Wednesday, 12 December 2007

It's the end of the year and we know it....

As happens at this time of year, people begin to create lists which are supposed in some way to sum up the year that's passed. One such list is that created by Merriam-Websters' dictionary in the US, which is roughly equivalent in standing as the OED is here. Their top ten words of the year, as voted for by visitors to their website (a completely useless grading criteria - I mean, who visits dictionary websites? oh, yeah, me) are:
1. w00t (interjection)
expressing joy (it could be after a triumph, or for no reason at all); similar in use to the word "yay"
w00t! I won the contest!

This comes from 'l33t' speak. ('l33t' is short for 'elite' and is an annoying online game-player language used to exclude people who don't understand it. It's a form of e-language, supposedly quicker, whose features include the replacement of 'e' with '3' and 'o' with '0' (that second one's a zero in case you can't tell from my font). W00t is also an acronym (what a feast for language change enthusiasts) standing for 'we owed the other team' - see the l33t roots?

2. facebook (verb)

As in 'I facebooked her'. It can mean, variously, looking someone up on facebook, messaging them through facebook, etc etc etc. If you don't know what facebook is, you're sooo 2006 ;)

A tribute to the rise of the social networking site - so language change because a new phenomenon requires a new name, with facebook itself being a new compound of... face and book. Starting off as a noun, it has rapidly moved word classes to become a verb - another common mode of language change - can you think of any others?

3. conundrum (noun)

There doesn't seem to be a particular reason why this is a word of the year - I think it's just been someone's favourite word. According to Merriam-Webster, the word has been around since 1645. It can merely be a difficult problem, or a question whose answer is purely conjectural, or a riddle whose answer is or involves a pun. Countdown conundrum anyone?

4. quixotic (adjective)

Again this has been around for a while. It comes from the name of the eponymous character Don Quixote (pronounced Key-oh-tay but the adjective is pronounced as it appears), and describes people who are like the hero from this 1718 novel. It suggests one who is foolish and impractical in the pursuit of romantic ideals, or likes to behave like a knight of the round table. Here's another good way words are brought into the language - via eponyms. I bet you know at least two more, though these are nouns. One you'll have in your cupboard at home and use to clean the floor, and another you'll have in your pencil case.... yes, that's right, give it up for Messrs Hoover and Biro. Interestingly I heard a discussion on the radio the other day about the use of names as brands. The ideal is to get to the point where everyone identifies the name and brand, but not so far that they become everyday words for the genre of object, because at that point you lose your trademark.

5. blamestorm (verb/ noun)

This is not totally new, but it's fairly recent and will be familiar to anyone who has looked at 'management speak' in Language and Occupation. The definitions given by Merriam-Webster are:
(verb) : Gathering around in a group to discuss why a deadline was missed or a project failed and who is to blame or responsible.
All the managers were locked up in a meeting for the all day blamestorming about the lost contract.

(noun) : A meeting held in order to come up with a name of a person to assign guilt to a certain incident.
The board of directors where exhausted after a four hour blamestorm which finally resulted in two names for the chopping block.
It's obviously formed on analogy from the now-considered-politically-incorrect 'brainstorm' and has the advantage of internal rhyme with the base word. It's a piece of jargon which is becoming more widespread, from the ever-growing middle management/ business type environment.

6. sardoodledom (noun)

This was an entirely new one on me so I offer you Merriam-Webster's entry in its entirety. Goodness knows why this was a word of the year, but I quite like it's alliterativeness and it illustrates another method of lexical change.

Main Entry: sar·doo·dle·dom
Pronunciation: sär-ˈdü-dəl-dəm
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): sar·doo·dle·doms
Etymology: sardoodle- (blend of Victorien Sardou died 1908 French playwright criticized by G. B. Shaw died 1950 English playwright for the supposed staginess of his plays and English doodle) + -dom

: mechanically contrived plot structure and stereotyped or unrealistic characterization in drama Sardoodledom -- John Mason Brown>

7. apathetic (verb)

Again an old one here, from 1744, meaning having little or no interest or emotion. It's typically used of students about politics. Interestingly, if you look at its formation which is the prefix a-. meaning 'not' or 'no' with 'pathetic', it throws some light on the way in which 'pathetic' comes to mean what it does.

8. Pecksniffian

Similarly to quixotic, this is based on the name of a character in a novel - in this case Seth Pecksniff in Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens. It means 'unctuously hypocritical' - doesn't sound very nice. The kind of word you could use when you don't want someone to know you're insulting them.

9. hypocrite

You know who you are.

10. charlatan

This is someone who pretends to have knowledge or ability which they do not, usually conning people in the process. Interestingly the etymology of this is the Italian ciarlatano, alteration of cerretano, literally, inhabitant of Cerreto, from Cerreto, dated 1618. I'd really like to know what they did to annoy their neighbours!!

So, a list, and lots of ways that language can change, or form, or be used in different ways. Keep an eye out for the OED's list - their annual 'language report' by Susie Dent is usually worth a read and quite funny.

Monday, 10 December 2007


ps. no sestinas yet? you disappoint me. ;)

Eggcorns and mondegreen

All you lovely people out there are undoubtedly sick and tired of your English teachers correcting spellings or even (heaven forbid) sniggering at particularly amusing howlers. Those of you in A2 English Language may even have tried arguing that it's 'Language Change in action.'

And here's the good news - sometimes, sometimes, you're right. Only when it makes sense, though.

Mondegreens are the more traditional form - coined by the American writer Sylvia Wright - and the term itself is a mondegreen, that is to say, the hearing of a word or phrase as a homophone or near-homophone in such a way as it acquires new meaning. It usually involves reanalysing where the word divisions are. The term comes from an article in Harper's Magazine where Wright wrote:

When I was a child, my mother used to read aloud to me from Percy's Reliques. One of my favorite poems began, as I remember:
Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl Amurray, [sic]
And Lady Mondegreen.

The fourth line should in fact be 'and laid him on the green' - it's a 17th century ballad. So next time you make up a really bizarre line to a song you've only partially heard, you know what to call it.

However, eggcorns are slightly different. You all know what one meaning of 'eggcorn' is - it's those little things from which great oaks grow. Yes, that's right, acorns. Someone not quite sure of how to spell acorn came up with a reasonable spelling which - crucially - sounds as though it might be etymologically believable or explicable - at least if you're not an etymologist. Other examples might be 'restbite' for 'respite' where you appear to be having a 'rest' from your troubles 'biting' you. The point is, you have to be able to come up with a defence of why your spelling is correct in terms of a folk etymology or metonymy. No simply trying to palm off they're/there on your teacher.

So, two words of the day and a small excuse to argue with your teacher.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Do you know a sonnet from a sestina?

So, Ofsted have managed to offend government and teachers once more as they complain that all this preparing for examinations teachers unreasonably do means we're not getting enough poetry in classrooms these days. Michael Rosen, the Children's Laureate, leaped to the attack as well.

The thing which worried me most about the whole report was the way no-one seemed to notice the contradiction between their criticism that pupils were only encountering 'relatively easy' poems - ie fun modern ones - and their desire that poetry teaching should be about kindling a love of poetry. Now, personally, I think shoving a load of 'classic' poems down people's throats is a sure fire way to lose them forever.... However, far be it from me to disagree with Schools' Minister Lord Adonis (who seems to be more commonly known as 'Andrew Adonis' now, in a nice, socially equal kind of a way. He said: "I want to see a generation of young people who know their poetry from Auden to Zephaniah and their sonnets from sestinas."

Well, I am sure you know Auden (W.H. Auden - wrote 'stop all the clocks' from 4 weddings and a funeral? aha, yes I thought you would) and Zephaniah (Benjamin, fabulous dreadlocks, well known for writing in dialect - great poem about being kind to your turkeys at Christmas) and a sonnet (14 lines - Shakespeare wrote a LOT of them) but what about a sestina? No, well, I am surprised. Or not, actually. It's a 39-lined poem. Fairly impossible to do a lot of those in an hour's English lesson and the chances of you being able to write one for homework, also fairly slim. But because this blog is good for you, here's what one is.

Definition of the Sestina
--from the Encyclopedia Britannica (

An elaborate verse form employed by medieval Provençal and Italian, and occasional modern, poets. It consists, in its pure medieval form, of six stanzas of blank verse, each of six lines--hence the name. The final words of the first stanza appear in varied order in the other five, the order used by the Provençals being: abcdef, faebdc, cfdabe, ecbfad, deacfb, bdfeca. Following these was a stanza of three lines, in which the six key words were repeated in the middle and at the end of the lines, summarizing the poem or dedicating it to some person. The sestina was invented by the Provençal troubadour Arnaut Daniel and was used in Italy by Dante and Petrarch, after which it fell into disuse until revived by the 16th-century French Pléiade, particularly Pontus de Tyard. In the 19th century, Ferdinand, comte de Gramont, wrote a large number of sestinas, and Algernon Charles Swinburne's "Complaint of Lisa" is an astonishing tour de force--a double sestina of 12 stanzas of 12 lines each. In the 20th century, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and W.H. Auden wrote noteworthy sestinas.

Did you get that? Well, basically, all the lines end in one of six words, in varying order. There's an example below, by Ezra Pound. And because it's Christmas time, a competition for you. Try writing a sestina of your very own, submit it via the comment button and I'll put you up in the main body of the blog... Fame, adulation, wealth... well, moral wealth anyway. Good luck.

Example of a Sestina

Sestina: Altaforte
by Ezra Pound

Loquitur: En Bertrans de Born. Dante Alighieri put this man in hell for that he was a stirrer-up of strife. Eccovi! Judge ye! Have I dug him up again? The scene is at his castle, Altaforte.
"Papiols" is his jouleur. "The Leopard," the device of Richard (Coeur de Lion).


Damn it all! all this our South stinks peace.
You whoreson dog, Papiols, come! Let¹s to music!
I have no life save when swords clash.
But ah! when I see the standards gold, vair,purple,opposing
And the broad fields beneath them turn crimson,
Then howel I my heart nigh mad rejoying.


In hot summer have I great rejoicing
When tempests kill the earth¹s foul peace,
And the light¹nings from black heav¹n flash crimson,
And the fierce thunders roar me their music
And the winds shriek through the clouds mad, opposing,
And through all the riven God¹s swords clash.


Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
And the shrill neighs of destriers in battle rejoicing,
Spiked breast to spiked breast opposing!
Better one hour¹s stour than a year¹s peace
With fat boards, bawds, wine and frail music!
Bah! there¹s no wine like the blood¹s crimson!


And I love to see the sun rise blood-crimson.
And I watch his spears throught he dark clash
and it fills my heart with rejoycing
And pries wide my mouth with fast music
When I see him so scorn and defy peace,
His lone might Œgainst all darkmess opposing.


The man who fears war and squats opposing
My words for stour, hath no blood of crimson
But it is fit only to rotin womanish peace
Far from where worth¹s won and the swords clash
For the death of sluts I go rejoicing;
Yea, I fill all the air with my music.


Papiols, Papiols, to the music!
There¹s no sound like to swords swords opposing,
No cry like the battle¹s rejoicing
When our elbows and swords drip the crimson
And our charges Œgainst "The Leopard's" rush clash.
May God damn for ever all who cry "Peace!"


And let the music of the swords make them crimson!
Hell grant soon we hear again the swords clash!
Hell blot black for always the thought "Peace"!

Friday, 5 October 2007

Goodbye to all that

There is an interesting article about the extinction of languages here:

For the languages these researchers are worried about, extinction means the death of the last speaker, since most indigenous aboriginal languages are not written down, only spoken, so when the last speaker goes, that's pretty much it for the language. But how do we define extinction more generally? Is Latin, a so-called 'dead' language, extinct because no-one uses it as their mother tongue now? Or do the thousands of people reading, writing and speaking it (yes, speaking - go to the Vatican website if you don't believe me) mean that it is not extinct, just sleeping? In any case can we call a language which is no longer extant mainly because it evolved into other forms (in this case Italian, French, Spanish etc) extinct?

Perhaps we should count the language as dying out when the last native speaker dies? There is some definite fun to be had here: reportedly the last native speaker of Cornish died in 1984 and was not a person, but a parrot! The last human speaker of Cornish was the parrot's owner.

A few years ago the Irish were very worried that Irish Gaelic was going to die out: fewer and fewer people were learning it at their mother's knee, and the prevalence of English was increasing. Determined to protect their heritage the Irish government made the learning of Irish compulsory for all school age children, a strategy which has reversed the downward trend, and is widely held to be an exemplary way to save a language. There are now even 'second-gen' native speakers - that is children whose first tongue is Irish, but whose parents are Irish learners. Which raises the question whether any language which is written down (or which has been recorded comprehensively on audio tape or digital media) can ever be truly extinct? If second-gen native speakers are native speakers, then any language could be rescued.

Related to this, but not quite the same, is an argument I was having the other day with a linguist. We all know that English is the most widely used language in the globe. Likewise we mostly all acknowledge that this is not because Britain is best, but because one of our little colonies has done rather well for itself (some place called America, I believe) and exported the language worldwide. The linguist was arguing that if you measured where a language belonged by the number of people who spoke it, then you could see English as belonging to India, or China and therefore that the 'standard' should be set by them. One of the reasons that 'English' is said to be dominant is its use on the web; however, large parts of that 'English' use are in fact world English dialects, such as Chinglish, which, while they are based on the language we use, would be virtually unintelligible to someone in, say, Newcastle. So maybe English will develop all over the world into new languages based on it, similar but not overlapping, and English will be like Latin, a dead language. Well, it's a thought.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Um, well, ah, if you actually, er, listen

Now this is a fascinating thing which someone emailed me with:

It's a very interesting finding, especially because it's the opposite of what you'd expect they would have found. It also makes me feel much less bad about the number of fillers I use when teaching.

It's been well known for a while that fillers are very important in Child Language Acquisition - because using them is one of the tools which allow children to extend turns and begin to take a fuller role in conversation, as well as filling the syntactic gaps in their knowledge. But it's quite astounding that our brains process and retain information which is, er, broken up by fillers more.

This is, by the way, something that might make a very good investigation topic, if you also looked at the ways in which we use fillers to support syntax, or to correct syntax, etc etc. The original research paper may or may not be found at this link, but it's an interesting and related paper even if it's not the one to which Philip Henssher is referring:

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Goodbye to good-bye (Hymn to the Hyphen)

Well, first of all it turns out that the hyphen is dead. Prescriptivists among you may want to shed a tear as the new ed of the Oxford Shorter Dictionary is dropping a load of them because, basically, we're all too lazy to be bothered with them. Some words are losing the hyphen and becoming compounds (eg 'bumblebee' rather than 'bumble bee') and some are becoming noun phrases (eg 'ice cream' rather than 'ice-cream'). Do not expect any English teacher to take that as a reasonable excuse any time soon. There are other dictionaries.,,2172733,00.html

However, it is a bit of a trend, as this article from The Times four years ago shows:

So why is this happening? Well, as usual we could probably blame e-language. We're typing, we're going speedily, we can't be bothered to move up an extra line to reach the hyphen on the top row. And it's way down the menu on predictive text. Also possibly search engines have got more sophisticated so they recognise the word whether or not it has the hyphen included. And then it asks 'did you mean...' and really annoys you.

And it could just be regular language change - we all know levels of punctuation have gone up and down according to fashion, just like hemlines. Perhaps, en masse we've all just decided to go for the easier option, without the hyphen.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Smiley Birthday to you

Gosh this feels like a long time since I posted. Which it is. Well, if anyone is still out there, then here is a tiny link relevant to Language and Technology:
which is in fact, just a nice thing to know. :-)

You will all, of course, be thinking to yourselves by now that Language Change has also taken place in the smiley arena and reduced the original design to :) for ease of typing and speed. Is this a mark of degenerating standards, or does it merely show that e-language, like all language tends to change towards the easier and the more useful for speakers. Except when it doesn't.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Some Language Change articles

Hi folks, it's been a while, I know, but the blog is back with links to two very interesting articles on language change. Worth a look, anyway:

Sunday, 20 May 2007

ENB1 Retakes

Ok, I've got some A grade answers and some advice sheets for anyone retaking - come and see me Monday if you want it!

Friday, 11 May 2007

Blair's Linguistic Legacy

This is a link to an article in the Daily Telegraph listing 100 words which weren't in use before 1997:

What I think is interesting is that there are many more than 100 words which have come into use in the last ten years - how have they chosen these? It seems to be quite politically motivated; there is a definite Telegraph readership bias evident here. It exemplifies attitudes to language change, and how that attitude can be disseminated with no coherent sentences at all. Semantically these words are just words, but pragmatically as a list they say 'Blair is bad' and 'Bring back the good old days', and 'political correctness gone mad!' (a favourite Telegraph reaction!).

Also at least some of them were in use before 1997, but they may not have been widespread. Institutional racism for one. Have a look, see what you think.


Wednesday, 9 May 2007

FAO Year 12 Lit Poetry: form and structure and other things which overlap

Okay, to clarify the issues of form and structure in poetry, or rather, not to, since as I said the other day, they do overlap in a major way and most of the places you can read about them reflect that.

In general, it seems that you will be safe in talking about the 'form' things we talked of yesterday, plus named structures or forms, such as the sonnet, or free verse etc. There are two places which have some interesting reading matter for you on the subject. One is a handout from a university:

and the other which is a blog entry written by a literature student, and has some interesting thoughts even if I wouldn't rely on it for absolute truth:

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

School for Scandal study guide - fao Year 12 lit

Ok, so the study guide is on the intranet in the public section of the English folder. Open the file marked 'Miss Elliott's Fascinating School for Scandal Study Guide Navigation Page' and you can navigate from there.

Re your cd-roms. Copy everything into one folder on your hard disk. Move the odd files into the base folders. Open the file marked 'Miss Elliott's Fascinating School for Scandal Study Guide Navigation Page' and you can navigate from there.

Otherwise you can just open a random page and navigate from there, but unless the home page/index is in the same folder it will keep being annoying at you.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Your chance to be part of linguistic history....

The British Library are putting together a snapshot of 21st century life - marketed as a 21st century Domesday Book - and they need your help. Forward an email to them during the month of May to be part of a vast archive of email communication... Just think, in five hundred years time, English Language Students could be analysing that email that you sent asking someone else for help with your essay - cos obviously all your emails are very virtuous!

First link = BBC news article about the project. Second is the British Library press release. Go on, make history.

Monday, 30 April 2007

B******* Bingo, or how to think outside the box...

Apparently not everyone has been as swamped with management speak in their lives as I have, so here are a couple of links to places where you may find interesting management speak terms, or not so interesting ones... Beware, the second has a few punctuation errors, particularly in the matter of it's versus its...

Read, enjoy, post your own favourites in the comments section.


Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Email etiquette and coursework bibliographies

Right, this is the second time I've tried to write this.

I was very excited today to find myself, in the shape of this blog, on someone's coursework bibliography. Of course, there's not a fat lot to get excited about on coursework standardisation day, so don't take this as indicative of my usual response...

Email etiquette - article in yesterday's Times at the following link:

I'm sure it's worth telling you that the author of this article had her first book published aged 17. Come on, some of you have still got time if you hurry....


Friday, 20 April 2007

Turning Orange

I also thought that it might be worth bringing to your attention the Orange Prize for Fiction shortlist which was published earlier this week. The Orange Prize is for women writing in the English Language, and has increased the status of women writers quite substantially via it's £30,000 prize fund. Perhaps one day one of you lot might win. In any case, you can always try reading them:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Half of a Yellow Sun
Rachel Cusk Arlington Park
Kiran Desai The Inheritance of Loss
Xiaolu Guo A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
Jane Harris The Observations
Anne Tyler Digging to America

You may recognise the third one - it won the Booker Prize last year.

You wild child you

Thinking about Child Language Acquisition revision we started talking about Genie, the girl who featured in a Channel Four documentary a while ago. Feral children are children who have been for some reason isolated from other humans; they may have been abused or they may simply have been abandoned. History is rife with stories of children being raised by animals (anyone remember Romulus and Remus and the founding of Rome?) although I read somewhere that the wolf stories in particular may have originated from prudishness - the Latin for wolf being lupus, which is very similar to lupa - meaning prostitute. Anyway, I was searching on the web for interesting CLA related info and found this excellent website:

Some of which is relevant to English Language and some of which is not.

So there.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

And yet more on spelling...

This website is set up by someone who's written a book on the subject of the English spelling system and its vagaries. Have an explore and see what you think - I'm guessing she's a little bit obsessed.

Monday, 2 April 2007

Talking of jobs...

This is just a little something to help you start preparing for Lang and Occupation on ENB2:

It's fairly basic, mind you, but worth looking at some of the different subject-specific lexis... :)

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

And here's another: babies and civil servants...

So the Telegraph is obviously interested in English this week.

First of all you don't need to be too distressed if you're they're/their/there isn't quite up to speed: civil service mandarins were given a guide to accurate writing - and given some of the government websites I think they need it:

Then beware if you're planning to marry someone with a different regional accent:

So, enjoy!

Another little thing.

Ok, so you're going to get this printed out in lessons if you're doing A2, but there's an interesting article in today's Daily Telegraph at:

It's about accents and movement of accents. There's also some interesting sound recordings to listen to to illustrate what they're talking about.

Uptight about Dictionaries?

After a long silence, here's some stuff. The following was sent to an email list I get: I think it's quite interesting. It's also v relevant for the stuff we were discussing in Language Change last week:

I was surprised at the earliness of the first cited use of 'uptight' inthe US; I'd assumed it was a word of the seventies...Though many of thecitations do come from that 'groovy' period. Also interesting that,like 'wicked', it can be used as a term of approbation or theopposite...

uptight, a. SECOND EDITION 1989

colloq. and slang (orig. U.S.). [UP- 3.]

1. a. Of a person: in a state of nervous tension or anxiety;inhibited, worried, 'on edge'; angry, 'worked up' (about something). Quot. 1934 is an isolated early example.

1934 J. M. CAIN Postman always rings Twice xvi. 190 I'm getting up tightnow, and I've been thinking about Cora. Do you think she knows I didn'tdo it? 1966 Sunday Times (Colour Suppl.) 13 Feb. 35/4 Up tight, tense.1968 Mad LXXVII. 30 'Uptight' means, like, a bad scene. It's when you'rehung up, or wigged out, or you can't make it. We all get 'uptight' oncein a while. 1969 C. YOUNG Todd Dossier 38 He looked worried. Reallyworried. As the kids say, he was up-tight. 1973 E. CALDWELL Annette(1974) VI. ii. 137 I'd guess you'd gotten so uptight from being deniedmotherhood that you were ready to leave home. 1975 D. LODGE ChangingPlaces ii. 83 You're feeling all cold and uptight and wishing you hadn'tcome. 1977 M. EDELMAN Political Lang. v. 90 To the uptight policemaneveryone is a potential offender. 1981 P. P. READ Villa Golitsyn II. iv.112, I was afraid you might be a little uptight about that sort ofthing.

b. fig. Characteristically formal in manner or style; correct,strait-laced.

1969 Manch. Guardian Weekly 28 Aug. 18 Who would have thought that anuptight institution like the august Oxford University Press would havedone a thing like this? Here is a..spirited and spiritous piece ofautobiography..served up as a book. 1970 E. M. BRECHER Sex Researchersix. 253 They tended to swing in the same socially corrrect, formal,'up-tight' style they followed in their other activities. 1976Chatelaine (Montreal) Jan. 73/3 In the morning, the apartment lookedcuriously uptight to Meredith.

2. In approbation: that reaches the desired standard; excellent,fine.

1962 Down Beat Aug. 20/2 Jazz Gene Ammons Up Tight! 1966 [seeOUT-OF-SIGHT adj. phr. (n.) 2]. 1969 Courier-Mail (Brisbane) 31 May 11/7Disc in a kind of in 'All right babysock-it-to-me it's allright uptight yeah.'

3. Short or out of money; 'broke'.

1967 Time 6 Jan. 18/3 'Up tight' can mean anxious, emotionally involvedor broke. 1968 Esquire Apr. 160/3 The expression 'uptight', which meantbeing in financial straits, appeared on the soul scene in the generalvicinity of 1953. Hence uptightness. 1969 FABIAN & BYRNE Groupie vi. 46 The paranoia and savage uptightnesswhich comes from three such guys living on top of each other andattempting to lead very together type lives while being stoned most ofthe time. 1974 A. LASKI Night Music 95 It hadn't made him anylooser..that rigid uptightness was still in him. 1976 New Yorker 8 Mar.57/3 In [The Entertainer]..Archie contrasted the uptightness of theBritish who don't make 'a fuss' with a fat black woman he once heard inAmerica who sang 'her heart out to the whole world'.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

A present from Hannah


Those who jump off a bridge in Paris are in Seine.
A man's home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.
Dijon vu - the same mustard as before.
Practice safe eating - always use condiments.
Shotgun wedding: A case of wife or death.
A man needs a mistress just to break the monogamy.
A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
Dancing cheek-to-cheek is really a form of floor play.
Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?
Condoms should be used on every conceivable occasion.
Reading while sunbathing makes you well red.
When two egotists meet, it's an I for an I.
A bicycle can't stand on its own because it is two tired.
What's the definition of a will? (It's a dead give away.)
Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
In democracy your vote counts. In feudalism your count votes.
She was engaged to a boyfriend with a wooden leg but broke it off.
A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
If you don't pay your exorcist, you get repossessed.
With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.
When a clock is hungry, it goes back four seconds.
The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered.
You feel stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.
Local Area Network in Australia : the LAN down under.
Every calendar's days are numbered.
A lot of money is tainted - It taint yours and it taint mine.
A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.
He had a photographic memory that was never developed.
A midget fortune-teller who escapes from prison is a small medium
at large.
Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the
Once you've seen one shopping center, you've seen a mall.
Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis..
Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.
Acupuncture is a jab well done.


Just been reading Susie Dent's The Language Report for last year. It's full of current linguistic trends, words coined during the year, and finishes with the OED's word of the year. Brill!
Waparrazzi - members of the public who take photos of celebrities with their mobile phones
flashpacker - posh, rich backpacker in their 30s

word of the year: bovvered! Oh, what a thing it has come to. 2005's was biosecurity - boring! But check out the following: 1982 - kissogram; 1970 - Big Mac; 1963 - Dalek; 1959 - hairspray; 1947 - bikini; 1938 - tweenage (almost unbelievable!); 1937 - hobbit; 1921 - potato crisps; 1913 - migrant labour; 1906 - muckraking. So many words have been going longer than you'd think.

Anyway, this book is great for Language Change, because it actually also talks about why words get more popular, and also for beginning to think about topics for independent Language Investigations for A2, if you're in Year 12. And I'm going to donate my copy to the library when I've finished with it. Enjoy!

Monday, 12 March 2007

Twenty first century acronyms

Some nice examples of language change in this BBC article - acronyms are created to describe particularly modern cultural phenomenons - and some of them are the same as earlier words. Does that make them more likely to catch on or less, do you reckon?

Anyway, there's also a bit on the end for you to add your own if you like.


Some of these are also relevant for language and technology.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

All books have genders

I've just found an essay by Neil Gaiman on his website called by that very title:

I think it's an interesting point - perhaps for the people doing language and gender and perhaps for those doing literature or even just interested in reading and writing. I'm not sure, however, that I agree with it. Neverwhere, for example, which Gaiman cites as a 'male' book strikes me as having a central character who can be empathised with by both male and female, and who goes on the classic epic journey to discover himself. Also I've given up being surprised by the number of girls in Years 7 and 8 who are obsessed with the 'encouraging-boys-to-read, male-centric' Alex Rider series by Antony Horowitz. Ditto Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series.

So do books have genders? Does author gender or intention count for anything? Does it matter?
YOU decide....

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Engineering - it's what we're all about you know

Having just come home from the Engineering Steering Group meeting after school, and being told that we should be constantly reminding you of all the links to engineering so on the offchance that some visitor to school asks you what engineering has done for you then you know, I feel I can discharge the obligation as far as you lot are concerned by saying:

You never get anywhere in any job without English. You need English to write reports, you need English to read reports, you need English to be able to talk intelligently about why Engineering is important and you need English to get a job in Engineering. The real world runs on English. English is completely about transferrable skills.

And of course, actually I think the important thing about the Engineering status is that it makes a statement about equal opportunities, and I think you girls can conquer the world if you could just forget about the boys down the road for a moment! ...

Monday, 5 March 2007

Nobody does it better...

Well, actually, I've discovered someone who has. So if you're doing a round up on the internet now and again I suggest you check out

It's much more accomplished than mine. But I shall learn.


Language change - grrr

Amusing article from the Daily Telegraph! Unbelievable, I know...

or why you shouldn't complain about change...

Sunday, 4 March 2007


Of interest to all you who are studying language change (take note Year 13) and all those interested in Language and ICT (Year12)

Read, enjoy, comment. :)

Any suggestions for further coinings on the theme, then feel free to email me or post them and I'll put a selection of our new words up. Definitions to be included please.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

ICT comments

Hi folks - sorry, I didn't realise it would make you sign up. Still, I suppose it's evidence you did your homework. Or even, in Amy's case, did it twice!

I have discovered that the handout I gave you today with the odd mistakes in came about because someone was reading off a pdf from the exam board, in order to make it into a word file.... I think our version is more fun though!

Sunday, 25 February 2007

Language and ICT- AS level

The textbook for this module - written by the chief examiner, Tim Shortis, has online support at:

Check it out and see what you think.

In particular, my AS level English Language class should make sure they've looked at 'U11 Texting IT' as their homework for this week (Tues 27th Feb). Post a comment to this blog entry to show you've done your homework and thought about it!

Something to read

This article by Ursula LeGuin (who wrote the Wizard of Earthsea books) discusses why we all need to keep reading children's books.

Let me know what you think.

First Post

Okay folks, the idea is this:
I put up interesting English things for
1: English Language A level
2: English Literature A level
3: General Reading for all ages
4: anything vaguely connected which I come across.

You can send me things and I'll add them, or you can post comments to particular posts... some of these posts might be something I've asked a class to look at and comment on for homework, some of them might just be random.