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Language and words in the news – 8th May, 2015

© Volodymyr Vasylkiv / Fotolia.comThis post contains a 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, 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.

Language change and slang

Tracing the Tangled Thread of “Seersucker”
The original Persian name of the fabric, with its signature stripes and crinkled surface, was shir o shakkar, literally “milk and sugar.”

Global English

Politics, pronunciation and the pursuit of perfection
A thought-provoking post on what it means to speak English ‘with an accent’.

Language teaching and resources

Vocabulary: making the shift from passive to active
Especially at higher levels, there seems to be a perception that vocab activities should only contain completely ‘new’ words, otherwise learners won’t feel like they’re learning and teachers won’t feel like they’re teaching.

Improve your English

‘Dwarves’ or ‘dwarfs’ – which spelling is correct?
It may come as a great surprise to the fans of The Lord of the Rings, but the correct traditional spelling of the plural of “dwarf” is “dwarfs”, not “dwarves”.

Books, words, language and politics

Parents want ‘Of Mice and Men,’ ‘Kite Runner’ removed from high schools 
If parents get their way, John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” and Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” could be banned from their children’s high school classrooms in Idaho and North Carolina, respectively.

Can wizards vote in Muggle elections? Plus other questions about wizarding democracy
The Harry Potter books make our electoral system seem like an Eden of political transparency.

Creating a language made up of nothing but emoji
“It’s ridiculous,” said Arika Okrent, a linguist and author of the 2009 book In the Land of Invented Languages. “Emoji are fun. I like emoji. But they’re not a language — they’re a game of charades.”

As the dust settles following the UK election, here again in case you missed them are a couple of linguistic analyses of the things politicians say, plus a new one:

The British talk about cake 50 times as much as the deficit – politicians should cotton on
Tony McEnery and Robbie Love compared the language of the leaders’ TV debate with that used by the rest of us. It won’t surprise you to learn that there are some substantial differences.

Manifestospeak: What can linguistic analysis tell us about politicians and their attitudes?
Meanwhile Patrick Hanks and Sara Može have been crunching the language of the manifestos to find out the hidden meanings behind all those promises.

The 2015 election lexicon: what they said, and what it meant
A glossary of this election’s vocabulary, from ain’t to weaponise, and what it really means.


How to combine the two big news stories of the week
Cartoonist Matt cunningly weaves together the birth of the latest royal baby and the Labour leader’s decision to set his party’s election promises in stone.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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