British children 'turn to American English' 29 May 2012Last updated at 09:24 ET Argentine footballer Lionel Messi was among the famous people mentioned British children are increasingly using American English in their writing, according to a report based on entries to a BBC short story competition. Oxford University Press studied around 74,000 entries for Radio 2's 500 Words contest. Americanisms such as cupcake, garbage truck, trash can, candy, sidewalk and soda were found in many of the entries. Famous people such as Justin Bieber, Prince William and Radio 2's Chris Evans made repeated appearances. Children's writer Dame Jacqueline Wilson, singer Jessie J and the footballers Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney also featured prominently. Books proved to be a big influence on participants. Technology also had a big influence, with popular words including Google and app (short for application). Doors, the most used common noun, was included 67,783 times, while the most common names used in the stories were Lucy and Jack.
Why Do Brits and Americans Spell Words Differently? Two people, one common language… sort of. Center vs. centre, color vs. colour, realize vs. realise — a seemingly endless list of spelling divergences have cropped up in the 250 years since the colonies and United Kingdom were ruled by one and the same king. Why are there so many differences in British and American spelling, and how did they creep in? Each word has its own unique history, but the primary mover and shaker in this transatlantic drama is the nineteenth century American lexicographer Noah Webster, he of dictionary fame. According to "A History of English Spelling" (Manchester University, 2011) by D.G. Scragg, Webster's dictionary of 1828 is largely responsible for standardizing the accepted spelling of American English. Before 1828, many words, such as humor (or humour), defense (or defence) and fiber (or fibre), had two acceptable spellings on both sides of the pond, because they were introduced in England via both Latin and French, which used different spellings.
Learn English online: How the internet is changing language Online, English has become a common language for users from around the world. In the process, the language itself is changing. When America emerged from the ashes of a bruising war with Britain in 1814, the nation was far from united. Noah Webster thought that a common language would bring people together and help create a new identity that would make the country truly independent of the British. Webster's dictionary, now in its 11th edition, adopted the Americanised spellings familiar today - er instead of re in theatre, dropping the u from colour, and losing the double l from words such as traveller. It also documented new words that were uniquely American such as skunk, opossum, hickory, squash and chowder. An American Dictionary of the English Language took 18 years to complete and Webster learned 26 other languages in order to research the etymology of its 70,000 entries. The internet is creating a similar language evolution, but at a much faster pace. Take Hinglish.
Are 'geek' and 'nerd' now positive terms? 15 November 2012Last updated at 20:07 ET By Kathryn Westcott BBC News Magazine Campaigners in Sweden are trying to force a dictionary to change its definition of "nerd". But after two decades of "reappropriation" has "nerd" - and its sister word "geek" - now completely lost its derogatory connotations? In the 1984 film Revenge of the Nerds the rousing final speech of one of the protagonists starts with the statement: "I'm a nerd." Its plot may be cartoonish but the film reveals a certain cultural backdrop - to be a nerd was to be socially awkward, even socially inferior. Things have changed. Continue reading the main story Nerds: The origin of the species Used to describe one of the creatures in the 1950 Dr Seuss book If I Ran the Zoo First recorded reference in Newsweek, in 1951 Commonly used by late 1970s, coinciding with boom in computer use The Social Network in 2010 came in a very different social milieu. Even sportsmen unabashedly refer to themselves as "nerds". Geeks
Differences between British and American English | OTUK - Study English online with British English teachers When you are learning English as a foreign language, it is important to understand the differences between British and American English. Mixing the two varieties will make your English sound strange and unnatural so it is best to choose just one and use it all the time. There is no “better” or “worse” variety of English and both British and American have their advantages depending on how and where you intend to use the language. “England and America are two countries separated by a common language” – George Bernard Shaw This quote by the famous Irish linguist and playwright still rings true today and various differences between British and American English remain. Native speakers of both varieties have relatively few problems understanding one another, but there are several points at which British and American diverge. The most evident differences between British and American English are in vocabulary. Shop vs. For a complete word list with further explanations, click here. -our vs.
Why Slang Is Good For You Today's program puts special attention on language and identity — how they coincide and why those intersections matter. Michael Adams is an associate Professor of English at Indiana University who studies one important intersection of language and identity: slang. He says slang keeps us sharp — and that there is creative value in the creation of new language among different social groups. "It's not just slang, but any language that's significantly different from what we expect exercises the brain and engages us," Adams says. "We've got lots of room in language to be creative, to twist a word around a little bit, or the form of a sentence around a little bit to be clever." "We are engaged when we're using slang. "Slang has its place, and other forms of discourse have their places too," Adams says.
New York, a graveyard for languages 15 December 2012Last updated at 19:13 ET By Dr Mark Turin Linguist and broadcaster Home to around 800 different languages, New York is a delight for linguists, but also provides a rich hunting ground for those trying to document languages threatened with extinction. To hear the many languages of New York, just board the subway. The number 7 line, which leads from Flushing in Queens to Times Square in the heart of Manhattan takes you on a journey which would thrill the heart of a linguistic anthropologist. Each stop along the line takes you into a different linguistic universe - Korean, Chinese, Spanish, Bengali, Gujarati, Nepali. And it is not just the language spoken on the streets that changes. Street signs and business names are also transformed, even those advertising the services of major multinational banks or hotel chains. In the subway, the information signs warning passengers to avoid the electrified rails are written in seven different languages. Continue reading the main story
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
Manx: Bringing a language back from the dead 30 January 2013Last updated at 19:47 ET A Manx dictionary on the Isle of Man flag Condemned as a dead language, Manx - the native language of the Isle of Man - is staging an extraordinary renaissance, writes Rob Crossan. Road signs, radio shows, mobile phone apps, novels - take a drive around the Isle of Man today and the local language is prominent. But just 50 years ago Manx seemed to be on the point of extinction. "If you spoke Manx in a pub on the island in the 1960s, it was considered provocative and you were likely to find yourself in a brawl," recalls Brian Stowell, a 76-year-old islander who has penned a Manx-language novel, The Vampire Murders, and presents a radio show on Manx Radio promoting the language every Sunday. The language itself has similarities with the Gaelic tongues spoken in the island's neighbours, Ireland and Scotland. Watch: Inside the Isle of Man school where children are taught in Manx Continue reading the main story Manx but not - some Anglo-Manx slang “Start Quote
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. But another debate also raged, over the word's origin. 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? Pete Langman blogs at www.petelangman.wordpress.com
A profusion of words Please note: several of the following links to dictionary content require subscriber access to the OED Online. The early modern period was an era of great change for the English language. According to the OED’s record, the number of words ‘available’ to speakers of English more than doubled between 1500 and 1650. Many of the new words were borrowed into English from the Latin or Greek of the Renaissance (for example, hypotenuse), or from the far-off countries visited by travellers and traders (e.g. pangolin), and must have seemed hard to understand to many of the population. At the same time, there were significant demographic shifts in Britain towards an urbanized culture based in the big cities, such as London: the population of London increased eightfold over these years. Monolingual dictionaries were preceded, both in Britain and in continental Europe, by bilingual dictionaries, which served a more immediately practical need. ‘Hard word’ dictionaries Change was afoot by mid-century.
Apostrophe now: Bad grammar and the people who hate it 13 May 2013Last updated at 04:58 ET By Tom de Castella BBC News Magazine Children are again to be subject to a rigorous examination in grammar. But why does it make adults so cross when other adults break the rules? A new grammar and spelling test arrives in primary schools in England this week. It is the first time in a while that such emphasis has been put on grammar. Some of the questions will seem straightforward for many adults, such as where to place a comma or a colon in a sentence. Grammar is not just an educational issue. The research arm of dating site OKCupid looked at 500,000 first contacts and concluded that "netspeak, bad grammar and bad spelling are huge turn-offs". On the other hand, correct use of apostrophes was appealing. Twist Phelan, an American writer who went on 100 online dates in 100 days and later married someone she met online, says grammar is a vital "filter system". Continue reading the main story Try out the new grammar test The wind blew the sign over.
Interview: Christine Ammer, Author Of 'The American Heritage Dictionary Of Idioms' hide captionThe "elephant in the room" is something obvious that can't be overlooked, even if no one is talking about it. The phrase was in use as early as 1935. iStockphoto.com The "elephant in the room" is something obvious that can't be overlooked, even if no one is talking about it. If you've ever shot the breeze, had a heart-to-heart or bent somebody's ear — in fact, if you've ever talked at all — odds are you've used an idiom. The new volume contains hundreds of new entries. Birthday suit In 18th-century England, this term referred to the clothes one wore on the king's birthday. Mind one's p's and q's This term for "practicing good manners" was first recorded in 1779, but its origin is disputed. Get on the bandwagon In the second half of the 1800s, a bandwagon, or horse-drawn wagon carrying a brass band, would accompany candidates on their campaign tours. Dead cat bounce This term for a quick but short-lived recovery originated in the 1980s. Pass the buck Steal someone's thunder
Is good grammar still important? |The Observer Charlie Higson, comedian and author Language is a uniquely human attribute, one of the things that makes us what we are. We are all born with the faculty to use it and all languages conform to the same basic patterns and structures. The idea that we might need a huge rulebook telling us how to use it properly is ludicrous. People all round the world, and for thousands upon thousands of years, have been using language to communicate perfectly well without needing to be told how to do it by a bunch of grammar Nazis who think that the way they talk and write is the correct, unchanging way. I once met a very interesting guy from the OED who was fed up with people misunderstanding what a dictionary is. Quentin Letts, columnist and sketchwriter at the Daily Mail Ah yes, the grammar Nazis. Grammar is the coat hanger on which language can hang. Some lefties put it about that grammar is a horrid thing because it is "elitist". CH: For God's sake, Quentin, they do teach grammar in state schools.