In the news … (Feb 6)


Thanks to Ben Finane for the photo of this Park Slope, Brooklyn deli that isn’t going anywhere …

TGIF. Language use and abuse in the news this past month: a discussion about accents prejudice; a typo takes a business down; how to pronounce February; and more …

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Just how are you supposed to pronounce the month we’re in? (That’s February, for those who haven’t caught up yet…) mental_floss has the scoop …

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Are regional accents the last acceptable prejudice? The Economist’s Prospero blog asks this question, and suggests that it might be. “This is the last acceptable public prejudice: bad jokes and silly stereotypes about people who speak differently. It plays out differently from other kinds of prejudice, of course. People do not choose their race. Religious beliefs are so deeply held that everyone knows to treat them gently. And sexual preference is now so widely seen as inherent that anti-gay prejudice is vanishingly hard to find in polite precincts. Language, in contrast, is seen as more freely chosen. And those who have chosen the “wrong” kind of language therefore deserve disdain.”

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Can a typo bring a business down? Apparently it can: a 124-year-old Cardiff engineering firm went bust because of a typo on a government register. Companies House, an executive agency of the UK’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, erroneously recorded that Taylor & Sons Ltd had gone out of business, when it was actually another company – Taylor & Son (without an ‘s’) Ltd – that had gone bust. Taylor & Sons never recovered from the fatal typo. The Telegraph has the story …

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A discussion about “pet peeves” on a LinkedIn group page for professional copy editors provoked some thoughts from linguist John McIntyre about the whole peculiar pet peeve phenomenon — and why they might be dangerous. Here he is on his Baltimore Sun language blog

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“Dance the kipples” … “Shot twixt wind and water” … Do these phrases describe a method for mixing drinks? Or for negotiating a delicate financial transaction? Neither: they’re old-fashioned terms for sexual intercourse, and you can find 23 more such cheeky phrases from the past 663 years at SoBadSoGood

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Mental_floss offers a handy guide to using the Oxford comma.

And some other nice gems from mental_floss:

38 wonderful foreign words we could use in English

17 words that describe themselves

26 Beatnik slang words and phrases we should all be using

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