Thursday, December 13, 2012

Wrath of the grammarbot

Yesterday's Independent features a story about grammar rage on the net which is well worth looking at if you're studying language change, technology and/or attitudes to change.

Outraged at the apparent upsurge in grammar errors on the web, grammar nerds have programmed deadly (ish) attack bots to roam the Twittersphere looking for mistakes and immediately punishing them with sarcastic replies. Basic homophone errors like their/there, your/you're and where/were are the prime targets, but others are facing the wrath of the grammarbot too, like the overuse of CAPS LOCK or the misspelling of sneak peek as sneak peak.

But are Twitter and other forms of digital communication making us worser and worser with are grammer and spelling? Apparently not, if recent linguistic research is to be believed.

In fact, (Tim) Stowell says there is no evidence that any form of "specialized speech" has corrupted spoken or written English, and plenty of recent studies have come to the same conclusion. In September, researchers at Coventry University in Britain ruled that there's no link between text-message conventions, which are also used on Twitter, and bad spelling or grammar in other forums. A 2009 study from the University of Alberta concluded that text-speak should be viewed as a dialect that people can switch into and out of.
Others disagree - sometimes quite violently - and the whole debate is one that we look at when we study the Language Discourses part of ENGA3. There are masses of posts about this very topic here on the blog, so have a look and fill you're boots.

And on the sixth day He made meggings

Can these ball-crunching jodhpur variants really be the next thing in male fashion, I ask Albus, a balding builder from Lithuania?
Nah. "I don't like them," says Albus. "I like more traditional designs. Jeans. Combat trousers. Military stuff. It's a personal choice."
As if jeggings (jeans + leggings) wasn't a blend too far, we now have meggings (men's leggings). I'm reliably informed that treggings (trousers + leggings, or tramp's leggings, if you prefer) also exist. Blends are nothing new, but what differentiates a man's leggings from a woman's leggings? In other words, why can't a man just wear jeggings? It's something that Patrick Kingsley asks in his short piece on meggings and one that applies equally to other man-words like manbag (a man's handbag), mankini (see below) and mantyhose.



Perhaps, given that these items are generally seen as being the preserve of women, men feel more self-conscious about wearing or using such items unless they've been rebranded and renamed as manly clobber. Stan Carey, blogger and contributor to MacMillan Dictionaries excellent language blog, has written about Manguage here and it's worth a read if you're into new words or just fancy some tight-fitting full-length budgie-smugglers.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Filth and fury

We've often looked at attitudes to language change and variation on this blog, and this post on the excellent Linguistics Research Digest refers to some work done in Australia by the linguist, Kate Burridge (whose books on the topic are a very good read and highly recommended for those of you studying ENGA3 for the AQA A spec).

Burridge is interested in how people feel about language and where their views come from, so as well as surveying  national media for letters, online comments and opinion pieces, she has used questionnaires with university students and found that - even among younger people brought up on social media, texting and a curriculum that supposedly teaches that non-standard usages of English are valid - attitudes are pretty firmly against change and variation, especially when it comes from the USA.

On a related note, if you're interested in contributing to debates about language, this competition is now running as part of the  build up to the emagazine English Language conference. Go on, have a go.