279 posts tagged with english.
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correctness rests upon usage; all usage is relative

"What of those grammar rules that were entirely dreamt up in an age of moral prescriptivism, reflecting nothing of historical or literary usage, to encourage the poor English language to be more like an entirely different (and entirely dead) language, namely Latin? Wait, which rules are those? It seems pretty crazy but the popular grammar rules familiar to most of us may in fact be completely fake and have no basis in linguistic reality. The English language didn't change to make those rules obsolete, they were simply fictional from the start." || Dear Pedants: Your Fave Grammar Rule is Probably Fake, by Chi Luu.
posted by divined by radio on Aug 25, 2015 - 170 comments

Sexe & ye Syngle Gyrle

Thus Man’s most noble Parts describ’d we see;
(For such the Parts of Generation be;)
And they that carefully survey’t, will find,
Each Part is fitted for the Use design’d:
The Purest Blood we find, if well we heed,
Is in the Testicles turn’d into Seed;

Aristotle's Complete Masterpiece isn't by Aristotle, is no masterpiece, and is far from complete, but from its publication in 1684 well into the 1930s, it served as by far the most popular sex manual in the English language.
posted by Eyebrows McGee on Aug 21, 2015 - 4 comments

The good advice Lockheed Martin just didn't take

"Ideally suited to mobilization on the shifting terrain of asymmetrical conflict, inherently covert, insidiously plastic, politically potent, irony offers rogue elements a volatile if often overlooked means by which to demoralize opponents and destabilize regimes. And yet, while major research resources have for forty years poured into the human sciences from the defense and intelligence community in an effort to gain control over the human capacity to lie (investments that led to the polygraph, sodium pentothal and its successor compounds, “brain fingerprinting” and associated neuro-physiological imaging techniques, etc.), we have no comparable tradition of sustained, empirical, applied investigation into irony."
posted by escabeche on Aug 14, 2015 - 24 comments

The Many Origins of the English Language

An Interactive Visualization.
posted by lemuring on Aug 8, 2015 - 11 comments

You get disqualified if you don't have your hands behind your back.

American schoolkids had spelling bees, British schoolkids had Shakespeare competitions, Malaysian schoolkids had choral speaking: a Greek-theatre-inspired cross between spoken word and choir, commonly used to teach English. [more inside]
posted by divabat on Aug 1, 2015 - 10 comments

MEEF-EYE

The International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA) is a free, online archive of primary-source dialect and accent recordings of the English language. Founded in 1997 at the University of Kansas, it includes hundreds of recordings of English speakers by natives of nearly 100 different countries. To find an example of an accent or dialect, use the Global Map, or select a continent or region at the Dialects and Accents page. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Jul 27, 2015 - 15 comments

/vərˈbōs/

From plitter to drabbletail: a few writers choose the words they love. [The Guardian] [Books]
Dialect terms such as yokeymajig or whiffle-whaffle; all-time favourites like cochineal, clot or eschew; antiquated phrases such as ‘playing the giddy ox’ … leading writers on the words they cherish.
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on May 29, 2015 - 32 comments

If Hollywood says so, it can't be true!

If there's a band more simultaneously inventive, unusual, lush, intricate, or lovely than Stars in Battledress, I've yet to find them! James and Richard Larcombe, known for their collaborations with British legends William Drake and Craig Fortnam, among others, combine guitar, keyboard, and harmonies in spectacularly unusual tandem. They can be majestic and enchanting; they can be jagged and noisy; they can be warm and witty. I'm quite taken with them!
posted by rorgy on May 7, 2015 - 2 comments

Bibbity-bee Bitey Bibbity-bee

How to pronounce hexadecimal numbers
posted by Stark on Apr 22, 2015 - 42 comments

Let's Speak English

Let's Speak English! Cartoonist Mary Cagle's adorable tales of teaching English in Japan.
posted by overeducated_alligator on Apr 8, 2015 - 49 comments

"No, yes", "No, totally", and the "no" prefix as conversational element

"At first blush, 'no' does not appear to be the kind of word whose meaning you can monkey with." Kathryn Schulz dissects the use of "no" at the beginning of conversational turns, and discusses how it may be a reaction to the loss of our previous "four-form system of negation and affirmation" that included "yea" and "nay".
posted by brainwane on Apr 7, 2015 - 61 comments

If you can read this sentence, you can talk with a scientist.

Science once communicated in a polyglot of tongues, but now English rules alone. How did this happen – and at what cost?
posted by standardasparagus on Mar 15, 2015 - 45 comments

There Is No ‘Proper English’

There Is No ‘Proper English’. From Oliver Kamm of The Times:
It’s a perpetual lament: The purity of the English language is under assault. These days we are told that our ever-texting teenagers can’t express themselves in grammatical sentences. The media delight in publicizing ostensibly incorrect usage. A few weeks ago, pundits and columnists lauded a Wikipedia editor in San Jose, Calif., who had rooted out and changed no fewer than 47,000 instances where contributors to the online encyclopedia had written “comprised of” rather than “composed of.” Does anyone doubt that our mother tongue is in deep decline?
Well, for one, I do. It is well past time to consign grammar pedantry to the history books.
[more inside]
posted by Richard Holden on Mar 14, 2015 - 81 comments

Ye truth is yt ys might surprise you!

So where exactly did "ye olde" come from? (SLYT)
posted by Blue Jello Elf on Mar 4, 2015 - 31 comments

Consider The Clinkerbell, The Daggler, and The Shuckle

Robert Macfarlane says we are losing the best descriptive words for our landscape. This matters, he says, "because language deficit leads to attention deficit. As we deplete our ability to denote and figure particular aspects of our places, so our competence for understanding and imagining possible relationships with non-human nature is correspondingly depleted. To quote the American farmer and essayist Wendell Berry – a man who in my experience speaks the crash-tested truth – “people exploit what they have merely concluded to be of value, but they defend what they love, and to defend what we love we need a particularising language, for we love what we particularly know.”"
posted by purplesludge on Feb 27, 2015 - 23 comments

Uh...

Um, here’s an, uh, map that shows where Americans use 'um' vs. 'uh.' "Every language has filler words that speakers use in nervous moments or to buy time while thinking. Two of the most common of these in English are 'uh' and 'um.' They might seem interchangeable, but data show that their usage break down across surprising geographic lines. Hmm." And these lines may give evidence of the so-called Midland dialect. [more inside]
posted by wintersweet on Feb 8, 2015 - 44 comments

The OED in two minutes

The OED in two minutes is a visualisation of the change and growth of the English language since 1150, showing the frequency and origin of new words year by year. Notes and explanations about the project. [more inside]
posted by dng on Jan 8, 2015 - 18 comments

The Queen's English

One Woman, 17 British Accents: Have you ever wondered about the locations of accents used by British celebrities such as Maggie Thompson, Richard Burton, and Sean Bean? As part of the Anglophenia series, actress and comedian Siobhan Thompson takes us on a one-woman tour of regional accents of the British Islands.
posted by happyroach on Dec 3, 2014 - 68 comments

Living on the Hyphen

Spanglish is not random. It is not simply a piecemeal cobbling-together, a collecting of scraps of random vocabulary into a raggedy orphan of a sentence. It has logic and rules, and more interestingly and importantly, it embodies a constantly shifting and intimate morphology of miscegenation. It is the mix of my husband’s innate Mexicanness and my innate Americanness, of my adaptive Mexicanness and his adaptive Americanness, in Spanish and English morphemes that come neatly together and apart like so many Legos into new and ever-changing constructions.
posted by ellieBOA on Nov 2, 2014 - 23 comments

"The English," GK Chesterton wrote, "love a talented mediocrity."

I don't doubt characterising Orwell as a talented mediocrity will put noses out of joint. Not Orwell, surely! Orwell the tireless campaigner for social justice and economic equality; Orwell the prophetic voice, crying out in the wartime wilderness against the dangers of totalitarianism and the rise of the surveillance state; Orwell, who nobly took up arms in the cause of Spanish democracy, then, equally nobly, exposed the cause's subversion by Soviet realpolitik; Orwell, who lived in saintly penury and preached the solid virtues of homespun Englishness; Orwell, who died prematurely, his last gift to the people he so admired being a list of suspected Soviet agents he sent to MI5.
For the BBC's Point of View series, Will Self tackles the cult of Orwell.
posted by MartinWisse on Aug 31, 2014 - 79 comments

Poetica: Jamaican poetry

The Australian Radio National program Poetica recently broadcast two episodes of Jamaican Poetry, and it's a real delight to listen to these contemporary and archival recordings of Jamaican poets (from all over the world) reading their poetry, some with musical accompaniment. Episode 1 ----- Episode 2. [more inside]
posted by paleyellowwithorange on Aug 20, 2014 - 2 comments

Well I'll Go To The Foot Of Our Stairs

British subtitles
posted by The Whelk on Aug 20, 2014 - 32 comments

I go to the syege.

Speke latyn lyke a scoler!
“I am almoost beshytten”: A 16th Century English to Latin Textbook
Here is a direct link to the start of the phrasebook
posted by Joe in Australia on Aug 18, 2014 - 25 comments

but without italics we don't know when spaghetti was still exotic

Daniel Older explains why you shouldn't italicise Spanish words in English.
posted by MartinWisse on Aug 14, 2014 - 69 comments

Dialect isn’t just people talking funny

My project today is replacing all the dialogue spoken by Antiguan characters in Of Noble Family with dialogue rewritten by Antiguan and Barbudan author Joanne Hillhouse.

Let me explain why I’m doing this.
Mary Robinette Kowal talks about why she hired somebody else to help her with the Caribbean dialects for her next novel.
posted by MartinWisse on Aug 6, 2014 - 38 comments

When Dutch and English Collide

Dunglish Kind of like Engrish. Only from the Netherlands. [more inside]
posted by Michele in California on Jul 30, 2014 - 43 comments

Broken English

Jamila Lyiscott: 3 ways to speak English [SLYT] [more inside]
posted by divined by radio on Jul 18, 2014 - 4 comments

Fear and Loathing of the English Passive

Geoffrey Pullum talks about the passive voice [pdf]. (via) [more inside]
posted by nangar on Jul 10, 2014 - 37 comments

Horrible Band Photos with helpful hints

Your terrible gig photographs – and how they could be improved
posted by josher71 on Jul 9, 2014 - 19 comments

The Discovery of Oneself: An Interview with Daniel Mendelsohn on Proust

“What is the lesson you draw from your own existence?” This is the philosophy that Proust teaches us. Last year, the French magazine La Revue des Deux Mondes published an interview with Daniel Mendelsohn about his experiences reading Proust as part of a special issue on “Proust vu d’Amérique.” Translated from the French by Anna Heyward. [more inside]
posted by whyareyouatriangle on Jul 2, 2014 - 9 comments

English explodes in India

English words are becoming more popular in various Indian languages (Hindi is the language that's predominantly discussed in the article). Vise versa: words that English owes to India (again, predominately discussing Hindi).
posted by Shouraku on Jul 1, 2014 - 20 comments

Canadianisms

55 Canadianisms You May Not Know or Are Using Differently
A (non-scientific) survey providing a thorough & fascinating look at words in Canadian English [more inside]
posted by flex on Jul 1, 2014 - 245 comments

Learning languages with Muzzy, the clock-eating fuzzy alien

“Je Suis La Jeune Fille.” “Yes, that’s French they’re speaking. But no, these children aren’t French – they’re American!” If you grew up in the late 1980s and early 1990s, or watched children's TV programming from that era in the US or UK, no doubt you saw that commercial for Muzzy (formally titled Muzzy in Gondoland). The show was first produced by the BBC in 1986 to teach English as a second language, as seen in this playlist of five videos, and later expanded with Muzzy Comes Back in 1989 (six episode playlist). The shows were both translated in to French, German (playlist), Spanish (and the Spanish vocabulary builder), and Italian (Muzzy in Gondoland, Muzzy Comes Back).
posted by filthy light thief on Jun 28, 2014 - 32 comments

Unrelenting Swearword Missionary

Chris Broad bought up a bunch of copies of a Japanese book called 正しいFUCKの使い方 (How to Use "Fuck" Correctly) and proceeded to introduce it to some locals.
posted by gman on Jun 23, 2014 - 58 comments

"not far short of 50% have come into the language from French or Latin."

Borrowed words in English: tracing the changing patterns [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Jun 4, 2014 - 2 comments

My first language is Norwegian

There are lots of dialects of English. Which one do you speak?
posted by jeather on Jun 3, 2014 - 183 comments

55. For some students, you are their only light.

There are few professions more confusing, or misrepresented, than high school teaching. Education is a ubiquitous experience — public or private, we are all taught by someone, somewhere — and yet it remains misunderstood. I have now begun to write about teaching because I profoundly respect this vocation. I refuse to allow politicians to corner the rhetorical market on this subject. There are stories that need to be told.

I hesitate to call what follows "advice," though it might seem as such. There are so many varied experiences during a single teaching day that I am much more comfortable thinking in epigrammatic terms. I have a lot more to say about teaching, and certain reflections will need to wait. But, for now, here are 55 thoughts about teaching English.
Nick Ripatrazone, at The Millions (previously).
posted by davidjmcgee on May 29, 2014 - 27 comments

Dismantling and rebuilding someone else's work

Starting up fan localization projects feels much like amassing the cast of your typical role-playing game: a group of random strangers rally around a common cause before embarking on their journey together. In was in this way that Mandelin and Erbrecht found each other — stumbling to create something beautiful and meaningful, and realizing they could make that beautiful and meaningful thing better by working together. — For Polygon, Alexa Ray Corriea dives into the underground world of fan-translated games.
posted by MartinWisse on May 21, 2014 - 7 comments

The goat says "Meh"

Visualize a comic book, in your language, and imagine what would be written in the text balloon coming from the mouth of an animal. Now translate it. Derek Abbott of The University of Adelaide (previously) has compiled "the world’s biggest multilingual list" of animal sounds, commands, and pet names.
posted by Room 641-A on May 21, 2014 - 20 comments

Math or Maths?

Math or Maths? A few minutes with Dr Lynne Murphy (an American linguist in England) should clear this right up. Via Numberphile.
posted by R. Mutt on Apr 30, 2014 - 116 comments

Quartos.org - Shakespeare's quartos online for review and comparison

The earliest Shakespeare quartos are over four hundred years old and constitute the rarest, most fragile body of printed literature available to Shakespeare scholars. Sold unbound and often read to pieces, they are among the most ephemeral books of the age and survive in relatively low numbers. In the absence of surviving manuscripts, the quartos offer the earliest known evidence of what Shakespeare might actually have written, and what appeared on the early modern English stage. Only about half of Shakespeare’s plays were printed in quarto during his lifetime (1564–1616), and before the first printed collection of his plays, the First Folio of 1623. They are living artifacts telling the story of how Shakespeare's Hamlet, Henry V, King Lear, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Romeo and Juliet, to name just a few, first circulated in print.... Due to their rarity and fragility, the earliest quartos are often not accessible to those who need to study them. Today, six institutions in the United Kingdom and United States stand out as the main repositories of the pre-1642 quartos.... Through this international collaboration, many of the earliest Shakespeare quartos are now freely available for in-depth study to students of Shakespeare across the globe. You can read, compare, read annotations and overlay copies at Quartos.org.
posted by filthy light thief on Apr 12, 2014 - 20 comments

Narrative is the metaphor of the moment

One should add that he was an extraordinarily gifted con man, persuading the most discerning intellectuals that he had credentials he did not possess and a heroic personal history, rather than a scandalous one, while he worked his charm on generations of students. Just who was Paul de Man?
posted by shivohum on Apr 7, 2014 - 5 comments

They sometimes sound a little bit drunk.

A tour of accents across the British Isles performed in a single, unedited take.
posted by Obscure Reference on Apr 6, 2014 - 51 comments

Like, Degrading the Language? No Way

We may not speak with the butter-toned exchanges of the characters on “Downton Abbey,” but in substance our speech is in many ways more civilized.... We are taught to celebrate the idea that Inuit languages reveal a unique relationship to snow, or that the Russian language’s separate words for dark and light blue mean that a Russian sees blueberries and robin’s eggs as more vibrantly different in color than the rest of us do. Isn’t it welcome, then, that good old-fashioned American is saying something cool about us for once? - John McWhorter on colloquial American English (SLNYTIMES) [more inside]
posted by beisny on Apr 6, 2014 - 53 comments

On Engastration

His recipe calls for a bustard stuffed with a turkey stuffed with a goose stuffed with a pheasant stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a duck stuffed with a guinea fowl stuffed with a teal stuffed with a woodcock stuffed with a partridge stuffed with a plover stuffed with a lapwing stuffed with a quail stuffed with a thrush stuffed with a lark stuffed with an ortolan bunting stuffed with a garden warbler stuffed with an olive stuffed with an anchovy stuffed with a single caper - The Roti Sans Pareil or Roast Without Equal.
posted by The Whelk on Apr 5, 2014 - 70 comments

Are journalists everywhere morethanreacting?

The AP Stylebook as dropped the distinction between "over" and "more than." Journalists everywhere appear to be outraged. Others think it is no big deal. Dictionaries tend to agree.
posted by grumpybear69 on Mar 21, 2014 - 56 comments

THE LIFE OF A PEOPLE IS PICTURED IN THEIR SPEECH.

This book deals with the Dialect of the English Language that is spoken in Ireland. As the Life of a people—according to our motto—is pictured in their speech, our picture ought to be a good one, for two languages were concerned in it—Irish and English. ... Here for the first time—in this little volume of mine—our Anglo-Irish Dialect is subjected to detailed analysis and systematic classification.
P.W. Joyce's 1910 work, "English as We Speak it in Ireland," is a fascinating chronicle of a language's life, and no mistake. [more inside]
posted by MonkeyToes on Mar 6, 2014 - 8 comments

The international swap trade in useful words

"In very many cases, English has borrowed a word from one language that had previously borrowed it from elsewhere. Among those Portuguese and Spanish words there are many that originated among speakers of very different languages. For instance, piranha comes ultimately from Tupi (a language of Brazil) and acai comes from a related language called Nheengatu, while mango is probably ultimately from Malayalam across the other side of the world in India, and monsoon is ultimately from Arabic (and in a further twist, Dutch may also have played a hand in how it came into English from Portuguese). " (There was a previous BBC article on this topic which is linked in the post which contains more examples.) BBC article about how words have flowed back and forth over the centuries.
posted by marienbad on Feb 13, 2014 - 31 comments

How good is your English vocabulary, really?

In a move sure to delight MeFites everywhere, Ghent University in Belgium has created an online, almost arcade-game-like test of word knowledge which is almost BS-proof. Know the word? Press J. Don't? Press F. But don't lie! You will be punished.
posted by grumpybear69 on Jan 29, 2014 - 332 comments

Future of the OED

The new chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary discusses its future. "My idea about dictionaries is that, in a way, their time has come. People need filters much more than they did in the past."
posted by anothermug on Jan 26, 2014 - 50 comments

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