Category: Language

Just Talkin’ Here

| August 4, 2014 | 1 Reply
Just Talkin’ Here

One of the more congenial things about FaceBook is that while flaming (and trolling and all such related hate-baiting tactics) still happens, users aren’t locked into the thread where it occurs. With multiple conversations going on all the time among many different arrangements of “friends” it is not a problem requiring something like a nuclear option to deal with. 

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Fighting the drift of language

| July 5, 2014 | Reply

Ho-made Ho-madeToday, my daughters and I had lunch at the Thunderbird Restaurant in Mount Carmel Utah today. It’s a friendly place with down-home cooking recommended at Zion Park. We had a few chuckles after spotting this big sign at the front of the restaurant (the waitresses also wear this image on their backs). At each table a pamphlet explains the resturant’s history: Founded in 1931, the original restaurant sign was of limited size, and the restaurant decided to shorten the term “home made” to “Ho Made” After the meaning of the term “ho” became derogatory, the restaurant decided to “embrace” their term rather than run from it. Our waitress explained that many customers laugh at the expression, while some customers become upset upon seeing the signs.

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George Carlin discusses the language of politics

| June 13, 2013 | Reply

In this excellent 1999 video, George Carlin discusses the language of politics:

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Comprensive look at American English dialects

| May 5, 2013 | 2 Replies

You could get lost in these maps and data regarding American English dialects for hours. I learned many things, so as the fact that there are 16 vowels (not just a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y), and 24 consonants. I invite you to check this out. dialect map

And the fact that we haven’s pulled things into a homogeneous language, despite all

the years of electronic mass communication demonstrates, I believe, that we are inherently tribal–that we are wired to strive to be like our local tribe and different than those who we perceive to be outsiders.

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Orwell on the crossroads of language and power

| February 11, 2013 | Reply

Terrific article at Salon revisiting the works of George Orwell. Here’s an excerpt:

The essay is an investigation of what Orwell called the “special connexion between politics and the debasement of language.” Using as his point of departure five short representative extracts from various contemporary political publications, Orwell decried a creeping invasion of the political vernacular by insidious waffle. Meaning and clarity, he complained, were giving way to hot air and opacity, contributing to a general impoverishment of British political culture. His polemic is censorious yet witty, offsetting a surly, jaded disaffection — the man, one feels, has seen too much — with a disarmingly brisk and easy turn of phrase. Politics and the English Language rails with suitably understated flair against pretentious diction, verbal false limbs, jargon, archaisms, meaningless words and journalistic clichés, culminating in a six-point checklist for avoiding bad prose:

Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Never use a long word where a short one will do.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Never use the passive where you can use the active.

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

This was about more than just style as a thing in itself. Orwell was writing in defense not of a pedantically rigid standard English, but of honesty and sincerity in politics.

This article then challenges Orwell, who suggested that cleaning up language would clean up the problem. The argument is that we now see many simply worded official pronouncements that are meaningful. Many are vapid exercises in evasion.

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Insanity and Rights

| December 16, 2012 | 4 Replies
Insanity and Rights

Doubtless whatever I say, someone will find fault, take offense, withdraw into positions, place guard dogs at the gates and lookouts in the towers. We are a people enamored of the idea of violence.  We like the idea that when it gets down to the proverbial nitty gritty we can and will kick ass and take names.  Americans are tough, not to be messed with, ready to exact justice by knuckles or 9.mm. . . .

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More euphemisms for sex

| November 27, 2012 | Reply

I thought I had heard them all, but I hadn’t heard the euphemisms for sex from the 1800s. They include such terms as “Take a flyer” and “Lobster kettle.” I suppose people did have sex, even back in the 1800s.

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George Carlin discusses political talk

| September 7, 2012 | Reply

George Carlin was at his best when discussing the obfuscatory language used by politicians:

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Why 69 is obscene.

| June 19, 2012 | Reply
Why 69 is obscene.

According to a new report by Pew Charitable Trusts, the median length of the list of disclosures that you will be presented when you open a new checking account is 69 pages.

ƒFinancial institutions do not summarize important policies and fee information in a uniform, concise, and easy-to-understand format that allows customers to compare account terms and conditions. The median length of bank checking account disclosure statements has decreased, but is still cumbersome at 69 pages. For credit unions, the median length is 31 pages. Although shorter, credit union disclosures often do not include information that would allow a customer to compare account fees, terms, and conditions.

On a related note, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will be making its complaint database public today. The Washington Post indicates the importance of this data:

Complaints are the primary way that most consumers interact with the new agency. The CFPB said it has received more than 45,000 in the year since the bureau was launched. How it handles those complaints — and how much it makes public — has been a source of tension between the agency and financial industry groups.

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