Thursday, December 29, 2005

Festive language round-up

I hope everyone who reads this blog has had a good Christmas break (so far). I'll keep this post brief as there are lots of other things to do.

A couple of articles which have appeared over the last week or so are worth a look at: first off is the list of most popular baby names for the year. According to the Guardian and Independent, it's back to the future with these: old-fashioned names top the list, while those influenced by celebrity births and popular TV characters show a rise as well (although I should add that we called our daughter Ruby well before we realised she was a character in Eastenders, and she's named after our favourite food, in cockney rhyming slang, or something like that...).

'New old-fashioned' Jack is most popular name for 11th year
Jessica and Jack are top baby names

Second up is the news that predictive text dictionaries are being updated to include new words and phrases. Like traditional lexicographers, the firms who create dictionaries for new technologies are having to keep pace with lexical change in English. But what's driving these changes and is new technology causing some of these changes? Someone told me recently of an appearance of the word "book" as a new slang term for "cool" because it's what appears in predictive text when you type the latter. We're all aware of processes like blending, conversion, compounding and borrowing in language change, but what do we call it when it's just a technological blip?

At a stroke: Asbo, smlirt, podcast enter predictive text dictionary

And finally (as Trevor McDonald used to say), to the word "Christmas" itself. Has political correctness "gone crazy" (copyright Daily Mail mentalist posse) again? The Sun - always a bastion of accurate reporting and fairmindedness - has been crusading against "loony" councils who have allegedly banned the word "Christmas" so as not to offend religious minorities. Except, they're struggling to find that many examples of it happening and not quite getting it right even when they do find examples. There is a similar trend in the USA media, but perhaps with a slightly different slant. Have a look at the selection of articles here and make up your own mind! And have a Happy New Year.

Pupils in 'c'-word ban
Nativity scenes are out, carols are banned, and don't dare wish anyone merry Christmas: the festive season, US-style
Don't mention the C-word
Christmas under threat from political correctness

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