language and words in the news

Language and words in the news – 17 April, 2010

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

Air-traffic controllers’ bad English may have caused tragedy in Smolensk.

UK: Foreign workers ‘to face English tests‘ .
English tests will be made compulsory for all public sector migrant workers, under manifesto pledges to be announced by Gordon Brown today.

UK: English-speaking pupils now the minority in 1,500 British schools.

Drug label accuracy getting lost in translation.
Computer programs pharmacists rely on to translate prescription labels for non-English speaking customers often produce potentially harmful errors, new research indicates.

Language change and slang

Wellness is here to stay, despite misgivings over the years that it isn’t such a well-formed word. How did it take over, and whatever happened to good old health?

Globish and its discontents.
It’s useful to look at some of the contrary passions that the notion of Globish inspires, since they can help clarify what it is.

Mikitish: Why we write right.
Advertisements and notices regularly confuse “fewer” and “less”, and too often is the object of the preposition written as a subject (“between you and I”).

Schoolyard lore and language.
Co-vocabularists have generously shared the rhythms and rhymes of their schooldays.

New York Times continues its obsession with swearing.
Whether you’re a fan of swearing, simply tolerate it, or have a negative reaction toward it, perhaps you can at least appreciate the irony of the New York Times continually trying to tackle a subject it can’t actually detail.

Library of Congress acquires entire Twitter archives.

Improve your English

Setting an Assignment: Read the Dictionary.
Set. This is a word you can spend a week or more wallowing in. You can roll around in there and lose sight of what language actually is as your mind struggles to differentiate among the hundreds of shades of meaning that can be produced by three letters.

Books, words, science and the history of language

Readings for writers: classic essays on enduring themes.
“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading in order to write,” Samuel Johnson said. “A man will turn over half a library to make a book.”

In Scrabble, Minding Z’s and Q’s, and Much More
What’s a word? Scrabble has been bound up in that existential question since the game exploded into prominence more than a half-century ago.

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Jonathan Cole

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