Monday, April 26, 2010

Getting MWI

The research of social psychology postgraduate, Lisa Whittaker, features in today's Telegraph in an article about adolescents' use of language on social networking sites. According to the article, teenagers are getting wise to how exposed social networking can leave them, and how a dodgy Facebook profile might look to a potential employer, and are trying to hide their indiscretions by using a "secret language", in which Getting MWI means "getting mad with it" or "intoxicated", and lots of others.

There's nothing earth-shatteringly new about this - slang has pretty much always been used to hide dubious activity from outsiders - but it's given a new spin here in the digital age.

Friday, April 23, 2010

It's PC-gone-mentally-challenged

Psychotic, autistic, paranoid, schizophrenic, bald. Just 5 of the words I have been called today by uncaring members of my own family. Thanks, mum. But 3 of these words feature in a comment piece in today's Guardian by Beatrice Bray. In it she argues that we should be more careful about our casual use of medical terms that describe mental illness. She argues that psychotic should only be used when referring to people who have the condition "psychosis", not as a more generalised term of abuse to describe someone who's a bit unstable.


The use of the word "psychotic" (is) offensive. You may think this political correctness gone mad, but if you are ill, or have been, you need words to describe your experience to yourself and to others. If for you these words are negative, you will hate yourself. Language can make or break your happiness.

So how far should we go to avoid causing offence to minority groups? Bray argues that we shouldn't be misusing the term bi-polar either. Katy Perry is going to be in big trouble for her "love bi-polar" in Hot'n'Cold. And the term schizophrenia? No longer should we even consider using it to mean "in two minds" or "experiencing mixed emotions".

And please allow individuals an identity apart from their illness, so always say "a person with schizophrenia" rather than "a schizophrenic".

Bray is not the only person to be concerned about the language of disability leaking into the mainstream lexicon. back in November of last year, the French politician Pierre Lellouche caused controversy by describing Gordon Brown as "autistic".

Is this PC-gone-mad (sorry, PC-gone-mentally-challenged) or a case of being sensitive to words that can cause a lot of distress? Let's have a heated debate: add your comments.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Election 2010

There's bound to be some good material for language and representation in the papers over the next few weeks with the General Election coverage, so keep an eye out for extracts you can use in class. One of the best places to go for a bit of entertainment is the excellent mydavidcameron site which has spoofed the Conservative Party's recent media campaigns with some genius parodies. If you want to be a language nerd about it (and that is a good thing to be...not like being a Tory) you could have a look at the language techniques employed in the parodies - grammatical cohesion, semantic wordplay, pragmatics, the whole lot - and think about which ones work best.

But, more importantly than all this language stuff, make sure that if you're 18 now or by the 6th of May you're registered to vote. Find out more here.

And remember: if you vote Tory, I can't help you with your exams. It's the law.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

ENGA1 mode questions

This is just a quick post in response to a query from an AS student (yes that's you, Nourin) about possible questions for the Language and Mode part of ENGA1. Like I've said over the years before, I am an examiner for this but I don't have any inside information. If I did get hold of any inside information AQA would send out highly trained ninja gerbils to kill me. So, these suggestions are based on educated guesswork really (and might be totally wrong).

Looking back at the previous mode questions set (Jan 2009, May 2009, Jan 2010) they've had:
Jan 2009:
Online advert/webpage for dating tips
Phone conversation transcript between two secret lovers

May 2009:
Written version of Green Party speech
Printed guidance about avoiding wasteful use of photocopiers

Jan 2010:
Message board posts about graffiti
Online Guardian article about Banksy

So, for this year you might want to think about: 
·         written mode letters with blended mode emails (like the sample stuff in the AQA A text book)
·         spoken conversation between 3+ participants and MSN conversation
·         spoken commentary versus written match report (like the sample stuff we used in class back in January)

And remember, there's lots of extra test yourself style activities on this blog (just search using ENGA1 as a keyword in the search bar above) and loads of material on Kerboodle if you have access to it (and if you're at SFX, your Kerboodle log in details are Moodle). That's Kerboodle on Moodle-doodle. Like a poodle.

Beeb in bother about b-boy banter

A story (well, kind of a bit of a non-story) in the Daily Express suggests that BBC radio listeners are getting angry about the prevalence of American slang on the airwaves. According to the Express, listeners were outraged by a Radio 4 presenter's use of "fess up" instead of "admit to" and "face up" instead of "confront". And apparently, although the source isn't named, a Radio 1 presenter used "LA street slang". Fo shizzle?

The Express doesn't provide any links or further information, and you'd expect that as it's a rubbish, Tory-supporting newspaper run by a pornographer (or so I'm reliably informed by a man down the pub), but I've done a bit of homework on this and found some of these outraged listeners. Here's a couple of excerpts for you:

 (posted by "Ged")
I find this type of language to be offensive actually.
I detest street language, as it is often used as a form of violence.
I should imagine the person speaking was using to give themselves a deluded sense of street credibility.
As to why people need to project an affinity with people who can barely communicate is beyond me.
Any person attempting to use this language on national radio should be chased out of the studio with a very large stick! 

(posted by "Brian Duncan")
A language which has ceased to absorb neologisms is a dead language. A person who has ceased to countenance change might as well be dead.

A 42-year-old "trying" to behave like an eighteen-year-old is perfectly normal. What would be abnormal would be a 42-year-old doggedly clinging to the mores and manners of his eighteen-year-old self. What is ridiculous is any 42-year-old saying, "OOh! I'm 42. I must now cease from behaving like a 41-year-old, and start behaving as dictated by the age-police."

By what code of practice ought we to govern our dress or speech-habits, and where can I obtain a copy of that document?
For instance, I'm 64, and I play electric bass. Ought I switch to the 'cello - or maybe the harmonium?

Great stuff for a bit of discussion about Language Discourses on ENGA3, I'd have thought.