This Week’s Language Blog Roundup

by Angela Tung on August 12, 2011

It’s time again for our weekly Language Blog Roundup, in which we bring you the highlights from our favorite language blogs and the latest in word news.

In news about the UK riots, Jon Henley at The Guardian pondered the riots and language (“rioter, protester, or scum?”); The Virtual Linguist wondered about the terms wreaked havoc and wrought havoc, and the use of wanton in the news (“wanton damage, wanton violence, wanton criminality, wanton destruction”); and Geoffrey K. Pullum at Language Log was appalled at the occasional chaos and difficulty of the English language.

Next, a final word on “irritating” Americanisms from Dennis Baron at the Oxford University Press blog. Professor Baron confirmed that many of the “Americanisms” that Matthew Engel and others find so irritating are in fact not American at all, and noted that anti-Americanism sentiment has existed throughout history, such as in 1781 when John Witherspoon, “a Scot who relocated to New Jersey and became the first president of Princeton,” also complained about several Americanisms that were, guess what, not American either.

In more British and American differences, Laura Wattenberg at The Baby Name Wizard compared British and American baby names in two parts while The Oatmeal gave a hilarious – and off-color – interpretation on the difference between British and American accents.

Meanwhile, Johnson, The Economist’s language blog, featured Indian-English and the Samosapedia, “the definitive guide to South Asian lingo” (for even more on Samosapedia, check out the Q&A with the founders on CNN). Johnson also took a look at a possible eggcorn and the ordering of adjectives.

In technology news, TAUS asserted that corpus linguistics is the future; K International wondered if tweets are the new haiku; and Fritinancy took note of a word of the week, nymwars:

The controversy over Google Plus’s mandatory real-names-only policy. The word, sometimes spelled nym wars—nym is cropped from pseudonym—was coined in late July and gained currency as a Twitter hashtag.

In the realm of digital storytelling, Aleks Krotoski at The Guardian wrote about how technology can enhance storytelling, while the publisher Melville House announced this week that it will be publishing HybridBooks, “an innovative publishing program that gives print books the features of enhanced eBooks,” such as a Quick Response or QR code at which users can aim their phones for supplemental material.

NPR had an interview with linguist John McWhorter, whose book, What Language Is (And What It Isn’t and What It Could Be), is now available (and which Erin McKean liked).  The Macmillan Dictionary blog explored gender differences in language, with a post from Michael Rundell on the effects of gender on the evolution of definitions, and from Stan Carey on “gender-skewed words” on Twitter. On his blog, Mr. Carey went into more detail about Tweetolife, a web demo that’s “the result of a study that was carried at the Language, Interaction and Computation Laboratory at the University of Trento in Italy.”

At Language Log, Geoffrey K. Pullum tried to be nice about commas; Victor Mair discovered a troubling translation; Mark Liberman examined the problem of using too many “negatives in one proposition”; and Eric Baković discussed British actors playing Americans on The Wire and elsewhere.

This inspired a post on the Dialect Blog about The Wire and its impressive dialect work, with each episode demonstrating “unique blend of African American Vernacular English, Baltimorese and various professional jargons,” and how the “lingo of police, drug dealers, union men, and politicians” was used as “highly codified forms of language. . .to sugarcoat cruelty and violence.”

Dialect Blog also looked at accents on another popular show, Mad Men, questioning if Americans ever speak so “properly”, while The Atlantic wondered when Americans stopped speaking “a particular kind of lah-dee-dah American diction” popular in “old movies and newsreels from the 1930s and 1940s.”

Dialect Blog also posted on Scouse, “the native accent of Liverpool,” while  the Virtual Linguist noted that the “official match ball for next year’s Olympics will be nicknamed ‘The Albert‘,” which is Cockney rhyming slang for ball. K International reported on the resurrection of Tunica, a Native American language from the Mississippi River Valley, and on ancient Greek translation.

Grammarphobia compared home invasion and burglary; Grammar Monkeys roamed through some false ranges; Language Hat enjoyed railroad terminology; and Oxford Dictionaries scared up an extensive list of phobias. Sesquiotic wrote about perfectly cromulent words; arks of many types; and some awesome fantastic bobotie.

Speaking of awesome fantastic food, how about some computational cashews, ranking red bell peppers, or algorithmic almonds?  Or perhaps a scanwich and scandybar, followed by fried scholar and fungus gnat turnovers?  Or maybe we could meet at the bustaurant and have some moffles and cherpumples, and share a bottle of ass-y wine (or maybe not). Drink too much wine and you might need one of these drunkonyms from The Chicago Tribune.

Last week we looked at 12 authors’ favorite snacks and 12 authors’ weird deaths – how about 11 authors’ day jobs? Meanwhile in the UK, graffiti grammar is being corrected by a mystery superhero (Captain Prescriptivist?).

Finally, National Geographic affirmed that we change personalities when we switch languages, and that there’s fun and adventure to be had in finding a third-party tongue, “a common language that’s non-native to both speakers,” when traveling.

That’s it from here. Till next week, happy oyster pirating!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: