language

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John Simpson spent much of his adult life laboring on a book.  You'd think he might have long since devoted himself to streaming video, but no, he still has a passion for the printed word. 

It all makes more sense when you realize the book he labored on is the Oxford English Dictionary, where he was chief editor for 20 years.  He wrote of the work of compiling and editing the OED in another book, The Word Detective: Searching for the Meaning of It All at the Oxford English Dictionary

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RU ROFL about Internet communication, or do U H8 it? SWYP?

Linguist and author Gretchen McCullough explores how the Internet is changing the way we speak and write. She totes wrote a book about it; it's called Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language

Listen to this segment, bcuz YOLO.

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The way we use language today is not the same as a couple of generations ago.  If we used the word "cool" to describe something interesting to our great-grandparents, they probably would have wondered what caused the chilling. 

Linguist/teacher/author John McWhorter makes the case that the English language is resilient, and that is why it changes over time.  His most recent book on the subject is Words on the Move

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Close to half the people on Earth can speak more than one language. The percentage (43) is actually higher than the percentage of people who speak only one language (40).

But in this country, only about a fifth of the population is bilingual, and foreign-language programs are often the targets of budget cuts in schools and colleges.

That troubles foreign-language learners at Southern Oregon University, who want to see more support, not less.

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America's independence from England wasn't just fought on the battlefield. Early Americans insisted on a new way of speaking that would be a distinctly American variation of English.

Linguist Rosemarie Ostler, who lives in Eugene, has traced the evolution of American English, and the cultural mix that produced terms like "gerrymander" and "gnarly."  She lays them out in her book Splendiferous Speech.

juanedc, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27828497

Even when we're not uttering malapropisms, we may not be using the exact words we intended.  

Charles Harrington Elster can help; his voluminous knowledge of the English language has led to nearly a dozen books.  Those include the new How to Tell Fate from Destiny.  It's not about religion or philosophy, just the terms themselves. 

Did you leave your brolly in the boot of your car?  If the phrase makes immediate sense, you might be British. 

We share a language with the United Kingdom, but there are many differences in the version we speak in the United States. 

Lynne Murphy is perfectly situated to research and write about the differences, being from here and living there, in England.  Her blog "Separated by a Common Language" grew into a book, The Prodigal Tongue

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Language and pronunciation are constant issues in the radio business.  If we call Yreka "Eureka," we're not just wrong, we're off by 200 miles (by road). 

But even we can't say for sure that there's a dialect unique to Southern Oregon. 

Aside from place names, are there differences in how we say things from, say, Southern California? 

That's what Anna Kristina Moroz is researching in her work at the University of Washington

juanedc, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27828497

"What's that word?"  If there were ever a person to ask that of, it's John Simpson. 

He spent half a lifetime as the senior editor of the final word in words, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). 

In his book The Word Detective, he shares stories of how words come into the language, change in use, and even depart. 

John Simpson joins us, no doubt using many interesting words. 
 

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Maybe you've visited one of those web quiz pages that asks you about some word choices, then tells you--often accurately--where you're from. 

The quiz works because people DO use different phrases and idioms in different parts of the country. 

A "hero" sandwich in New York is a "grinder" in nearby Connecticut. 

Josh Katz focuses on the regional variations in his book "Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk: A Visual Guide." 

Language Changes? Totes.

Sep 21, 2016
Wikimedia/Public Domain

We've been tasked with interviewing John McWhorter.  It's not that big an ask, and he literally will not be here in person. 

Do those first two sentences remind you of how CONSTANTLY our language changes?  And that we're not always happy about the changes? 

That's what John McWhorter writes about, in his book Words on the Move: Why English Won't--and Can't--Sit Still (Like, Literally)

He points out the ways in which English is already different from what previous generations spoke. 

Words As Weapons... And Medicine, Too

May 31, 2016
Basic Books

Tired of the rhetoric in this year's political campaigns?  There's a lot more of it coming, and some of it might be uplifting. 

If you take that optimistic viewpoint, you'll likely have company in British writer and editor Sam Leith.  He views the high and low points of the history of persuasive speech in his book Words Like Loaded Pistols

From Cicero to Simpson (Homer), it's a rich history. 

"Poppycock" And Other Forms Of B.S.

Jan 11, 2016
Wikimedia

Well, this has to be a first.  We can neither say the title nor show the cover of a book we're discussing on the air. 

Because the book is about BS, and you know what that stands for. 

Language expert and humorist Mark Peters takes a tour through the range of terms we often use (think "balderdash" and "bunk") in his book Bulls**t: A Lexicon

Making New Words For Fun And Profit

Sep 29, 2015
Workman Publishing

The vocabulary of the English language is huge. 

But sometimes, it's not big enough, at least not big enough to contain phrases that SHOULD be words. 

Lizzie Skurnick started creating words years ago, leading to a New York Times Magazine column rolling out her inventions. 

The column has now morphed into a book, That Should Be a Word: A Language Lover’s Guide to Choregasms, Povertunity, Brattling, and 250 Other Much-Needed Terms for the Modern World

Talking Gooder: "Bad English"

Jun 12, 2015
Penguin Books

It's a good thing we speak English.  We hear it is VERY hard to learn for people who did not grow up with it. 

And that's partly because it's such a mish-mosh of parts of earlier languages (and some living ones). 

And we make it harder on ourselves with the way we use it, as Ammon Shea demonstrates in Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation

Learn "Spinglish" In Your Spare Time

Jun 5, 2015
Blue Rider Press

Politicians long ago perfected the art of speaking for long periods of time without actually saying ANYTHING of substance. 

But they're not alone... spinning a story to soften or hide true intent is common now in many endeavors.  For example, ever lose a job because your company "rightsized"? 

Many of today's weasel words--sorry, terminological inexactitude--are explored in the book Spinglish: The Definitive Dictionary of Deliberately Deceptive Language. 

Delivering Insults With Class

Feb 10, 2014

Did we mention February is big for Shakespeare in Ashland?

 

We could not resist an interview with the creator of the clever book Shakespeare Insult Generator.  Think of it as “Mad Libs” for insults, using lines and words from Shakespeare plays.