The beauty of a language is in the ears of the heholder

Thursday, 13 March, 2014

While French is always a language I enjoy listening to – it may then explain my penchant for French made films – I wouldn’t go so far to describe other languages, that I don’t speak, as harsh, or even obnoxious. It seems though some people take exception to certain languages simply because they don’t like the way they sound

Languages have been described as sounding “decent,” “terrible,” “whiny,” “obnoxious,” and even “like a headache.” They are praised as “efficient,” “advanced” and “modern,” or “sweet” and “poetic,” or accused of having “too much vowels” or just sounding “strange” – whatever that means. One critic even condemned a language as “annoying,” which sounds like a forthright statement, if a bit judgmental.

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Retronyms: new names for old things that had to be renamed

Tuesday, 4 March, 2014

Non-electric guitars once used to be known simply as guitars*. It was only after electric guitars came along, did people start referring to them as “acoustic guitars”. That is an example of a retronym, a new word, or term, that gives a new name to the original version of an object, device, product, service, whatever.

Landline telephone instead of telephone, is another example, and plenty more retronyms are listed here.

*Anyone care to myth-bust that claim/assertion?

(Thanks Sarah)

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The origin of the world’s favourite expletive starting with f

Wednesday, 19 February, 2014

A friend’s young son recently found himself in hot water for using the word in question, in a Disney operated discussion forum no less, so I shall refrain from actually making mention of it here and now. Still, if language and history are your things, you can read more about the origins of said word here:

Another theory for its late arrival is that it’s a borrowing from Norse (the Vikings) via Scottish because several early instances are found in Scottish writing (such as the fifteenth-century one discounted in that other article). However, this is generally believed to be unlikely, in part because the Scottish weren’t considered influential enough for English to borrow words from them. Perhaps there were more early written examples in Scottish simply because they were less prudish about writing it.

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Neologisms from the year you were newly born

Wednesday, 8 January, 2014

Did the words/terms gazillion, air guitar, or nu skool, come into being the year you were born? Find out with the OED birthday word generator, compiled by Oxford Dictionaries Online.

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Catching up with the slang used by US military forces

Friday, 13 December, 2013

A comprehensive guide to the latter day slang used by US soldiers. It may interest you to know, for instance, that helicopters are referred to as “birds”, not “choppers”, while you’ll never guess what “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” stands for…

Slang changes with the times, and the military is no different. Soldiers fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have developed an expansive new military vocabulary, taking elements from popular culture as well as the doublespeak of the military industrial complex.

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There have always been tight pants, always slang terms for them

Tuesday, 10 December, 2013

Those residing during Victorian times appeared to enjoy their slang as much as anyone else, in fact, the era was awash with an array of jargon and colloquialisms. And tight pants it seems, that were obviously common enough to be accorded an idiom of their own, “gas pipes”.

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The lack of a full stop is now an emoticon, but not a good emoticon

Thursday, 5 December, 2013

The presence of full stops in text messages and online discussions tends to suggest the author is perhaps not in the best frame of mind… in a passive-aggressive sort of way, I’d say.

The period was always the humblest of punctuation marks. Recently, however, it’s started getting angry. I’ve noticed it in my text messages and online chats, where people use the period not simply to conclude a sentence, but to announce “I am not happy about the sentence I just concluded.”

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There’s nothing new about selfies, this one’s 175 years old

Monday, 2 December, 2013

Photo by, and of, Robert Cornelius

No sooner does the word “selfie” earn itself title of the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year, than someone digs up what is thought to be the world’s first such photograph, a picture Robert Cornelius, a US chemist, took of himself in 1839.

I get the feeling though this claim may be challenged, but let’s see what happens.

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Analysing the words used in certain series of well known novels

Thursday, 28 November, 2013

For those with an interest in such things, listings of the most distinct, and commonly used adjectives, adverbs, and sentences used in the fantasy/adventure “Hunger Games”, “Harry Potter”, and “Twilight”, series of novels.

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The word of the year is “selfie”, but might it be a sleeping beauty?

Wednesday, 27 November, 2013

2013’s Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is… selfie, as in the photos we, or many of us, delight in taking of ourselves with, usually, our smartphone cameras.

I’m not sure how long this will remain unchallenged, but seemingly the… neologism originated in Australia, or at least in an Australian online discussion forum, in 2002.

Who knows, studies of historical transcripts may yet reveal the use of “selfie” dating back centuries. It’s happened before. A word falls from use and then reappears many decades later. “Sleeping beauty” is one term used to describe such situations.

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