TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (Sep 26)

TGIF. In language and usage news this fortnight: a school that teaches in Manx Gaelic; an emergency poet; costly slips of the tongue; zombie nouns; an ominous auto-correct error; punctuation problems in a pre-K campaign; and can Benedict Cumberbatch not say penguin

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Does Benedict Cumberbatch really have trouble pronouncing the word penguin? It certainly seems that way, if you watch this excerpt (above) from the BBC/Discovery Channel documentary series South Pacific, which the British actor narrates. The BBC reports on this funny observation, which could well be a cruel hoax, a deliberate edit or tweak to make him look foolish. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it was — but meanwhile, enjoy his feathery fluffs!

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Can Northern Ireland learn lessons from the world’s only Manx-speaking school? The BBC reports on a primary school on the Isle of Man where the 70 young students are taught all their lessons solely in Manx Gaelic. In 2009 the UN announced incorrectly that the language was extinct — and then amended its statement soon afterwards. Thanks to Bunscoill Ghaelgagh, the language is undergoing a revival.

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“There was once an old woman called Deb,
Who had a crazy idea in her head,
To hear people’s ills,
Without giving pills,
And then give them poems instead.”

Deborah Alma is the Emergency Poet, traveling around fairs and festivals prescribing poetry to those in need. The BBC has a video report.

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New York City’s $645 pre-K ad campaign has a small problem: errant commas on its signs. DNAinfo reports.

 

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Some swear words (or what Americans call curse words) don’t translate well across the Atlantic — especially when “vagina words” are concerned. But it’s not just smut that doesn’t travel well: even our most prosaic vocabulary has trouble adjusting abroad. What do you call that stuff you use to clean your kitchen crockery (aka dishes) and cutlery (aka silverware)? Americans get right to the point — and the Brits don’t, much to the amusement of their friends across the pond. As The Guardian‘s Emma Brockes reported, “I discovered recently that if you want to make an American laugh, all you need to do is say the words “washing-up liquid” …”

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Slips of the tongue can cost newsreaders dear at China’s state TV, The Times reports.  A single misspoken word can apparently be punished with a £1,000 fine.

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“Verbing nouns annoys a lot of people. Traditional complaints include those against “to impact”, “to chair” and “to author”. And newly verbed nouns are continually entering the language: from “to login”, to “to Facebook”, and “to friend”. But we forget how many old nouned verbs are now totally unobjectionable. Shakespeare was a master noun verber (coining “to dog” among others). Fifty years ago, “to host” was derided as glib journalese, though it is centuries old. The Economist’s own style guide generally discourages vogue verbing.” But now The Economist reports on something even worse than that: “zombie nouns”.

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In a press release announcing an upcoming speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at New York’s Cooper Union, organizers wrote that Abbas will address “Why violent protest is the best method by which Palestinians should seek their rights.” The PLO says it was a typo — and blamed the auto-correct. “Sorry, we have sent an amended version, the software we used didn’t recognize the hyphenated version of ‘non-violent’ and did an auto correction, an amended version has been sent out to all recipients.” The Jerusalem Post had the story.

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