language and words in the news

Language and words in the news – 18 December, 2009

© Ioannis Kounadeas / Fotolia.comThis post contains a weekly selection of links related to language and words in the news. These can be items from the latest news, blog posts or interesting websites related to global English and language change. Please contact us if you would like to submit a link for us to include.

Global English

USA: Clarity, please: Democrats should start printing plain-language legislation.
But what’s far more scandalous is the utter incomprehensibility of it all to 99% of voters.

European English.
The most surprising element of English in Europe is that its prime purpose is not to communicate with native English speakers such as tourists.

A new trend has infiltrated the Swedish language.
English verbs like to dress, to sprint or to push are extremely common examples. People have made them Swedish by putting an “a” at the end of e.g. dress which makes it “dressa”.

Internet: bridging digital divide, protecting linguistic inheritance.
70% of Internet sites are readable only in English, yet only 35% of users are native English speakers. 4% of the world’s population speaks 96% of the world’s 7,000 languages. 50% of these are expected to die by the year 2100.

The beckoning silence: Why half of the world’s languages are in serious danger of dying out.

Linguists unite against English invasion.
What is different about the current dominance of English is that it is the first truly global language and it is spewing out words at a pace that other languages have no chance to compete with.

Language change and slang

Redefining definition.
One child, given the word erode, wrote, “Our family erodes a lot,” because the definition given was “eat out, eat away.”…Given these shortcomings of definitions, and the advantages of examples, why do we still cling to definitions?

Meep! The power of the meaningless.
News of the ban made for a moderately sized sensation, full of entertaining elements … a (possibly) overzealous principal (who also forwarded e-mails containing the word meep to the local police) …

Slang links warriors to home, front lines.
We may even have encountered, or experienced, the occasional SNAFU, for “Situation Normal: All (Fouled) Up.”But what on Earth is a “death blossom?” Or a “fobbit,” for that matter?

The scientific language of climate change.
One “believes” in faeries or leprechauns or angels. You do not “believe” in evolution or gravity or climate change.

Q and A: The death of languages.
Who says English is going to dominate forever? Last I checked, India and China are ascendant and the US is in decline.

Improve your English

Seven great English time expressions and idioms.

Common errors in English

His “Biological Cock”: on three decades of collecting Freudian slips.
What happens when an English professor becomes a psychologist?

Spot the mistakes.
The most common error spotted: ‘No outside food allowed.’

Things people say that I hate

Christmas at the White House failure.
Lame as a negative descriptor is problematic because it demeans those of us who are differently abled.

The literate architect.
Irregardless. Let the record show that this is not even a word.

7 words that must die in 2010.

Books, words, science and the history of language

Sign language puzzle solved.
…This means spoken English has more redundancy than the signed equivalent.

The 10 strangest books in the English language.

Today’s chortle.
Sarah Palin created a new market: the illiterate bestseller.

Mark Twain’s top ten writing tips.
7. Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

The greatest hyperboles of all time.
On or about December 1910 human character changed.(Virginia Woolf, “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown,” 1924).

Language Video: UK vs US English

Check out this clip for the different terms UK and US English speakers use for everyday things.

Read more about language and words in the news.

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Jonathan Cole

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