Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Congratulations to all A2 students for a) turning up at the right time to sit ENA6, and b) appearing relatively happy with the paper. It's all over now, apart from those of you doing the AEA paper tomorrow morning, so well done and thanks for all the hard work, good times and ... sob... good luck to you all in the future.

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

Good luck with tomorrow's ENA5 exam, and ENA6 later in the week.

For tips on ENA5 exam technique and last minute revision on both units, have a look here:

and here:

and here:

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

And now it's time to reclaim the p-word

Following hot on the heels of debate about the dreaded n-word, this article in the BBC news magazine, takes a look at debate in the Asian community (Is there really such a "community" or is that a dubious label itself?) about the p-word "p*ki". Here's a brief excerpt:

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, England
Useful 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.

Useful for:

ENA5 – Language Change

Thanks to Chas for these links

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Big Brother n-word fall-out continues

Predictably, the press are in uproar over Emily's use of the n-word on Big Brother and various articles have appeared about the history and use of the word itself. One is from today's Mirror, penned by DJ Spoony of Radio 1 fame. Others are easy to track down with the help of Google, even if you are unlucky enough to have the pitiful research skills of Tre from The Apprentice.

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

After the Shilpa Shetty and Jade Goody racism debacle earlier this year, it doesn't come as much of a surprise to see that Channel 4's Big Brother is feeling a bit sensitive about accusations of racism. And in response to the use of the n-word by Emily Parr to a black housemate Charley Uchea last night, they've removed her from the house, according to this BBC news article. What was the context of the word? What was meant by it? Was Emily trying to get down with her "homegirl"? Or is she an ignorant racist bigot? Is it all a stitch-up by Endemol and Channel 4 to regain themselves a bit of respectability after their recent hammering by the Standards Authority. The Guardian is offering a "provisional transcript" here so have a look. Watch this space... Useful for: ENA1 - Language & Representation ENA5 - Language Change

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.

Useful for:

ENA5 – Language Change

ENA6 - Language Debates

Black British English vs MLE

The latest episode of Lexis is out and it features an interview with Ife Thompson about lots of issues connected to Black British English, i...