Friday, January 30, 2015

Sweary Mary

If you are interested in swearing, profanity and the myriad, foul-mouthed joys of rude words, the Strong Language blog will be right up your strasse. Featuring articles on the wonderful pubic wig known as the merkin, DIY oath-making and a hugely impressive - nay fan-f***ing-tastic - resources archive, it really is the bee's knees, the mutt's nuts, the dog's bollocks and the ultimate shiznit.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Media Texts and Language Interventions updated

A year or two ago, I put up a list of links to articles that might be used as style models or sources of inspiration for the A2 writing coursework part of the AQA A (Language Intervention) and AQA B (Media Text) specifications. This has been updated a few times, thanks to links that colleagues and blog/Twitter people have sent me, but I thought it was probably time to add a few more, so here goes.

If you are a teacher reading this, you might also find this useful for the new AQA English Language A level that starts being taught in September 2015, where Paper 2 has a writing task similar to the media text and intervention.

Again, I'd be delighted to add any others if you want to suggest them, either as comments on this blog post or as tweets via @EngLangBlog.

Opinion pieces

Isabelle Kerr on silly new words and why they shouldn't be in the dictionary

David Marsh on arguments about language and The Pedants' Revolt

Feature articles

Rebecca Holman on ‘Menglish’ (gender and language)

Girls are way ahead of the linguistic curve (gender and language innovation)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Heart in the Right Place, Mouth Not...

Benedict Cumberbatch - a famous actor whose face has been likened to that of an otter  - has apologised for causing offence by his inadvertent use of the term 'coloured' to refer to Black people. In an interview (ironically) about opportunities in acting for non-white actors, he dropped the c-bomb (not that one...) when he said, "I think as far as coloured actors go, it gets really different in the UK, and a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here [in America] than in the UK, and that’s something that needs to change." (from The Guardian).

'Coloured' is a strange word and one that causes a degree of confusion to a lot of people. The Civil Rights movement in the USA was often supported by the organisation NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) but in South Africa 'coloured' was a term used to segregate anyone who wasn't white but who wasn't entirely black.  For a lot of older/middle-aged people in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s 'coloured' was often seen as a less stark term than 'black' . Perhaps 'black' was viewed as too dark? This link to a piece on this blog from 2005 might help contextualise it a little.

Interestingly, this piece by Robert Lane Greene on The Economist's language blog also looks at how attitudes to swearing and taboo language have changed over time, including how racial terms have become a more stigmatised form of language while religious and sexual terms now clause less offence. But what it also shows is that as language changes, not everyone can keep up. The language we are brought up with often gets embedded in our mental vocabularies and is harder to shift from even when we know it's probably less appropriate in the modern day.

So, while Benedict Cumberbatch was obviously talking sense about the representation of black people in acting, he may well have offended a few people through his terminology. Having said that, in a time when racist and xenophobic political organisations are talking up the threat of immigration and multiculturalism, is Cumberbatch's well-intentioned but clumsy phrasing as worth getting upset about as some of the vile online postings by various UKIP and Britain First knuckledraggers?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Help with research

If you are an A level English Language teacher, Ian Cushing & Marcello Giovanelli are interested in hearing about the factors that influence your choice of specification for a piece of research they are carrying out.

You can access the survey here.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Oh man!

While sitting at home, feeling sorry for myself with a bout of man-flu, this article about a curious phenomenon called manterrupting popped up on Twitter. Apparently, manterrupting is when males interrupt women in meetings and/or co-opt (or bropropriate*) their ideas as their own.

It's a man-word like these explained here by Stan Carey on the MacMillan Dictionaries blog and makes use of the man- prefix that has become so productive in recent years. So far we've had...

  • mansplaining: patronising explanations delivered by men to women of things that women probably already know more about (Urban Dictionary definition here)
  • manspreading: sitting on public transport and spreading one's sweaty flannels in order to secure more seat space (Collins Dictionary definition here)
  • manscaping: removing unsightly body hair to make oneself more attractive (Oxford Dictionaries definition here)
  • manslamming:aggressive pavement action involving a man barging into people (often women) who he believes to be in his way (explained and illustrated in The Daily Telegraph)

But what others can you can come up with? A couple of possible ones suggested on Twitter have been:

manterpreting: (a male way of interpreting a woman's words...although when @sooze8968 suggested this I perhaps did my own manterpretation of it).
manter: (pointless chat amongst men possibly making them both late for whatever)

Any more?

*And I'm also doing just that, because Sally Flower at Colchester was the first person to mention some of these this week. Anyway, I can't help it: I'm a man and it's in my genes. 

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...