Archive for December, 2012


Posted on December 29th, 2012by jake
In Words | Leave a Comment »

YOLO {You Only Live Once} appeared on numerous ‘words of 2012′ lists. The rapper Drake who popularized the term in his hit single ‘The Motto’ has been tweeting his disapproval of companies cashing in on the words popularity. Tweeting a picture of a shelving unit crammed with baseball hats sporting the word, Drake captioned the picture with ‘”Walgreens….you gotta either chill or cut the cheque”. He later also tweeted a picture of t-shirts being sold at Macy’s with YOLO emblazoned on the front. Drake appears to believe that he should be getting royalties for creating, or at least popularizing the word, yet can people trademark words?

Many celebrities have tried to trademark words that they have made famous. It was widely reported that Jay-Z and Beyonce attempted to trademark their daughters name Blue Ivy, but their bid was rejected by the patents office. Paris Hilton successfully trademarked her catchphrase ‘that’s hot’ but only in certain instances. Basketball coach Pat Riley did however manage to trademark the words ’3-peat’ and ‘three-peat’ entirely, meaning that he would be entitled to royalties if the words were to appear on commercial products like t-shirts. Of course many words that are trademarked have entered into our everyday language. Words like Tupperware, bubble wrap and jacuzzi are all brand names and trademarked. As long as you don’t attempt to sell products with these words on them. no lawyers should come knocking at your door.

via: Billboard

Russian Controversy

Posted on December 26th, 2012by jake
In Russian | Leave a Comment »

A series of Russian textbooks have caused a stir because of a language learning exercise, an example of which can be found below.

A policeman says in Russian: “I work a lot, sometimes even too much. … Winter or summer, rain or shine, I go from a bank to a store, from a store to a restaurant, from a restaurant to a market, looking for where to take money.”

The idea of the textbooks is for students to spot the mistake within the sentence, but a United Russia lawmaker believes that the texts could tarnish Russia’s image abroad. As well as corrupt policemen taking money, another passage features a drug taking professor who complains that ‘stupid girl students don’t come’ to his lectures. The authors of the textbooks are said to be astounded at the controversy as the first edition of the book was published a decade ago and the books are clearly labelled for adult learning. The issue has polarised opinion with some finding the texts a humorous and refreshing change from many Russian language textbooks still in print from the Soviet era, whereas others believe language textbooks should take a more serious, academic approach. Do you mind a little humour with your language learning?

via: The Moscow Times

The Words of 2012

Posted on December 22nd, 2012by jake
In English, Slang, Words | Leave a Comment »

Another year passing means another mountain of neologisms. Whilst many will be relegated to the linguistic scrap heap a few no doubt will latch onto our vocabularies for years to come. The New York Times has compiled a list of the clever, the witty and the just plain ridiculous, of which I thought I’d share a few.

FRANKENSTORM The storm that hit the East Coast in October, a few days before Halloween.

GANGNAM STYLE The manner and attitude ascribed to the affluent Gangnam District of Seoul, South Korea. This term came to the attention of the world when the Korean pop star PSY released the song and video “Gangnam Style.” His signature “galloping pony ride” dance was the macarena of 2012.

NOMOPHOBIA Fear of losing or forgetting one’s mobile phone, or of being outside of the phone’s signal area. From no more (phone|phobia).

YOLO An acronym for “You Only Live Once.” Used as an interjection when someone is considering doing something risky or ill-advised. The expression took off this year after the hip-hop star Drake’s song “The Motto” became a hit in 2011.

I’m far from being a linguistic purist but is this the best we could do? Scrap what I said earlier. Hopefully when 2013 arrives we will all suffer a collective bout of amnesia and will never utter any of these words ever, ever again. What was your word of 2012?

via: NYT

Accidental Insensitivity

Posted on December 19th, 2012by jake
In Culture, Words | Leave a Comment »

The Oxford English Dictionary has come under fire for choosing ‘bloodbath’ as its word of the day. The word has been deemed insensitive and ill timed in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shootings which claimed the lives of 27 people. The OED released a statement explaining that:

“The timing of today’s word is a coincidence of the worst kind, and we apologize for any distress or upset caused by what might seem to be a highly insensitive choice,” [...] “What we hope to show with our words of the day is that even seemingly commonplace words can have interesting etymologies; however we have taken today’s word down from the OED Online homepage and are now taking immediate steps to review our scheduling and selection policy.”

This has not been the first case of accidental insensitivity with many news reports condemning gun advertisements being placed next to reports of the shootings.

via: Global Post

Saving Welsh

Posted on December 15th, 2012by jake
In Welsh | Leave a Comment »

The Welsh Language Society (or Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg as they would no doubt prefer to be called) is asking the Welsh government to create new legislation to ensure the protection of the Welsh language. The call for more legislation comes after disappointing census results which detail the decline in Welsh speakers including a fall in the traditionally Welsh speaking areas Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.

According to the BBC ‘around 300 people attended a rally in Caernarfon to launch the campaign’ in which The Welsh Language society outline their wish for ‘the Welsh government to quadruple the amount invested in developing and protecting the language.’

The census figures published on Tuesday recorded an overall drop of 2% in the number of people who speak Welsh in Wales, to 562,016. That represents 19% of the population in Wales.

In the two historical Welsh-speaking heartlands of Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion – the drop was far more marked.

In Carmarthenshire, 43.9% of the population aged over three said they could speak Welsh in 2011, down from 50.3% in 2001 and 54.9% in 1991

In Ceredigion it was 47.3% in 2011, down from 52% in 2001.

via: BBC News

English Online

Posted on December 14th, 2012by jake
In English, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

The BBC have questioned how internet users are changing the English language. Articles about the internet changing the way we use language are a dime a dozen but this article includes some interesting facts. For instance ‘people who speak English as a second language already outnumber native speakers.’ Using this information we can question what effect these many variations of the English language will have upon native English speakers.

“The internet enfranchises people who are not native speakers to use English in significant and meaningful ways,” says Naomi Baron, professor of linguistics at American University in Washington DC.

Users of Facebook already socialise in a number of different “Englishes” including Indian English, or Hinglish, Spanglish (Spanish English) and Konglish (Korean English). While these variations have long existed within individual cultures, they’re now expanding and comingling online.

All of these different versions of English come together within the melting pot of the internet and this could lead to a universal English pidgin.

“Most people actually speak multiple languages – it’s less common to only speak one,” says Mr Munro. “English has taken its place as the world’s lingua franca, but it’s not pushing out other languages.”

Instead, other languages are pushing their way into English, and in the process creating something new.

via: BBC News

Yiddish Spelling

Posted on December 9th, 2012by jake
In Yiddish | Leave a Comment »

The Guardian has a article outlining the pitfalls of spelling and pronouncing Yiddish words. Attempting to discover whether one should say Hanukkah or Chanukah is complex within itself.

Guardian Style prefers the former (although the latter occasionally sneaks past), the Oxford Style Manual opts for Hanukkah, with Chanukkah as “a scholarly and US variant”, while Collins agrees on Hanukkah, but lists Chanukah as its variant.

The article continues by exploring how the adoption of Yiddish words into the English language has created a hybrid language. This means that the definition of some Yiddish words have transformed beyond recognition, often meaning two entirely different things to Yiddish speakers and Yiddish novices.

In English we usually use schlep as an intransitive verb (dragging ourselves) rather than the transitive original (dragging an object). And that whereas we use chutzpah admiringly, for Yiddish speakers it’s more negative – the usual example is “a man who kills his parents then throws himself on the mercy of the courts as an orphan”. But all living languages evolve and, as the theory of hybridity argues, no meeting of cultures is one-way.

via: The Guardian

Unicorn Lair

Posted on December 6th, 2012by jake
In Korean | Leave a Comment »

North Korea is a country shrouded in mystery, but when the story broke a few days ago reporting that North Korean archaeologists were claiming to have found a unicorn lair, people became more confused about the isolated country than normal. It has come to light that the news story may have been a fantastical fantasy of the Western press as no such claims were ever made by North Korea. In fact the fictitious story stems partly from mistranslation.

A glance at the original Korean version of the story made clear that North Korean archaeologists were claiming no such thing. For starters, there was no talk of unicorns, but of “kirins” or “Qilins”

Not only was the mystical beast that inhabited the ancient lair translated incorrectly but also…

There was no suggestion unicorns really lived in the lair. It was just a mythical name, said Grayson. Just as only small children expect to find giants at the Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland or fairies at the Fairy Steps in Beetham, Cumbria, North Koreans are highly unlikely to believe that kirins have ever actually lived in Kiringul.

It looks like some people need to brush up on their Korean, and their common sense.

via: The Guardian