Archive for November, 2011

Slang to be included in new Scots dictionary

Posted on November 30th, 2011by Michelle
In Scots, Slang, Words | Leave a Comment »

Slang is to be included in the updated Scots dictionary.

The Scottish Language Dictionary charity is compiling the update of the Concise Scots Dictionary, which was first published in 1985. But according to one researcher, it’s not going to be easy:

“It’s difficult enough to decide if Scots is a dialect or a language. The fleeting nature of a word can determine if it’s slang or not.

“If it’s a word you can use with three different generations of your family, it’s more likely become part of the language.

“Slang is never going away. It shows the vibrancy of Scots and that it’s a living language, not just quaint terminology.” (Source: Scotsman)

Some examples of Scots slang:
Spraff: to talk at length
Dingie: to deliberately ignore someone
Cooncil curtains: boarded-up windows

Ebacc to boost language study?

Posted on November 30th, 2011by Michelle
In Education, English | Leave a Comment »

In the latest twist in the saga of language study for English schoolchildren, the shadow education secretary has announced his support for the English Baccalaureate.

The Ebacc is awarded to pupils who achieve C or better in English, maths, history or geography, sciences and a language at GCSE level. The number of pupils taking a language at GCSE level had dropped after the previous government made it non-compulsory.

[Stephen] Twigg – who said he regretted having given up Spanish when he was 14 – said Labour should have put foreign languages on the primary school timetable before scrapping the requirement for older children.

“I think the mistake we made was to do it the wrong way around. I would definitely make languages optional at 14, but what we should have done is had the primary languages approach first and then made the changes at 14. You can’t go back to making it compulsory.” (The Guardian)

Let’s hope this latest change in policy makes pupils aware of the benefits of studying a second language!

Academie Francaise offered new words

Posted on November 27th, 2011by Michelle
In French, Words | Leave a Comment »

The Academie Francaise, protector of the French language and notoriously hostile to English encroachments, has been challenged to accept new words into their dictionary.

Members of the public have been invited to make suggestions for additions to the language as part of the 2011 Festival XYZ, now in its tenth year. The festival of new words was founded by a French sociologist who says the idea is to bring new life to the language.

The festival’s word of the year was announced as “attachiant(e) – a combination of attachant (captivating, endearing) and the slang word chiant (bloody nuisance) to denote someone you cannot live with but cannot live without” (Source: The Guardian).

Other offerings include bête seller (a book that is badly written but a best seller) and eurogner – euro plus rogner (to cut down).

Let’s hope the Academie sees sense and adds these delightful new words!

Word of the Year

Posted on November 24th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, English, Words | Leave a Comment »

Oh yes, it’s that time of the year again… Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is (drum roll) squeezed middle!

Yes, I know that’s two words. This is explained by Oxford University Press:

From a dictionary-maker’s point of view, a two-word expression is called a ‘compound’ and is treated as one word [a 'headword'] in the dictionary. This is not the first time that a two-word expression has been selected as our WOTY. In 2010, the UK Word of the Year was big society. (Source: Oxford University Press)

There has been much debate about this explanation. Nevertheless, squeezed middle is the Word of the Year, and it’s defined as “British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband’s term for those seen as bearing the brunt of government tax burdens while having the least with which to relieve it”. So squeezed in the middle of the rich (who can afford to relief from tax burdens) and the poor, who are eligible for benefits and other government assistance.

What’s your word of 2011?


Posted on November 20th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, English, Speech | Leave a Comment »

Britney famously sang “oops, I did it again” and now Rick Perry, a US Republican presidential candidate, has brought the word back into the popular consciousness.

Perry’s “oops” came as he couldn’t remember the name of a third national agency he would close if he was made president. It’s unlikely he has an idea of the origins of the word, which started to appear around the 1930s. Whilst the exact origins are unknown, it’s thought it may come from the phrase “up-a-daisy”, which has been used since the 18th Century.

And oops isn’t just confined to the English language:

An Italian found in error might say, “ops!” while a Frenchman who’s made a faux pas might say, “oups!” In Spanish, one can say opa, but just as common are huy and ¡ay! A Russian who’s made a goof might exclaim, “ой” (pronounced oj), while a German blunderer might blurt out, “hoppla!” (Source:

What do you say when you’ve made an error?

Learning English in China

Posted on November 18th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, Education, English, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

An interesting article in China Daily provides a snapshot of English language teaching and learning in China today.

The authors state there is no progression for students learning English as it is not linked from school to college. Whilst many Chinese people study English, and it is compulsory at university, the language is rarely used in social situations.

Another issue is the test-based curriculum, with one teacher saying:

“The (CET-4) test puts the students in a state of war and makes them nervous,” Xu said. “After passing the competitive gaokao, they expect lively and interesting English classes in college. But I’m afraid CET-4 may disappoint them.” (English is a core subject in gaokao, the national college entrance examination.) (Source: China Daily)

What a sad situation – language learning should be a fun activity (at least sometimes!) and not a chore to be undertaken. As the former chairwoman of the English club at Qigihar University says,

“People’s interest in the language itself is our most cherished asset”.

So next time you’re fed up and feeling unmotivated, just think of the Chinese students and their anxiety about the CET-4 test!

Insult like Shakespeare

Posted on November 13th, 2011by Michelle
In Culture, English | Leave a Comment »

With the release of a new movie questioning whether William Shakespeare is the true author of the works attributed to him, the Bard is back in the spotlight.

So what better time to learn how to insult like him? All you have to do is combine words from each of the three columns, and you will come up with an original insult – “you spongy clapper-clawed varlot”, for example.

In case you have no time to pull out a piece of paper and put together your own insult, there’s also an app!

Indigenous language: Yiddish

Posted on November 12th, 2011by Michelle
In Indigenous languages, Yiddish | Leave a Comment »

The excellent blog Indigenous Tweets has a fascinating interview with Jordan Kutzik, a fellow at the National Yiddish Book Center in the USA.

Kutzik explains the history of Yiddish, and how it was almost wiped out by the persecution of the Jewish people before and during World War II. He states that it was the strongest non-territorial language in the world and had a large literature, including some respected newspapers.

Now it is estimated there are around 250,000 Hasidic Yiddish speakers worldwide, with efforts being made to teach new generations the language. Kutzik explains the lack of internet resources in Yiddish and what efforts are being made to correct this, as well as his vision for the next 10 years. Read the whole interview, it’s well worth a look.