background preloader

Linguists reveal the 100 words that have shaped the English language

Linguists reveal the 100 words that have shaped the English language
Related:  Lexical Changedavebrown66language change

Chavs, sluts and the war of words | Mind your language | Media Like an expedition to the source of the Nile, any attempt to find the origins of a word runs aground when the trail vanishes into a realm without tangible records: oral culture. As Baroness Hussein-Ece – she who was "trapped in a queue in chav-land" – will tell you, Twitter is oral culture but with records. But words have power beyond their mere meaning. They still bear the hallmarks of the Garden of Eden, in which the language spoken by Adam contained the essence of the thing it described, and so controlled it. The meaning of "chav" has been hotly contested (Polly Toynbee's piece received 1,152 comments), being deemed variously to refer to class, financial acuity, behavioural traits, lifestyle, sartorial choices, debt and housing. This is chicken and egg time. Chav seems to have come about severally and spontaneously in response to a need. But what about old words? Old words evolve, too, by stepping out of the dictionary and back into oral culture.

Google autocomplete interactive map of state stereotypes: the fat, boring, and racist states of America Courtesy of Renee DiResta / NoUpside Note: The interactive map below may not be working in some browsers, including Internet Explorer 8. Apologies for any inconvenience while we track down the bug. Indiana: boring. Maine: boring. Such, at least, are the verdicts rendered by Google’s autocomplete function, according to some informal research by venture capitalist and occasional blogger Renee DiResta. State by state, she started typing “Why is [state] so” into her Google search bar, and let its algorithm guess the remainder of her question. “It seemed like an ideal question to get at popular assumptions, since ‘Why is [state] so X?’ Stereotypes don't always correspond to reality, but it turns out that there is some wisdom in the crowd's assumptions. Google’s guesses change over time, so her results aren’t necessarily the same ones you’d get if you tried the searches yourself today. DiResta’s full post, including a map of states that actually return positive results, is here.

7 Words that Came About from People Getting Them Wrong 1. Pea Originally the word was "pease," and it was singular. ("The Scottish or tufted a good white Pease fit to be eaten.") The sound on the end was reanalyzed as a plural 's' marker, and at the end of the 17th Century people started talking about one "pea." 2. The same thing happened to "cherise" or "cheris," which came from Old French "cherise" and was reanalyzed as a plural. 3. "Apron" also came into English from Old French and was originally "napron" ("With hir napron feir..She wypid sofft hir eyen.") 4. Umpire lost its 'n' from the same sort of confusion. 5. The confusion about which word the 'n' belonged to could end up swinging the other way too. 6. The 'n' also traveled over from the "an" to stick to "nickname," which was originally "ekename," meaning "added name." 7. Alligator came to English from the Spanish explorers who first encountered "el lagarto" (lizard) in the New World. All example quotes come from the Oxford English Dictionary.

A Point of View: Roll up for the inauguration 25 January 2013Last updated at 12:12 ET The US presidential inauguration is a unique political spectacle, says historian David Cannadine. Whenever possible, I like to be in the United States to witness the patriotic festivities and political theatre that once again took place in Washington DC last Monday, for they are an extraordinary amalgam of national celebration and religious fervour, piety and partying, glitz and glory, showbiz and razzle-dazzle. Nowhere else in the world is there anything quite like an American presidential inauguration, and the fact they've happened once every four years for more than two and a quarter centuries is also unique. In their fundamentals, the pomp and the ceremonial are essentially unchanging, and all of them since Bill Clinton's second inaugural in 1997 have been available live on the internet, which means it's possible to follow this quintessentially American spectacle as it happens from virtually anywhere in the world. Continue reading the main story

OED birthday word generator: which words originated in your birth year Do you know which words entered the English language around the same time you entered the world? Use our OED birthday word generator to find out! We’ve scoured the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to find words with a first known usage for each year from 1900 to 2004. Simply select the relevant decade and click on your birth year to discover a word which entered the English language that year. Please note that the dates given for these words refer to the current first known usage of the word. If you are a subscriber or have access to the OED, visit our guide to learn how to find your own personal OED birthday word. Click on your birth year in the left-hand column to discover your OED birthday word. Words originating in the 1900s include: barfly, n. do-gooder, n. dramedy, n. ailurophobe, n. car boot, n. wassup, int. radio, n. wiretap, n. Words originating in the 1910s include: pastiche, v. headstand, n. rubber-stamping, adj. environmentalism, n. ad-lib, v. record player, n. roomie, n. 1900s

A very concise dictionary of student slang Student slang is a rapidly changing lingo, and you don't want to get caught out during freshers week confusing "hench" with "dench". In the interests of preserving your cool, here's our glossary of well-worn faves. Feel free to add local variants and new witticisms in the comments. Bare Not actually anything to do with nudity, bare is an adjective meaning "a lot of", or "obviously". "I can't come to your party, I've got bare work to do."" Used by: Hipsters, at first; slowly but surely filtering down through the student ranks. Bnoc An acronym standing for "big name on campus". "Sam thinks he's such a Bnoc, but really he's just deputy treasurer of the cheese appreciation society." Used by: The weary friends of CV-obsessives who live in the student's union. Chunder Verb meaning to vomit, usually due to over-consumption of alcohol. "I thought that drinking whisky neat would make me look suave like that guy from Mad Men, but now I think I might chunder." Chundergrad Dench Desmond Hench Used by: Lads. Jel

Siletz Language, With Few Voices, Finds Modern Way to Survive But the forces that are helping to flatten the landscape are also creating new ways to save its hidden, cloistered corners, as in the unlikely survival of Siletz Dee-ni. An American Indian language with only about five speakers left — once dominant in this part of the West, then relegated to near extinction — has, since earlier this year, been shouting back to the world: Hey, we’re talking. (In Siletz that would be naa-ch’aa-ghit-’a.) “We don’t know where it’s going to go,” said Bud Lane, a tribe member who has been working on the online Siletz Dee-ni Talking Dictionary for nearly seven years, and recorded almost all of its 10,000-odd audio entries himself. Since February, however, when organizers began to publicize its existence, Web hits have spiked from places where languages related to Siletz are spoken, a broad area of the West on through Canada and into Alaska. “They told us our language was moribund and heading off a cliff,” said Mr. “We’re the last standing,” Mr.

Loanword Examples of loan words in English include: café, bazaar, and kindergarten. Curiously, the word loanword is itself a calque of the German term Lehnwort,[1] while the term calque is a loanword from French. Problems with the term 'loanword'[edit] Lexical adaptations are frequently in the form of phrases, for which the term "loanword" is less apt, e.g. déjà vu, an English loan from French. For simplicity, adopt/adoption, adapt/adaption, or lexical borrowing are thus used by many linguists.[2][3] Strictly speaking, the terms borrow and loanword, although traditional, conflict with the ordinary meaning of those words since something is taken from but nothing is returned to the donor languages.[4] This metaphor is not isolated to the concept of loanwords, but also found in the idiom "to borrow an idea," and even in the mathematical term "borrowing" used in subtraction. Loanwords entering a language[edit] External associations (from travel abroad)[edit] Loanword passing into general use[edit]

Do euphemisms soften the impact of war or mask the truth? Casualty ‘He had been trained to take out other men. We had made sure his weaponry was smart, And softened up the enemy with carpet Bombing. By some friendly fire.’ Instead he could have taken out some girls, The mirror having proved him smart enough; And one, perhaps, happy to take him home, Might have softened up on some dark carpet By some friendly fire. In his short poem ‘Casualty’, Gerry Abbott responds to the use of euphemisms for killing often seen and heard in the media. He looks first at the use of euphemisms in daily life as a way of avoiding delicate or taboo subject matter and refers to these as ‘respectful’ euphemisms. He then turns his attention to the increased use in recent years of military euphemisms used in war reporting. Of course, as Abbott acknowledges, euphemisms thrive in spheres other than military contexts. The main thrust of this paper, then, is that the use of euphemisms in these contexts points to a lack of truthfulness. Abbott, G. (2010).

The unstoppable march of hybrid bakery products 9 October 2013Last updated at 14:41 GMT Magazine Monitor A collection of cultural artefacts The "duffin", a mash-up of a doughnut and a muffin, is the latest portmanteau baked good to make the news. Why are these pastry amalgams suddenly everywhere, wonders Jon Kelly. It started with the Cronut, an unholy mongrel of croissant and doughnut. Then followed the townie (a tartlet crossed with a brownie) and the brookie (a blend of brownies and cookies endorsed by Martha Stewart, no less). Oh, and there's also the muffle (muffin plus waffle), the crookie (croissant, meet cookie) and the macanut (a macaroon-doughnut fusion). Now we have the Duffin, a doughnut-muffin compound that captured headlines after it was trademarked by a Starbucks supplier, despite having been produced by an independent London tearoom for the past couple of years. Portmanteau bakery, it seems, is everywhere. At one stage in culinary history these confections would have been shunned as an offence to both God and nature.