The Week: Most Recent Language Posts recent posts.en-usMon, 22 Dec 2014 12:24:00 -0500http://theweek.com Recent Language Posts from THE WEEKMon, 22 Dec 2014 12:24:00 -05004 grammar lessons from our most beloved, old-timey holiday songs<img src="" /></P><p><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src=";color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false"></iframe></p><p>Read more on this story at <em>Mental Floss</em>.</p><p><strong>Listen to more of <em>The Week's</em> podcasts:</strong></p><ul><li>Your weekly streaming recommendation: <em>The One I Love</em></li><li>The great paradox of the greatest rock 'n' roll showdown of all time</li><li>This week I learned your coin toss odds are better than you think, and more</li></ul><p> </p><p ><em><em><strong>*You can also find The Week's mini podcasts on iTunes, SoundCloud, and TuneIn.*</strong></em></em></p><p ><em><em><strong><em><em><strong>*Rate The Week's podcasts on iTunes.*</strong></em></em></strong></em></em></p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/arika-okrent" ><span class="byline">Arika Okrent</span></a>Mon, 22 Dec 2014 12:24:00 -0500'Tis the season for archaic English<img src="" /></P><p>'Tis the season to use old-fashioned English!</p><p>"O come, all ye faithful..."</p><p>"Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child..."</p><p>"Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning&hellip;"</p><p>The holidays are for old carols, old scripture readings, and various emulations of merry olde England. This makes it a dangerous season.</p><p>Dangerous? Yes. There are conjugation accidents <em>all over the place</em>. People just don't know how to handle the <em>ye</em> and <em>thee</em> and <em>thou</em>, the <em>&ndash;est</em> and <em>&ndash;eth</em>. They put the wrong thing in the wrong place, and the next thing thou knowest, someone getteth hurt.</p><p>To reduce the carnage...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/james-harbeck" ><span class="byline">James Harbeck</span></a>Mon, 22 Dec 2014 08:01:00 -0500This little girl's ASL version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas will make your heart grow 3 sizes<img src="" /></P><p>Last year a little Deaf girl named Shaylee stole our hearts with her adorable and linguistically sophisticated sign language performance of<em> The Night Before Christmas</em>. This year the ASL learning site ASLnook (run by her parents Sheena McFeely and Manny Johnson) features a new performance by Shaylee in which she tells the story of How the<em> Grinch Stole Christmas</em>. You can see her above, with her hair done up like Cindy Lou, bringing the story to life.</p><p><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen=""></iframe></p><p>Once again she expresses the full range of her linguistic and storytelling skills, deftly shifting among the perspectives of many characters. To...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/arika-okrent" ><span class="byline">Arika Okrent</span></a>Sun, 21 Dec 2014 11:00:00 -0500Why linguists freak out about 'absofreakinglutely'<img src="" /></P><p> Fan-freaking-tastic!</p><p>What?</p><p>Ling-freaking-guistics, that's what!</p><p>Too damn right.</p><p>Want to get a bunch of linguists on a problem lickety-frickin'-split? Just drop something naughty in the middle of a word or phrase. Like <em>fan-freaking-tastic</em> or <em>too damn right</em> or <em>Judas H. Priest.</em></p><p>The exact linguistic analysis of something like <em>abso-freaking-lutely</em> has gotten quite a few linguists pretty exercised over the years. They don't all agree.</p><p>So let's talk about what it's not.</p><p><strong>It's not new.</strong></p><p>Let's start with this one: the insertion of emphatic words, usually rude, in the middle of other words or fixed...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/james-harbeck" ><span class="byline">James Harbeck</span></a>Thu, 11 Dec 2014 09:56:00 -0500The 11 best new words added to Oxford dictionaries<img src="" /></P><p>The editors at try to stay on top of the latest developments in English vocabulary, and they just added 1,000 new words to their online dictionary.</p><p>Updates include acronyms like <strong>WTAF</strong> ("what the actual f__"), shortenings like <strong>jel</strong> (jealous), and creative spellings like <strong>hawt</strong> and <strong>fone</strong>.</p><p>The new entries aren't necessarily new words; some are very old (<strong>cool beans</strong>, <strong>five-second rule</strong>), and some are so "last year (or five)" ( <strong>lolcat</strong>, <strong>duckface</strong>, <strong>Obamacare</strong>), but quite a few were new to me. And I like to think I keep up with the latest in word news.</p><p>Most of these are British or Australian...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/arika-okrent" ><span class="byline">Arika Okrent</span></a>Tue, 09 Dec 2014 10:25:00 -0500Check out these fascinating experiments in Ngram art<img src="" /></P><p>Google </span>Ngram<span> Viewer is a tool that allows users to search for a word or phrase in Google's vast collection of digitized books and graph the results.</p><center><br /></center><p>The above graph shows the use of words for various technologies over time. <em>Telegraph</em> had its modest moment in the early 20th century. <em>Telephone</em> started its rise right after it had its first major public demonstration in 1876. <em>Television</em> had a steep increase mid-century, but was quite outdone by the sharp leap taken by <em>computer</em> in the second half of the century.</p><center><br /></center><p>A lot of what you find exploring Ngram is pretty obvious. Above, a search on the word...</p></span> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/arika-okrent" ><span class="byline">Arika Okrent</span></a>Sun, 30 Nov 2014 11:00:00 -05008 words coined and popularized by Jonathan Swift<img src="" /></P><p>Three hundred and forty seven years ago today, Jonathan Swift was born.</p><p>A poet and cleric, Swift published many satirical works under various pseudonyms. Best known are his essay, "A Modest Proposal," in which he suggests the "impoverished Irish" sell their children to the rich as good eats; <em>A Tale of a Tub</em>, a satire on religious excess; and <em>Gulliver's Travels</em>, often seen as a children's book but also as "a satirical view of the state of European government."</p><p>Swift was also a proponent for "correcting" English as much as possible and hated "invented" words such as <em>banter</em>, <em>mob</em>, and <em>bamboozle....</em></p> <a href="">More</a>By Angela TungSun, 30 Nov 2014 09:00:00 -0500These fascinating maps show countries as named in their own languages<img src="" /></P><p>Countries are called by different names depending on who's doing the calling. Is it <em>The United States of America</em> or <em>Les &Eacute;tats-Unis</em>? <em>Deutschland</em> or <em>Germany</em>? A country's own name for itself is called an endonym, and at you can find a map of the world's endonyms. The map at the site allows you to zoom in and explore more fully, but here are a few interesting close ups:</p><p><br /></p><p >(<em>Endonym Map</em>)</p><p>Above, you can see how in local languages, country names can be quite different from their English versions. Finland is <em>Suomen Tasavalta</em> (Republic of Finland), Hungary is <em>Magyarorsz&aacute;g</em>,...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/arika-okrent" ><span class="byline">Arika Okrent</span></a>Sat, 29 Nov 2014 11:00:00 -0500The bizarre syntax of 'sexiest man alive'<img src="" /></P><p>In the wake of <em>People</em> magazine's announcement last week of its choice for this year's "Sexiest Man Alive," our thoughts, naturally, turned to the unusual syntax of this phrase.</p><p><br /></p><p>Why "alive"? Isn't that a given? Not quite. After all, this is not a competition between all the sexy men of history. That would be ridiculous, not to mention very hard to judge. "Alive" narrows the field, takes Gary Cooper and Alexander the Great out of the running. Let the dead men have their own competition.</p><p>However, "Sexiest Man Dead"? That doesn't work, and the fact that it doesn't reveals something interesting...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/arika-okrent" ><span class="byline">Arika Okrent</span></a>Thu, 27 Nov 2014 16:00:00 -0500How a deaf couple had their baby officially registered with a sign name<img src="" /></P><p>Parents tend to give their children names in their own languages. What could be more natural? When Tomato Lichy and Paula Garfield, a British couple who are both Deaf (the capital "D" indicates that Deaf is a cultural identity), were about to have their second child, they began to look into whether it was possible to give their baby, legally, a sign name.</p><p>A sign name is not just an English name spelled out with the fingers. While Deaf people do have English names, which can be written, spelled out, or mouthed, they use signs, created specially for individuals, to refer to each other within their...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/arika-okrent" ><span class="byline">Arika Okrent</span></a>Thu, 27 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500