In the news … (Feb 5)

Sarah Palin gets in a 'squirmish' with coherence/HuffPostUK Politics

Sarah Palin gets in a ‘squirmish’ with coherence/HuffPostUK Politics

That Gerund Is Funky — Feb issue. Recently in grammar and language news: a Palin portmanteau that NPR’s Ari Shapiro can’t let go of; Oxford Dictionaries faces an accusation of sexism; a grammar quiz from The Independent; how to pronounce the name of a Dutch musician with a Swedish-sounding surname; the new legitimacy of the singular ‘they’; and the end of the road for a punctuation mark?

NPR’s Ari Shapiro just can’t let go of Sarah Palin’s newly-minted portmanteau, squirmish. Does it mean a skirmish that involves squirming? Listen to this recent NPR political podcast —  about 32:45 minutes in — for a lively discussion about this new gem of a word.

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Oxford Dictionaries is facing accusations of sexism in its definitions. As The Guardian reported in January, “Oxford Dictionaries has said it will review the example sentences it uses for the adjective “rabid” after being accused of sexism over its current example: “a rabid feminist”.

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Is it the end of the road for the French circumflex? Suggested new spellings for more than 2,000 French words have sparked controversy, as the BBC reports.

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According to The Independent, “in new guidelines coming into force from October, those that are coming to the UK on a spousal visa who fail to pass an English language test after two and a half years could be forced to leave the country.” The newspaper has put together a short quiz using sample questions from this new B1 language test. See how well you fare on it here.

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“Sorry, grammar nerds. The singular ‘they’ has been declared Word of the Year.” The Washington Post talks about the rise in prominence (and legitimacy) of the gender-neutral pronoun used to refer to people who don’t want to be called “he” or “she”.

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And here’s some useful info for any music geeks out there: the New York Philharmonic recently announced that Jaap van Zweden, a Dutchman with a very international-sounding name, will succeed Alan Gilbert as its music director next year. The New York Times has kindly provided us with a pronunciation guide for his name: it’s “Yahp van ZVAY-den” (and NOT Jap van Sweden, as many might understandably assume).

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