Category Archives: Language

Old-fashioned journo jargon

UPDATE, Nov 5: see a new entry – cock-up – below, brought to Glosso’s attention on our Facebook page.

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The world of journalism is changing — fast. Not just in terms of who is writing (or no longer writing) about what on which platform or outlet: it’s how and by what means the words travel logistically from the writer’s mind to the reader’s eye. And along with that shifting means of transport comes a whole new constantly-changing language. Let’s take a nostalgic journey back to the old-fashioned days of journalism when red pens, paper galleys, metal rules, fax and telex machines, telephones and glue sticks ruled the newsroom. Some of the old jargon from that time still floats around today, but mainly only in the dusty minds of us old scribes and subs … Continue reading

Aussie dimmos

 

Dripos, in Aussie speak

English is littered with diminutives — commonly abbreviated words — in standard usage. Phone, bike, fridge, gym, typo, photo: they’re all diminutives* in that sense. Sometimes we add a suffix after butchering a word to give it an even more informal feel: think comfy (comfortable), cardie (cardigan), telly (television), and even brolly (umbrella). OK, admittedly those are all British colloquialisms: we Brits [see?] are more prone than our neighbors across the pond to add weeny appendages back in once we’ve sliced off the fatty syllables. (And see Glosso’s earlier post: “I’ll take that with a side of small words.“) But wait: there’s a country that’s even more inclined to hypocorism (yes, that’s what it’s called) than English-speakers on either side of the Atlantic. G’day Aussies! Continue reading

“You said you wanted a smoking gun; how about a smoking proverb?”

That’s a line out of Manhunt: Unabomber, the gripping new(ish) TV series about how a notorious serial killer was tracked down and apprehended, largely thanks to the relatively young science known as “forensic linguistics.” If you want to know what forensic linguistics is all about, watch this series. (And read Glossophilia’s earlier post about another famous crime in which this particular form of detective work played an important role.) For a quick taster of the series, and to see how linguistics came into the crime in question, watch the video clip below to discover how a common proverb was the key to cracking the case of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. Which proverb was it, and how did its history help the FBI to solve the case? Continue reading

To print or not to print: Presidential expletives

During a bipartisan meeting on immigration reform, President Trump reportedly asked lawmakers why “all these people from sh*thole countries” should be allowed to move to the United States. (He was referring, apparently, to Haiti and African countries.) Many news media outlets yesterday took to their keyboards and airwaves quoting him verbatim: the word “shithole” was suddenly seen and heard all over the world, even without the censoring asterisks in many cases. The New York Times reports on how the media is tackling this new peculiar challenge: the regular use of vulgarity and profanity by our nation’s leader in his public outbursts statements.

Here’s what the Associated Press’s style guide says about profanity: “AP Style holds that you should not use obscenities in stories unless they are part of direct quotations and there is a compelling reason for them.”

It seems there’s a good reason today.

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In the news: is British irony stopping the Brits from being understood by non-native English-speakers?

‘The feast of Reason, & the flow of Soul’ – i.e. – The Wits of the Age, setting the Table in a roar, by James Gillray / Wikimedia Commons

“The British are proud of the idiomatic humour of their language. But an academic has argued that they are actually falling behind because they insist on using phrases that the rest of the world does not understand.” The Telegraph has the full story.

“Not only did the British keep to themselves but they also said that they [a group of Hungarian, German and Italian students] get along very well, they understand each other, and the only trouble comes when a really British person comes and joins the conversation.”

Sorry! — Ed.

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“A-CHOO!” — “Bless you.” Sneezing and responding in different languages …

A-TISH-oo! Yes, when we sneeze, we sneeze in our own language, as you can see in James Chapman’s illustration above. It’s funny how some cultures end their sneezes with an “oo” sound and some with an “ee” (and a few even have consonants; like the Portuguese “atCHIM,” the French offer “atCHOUM”; the Filipinos add a little music, with their “hatSING”).

And then, in most countries (but not all), we respond to those who have just sneezed with words and phrases that offer simple blessings and wishes for good health or a long life. But not always … Continue reading

In the news … Қазақстан to Qazaqstan?

Kazakh Latin alphabet, 1924 / Wikimedia Commons

“The Kazakh language has long been unsure which alphabet to find a comfortable home in and it’s now in for another transition – but this is not without controversy. Last Friday Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev finally decreed that the language would shed its heavy Cyrillic coat and don what he hopes to be a more fashionable attire: the Latin alphabet.” The BBC has the story.

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