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Richard Nordquist

Popular and Unpopular Words: Language in the News

By January 30, 2013

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It's time for our end-of-month roundup of language-related items in the news--from the linguistically profound to the lexically ridiculous.

  • Babies Begin Learning Language in the Womb
    A new study--said to be the first of its kind--reveals that babies begin learning the distinctive sounds of their native language while in utero. Researchers from Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State have found that infants show interest in the vowels of their native language only hours after being born. . . . Read more
    ("Babies Begin Learning the Distinctive Sounds of Their Native Language While in Utero." Daily News [NYC], January 2, 2013)

  • The American Dialect Society's Word of the Year
    Not long after Oxford American Dictionary called "gif" its word of the year, the American Dialect Society has voted "Hashtag" ("#") as the word of the year for 2012. And, although it may prompt many adults to roll their eyes, the decision made by 250 experts, including linguists, lexicographers and historians, signals that social media-spawned symbols-as-words are here to stay. . . . Read more
    (Prachi Gupta, "American Dialect Society Names "Hashtag" Word of the Year." Salon, January 7, 2013)

  • American Gun Metaphors
    Whatever you feel about gun-control laws and the Second Amendment, our high-caliber English language is going great guns. Let's go gunning for the guns that stand ready to fire when we speak and write. . . . Read more
    (Richard Lederer, "Our English Language Is Going Great Guns." The San Diego Union-Tribune, January 26, 2013)

  • A New Method of Teaching Reading
    Children would find it easier to learn to read and write if they were first taught how the English language works and what words mean rather than trying to sound out words, according [to] Hampshire researchers. Psychologists at the University of Portsmouth found that phonics, the common way of teaching literacy skills, was holding youngsters back. . . . Read more
    ("Children Should Be Taught How English Language Works First, Say Researchers." Southern Daily Echo [UK], January 16, 2013)

  • For a Good Password Use Bad Grammar
    Lousy grammar and nonsense may help boost password strength, a new research paper argues. . . . Read more
    (Paul Wagenseil, "Why Bad Grammar Makes Good Passwords." LiveScience, January 23, 2013)

  • The Most Popular English Word in 2012
    It's not the end of the world. Well, not yet, anyway. "Apocalypse" is the most popular English word on the planet, at least according to the Global Language Monitor, a Texas-based research group that uses computer tracking technology to follow the frequency of actual word and phrase usage across 275,000 print, online and social media sources on five continents. . . . Read more
    ("'Apocalypse' Dominates the English Language in 2012." The Washington Times, December 27, 2012)

  • The 38th Annual List of Words to Be Banished
    Spoiler alert: This story contains words and phrases that some people want to ban from the English language. "Spoiler alert" is among them. So are "kick the can down the road," "trending" and "bucket list." . . . Read more
    (Jeff Karoub (AP), "Should These 12 Phrases Be Banished From the English Language?" Toronto Star, December 31, 2012)

  • The Benefits of Learning in a Mother Tongue
    For the last five years, 24 schools in Central Africa's Cameroon have taken part in an experiment to determine the efficacy of mother-tongue instruction. . . . The results clearly show that children taught in the language they understand perform much better in reading and math. Perhaps surprisingly, they also do better in tests of English. . . . Read more
    ("Mother Knows Best: An African Experiment Lends Considerable Weight to the Argument for Mother-Tongue Education." Language Magazine, January 2013)

  • New Foreign-Language Jobs Exceed English Positions
    After two years of growth in both English and foreign language faculty positions, English jobs are harder to find this year while foreign language jobs continue to grow, according to Modern Language Association data released Thursday. . . . Read more
    (Colleen Flaherty, "English Down, Languages Up." Inside Higher Ed, December 21, 2012)

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May 7, 2013 at 10:04 am
(1) Enviroment says:

I savour, cause I discovered exactly what I was looking for.
You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man.
Have a nice day. Bye

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