language and words in the news

Language and words in the news – 18th May, 2010

This time a slightly delayed and shorter version …

This 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

106 schools line up for The Times Spelling Bee semi-finals
Teams of 11 and 12-year-olds will participate in heats at cinemas across the country this week, and the top 10 will go through to the Grand Final in Central London on June 24.

The Brit parade
“The general stereotype is of the high-cultured, high-brow intellectual variety,” says Gregory Ward, a professor of linguistics at Northwestern.

David Cameron’s quirky speech can be difficult to understand
David Crystal, a linguistics professor, said that Cameron’s answer was a historical putdown that dates back to Roman times. “Saying ‘This will succeed through its success’ is a down- to-earth way of saying ‘Don’t ask silly questions.’

Demand for MBAs in Russian
The world’s third most-spoken first language and, more importantly, its most popular second language, English is often, somewhat ironically, labeled the lingua franca of the business world. But not all Russia’s businesspeople are English speakers, and learning a language to study for a master of business administration degree can be time-consuming.

Language change and slang

Queens accent is fading away
There’s a slew of ways to prove you’re from Queens. Maybe you’re a die-hard Mets fan, or you’ve perfected the art of crossing Queens Blvd., or you recognize the Unisphere from a mile away. But one thing that won’t prove you hail from the borough is the way you speak, insist experts and some notable Queens natives.

What did we do before ‘cyber’?
Sol Steinmetz, a lexicographer with more than 35 dictionaries and reference books to his name, is not a science fiction writer, but his new book, ”There’s A Word For It,” could fuel hundreds of alternate histories.

Phrasal overlap portmanteaus
Fond memory bed is based on two two-word expressions, the A + N combination (a common collocation or cliché — depending on your opinion of the combination) fond memory and the N + N compound (a kind of commercial jargon) memory foam bed.

New words: “Uber-d’oh
It won’t be a Word of the Year candidate or anything, but I have to call your attention to this headline from Talking Points Memo: Uber-D’oh

Improve your English

On useful tautology
Tautology is usually thought of as something to be avoided. But there are occasions when saying the same thing twice actually has a purpose.

E is for Error
“It’s self-evident,” wrote an MA student of mine recently, in an online forum, “that most learner errors are caused by mother tongue interference”.  Is it really self-evident?

Agreeable numbers
Majority is best used to describe a situation in which there are two numbers and the larger is more than half the amount of the total.


Strange Signs From Abroad
We asked readers to share photos of amusingly translated or otherwise quirky signs that they’ve found during their travels.
(Following on from: A Sampling of Chinglish)

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Kati Sule

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