Archive for July, 2011

How popular is your name?

Posted on July 30th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, English | Leave a Comment »

The annual list of popular baby names was released this week by the Office of National Statistics. Which names were top? Olivia and Oliver (for the second year running).

Others in the top 5 were Jack, Alfie, Harry and Charlie for boys and Sophie, Emily, Lily and Amelia for girls.

Ollie was the fastest rising name in the boys’ top 100 while Olly was 113th.

When looking at the figures just for Wales, Oliver and Ruby were the most popular boys’ and girls’ names.

In eight of the English regions, Oliver was the most popular name, however Jack came top in the North East.

Among baby girls, Olivia was the top name in seven English regions, Sophie was the most popular in the East and Lily in the South West. (Source: BBC News)

Names go through trends – when I was born ‘Michelle’ must have been very popular as 3 other girls in my high school form group were also called Michelle! I’m not sure why it’s become less popular, as the Hebrew meaning of the name is apparently “who is like God?” (not sure why there’s a question mark there either).

A few years ago a company did a survey on ‘traditional’ British names and found they were dying out. Perhaps instead of Olivia and Oliver, parents could consider Ethel or Gertrude and Percy or Clifford?

Learn English, kick ass

Posted on July 29th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, English | 1 Comment »

Fresh from South Korea is the news that the latest kids craze is Taeglish – an educational combination of English and Taekwondo.

Kim Sung-hoon, creator of Taeglish, explains:

Taeglish is a combination of the words Taekwondo and English.
 Normal English education is boring with no fun and they do not understand why
they have to learn it. After English is combined with Taekwondo practice,
 children can learn English with fun and in high spirits. (Source: Macmillan Dictionary Blog)

Taekwondo is a popular martial art and in this video, it looks like a lot of fun!

Recently I started Zumba classes and some of the songs are in Spanish (Daddy Yankee’s Gasolina for example). I often find myself trying to work out what the words are. Perhaps I could start my own Zumanish class?

Language poem by Taylor Mali

Posted on July 23rd, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, English | Leave a Comment »

This is a great (and funny) poem by Taylor Mali, the typography by Ronnie Bruce definitely enhances it.

Jane Austen goes kick-ass

Posted on July 22nd, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, Education, Words | Leave a Comment »

In possibly my favourite story of the week, apparently Jane Austen is going to throw down in a new video game called Word Fighter.

Instead of using conventional fight-game methods, the character will cut down her enemies using the power of words.

Inspired by Boggle, Scrabble, Words With Friends and Super Puzzle Fighter, the object of the game is for players, as famous authors personified by their literary works, to spell words quickly on separate tile grids. The better the word — based on length and letter value — the more damage you do to your opponent. Special power-ups like attack multipliers and tile shufflers are added to the mix, so it can be anybody’s game. Players will be able to battle each other locally or online in real-time, and the developers even plan to have cross-platform play, which means iOS users will be able to battle against their Android friends. (Source: Forbes blog)

It sounds like a great way to increase vocabulary at the same time as having fun (and feeling superior to your friends when you beat them). The game will be available later this year, and I for one cannot wait.

Image: Feel Every Yummy

Fry’s English Delight – The Mouth

Posted on July 16th, 2011by Michelle
In English, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

A new series of Fry’s English Delight is back on BBC Radio 4.

The first programme, titled ‘The Mouth’ talks about the origins of speech and language. Stephen Fry asks “if you were an intelligent designer, would you combine the food processor and the word processor in the same unit?”

The programme also hears from

Ventriloquist Nina Conti explains how she has learned to over-rule the automatic functions of her mouth. A facial surgeon gives us the tour of the inside of the mouth and a psychologist discusses humanity’s earliest form of happy oral communication – or language. (Source: BBC)

The new series is on BBC Radio 4 on Monday’s and also available on iPlayer.

New wordbank preserves regional words

Posted on July 12th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, dialects, English | Leave a Comment »

A list of rare regional words and phrases has been compiled by the British Library as part of their Evolving English exhibition.

Around 4,000 words are in the ‘wordbank’, all of which were contributed by visitors to the exhibit at the British Library in London or at regional events. One the bank is complete and has been analysed by linguists, it will be opened up to language academics and others wishing to study the words it contains.

Among those to have been added to the wordbank are bobowler, a Birmingham and Black Country term for a large moth, tittermatorter – or see-saw, in Norfolk – and tranklements, another Black Country expression meaning ornaments.

Some of the words have been in existence for generations. For instance, bishybarnabee – a Norfolk term for a ladybird – is thought to derive from a notorious bishop, Edmond Bonner, known as “Bloody Bonner” for his role in the persecution of heretics under the Catholic government of Mary I in the sixteenth century. (Source: The Telegraph)

Other words have much shorter histories – spoggy for example is the Grimsby term for chewing gum.

What local variations would you add to the wordbank?

What do Americans think of English accents?

Posted on July 9th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, English | Leave a Comment »

In my experience, Americans often see my southern English accent as ‘cute’. They also confuse it for being ‘British’, no matter how many times I explain there is no such thing.

I came across this funny video today of the American comedian Elon Gold talking about accents, including English ones. Take a look:

What’s a childibore?

Posted on July 6th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, English, Slang, Words | Leave a Comment »

Apparently there’s a new craze in London, and it’s to do with words. “Newlogism” is splicing together two unrelated words to make a new one (see what they did there?).

According to Dan Clayton, English language researcher on UCL’s Survey of English Usage, these words circulate very quickly because of the way people use technology (particularly social networking) but also disappear very quickly, with 80% of new slang words disappearing within a year.

Examples of newlogisms that you should know include “psycho-lists – those mad bikers ready to run over pedestrians with the temerity to cross the road”, “email courier …the time-waster who trots over to your desk across the office just to ask if you’ve seen their latest missive in your inbox” and “x-sessives… people who Won’t. Stop. Sending. Xs”. (Source: This is London)

And what’s a childibore? It’s a parent who won’t stop going on about their offspring.