The Sun is not the first tabloid newspaper you'd associate with features about language (that would be The Daily Mail), but today's edition contains a piece giving lots of examples of different types of slang from various occupational and lifestyle groups. For example, did you know that in hip-hop culture 'cheese' is slang for money, or that an 'Olympic flame' is a police officer that never goes out (ha-ha!). Read more here.
COMMENTS Most of the entries have audio pronunciations, which is a bonus for learners. The lighthearted tone and cultural detail make for fun browsing. For example:
alight: v disembark. Many American tourists are confronted with this word quite rapidly after reaching the U.K., because on the London Underground the pre-recorded message says such things as: “This is Baker Street. Alight here for Madame Tussauds.” Madame Tussauds is a cheesy attraction and best avoided. The voice on the tube only says the part about the alighting.
anorak: 1 n someone who’s a little bit too knowledgeable about one subject. Generally a subject like seventeenth-century flower pots or steam trains, rather than athletic sexual positions or gun-fighting. Americans (and also Brits, as our languages merge ever closer) would call such a person a “geek.” It may originate with the fans of Radio Caroline, a U.K. offshore pirate radio station, whose fans had to don anoraks in order to visit the station. Alternatively, it may come from the most popular item of clothing worn by train-spotters. 2 n waterproof jacket (universal).
• Dictionary.com: free dictionary and thesaurus including nearly 1,000,000 words & definitions and 90,000 synonyms and antonyms. No Internet connection is needed. The app also features audio pronunciations, similarly spelled words and Dictionary.com's popular Word of the Day.
• WordBook English Dictionary & Thesaurus: comparable to the Dictionary.com app with one major advantage—all the words in the definitions are linked to their own definitions. Also gives word origins. Not free, but $1.99 is a small price to pay for such an excellent product.
• Dictionary?: Free, easy-to-use, comprehensive international English dictionary and thesaurus. Fast searching, detailed definitions, synonyms, derived words, examples, and hyperlinked entries. An original feature is the cross-referencing with online sources such as Wikipedia and Answers.com. An audio version with with 70 000 professionally recorded pronunciations is available for $4.99.
• Advanced English Dictionary and Thesaurus: The WordNet Dictionary and Thesaurus is a large lexical database of English with up to 140,000 entries and more than 1.4 million words, developed by the Computer Science Department at Princeton University. Hyperlinked entries with antonyms, hypernyms and hyponyms (look them up!) It's free, so you may as well install it and make your own mind up.
If money's no object, you might be tempted by one of the Big Three: The Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, and American Heritage. But that will set you back anything between $19.99 and $59.99 (!). MacWorld has a detailed review of these.
To finish, I should also mention Slango, which is the app version of the wonderful Urban Dictionary. If you want to know what a stoplight party is, this is the place to look. The Slango app is only $0.99, so you'd have to be a real cheapskate not to download it.
A new advert for McDonald's has come under fire over its inaccurate use of the English language.
The advert, which promotes the Pound Saver Menu, begins "the pound, also known as a bob", a statement which, strictly speaking, is not true.
Technically, a bob is a term for a shilling, or five pence, and of far less value than a pound.
The American fast food giant's blunder has stirred up some incensed online debate about English currency slang, blaming executives in the US for not properly researching the UK market before broadcasting the advert. Full article >>
COMMENT Anyone who grew up in Britain in the pre-decimalisation era (i.e. before 1971) would know that a bob is slang for a shilling, equivalent to twelve old pence, and one twentieth of an old pound.
According to The Sunday Times, youngsters’ abbreviated forms of communication are hurting their chances of securing a job.
A generation of teenagers risk making themselves unemployable because they are using a vocabulary of about 800 words a day, according to the government’s first children’s communication czar.
They are avoiding using a broad vocabulary and complex words in favour of the abbreviated “teenspeak” of text messages, social networking sites and internet chat rooms. Jean Gross, the government’s new adviser on childhood language development, is planning a national campaign to prevent children failing in the classroom and the workplace because of their inability to express themselves.
She said: “Teenagers are spending more time communicating through electronic media and text messaging, which is short and brief. We need to help today’s teenagers understand the difference between their textspeak and the formal language they need to succeed in life — 800 words will not get you a job.” Full story >>
Traditional spellings could be killed off by the internet within a few decades, a language expert has claimed.
The advent of blogs and chat rooms meant that for the first time in centuries printed words were widely distributed without having been edited or proofread, said Professor David Crystal, of the University of Wales.
As a result, writers could spell words differently and their versions could enter common usage and become accepted by children.
Within a few decades, the spellings favoured by many internet users could replace the current, more complex versions, he said. Current spellings were standardised in the 18th century with the advent of dictionaries.
It could mean that internet slang - such as ''2moro'' instead of ''tomorrow'' or ''thx'' for ''thanks'' - may enter into mainstream publications. Full article >>
COMMENTS I think there's a key difference between "2moro", which still sounds like the word it represents, and "thx", which is an abbreviation, like Xmas.
The game of bingo is very popular in the UK and is often played in clubs or dedicated bingo halls. The game is simple: players mark off numbers on a ticket as they are randomly called out, in order to achieve a winning combination. The caller often uses colourful phrases or rhymes to describe the numbers. For instance, 22 could be "ducks on a pond", or 55 "snakes alive" (see list). But, as The Daily Mail reports, yet another great British tradition is threatened by over-zealous officials obessed with political correctness:
A council which has banned the bingo phrases ‘two fat ladies’ and ‘legs eleven’ in case players are offended and take legal action was criticised for being politically correct yesterday.
Sudbury Town Council in Suffolk fears it could be sued by overweight players or women who find the terms sexist.
It is has advised bingo caller John Sayers, 75, to revert to using the number ‘88’ instead of ‘two fat ladies’ and 11 for ‘legs eleven’. Read more >>
LESSON IDEA Playing bingo in class is a good way to practise the numbers 1 to 90 (the highest number used). You can find bingo cards to print out here and here. Alternatively, you can buy books of bingo cards.
BINGO RESOURCES • BingoCards.co.uk (history, rules, different versions, teaching ideas)
But young people are increasingly unable to distinguish when it's appropriate to use it, say some linguists. Their language is becoming saturated by slang, leaving them ill-equipped to communicate in the wider world.
Paul Kerswill, professor of sociolinguistics at Lancaster University, is studying street language in London. He says an entirely new dialect is emerging.
"Young people are growing up with a new form of composite language. It's a bit cockney, a bit West Indian, a bit West African, with some Bangladeshi and Kuwaiti - and it seems to be replacing traditional cockney."
This "multicultural English" is now the ordinary way of speaking for many young people, he says. Instead of just using it to be cool or to fit in with peers, they use it when they speak to everyone. Full article >>
COMMENTS BBC Radio 4 has just started a series about slang called Mind Your Slanguage. You can listen to the first episode here.
Since the term “credit crunch” emerged, a host of other terms have entered the lexicon. A year ago quantitative easing was just an arcane – if tongue-twisting – bit of economic theory. Now it is part of the everyday vocabulary in the City and beyond. It is one of many phrases that has emerged from this recession. Or, if you are one of those who believes that it has been caused by male behaviour, “he-cession”.
Whether it was caused by men or not, one of the ways to measure the recovery is very feminine indeed: the “lipstick indicator” – the use of lipstick sales as an economic indicator. When times are tough, economists say, women buy more low-cost comfort items such as lipstick.
Alongside these economic terms are our new ways of coping with tough economic times, such as “abs-tinence” – the dropping of costly and rarely used gym memberships to save money – as daily workouts now tend to take place on living room rugs or jogging around local parks.
Homebodies might have to cut down their “slashflow” – spending on home furnishings – and even begin dining “al desko” – the practice of eating lunch (typically home-made) at one’s desk rather than on the terrace of a local restaurant.
Parents who struggle to understand the language of their teenage children can now brush up on their slang skills with a new dictionary of “teenglish” terminology.
Called Pimp Your Vocab, the book aims to demystify the jargon adopted by British youngsters.
Other terms explained are “teek”, which means very old, and “fraped” – a compound of Facebook and rape, describing someone's social networking profile being hacked into and changed.
The book’s author, Lucy Tobin, said she got the idea to create the dictionary while studying English at university, when a tutor was left baffled by the term “IM-ing”. Full story >>
The Sun says Fabio Capello has banned England's WAGs from having sex with his stars more than once a week during next summer's World Cup. Full story >>
VOCABULARY 1. Fab Cap is an abbreviation for Fabio Capello, England's Italian football manager. Fab is also an abbreviation for fabulous (the Beatles were, of course, known as the Fab Four). 2. If you slap a ban on someone you prevent them from doing something. 3. WAGs (or Wags) is an acronym used particularly by the British tabloid press to describe the wives and girlfriends of high-profile football players, originally the England national football team. Read more.
COMMENT Following England's 5-1 victory over Croatia and their qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Fabio Capello has become a national hero. Football fever is gripping Britain. The team are already practising penalties!Will 2010 be the year when England finally repeat their success of 1966? I predict it will all end in tears. Oh, and Rooney will be sent off at some point.
A new slang dictionary compiled by linguistics professor Pamela Munro and her students at the University of California, Los Angeles, defines the term 'Obama' as cool.
U.C.L.A. Slang is released every four years. The 160-page sixth edition contains terms, definitions, parts of speech, sample sentences, usage notes and the etymology of words and phrases, and provides a glimpse into how language in general and slang in particular form and evolve.
IrishSlang.info aims to become Ireland's most comprehensive dictionary of Irish Slang and Irish Sayings. The site has only been online a matter of weeks, and already over 500 terms have been submitted by users.
IrishSlang.info was created by Barry Flood, a student of Interactive Multimedia Design at the University of Ulster. You can see an interview with him below.
COMMENTS The site is well designed and there are some amusing video clips. It's a pity not all of the words and expressions have examples of usage as well as definitions. There's a spelling mistake in the logo too—it should be "horse's mouth" (if you hear something "straight from the horse's mouth", you hear it from someone who definitely knows it is true).