a widespread adoption by the upper classes of a downmarket accent. In the past people have adjusted their accents downwards in line with fashion - in the 1960s and 1970s, for example, a Liverpool accent was a coveted accessory - but never on such a large scale. 'What is new is that people feel social pressure to bring their voices down,' says John Wells, professor of phonetics at University College, London.
(extract from "Voice Squad", by Mian Ridge, "The Spectator")
Enron Scandal Gives Rise to New Verb (Current usage/news)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - First Enron was a company. Then it was a scandal. Now it is a transitive verb.
Senate Democratic Majority Leader Tom Daschle, asked by reporters on Wednesday about the federal budget and dwindling surplus, responded that he did not want to "Enron" the American people.
"I don't want to Enron the American people," he said. "I don't want to see them holding the bag at the end of the day just like Enron employees have held the bag.
(extract from Reuter's "Oddly Enough")
His idea to link words rewrote the dictionary (Fine shades of meaning)
George Miller is still not sure what he was thinking when he set out to write his own dictionary. By his own definition he was mad (meaning "brainsick, crazy, demented, distracted, disturbed, sick, unbalanced, unhinged-- affected with madness or insanity").
Nearly two decades ago, the Princeton University psychology professor needed a decent computerized dictionary to help devise experimental tests to determine how children's brains learn language. The major dictionary publishers, however, all wanted several thousand dollars in fees before they would turn over their software.
"I said, 'The hell with you, I'll make my own dictionary,' " recalled Miller, 81.
So the Princeton professor got a small government grant and a stack of dictionaries and set out to type in all the nouns. His wife took the adjectives, while a colleague took the verbs. With that, WordNet and the next generation of dictionaries was born.
(extract from "His idea to link words rewrote the dictionary", Kelly Heyboer, "The Star Ledger")
Girl power goes mainstream (Current usage/news)
Girl power, decaff and haircare are among hundreds of new words featured in the latest version of the Oxford English Dictionary Online.
The girl power phrase popularised by the Spice Girls in the 1990s is described as "a self-reliant attitude among girls and young women manifested in ambition, assertiveness and individualism."
But a 'riot girl' or a 'grrrl' also makes it into the latest version of the dictionary published on Thursday.
She is said to be a more militant creature defined as a member of "a movement expressing feminist resistance to male domination in society".
High street is now included as an adjective to mean "popular or mainstream".
Also making an appearance in the dictionary is the Japanese term karoshi meaning "death brought on by overwork or job-related exhaustion".
Another new word is comper - defined as "a person who habitually enters competitions in order to win as many prizes as possible".
(extract from the BBC News site)
Road name bewitches UK village (Definitions)
Street-naming bosses on Tuesday denied there was anything magical behind their choice of Quidditch Lane as a road name in a South Cambridgeshire housing development.
Sally Carroll of South Cambridgeshire County Council said Quidditch Lane was named after an old English word for a dry ditch and was not a reference to the high-speed aerial game that features in the best-selling Harry Potter books.
"But the residents are thrilled to bits," she added. "They think it's magic."
(extract from Reuter's "Oddly Enough")
Judge's English-Only Directive Rescinded by Paterson Mayor (Current usage/news)
PATERSON, N.J., Jan. 17 - The judge laid it out in plain English: Courthouse workers could not speak any other language but English while at their desks. But the edict lasted only two days.
With a reminder that Paterson is home to 72 ethnic groups, Mayor Martin G. Barnes stepped into a simmering dispute about bilingualism in the inner offices of Paterson's municipal court today and rescinded the presiding judge's directive.
"We'll just say it was a bad day in court," Mayor Barnes said of the directive that Judge Karole Graves, the chief judge of the city court, issued in a memo on Tuesday. "I don't know how it happened and why it happened, but it's not something we're going to enforce."
Judge Graves's order was brief: "Please be advised that all employees are to speak English while you are at your work stations. Other languages are only to be spoken when translating or assisting customers."
(extract from "The New York Times", friendly login required for access)
Aue's Laura Spira Publishes! (People)
Laura Spira (Oxford Brookes University, Business School, UK), a longstanding contributor in the alt.usage.english news group has published, "The Audit Committee: Performing Corporate Governance".
Linguist Suggests Universal Grammar Rules (Current usage/news)
Every existing human language contains elements that are hard-wired into the human brain, according to a new book co-authored by noted linguist Noam Chomsky. Entitled "The Atoms of Language: The Mind's Hidden Rules of Grammar" (
Basic Books, 2001), the book describes research by Chomsky and Mark C. Baker, a Rutgers University linguist, which shows that languages as diverse as American-Indian and African tongues are built on a basic hierarchy of parameters that form the basis of a language's grammar. These parameters could even help even help children learn languages, if their existence is 'hard- wired' into the human mind, Baker said. Among the most tantalizing of the
discoveries: The grammar of the English and Mohawk languages are dominated by a single, powerful parameter whose position at the top of the hierarchy produces an enormous effect. Baker and other researchers have identified 14 such parameters, and they believe there may be as many as 16 more. But Robert Van Valin, a professor of linguistics at the State University of New York at
Buffalo, questions the research's underlying assumption -- that a universal grammar exists at all. "What they're doing in that whole program is taking English-like structures and putting the words or parts of words of other languages in those structures and then discovering that they're just like English," he told the New York Times.
(extract from "Stories from Modern Science, United Press International)
Etymologically Speaking (Etymology)
What follows is list of some curious word origins. Some of these are English, but some are French and German words from which we get some English words. Enjoy, and please let me know if you know of any other cool etymologies that I ought to add to the list!
(extract from the "Etymoligically Speaking" site)
The power of seven - Chronicles of chronology (Etymology)
"...In modern Hindi, as in ancient Sanskrit, the planets we call Mars and Mercury are Mangal and Budh. The days called Tuesday and Wednesday in English, and mardi and mercredi in French, are Mangalvar and Budhvar. Elsewhere, new names have been showered on the old gods and their planets. Yet, to an astonishing extent, they have retained their identities-and kept their places in the order of the days of the week.
The first recorded change came when the Sumerian week-system was transposed into the Semitic language spoken in the Babylonian empire. The
day-names used in Babylon around 700BC (running as if from our Sunday to our Saturday) were: Shamash (Sun), Sin (Moon), Nergal (god of war), Nabu (god of
scribes), Marduk (supreme god), Ishtar (goddess of love) and Ninurta (god of farming). They had simply replaced their Sumerian predecessors; for example, Ishtar had succeeded Inanna both as a planet and as the presiding deity of love.
By the time the Romans had adopted the system, the planet-gods wore names more familiar to us: (in the same order) Sol, Luna, Mars, Mercurius, Jupiter, Venus, Saturnus. But their identities remained almost intact. The
name-chain Inanna-Ishtar-Astarte-Aphrodite had led to Venus. Nergal lived on in Mars. Aptly, the god of scribes had mutated into the heavenly messenger, Mercurius.
In English and the other Germanic languages, Mars, Mercurius,
Jupiter and Venus were, in time, renamed in honour of Teutonic gods. From Tiw, Woden, Thor and Freya came the names of our weekdays from Tuesday to Friday.
Even so, the chain remained unbroken. Although English Wednesday and Scandinavian Onsdag salute the god Woden or Odin, this came about only because he was identified with Mercurius. Similarly, the love-goddess Freya took the
place of Venus-and her place in the weekly sequence.
Among Europe's Romance and Celtic languages, the Ur-idea of naming days from planet-gods is obvious. Mercurius is as recognisable in the French mercredi as in Romanian Mercuri or Welsh Mercher. The Slav languages, however,taking a lead from Greek, prefer numbering systems. (Five, in Russian, is ; Friday is Pyatnitsa. In Greek, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are ra, Triti and Tetarti; i.e., second, third and fourth.)
Saturnus, alone among the planet-gods, resisted Germanisation. And Saturday was "different" from other weekdays long before the two-day weekend developed. In ancient Rome it became somewhat inauspicious. Then it was, for a time, the Sabbath, both for Jews and for many early Christians. It is still
Sabato in Italian, Sabado in Spanish, Sobota or Subota in the Slav languages.
Over the naming of Sunday some confusion has crept in, for which Constantine the Great is much to blame. In 321AD, when he ordered the cities
of his empire to rest on this day, his edict was related to the sun, rather than to Christianity. Three centuries earlier, Augustus had officially recognised the week, with its Sumerian-style planet-gods. Dies solis, the
sun's day, was mildly auspicious, but only the Christians made it really special as their day for congregational prayer, linked with the Resurrection and called the Lord's Day. Constantine chose to boost that day while invoking
not Christ but the Unconquered Sun (the emperor himself, at that point, saw the two deities as one). He thereby gratified Christians without offending sun-worshippers.
So it was a shrewd move, at the time. But it left the naming of the day in schism. In its Germanic versions it is now strictly the Sun's day(Sonntag, Zonday, etc). But it is given to the Lord (Latin dominus, Greek
kyrios) in Romance languages (Domingo, Domenica, dimanche) and Greek aki), and the Celts are split, Welsh Dydd Sul confronting Gaelic De Domhnaich.
Most striking of all Sunday's names is the Russian Voskresenye ("Resurrection"), which endured through long years of imposed atheism. Do not
imagine that Sumeria's week and its day-names have never faced any challenges. The French Revolution brought in a ten-day "week" whose days were, literally, numbered (the experiment lasted, officially, for 12 years, but never really took). As soon as the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917 they tried, but failed, to imitate the French revolutionaries (or the Pharaohs?). Later,
for 11 years starting in 1929, Stalin imposed first five-day and then six-day weeks on the Soviet Union. The elimination of Sunday, with its strong religious associations, was one purpose of his experiments. They all failed, abjectly. Warned by this, the communist regimes established in other countries after 1945 did not even try to tamper with the Ur-old seven-day week.
(extract from "The power of seven - Chronicles of chronology", The Economist)
Commentary on the use of "like" (Current usage/news)
The juggernaut of exhausted words trundles on from last year: innovatory, issues around, step change, iconic. But one trick of speech that has been getting up speed for a few years now promises to coast through 2002 with irritating impetus. It is like. I do not mean like used instead of such as, or even in such phrases as 'I feel like a drink'. The usage that I mean is a syntactical novelty thoroughly affecting oral narrative.
An example: 'She was like, "Don't look at me." And he was like, "What!"'
The construction derives from America; California perhaps. It has been around for more than a decade, but has recently been taken up with an enthusiasm otherwise reserved for brands of trainers. I couldn't find it in the New Oxford Dictionary of English (the Node), but the appalling Encarta World English Dictionary records it with examples under the heading, 'Introduces direct speech', with the explanation, 'Used informally to introduce what somebody says (non-standard)'. This is true as far as it goes.
Formerly the structure of informal oral narrative included frequent use of the phrases 'so he says', 'so I says', or 'so he says to me', 'so I says to him'. These oral equivalents of inverted commas might lack variety but you know where you are.
I think the use of 'she was like' is not completely equivalent. Generally the words represented as being an item of direct speech seem not to claim to be the actual words used. They indicate the attitude of the person referred to. As the appalling Encarta rightly notes in its examples, the word like is usually preceded by the verb to be in the historic present (is, 're): 'They're like...'. It is possible to use the past tense, though.
(extract from "Mind your Language, The Spectator)
The geeks who saved Usenet (Usenet/Netiquette)
On May 11, 1981, one Mark Horton, then a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley, using the e-mail address "ucbvax^mark," posted this message to the Usenet newsgroup Net.general: ...
Horton's message was a response to a previous post, the intact original of which is now lost to history, from one "sdcarl!rusty," aka Rusty Wright. With this incomplete fragment of a cryptic exchange, the history of Usenet, as we have it today, begins.
In mid-December 2001, Google unveiled its improved Usenet archives, which now go more than a decade deeper into the Net's past than did the millions of posts that the company salvaged from DejaNews. Now on a browser near you: a glimpse of the prehistory of the Net culture we all take for granted today. The first "me too" post! The first "Make-Money-Fast" post! It's enough to make even a relative newbie nostalgic for a past she never experienced firsthand.
The tale of how early Usenet was saved begins with one of the Net's great old-timers: Henry Spencer. "Henry Spencer is the real hero, because his contributions are what makes this historic," says Schmidt. "Back in the Stone Age of the Internet, he was already archiving this stuff, and he was the only one doing it."
(extract from "The geeks who saved Usenet; by Katharine Meiszkowski, Salon Technology)
Creating a parsed and searchable diachronic corpus of present-day spoken English (Current usage/news)
At the core of this proposal are two corpora of Modern British English, both founded at the Survey of English Usage (SEU) at University College London: the London-Lund Corpus (LLC), compiled in the 1960s, and the British Component of the International Corpus of English (ICE-GB), compiled in the 1990s. The project aims to construct a fully parsed and searchable diachronic corpus of spontaneous spoken English, containing carefully selected and directly comparable texts from the LLC and ICE-GB corpora. As will be discussed in the section on Aims and Objectives below, there is a new research impetus in linguistics which concerns itself with recent changes in lexis and grammar. This corpus will be a unique resource for linguists studying the spoken English of a period spanning 25-30 years. There is currently no comparable resource available, and the corpus will be the first of its kind enabling research into current change in spoken language.
Project start date: August 2002.
(extract from the "Survey of English Usage site)
School to teach in native languages (Current usage/news)
A secondary school in north London where children speak a total of 65 languages is to offer lessons in some of the languages the children speak at home.
This term nearly 400 children at White Hart Lane school will have science lessons in Turkish and there are plans to run more lessons in other languages such as Somali and Albanian.
The children who will have those lessons are of Turkish and Kurdish origin.
Head teacher David Daniels says the initiative will help foreign pupils settle into the curriculum while they learn English.
(extract from the BBC News site)
Lake Superior State University Issues 2002 List of Banished Words (Current usage/news)
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. - Lake Superior State University released its 27th annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness. The compilation draws from hundreds of nominations received from all over the world by mail and through the Internet.
LSSU forms a committee in December to review the year's entries and decide which of them will be included on the list. Word-watchers pull nominations from everyday speech, as well as from the news, fields of education, technology, advertising, politics, and more.
The complete 2002 list follows:
Politics and the Media
DISENFRANCHISE - "Somewhere along the line, somebody stumbled into it thinking he was saying 'disfranchise.' It caught on, and for more than 30 years we've been subjected to this negative-positive abomination. What's next? 'Disenable'? - Mike Bunis, Key West, Florida.
"The term has been frequently applied to describe voters who have experienced difficulty in following directions." - J. H. Jaroma, Sault Ste. Marie, Micihigan.
"Our country cannot possibly hold that many victims." - Linda, Kansas City, Missouri.
SURGICAL STRIKE -- Over-used in the news media to describe bombing campaigns.
"As in bombing a Red Cross building by mistake?" - nominator from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
FRIENDLY FIRE -- "Would unfriendly fire be less painful?" - nominator from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
(extract from the Lake Superior State University web site)
Good Breeding Is for the Dogs; Why Not Memorize Nancy Mitford (Current usage/news)
In 1955, Nancy Mitford wrote her essay on the English aristocracy (see her fantastically elitist collection, A Talent to Annoy; average price $20 on Alibris.com), in which she contends that since the upper classes "are neither cleaner, richer, nor better educated than anybody else," it is only through usage that they distinguish themselves. People are therefore divisible into "U" (upper-class) speakers and "non-U" speakers. She includes a list of examples: e.g., "mental" is non-U, whereas "mad" is so U; "home," as in "they have a lovely home," is horribly non-U, while "house" is fabulously U.
When I tested these 50-year-old edicts on Lady G. and Ms. Etherington-Smith (Millie had left for Pilates class-rather non-U?), I found an amazing number still hold true. "'Toilet paper'! Oh, God! Totally non-U. The word 'toilet' is unacceptable. It's 'loo, loo, loo' and 'loo paper'!" screams Lady G., to the consternation of adjacent diners.
"'Serviette'?" I proffer. "No-dead common. We say 'napkin' just like the Yanks," says Meredith.
"Never say 'Pardon'; it's 'I beg your pardon,'" says Lady G., with growing indignation.
I ask the girls about various other words that, to my mind, epitomize Evelyn Waugh-ish U-speak: e.g., "frightfully" (as in "How frightfully ripping!"), "awfully," "huntin'," "shootin'," calling one's parents "mater" and "pater," referring to your pals as "one's chums," etc.
(extract from Simon Doonan's "Simon Says", The New York Observer)
Academics Issue Annual List Of Hated Words And Phrases (Current usage/news)
A year that began with a disputed U.S. election and finished with a war in Afghanistan also produced a wealth of "overused, misused and generally useless words and phrases" that ought to be banned, a U.S. university said on Monday.
The media, politicians and advertisers all were skewered in this year's edition of Lake Superior State University's banned word list, compiled annually by its public relations staff from contributions sent from across the United States and Canada.
Beginning with the overused "disenfranchised," which contributor J.H. Jaroma said was too often used to refer to "voters who have experienced difficulty in following direction," to the euphemism "frigging" for a really banned word, the university's word police had a wealth of selections to choose from for its 27th annual list of words that should be banned.
Several words and phrases plucked from the list became objectionable due to overuse following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States - shortened to "9-11" by too many, list-makers said - and the war in Afghanistan that followed.
"Last year, we had Y2K and 24-7. This year, we have 9-11. This new digital language (digitalk?) should be banned. ... A tragic event of such proportion should not be confused with a telephone number," one contributor said.
The phrase "... then the terrorists win," often used to encourage Americans to return to normal life after the attacks, particularly bugged several list contributors.
"I can't imagine al Qaida cares whether we attend parades," said one contributor from Chicago. "Sorry to have taken up so much space, but if I can't complain about things that bug me, then the terrorists will have won."
Other often repeated war-time phrases that stuck in the craw of list-writers included "surgical strike," used to refer to the precision of U.S. bombing sorties, and "bring the evil-doers to justice," used to refer to U.S. efforts to find Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden and his followers, who the United States blames for the attacks.
The euphemism-rich world of business also came under the list-makers' microscope for employing such words as "brainstorming" ("didn't you simply 'think'," said one contributor), "synergy" ("a weasel-word," said another), and "ramp up" ("whoever started it should be made to ramp up (walk) the plank," said a third).
Computer-related talk that irked the list-makers included "killer app," used to refer to wildly popular computer applications, and the all-purpose word "functionality."
Contributor Charles VanHout of Climax, Michigan, objected to the tired phrase "no-brainer," suggesting that neither side of the transaction involved had one.
Sports announcers came under fire from the list-makers for bandying about words such "deuce" (two), "the rock" (the ball), and the vague "athleticism" in the course of their broadcasts.
Brian Giffen, a contributor from Burnaby, British Columbia, suggested football broadcasters avoid the phrase "run the table" and just say "win their remaining games."
"It's football, dough head," he said, "not Casino Royale."
Several contributors advised programmers to quash "reality TV" and its surviving offspring.
"Banish the words, banish the shows, banish the people who came up with the idea for the shows, because there is nothing real about this form of television," said Mary Li of Toronto, without explaining why she didn't simply turn the channel.
Finally, the list-makers aimed their pens and cursors at the redundancies plaguing everyday English usage, seeking to expunge "totally unique," "sworn affidavit" (for just plain affidavit), and "possible choices."
"Foreseeable future" drew the ire of James Hartman of Winnipeg, Manitoba. "Just how long is foreseeable?" he asked. "What about the unforeseeable future?"
(Reuters, extract from the CBS news site)
Is Disappearing: What TV news doing to our precious verbs. (Current usage/news)
To be or not to be? That remaining the question, the answer increasingly clear. The verb "to be" dying out, and the culprit? None other than TV news channels. Taking the place of such cherished words as "is," "are," "am," even "were" and "was": a new verb form that you might call the one-size-fits-all past, present, and future participle. Or you might call it the one-size-fits-all past, present, and future gerund. One of these right and one of them wrong, but which which? Nobody really knowing the difference between a participle and a gerund. Anyone claiming to understand the distinction probably bluffing. So calling it what you wish: Either label doing.
What I talking about? Just listen to Lou Dobbs, the dean of news network anchorpersons, at the top of his show, CNN's Lou Dobbs Moneyline, on Tuesday, Oct. 30. Lou saying, "Top government officials today adding their voices to the call for Americans to remain vigilant." (I not kidding: These his opening words on that evening's program.)
Lou continuing, after a couple of clips of politicians talking something close to normal English, "The president planning to do just that [just what not clear in context], scheduled to throw out the first pitch in game three of the World Series " adding, "And new traces of anthrax, traces found in additional buildings in the nation's Capital today."
Wonderful about this universal gerundiciple, or whatever we calling it? That it working equally well as a substitute for the traditional past, present, and future tenses. "Madonna entertaining American troops in Peshawar this evening" could refer to something that already happened, something happening now, or something about to happen. The total effect making one dizzy. Past, present, and future melting together as every newsworthy event taking place simultaneously in some dimension beyond the reach of time, where man forever biting dog and yet it remaining news.
What happening here? No easy answers but some uninformed speculation. Long part of vernacular English: referring to the future as the present. ("Honey, I'm meeting with Democratic leaders tonight in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation. Don't wait up.") Add the established convention of newspaper headlines-referring to the past as the present. ("House Passes Tax Cut.") When, as sometimes happens, there remains a need to refer to the present as the present, newspaper headlines leave out the "is" and its variants. ("White House Considering More Tax Cuts.")
(extract from "Is Disappearing: What TV news doing to our precious verbs", Michael Kinsley)
Don't Throw It Away (Current usage/news)
Accurate grammar is the essence of effective communication. Silly old UK chestnuts such as "Rugby is a game played by men with misshapen balls" or "There's a hole outside 10 Downing Street and the prime minister is looking into it" make the point well enough without my having to labor it. When those same sorts of errors aren't jokes, they fudge and blur meaning so that much of what passes for written English these days is mere gobbledygook.
English was born, axiomatically, in England. How sad, then that the British - of all people - now seem so careless of their own language. It's arguably their greatest heritage.
(extract from Susan Elkin's article in the "Vocabula Review")
Mind, Language and Metaphor: Euroconference on Consciousness and the Imagination (Current usage/news)
The Metaphor and Metonymy Group was formed in 1995-1996 and consists of Dr. Zazie Todd at the Department of Psychology, University of Leeds, Dr. Brigitte Nerlich and Prof. David D Clarke at the University of Nottingham, and a number of associate members elsewhere. We hope people interested in metaphor and metonymy (from a developmental, diachronic, cognitive, rhetorical etc. perspective) can use our web site to exchange news and views. We are especially keen to hear from people interested in metonymy, until recently rather neglected compared with metaphor.
April 20-24 2002, Kerkrade (nr Maastricht), The Netherlands
Submissions are invited for this interdisciplinary conference. Full details are at http://www.esf.org/euresco/02/hc02184.
Metonymy and Conceptual Blending (Current usage/news)
In their book Mental Leaps, Holyoak and Thagard (1995) claim that the difference between metaphor and analogy is that metaphors, especially literary ones, are subject to "loose" and "shifting" mappings which are the side-effects of metonymy. Treating it as a somewhat suspect technique, Holyoak & Thagard argue that metonymy's intrusion into metaphoric language places metaphor outside the explanatory bounds of a theory of analogy. An unbridled force at large in the literary universe, metonymy leads at best to analogical inconsistency, at worst to incoherence. In support of their position, Holyoak & Thagard point to the following excerpt from the writings of Ernest Hemingway:
His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly's wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly anymore because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless (Cited in Holyoak & Thagard, 1995:224).
Analyzing the passage, Holyoak & Thagard point to the fact that the writer's talent is initially mapped to the pattern of dust on the butterfly's wings, and later to the wings themselves. Further, they point out that there is no causal relationship between patterns on a butterfly's wings and its ability to fly, and no reason why consciousness of wings should affect the butterfly's ability to fly. In blending theory, analogical mismatches like this are frequently used to motivate the need for a blended space analysis. Indeed, in their discussion of this example, Holyoak & Thagard resort to the use of slashes to represent the conceptual fusion of ideas: "A butterfly's pattern is not causally related to its flight, so if talent is mapped to the pattern, then there is no reason why consciousness of the talent/pattern should interfere with the ability to exercise it," (Holyoak & Thagard, 1995: 224).
(extract from "Metonymy and Conceptual Blending" by Seana Coulson and Todd Oakley)
'Foul' Language and the Modern Internet (Current usage/news)
There was a time when 'foul' language was relatively rare on the nets, or at least frequently bleeped out. Some of this was, I think, a matter of who was on the net -- mostly computer professionals and other highly educated types, with a smattering of college students from those schools who got 'enlightened' early. In the Jargon File, Eric S. Raymond even makes a point of saying, in the entry for 'f** me harder', that such language is extremely rare in the hacker community.
Those days of a relatively 'clean' Internet, however, are long past. One need only skim any random K5 article's comments to see this.
No, this is just a quest for thoughts on why blue langauge should come so easily to our lips -- or fingers, rather -- without any attempt to gloss it over, when even five years ago we would at least have thrown in a few f**king asterisks. :-).
(extract from the "Kuro5hin" web page, 25 Dec 2001)
"Bogglers: Welcome to the fold" (Recreation/puzzles)
The letters above seem to be a recognizable, albeit highly stylized, alphabet. This strange collection runs the gamut from what looks like A to what isn't Z. In fact, each letter is actually another capital letter that has been folded just once. In this masquerade, none of the letters are what they appear to be. For instance, the first letter, which might be taken for an A, is really an H, folded and then rotated as shown at right.
Can you unfold each of the other shapes to make a different letter of the alphabet? When you're done, you'll have a complete, traditional A-to-Z alphabet. Warning: Some shapes can be unfolded to form more than one letter, but there is only one way to unfold every shape to yield the entire alphabet.
(extract from "Discover's" January issue)
David Crystal's "Language and the "Internet" book review (Current usage/news)
"...David Crystal writes as accessibly as ever. But by the nature of his theme his book is academically oriented and its readers need to know some basic linguistics. It will appeal especially to someone with a professional or informed interest in linguistics who wants to explore the special nature of language on the Net...."
(extract from the book review by Michael Quinion, World Wide Words)
"Dictionary of the Future" (Current usage/news)
You look at the slip. The woman you had the fight chat with. Definitely cosmetic underclass. Not remotely Pilotable. You toss a lunch lob, and call home to check on your baboon wife and the free-range children.
Whew! Had enough?
And now, in a just world, you'd get a translation. Forget it. (Basically, it would take much too long.) No, you'll just have to read "Dictionary of the Future," by Ms. Popcorn and Adam Hanft (Hyperion, $22.95), for yourself.
(Oh, all right, here are a couple, since they are sort of fun: Bachelor herds are the young men left mateless when older ones grab trophy wives, and baboons are baby boomers with no savings.)
What, exactly, is a dictionary of the future? Apparently, the old model just can't keep up - with those stuffy, tweedy souls content "to track the ebb and flow of language" and open the ivied dictionary gates only to words that have stood the test of time.
(extract from "Roll Over, Shakespeare, the Future Is Here" By HUBERT B. HERRING, The New York Times, NOTE: friendly login required for access)
Origin of the term "spam" to mean net abuse (Etymology)
The term spamming got used to apply to a few different behaviours. One was to flood the computer with too much data to crash it. Another was to "spam the database" by having a program create a huge number of objects, rather then creating them by hand. And the term was sometimes used to mean simply flooding a chat session with a bunch of text inserted by a program (commonly called a "bot" today) or just by inserting a file instead of your own real time typing output.
There are confirmed reports as well that the term migrated to MUDs from early "chat" systems. Peter da Silva reports use in early 80s chat on TRS-80 based BBSs. Rich Frueh believes the term originated on Bitnet's Relay, the early chat system that IRC was named after. When the ability to input a whole file to the chat system was implemented, people would annoy others by dumping the words to the Monty Python Spam Song.
My research has not found BBSers or Relay chatters using the term in USENET messages, so for now I conclude it was MUDders who brought the term to USENET and email.
(extract from Brad Templeton's Home page)
The Etymology of "Marzipan" (Etymology)
The old-fashioned English form is marchpane, and the variant marzipan is influenced by German. But a mediaeval Latin form of the word apparently meant a "little box" or "a kind of coin" (not the same thing). The clever philologist Kluyver in the July 1904 number of Zeitschrift fr deutsche Wortforschung claimed that the mediaeval Latin word matapanus referred to a Venetian coin showing Christ enthroned, and that the word derived from Arabic mauthaban, meaning "the king that sits still".
(extract from "The Spectator")
The Jargon Scout (Definitions)
Jargon Scout is an irregular TBTF feature that aims to give you advance warning -- preferably before Wired magazine picks it up -- of jargon that is just about ready to hatch into the Net's language. Jargon Scout also invites your collusion in inventing the requisite jargon, in those cases in which the concept emerges before its consensus denomination. Help the Jargon Scout chronicle the rise of jargonated job titles.
(extract from the Jargon Scout page)
Beastly Pronunciations (Accents and speech)
According to linguistic scholars, human speech developed several hundred thousand years ago. If that's true, isn't it amazing that today so many people have not yet gotten the hang of it and speak badly? They don't just mumble and fail to articulate clearly, they make beastly grammatical errors and mispronounce words.
The way we speak tells a great deal about our background, education, social class, and self-esteem. Some pointed and very amusing things have been written about the social implications of speech patterns. In the middle 1950's, Noblesse Oblige, a slender volume of essays edited by Nancy Mitford, became a best-seller and caused a mild scandal in England by discussing the class system openly.
According to one of the essays, "U and Non-U" by Professor Alan Ross, the English upper class is clearly marked off from the rest of the population by its language. Professor Ross labeled certain pronunciations as U (for upper class) or Non-U (for not upper class). For example, U-speakers pronounce the word "forehead" to rhyme with "torrid." Only the Non-U would pronounce it as "four-head." Similarly in U-speech the last syllable of the word "handkerchief" is pronounced to rhyme with "stiff," and pronouncing it to rhyme with "beef" would reveal the speaker's lowly Non-U origins.
(extract from William Livingstone's Monthly Commentary)
Plain English Campaign awards "Foot in Mouth Award" to Tracey Emin (Current usage/news)
British "Bad Girl" artist Tracey Emin should probably stick to creating works of art instead of talking about them.
The controversial artist dazzled judges of the Plain English Campaign with a sentence so puzzling that on Thursday it earned her the "Foot in Mouth Award" for the most baffling celebrity quote of the year.
Emin, who made the 1999 Turner Prize shortlist with an unmade bed featuring grubby sheets covered in condoms, cigarette ends and champagne corks, was talking about her new novel when she told the Observer newspaper: "When it comes to words I have a uniqueness that I find almost impossible in terms of art -- and it's my words that actually make my art quite unique".
It was a sentence that both perplexed and impressed the Award judges: "All we look for with this award is a quote that leaves us baffled. This quote does that in a unique way," said Plain English Campaign spokesman John Lister.
The Plain English Campaign and its lighthearted awards were formed in 1979 to fight gobbledygook and verbose, unclear and just plain baffling public information.
Past celebrity winners recognised for their ability to twist the English language into knots were soccer star Glen Hoddle and actress Alicia Silverstone.
(extract from Reuters)
What is the difference between "Eradicate" and "Irradicate"? (Definitions)
Both words contain the Latin word for "root" (radix). "Irradicate" means to fix firmly (deep-rooted). "Eradicate" means to pull up (by the root) or to remove entirely.
WordNet: a lexical database for the English language (Other)
WordNet is an online lexical reference system whose design is inspired by current psycholinguistic theories of human lexical memory. English nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are organized into synonym sets, each representing one underlying lexical concept. Different relations link the synonym sets.
(extract from the WordNet page)
The Devil's Derivatives Dictionary (Recreation/puzzles)
market neutral strategy - An ingenious plan, involving both long and short positions in a given market, that can lock in a serious, even fatal loss, regardless of whether the market goes up, down, or sideways.
With neither apologies nor royalties to Ambrose Bierce - he's long dead and the copyright on his Devil's Dictionary has long run out, here's our deliberately dark, and hopefully light view of Derivatives terms and others. - Ed.
(extract from The Devil's Derivatives Dictionary)
Economically Disadvantaged Men More Skilled At Communicating Attraction to Women (Other)
BOSTON - According to a Boston University study released Monday, men from lower-income backgrounds are significantly more skilled at communicating their attraction to women than their middle - and upper-class counterparts.
"Many people would assume that the relative dearth of educational opportunities available to men in lower economic strata would result in inferior communication skills," said Boston University social anthropologist Dr. Mary Schoen, co-author of the study. "To the contrary, our research finds that they are up to four times more adept at conveying their interest in women than men with higher incomes."
Lower-income men, Schoen said, have a variety of phrases at their disposal to clearly and concisely communicate their attraction to members of the opposite sex. Among them are, "Slow down so I can get a look at you," "Mmmm, you are lookin' fiiiine today," and "I wouldn't mind a piece-a dat."
"Cultures in which the written word is not stressed generally tend to develop a greater oral tradition," Schoen said. "Never before, however, has the propensity been placed in a socioeconomic context, specifically with regard to how certain demographic subsets are better able to articulate their desire to get with that hot little mama over there in the red dress."
"These men did not simply say, 'I like your breasts,'" Schoen said. "They used a vast array of terms: tits, jugs, knockers, knobs, headlights, titties, ta-tas, cans, hooters, boobs, boobies, bazooms, rack, mounds, maracas, milk cans, milk bags, yabbos, fun bags, slappies, coconuts, jabungos, melons. The full list, which is included in the report, is nine pages long."
"The nation's economically disadvantaged males face many problems. Fortunately, an inability to express themselves to attractive young women in public is not among them," Schoen said. "It is up to all of us to encourage these men to develop their skills even further, that their voice might rise, loud and proud, from car windows and construction sites all across the nation."
(extract from The Onion)
What is the etymology of "Miranda Warning"?
In 1963, Ernesto Miranda, an eighth-grade dropout with a criminal record, had been picked up by Phoenix police and accused of raping and kidnapping a mildly retarded 18-year-old woman. After two hours in a police interrogation room Miranda signed a written confession, but he apparently never was told that he had the right to remain silent, to have a lawyer, and to be protected against self-incrimination. Despite his lawyer's objections, the confession was presented as evidence at Miranda's trial, and he was convicted and sentenced to 20 years. His appeal went all the way to the Supreme Court, where it was joined with three other similar cases. In a landmark ruling issued in 1966, the court established that the accused have the right to remain silent and that prosecutors may not use statements made by defendants while in police custody unless the police have advised them of their rights.
How do different accents originate?
"...Nobody knows the complete answer to that. The area of linguistics which investigates this is called historical phonology. You are asking why different languages have different sound systems, and why those sound systems change. We do not know the origins of language, or if there was one original language. The first languages we do know anything about were already different, had different sound systems. Why? is NOT the primary question; the question is how different can the sound systems of languages be. We also have lots of evidence that every language breaks up over time into dialects and eventually different languages, and that changes in the sound system are always part of those changes. English and Chinese, for instance, used to have quite different sound systems than they do now, and the dialects of each of these languages also vary in their sound systems. We know a lot about those particular changes, but we don't know exactly why they happened.
About spread of changes from one person to another, everyone learns to speak from everyone else whose speech they understand, often without realising it. Nevertheless, we don't get chaos out of this, but distinct trends that have a social foundation, and make sense linguistically. This means they usually don't radically alter the sound system, but accumulate over time so that the sound system is always changing and always getting more different from what it was before. You can abstract a lot toward the answer to your question from what I said above, but you will have to realize that there are other questions that have to be answered before your questions can be answered completely. Your question boils down to a basic one about a certain basic human attribute: to speak a language (or even more than one) which changes over time..." (Commentary by Benji Wald, UCLA)
American Accent Training?
From their FAQ: "Yes, you absolutely can change your accent. The question is how much you can change it, and if you can remember to keep making the changes in a real conversation. This depends on your motivation and commitment, as well as your flexibility and willingness to change. How you speak is a very personal issue, and changing it can make you uncomfortable for a while, as you may feel that changing your speech is changing YOU" [sic]
What is the meaning of "Govende"?
"Govende" was a word invented by Daniel McGrath in his childhood. When Daniel was young and suffering from autism, he had a caretaker named "Julia". Daniel coined the word "Govende" from this association. The word is pronounced "goo-VAIN", and the word itself has no meaning.
The Guardian's "Word of the Week": "When acknowledging someone we do not know, "thank you" has come to sound effete. "Cheers" is the unprissy expression of gratitude."
How much is a billion?
The British/American differences in meaning for *billion* is discussed in aue.
Forthright's Phrontistery: Dictionary of Obscure Words and Word Lists
Although my email enquiry wasn't answered, it's an interesting site. Cache it while you can.
Let Us Give Thanks(Current usage/news)
The word of this week? The word of this age. "Cheers" said a librarian yesterday when I returned my books. "Cheers" says an English teacher when I agree to do a talk to sixth formers. "Cheers", I'm sure, says Tony Blair when a functionary hands him a cup of tea. This unobtrusive item is a measure of our mores, much more so than the neologisms paraded on the covers of the latest up-to-the-moment dictionary ("saddo", "technoplegia", etc).
On the little words pivots the language. When a population stopped saying "prithee" and started saying "please", a revolution had taken place. Now "cheers" is elbowing "thank you" aside. It is quite a recent thing. The 20-volume second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, published in 1989, does not even acknowledge this now ubiquitous usage, recording only the Edwardian invention of "Cheers!" (originally a "friendly exhortation to be cheerful"). This salutation before drinking, as it became, must be behind the now more common use of the word.
"An informal expression of thanks" says the New Penguin Dictionary, as if "thanks" were not informal enough. "Cheers", small, unpretending thing that it seems, is a strange modern gesture of fellowship, a formal declaration of informality. "Cheers" say DJs, male and female, and the post-match interviewers of sweaty sporting heroes. "Cheers", of course, says Jamie Oliver, to "mates" and tradesmen alike. But "cheers" also says one of the professors in my university department when I stop hogging the photocopier.
There is no stopping it. "Cheers" was once pseudo-demotic, maybe mockney. I have a dim, half-censored memory of substituting "cheers" for "thank you" as a teenager when sensitive about showing signs of being at a public school. Now, though, it has become almost universal. Perhaps it is still blokeish, but female undergraduates say "cheers" when you say it is OK to hand in an essay late. Perhaps it is downwardly mobile, but then you hear it in Sloaney accents too. It is our word for all weathers, our phatic egalitarian gesture.
When acknowledging someone we do not know, "thank you" has come to sound effete. "Cheers" is the unprissy expression of gratitude. It does not just stand in for "thanks". It also supplies what the English language has lacked. Where Germans can say "Bitte" in response to being thanked, we once had only "you're welcome" (either simpering or sarcastic). Now "cheers" will do. Where Italians can leave you with a happy "Ciao!" we have relied on "see you". Now many of us say "cheers". It is irreversible. Can it be long before we are teaching our children "please" and "cheers"?
(extract from "Word of the Week" by John Mullan, Guardian Unlimited)