Wednesday, June 27, 2007
I won't be around for A Level results day as I've decided to leave the country on that day (not that I'm worried or anything), so stay in touch, add your comments to the blog from wherever you go, and if you come back to get your certificates in December, I'll buy you a half of shandy.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
ENA5 and ENA6
For tips on ENA5 exam technique and last minute revision on both units, have a look here: http://englishlangsfx.blogspot.com/2007/05/exams-exams-exams.html
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
And now it's time to reclaim the p-word
The origins of the P-word, as its known in polite society, are far more recent than its black equivalent, which dates back to the 16th Century.
Its first recorded use was in 1964, when hostility in Britain to immigration from its former colonies in the Asian sub-continent, was beginning to find a voice.
Despite being an abbreviation for "Pakistani", its proponents tended to be less discriminating about its application - directing it against anyone with brown skin, be they Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi. Sometimes even non-Asians who happened to have a dark complexion found themselves on the receiving end.
Forty years on, use of the word is still highly sensitive and has the potential to cause great offence. Earlier this year, it was alluded to in unbroadcast material from the Celebrity Big Brother house, when Indian housemate Shilpa Shetty became the target of racist abuse.
The whole issue of words being used by one group in an offensive way and by another group as a term of solidarity seems to be too much for some people's minds to cope with, and two responses to this article suggest that it's causing brain meltdown and hurrumphs about "political correctness gone too far" in sections of white society (Again, is there such a thing as white "society", or even a "white community"?):
I understand the sentiment, but surely it's mad to have a word thats "OK" for some groups to use, and highly offensive for everyone else? Either a word is offensive to some people, or it isn't. Andrew, Glasgow, Scotland It is racial discrimination for one race of people to be able to do something when others cannot. Either the terms are racist and should be condemned whenever used or everyone should be able to use them without fear of reproach. The current situation of supposed political correctness is illogical. Alex, Colchester, EnglandUseful for: ENA1 - Language & Representation ENA5 - Language Change
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Made up words and fruity phrases
Two interesting articles in The Independent last week take a look at how language changes and what we think of these changes. In the first article, Philip Hensher responds to the new words in the Collins Dictionary (as covered here) by asking if some of the new words featured actually exist in real usage, a question that students have asked every year when we’ve covered this topic in class. I mean, who uses bromance, manboobs and bobfoc?
Hensher’s article is worth a read for his wider take on the nature of language change:
Language is a living thing, not something to be entombed and frozen. One of the ways it changes most rapidly is through its vocabulary. It's not the only way novelty makes itself felt, but it's the easiest to grasp. A new term for an old thing emerges - "banging" for "excellent", taking over from "wicked". Or, occasionally, a new term for a new thing - no one knew any term for "carbon footprint" before that particular term, because nobody had the concept. The appeal of novelty demands to be recorded, however bogus the particular instance.
And he raises another possible take on new words when he says “You can't make up language as you go along; it would be truer to say that it invents you, the way you have of seeing the world as well as expressing it”
In a second article, Joan Bakewell looks at swearing and taboo language, especially the changing responses to “bad words” over time. This is made all the more relevant by the recent n-word and p-word scandals on Big Brother. And she links language change to the wider currents of change in society when she says,
Sexual words... now have a wider currency and acceptability. They crop up in the workplace, shops and offices, the school playground, and they litter the vocabularies of comedians and comic shows… With the loosening of sexual behaviour has gone the parallel freedom of language.
The rising taboo words are now concerned with race and discrimination. The BBC's survey found that "P*ki" was now rated the most offensive word of all, with the n-word a close second. And it was reportedly an untransmitted rhyme that used the P*ki word that invited Ofcom's most severe criticism of Big Brother. If swear words are those that have the most power to offend, then it appears we aren't really worried about religion and sex any more, but we do really care about racism.
So, if you use the New Words, New Woes post to mug up on processes of language change, these two articles give you a wider perspective and some useful material to look at the contexts to our language use.
ENA5 – Language Change
Thanks to Chas for these links
Friday, June 08, 2007
The Big Brother n-word fall-out continues
And for lots more on the dreaded n-word and its history, just type it in the search bar at the top of the page and Bob's your uncle.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Big Brother is watching the racists
Monday, June 04, 2007
New words, new woes
Just in time for ENA5 revision, here comes an article on the BBC news website all about new words that feature in the Collins Dictionary. Among the latest additions are WAGs, hoodies, man-bags, pro-ana and 7/7. Also making an appearance are carbon-offsetting, brainfood and Londonistan.
So, as a revision exercise (and this month’s Haribo prize-winning competition) how about finding 5 separate language change processes at work in the examples quoted in the BBC and newspaper articles and putting them as comments below. The first 3 correct responses will get a prize.
And for those of you interested in why these words are formed – the social and political background to language change – have a think about issues like the environment, celebrity culture and healthy eating, then try to group some of the new words into these categories.
These other articles in The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Independent feature the same story with some different examples, and might also offer you the chance to look at how the stories are handled by different broadsheets. If you remember that on ENA6 you may have to write a broadsheet article for question 2a, it's perhaps worth comparing these articles to see what kind of style devices are used and how the issue of language change is introduced to a non-specialist audience.
ENA5 – Language Change
ENA6 - Language Debates
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