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Language and words in the news – 9th September, 2011

This post contains a 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

Poet laureate Duffy says texting is the new poetry
Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy says texting is a modern form of poetry and an ideal vehicle for the Facebook generation.

No word for -ing
The internet is replete with funny Chinese signs in English, but a friend currently in Kunming, in southwester China, sends in a doozy of an unusual one.  …  What’s unusual is the borrowing of just a single bit of English: that “-ing” ending.

Language change and slang

Twitter spawns twitterverse of new words
With its 140-character limit, Twitter encourages abbreviation. It’s also an informal forum, one where people are more comfortable inventing terms than they would be in other forms of the written word.

20 Years of ADS’ Word of the Year
… 2011 marks the 20th anniversary of the American Dialect Society‘s selection of its ”Word of the Year.” The list of words upon which the organization has bestowed the award reveals a great deal about American culture’s evolution over the past two decades.

Improve your English

LinkedIn Reveals the 10 Most Overused Job-Hunter Buzzwords
According to our LinkedIn profiles, a great many of us tend to describe ourselves as motivated team players with extensive experience.

Books, words, science and the history of language

Bilingual brain may start to fade by age 1
Learning a second language is second nature to babies, but new research finds the ability may begin to fade as early as the first birthday.

Reading fiction ‘improves empathy’, study finds
It’s a result that shows that reading fiction improves understanding of others, and this has a very basic importance in society, not just in the general way making the world a better place by improving interpersonal understanding, but in specific areas such as politics, business, and education.


BBC Word of Mouth: English As a Lingua Franca (30′)
Most conversations in English are among people who aren’t native speakers of the language. In universities around the world, vast voice banks are being compiled by researchers who are examining the use of English as a contact language in a globalized world. … But is there really such a thing as English as a Lingua Franca?


Frank & Ernest rule the world
A lot of American English speakers don’t produce an actual ‘n’ in a word like can’t. … The story is that this happens when the nasal is followed in the same syllable by another consonant, so that you have an ‘n’ in can but not can’t.

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Kati Sule


  • Disapearing words: what’s up with that? My peeve or one of my peeves is the word Actress. Are there no more actresses? Only actors? It has gotten so bad that even females refer to themselves as an actor and not actress. Even from the “MacMillan Dictonary: ” a woman who performs in plays and films, especially as her job. Many women performers prefer to be called actors rather than actresses.” Now why would that be? Sorry to vent but I’m peeved.

  • Jim: I’m sure you are not alone in regretting the demise of ‘actress’. The -ess suffix used to be widespread, with words like ‘poetess’, ‘authoress’, and even ‘editress’. But the normal ‘agentive’ suffixes (-er, -or) are not inherently male but gender-neutral: think of ‘baker’, ‘advisor’, ‘sprinter’ etc, The argument against -ess is that it draws attention to the person’s gender when this isn’t really relevant to how they do their job. Logically, anyone who acts is an ‘actor’, just as anyone who designs things is a designer. Interestingly, the -ess form is preserved at events like the Oscars (‘Best Supporting Actress’) because it’s necessary here to distinguish the categories on gender lines. But in other award ceremonies, the words ‘male’ and ‘female’ are used instead: ‘best female singer’ (not ‘best songstress’), and maybe that will happen with actress too.

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