Friday, December 21, 2007

Are those some pentapeptides in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?

Jargon is a strange thing. It's usually defined as a kind of specialist or technical language used only by a particular group. The jargon of different groups can be baffling to outsiders, but that's usually part of its appeal: if they don't know what you're on about, you might be able to say rude things without them finding out. It can also be used to create the impression that you know what you're on about. (If I start calling pictures graphology, or words lexis, I might start fooling someone that I know what I'm on about...)

So, this report in The Daily Mail (I promise I didn't buy it - I saw a woman from Chingford reading it on the train) about cosmetics companies' using pseudo-scientific jargon to bamboozle unsuspecting readers is quite a good read. According to some experts, the cosmetics firms are making up their own words to try and make their products sound more high-tech than they really are.

Elsewhere, this article about in-group medical jargon includes such gems as "doing a Hasselhof" - inflicting a bizarre and possibly alcohol-related injury to yourself - and being a Jack Bauer - a doctor still standing after 24 hours.

Useful for:
ENA1 - Language & Representation
ENA5 - Language Change

Thursday, December 20, 2007

More on w00t...

Today's Guardian features a beginner's guide to what they term "Geekspeak", or what others term "Leetspeak". The Merriam Webster US Dictionary has chosen w00t as its word of the year, but as this article points out, w00t has been around for a long time in gaming and hacker circles.

Some of the other terms covered are LOLcats, teh and LQTM, all of which are interesting examples of language change processes in action (acronyms and compounds in the case of LOLcats, random fluctuation for teh and initialism for LQTM).

Useful for:
ENA5 - Contemporary Language Change
ENGA3 (new spec) - Language Explorations

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More sluts and faggots

The newspaper response to the Radio 1 "faggot" ban is covered here: Daily Mirror The Sun (also features some humorous PC Christmas Carols)

The backdown came after a day of scathing attacks by critics including Jean MacColl – the mum of Kirsty, who died in 2000 aged 41. Jean said: “It’s pathetic, absolute nonsense. Today we have a lot of gratuitous vulgarity, which I think is quite unnecessary. “But these people in the song are characters and they speak like that. It’s a great song – it’s like a play.” Enraged fans also bombarded BBC radio, television and websites – as well as The Sun.

The Guardian (comment piece by Peter Tatchell)
What concerns me is not so much the use of the word "faggot" as the hypocritical condemnations of Radio 1's original decision to bleep it out. They wouldn't endorse the use of the n-word and p-word, "yid" or "spastic". For the sake of consistency, either the f-word should be disallowed too or these other bigoted words should also be permitted. It's the inconsistency that grates. Let's also remember that in Fairytale of New York the word "faggot" is being sung as an insult, alongside the words scumbag and maggot. In this abusive context, it difficult to feel comfortable about its usage. But the crunch issue is double-standards. I challenge those who defend the use of the word faggot in these lyrics to state publicly that they would also defend the right of white singers to use the n-word as a term of abuse in a song. They won't and that makes them cowardly homophobic hypocrites.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot... what my Mrs yells at me every morning when I check for blog posts rather than feed the children their breakfast. But this post's not really about that, but Radio 1's insane decision to bleep out the words faggot and slut from the greatest Christmas song ever recorded, The Pogues' and Kirsty MacColl's Fairytale of New York.

They've now gone back on their bleep ban and decided the full unexpurgated lyrics can be heard. Huzzah! The controversy isn't that new though - as this posting from last year shows - and the words faggot and slut have clearly got very negative connotations. But if a song that so painfully and wittily tells the story of a couple whose dreams of a new life have gone down the pan can't use a bit of rough-edged vernacular, what's the world coming to? Should we paint over the breasts on Old Masters' nudes? Should we put loin cloths over the naughty bits of ancient statues?

You can do your bit to make the world a better place by downloading the Pogues' track and preventing that zero-talented no-mark Leon from claiming the Christmas number one slot.

On a more serious level, the argument about banning words is picked up here in The Times and here in Spiked Online.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

New words scrapbook revisited

Given the very limited success of the New Words Scrapbook post back in October (a massive 5 entries, 2 of which are mine and one from another teacher at a different college), I'm going to attempt to revive it here. Now we're doing more work on Language Change and less on coursework, you might actually have some time to post examples of new words you've come across.

My favourites so far are "bluetooth high-five" and "Co-D", the definitions of which can be seen on the original post.

Post your new words here and you can win packets of Asda's Whatevers (the sweets like Lovehearts but with chavvier messages).

Useful for:
ENA5 - Language Change

Friday, December 07, 2007


For a bit of light entertainment, here's a video of Armstrong & Miller repping their endz (if you will) as World War Two fighter pilots. There is a serious linguistic point in here somewhere about code switching (moving between varieties/dialects of English) and context, but just enjoy it...

A peculiar evolution

Following on from our work on Language and Representation and the use and abuse of "the n-word" the other week, Michael in D block AS Language sent me these links to Def Jam Poetry videos on You Tube, the best of which (in my opinion) is Dahlak Brathwaite's Peculiar Evolution which contains this tongue-twisting and mind-bending analysis of the n-word:
a word used to exclude is now exclusively used by the excluded, and with it excluding its original excluders, who use the slang to now gain inclusion into the group their group wanted to be removed from
You get a better idea of what he's on about by watching it
here. And these other links are worth a look too: Julian Curry and Red Storm. Useful for: ENA1 - Language & Representation

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...