Language and words in the news – 13th January, 2012

Posted by on January 13, 2012

After another short break, the weekly round-up posts return in 2012 with the usual selection of links related to recent language and words in the news. These can be items from the latest news, blog posts or interesting websites related to global English, language change, education in general, and language learning and teaching in particular.

Feel free to contact us if you would like to submit a link for us to include, or just add a comment to the post, with the link(s) you’d like to share.

Global English

The Year of ‘Occupy’
Overall winner as Word of the Year, with twice as many votes as its nearest rival, was occupy. Rather disappointing, I thought: the Mitt Romney of the field of candidates. Just an ordinary and rather moderate verb, not a neologism.

English Should Be Official Language, Santorum Says
Santorum – whose father was a first-generation immigrant from Italy – believes all immigrants should learn English. He does not favor bilingual education.

Language change and slang

Waterstones ditches apostrophe
Book chain Waterstone’s has ditched the apostrophe before its final letter in order to make its spelling easier in the digital age, the company has said.

The beginning of the end for the mademoiselle?
The Germans waved goodbye to their “fraulein” in 1972. In the English-speaking world the use of “Miss” is in decline … But in France – just as in Spain with their “senorita” and Italy with their “signorina” – things are a bit different.

The horror of ungrammatical lyrics
Call it grammarian’s karaoke: that moment when you find yourself diverging from a song’s lyrics, not because you don’t know them, but because you’re fixing their grammar. Sure, not everyone does this; some folks can let a missed preposition or the wrong verb glide right by. But others … find them as impossible to ignore as a rock in the shoe.

Improve your English

Cartoon: A Pinch of Cheese
A pinch of an ingredient such as salt is the amount that you can hold between your thumb and your first finger. And to pinch something, especially something of little value, means to steal it.

Books, words, science and the history of language

The mamas & the papas in babies’ babbling
Before I knew anything about language acquisition, I assumed that babies making these utterances were referring to their parents. But this interpretation is backwards: mama/papa words just happen to be the easiest word-like sounds for babies to make. The sounds came first – as experiments in vocalization – and parents adopted them as pet names for themselves.

F is for Forensic linguistics
… forensic linguistics has matured into a discipline in its own right … and it is regularly enlisted in cases of doubtful or disputed authorship such as wills, confessions, emergency calls, hate mail, suicide notes, blackmail demands, and literary plagiarism.

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