The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'english'
In France, the Academie Française carefully curate the language, meticulously pruning loanwords and replacing them with French neologisms (i.e., logiciel for software, and, less successfully, courriel for e-mail). Across the border, the Germans take a different approach, and actually have a competition for the best English loanword each year, the Anglizismus des Jahres. Last year, the winner was "shitstorm", which follows 2010's "leaken".
Borrowing words from English is somewhat of a tradition in Germany; the most (in)famous example is the German colloquial word for mobile phone, "handy".
With it being Australia Day/Invasion Day, here is an article about the state of Australian English today.
The gist of the article seems to be that Australian English's main defining characteristic is its wealth of earthily witty similes, metaphors and turns of phrase, a testimony to the locals' mischievous frankness and street-smarts.
Then there’s euphemisms and similes – that is, those excellent little sentences which draw on comparative comic images to tell an evocative story. Such as the bloke at the pub who dodges rounds, who wouldn’t shout if a shark bit him. Or the unfortunate lady with the face like a dropped pie. Whose husband is as ugly as a hatful of arseholes.
Many of these terms don’t use exclusively Australian words at all but are characterised by an Australian way of assembling words. Regardless of his politics, Paul Keating must be regarded as one of the great creators of Australian phraseology in our public life. When Malcolm Fraser’s lip trembled upon conceding defeat in 1983, Keating described the outgoing Liberal Prime Minister as “looking like an Easter Island statue with an arse full of razor blades”.That and the fact that the pattern of Americanisation differs from that in British English (unlike Britons, Australians still wear jumpers rather than sweaters; however, they're likely to be shod in sneakers rather than trainers).
(One thing I've been wondering: when software is localised to both Australian and British English, do the localisations ever differ?)
In Australia, the Pom Anti-Defamation League has succeeded in getting a beer advertising campaign pulled that negatively stereotyped the English. The campaign in question, for Toohey's, played on negative stereotypes of the English ("Poms") as inveterate complainers with a phobia of cold beer, and apparently did so a bit too mean-spiritedly:
The radio advertisement for Tooheys brewery and its New Supercold beer employed a group of Englishmen to sing the tune of Land of Hope and Glory using various synonyms for whinge, including whine, moan, slag and complain.
His group also contested another version of the advert that had been made for television audiences. It featured footage of an overweight, pale man, wearing a Union Jack T-shirt, cringing in fear at the offer of a cold beer. The advert was withdrawn before the action against it could proceed.The Tooheys advertising campaign was also connected to these advertisements on Sydney buses.
The BBC has an interesting article on South Asian influences on colloquial English, from "Hinglish" as spoken in India to contemporary British slang:
And the dictionary identifies how the ubiquitous "innit" was absorbed into British Asian speech via "haina" - a Hindi tag phrase, stuck on the sentences and meaning "is no?".
This collision of languages has generated some flavoursome phrases. If you're feeling "glassy" it means you need a drink. And a "timepass" is a way of distracting yourself. A hooligan is a "badmash" and if you need to bring a meeting forward, you do the opposite of postponing - in Hinglish you can "prepone".
There are also some evocatively archaic phrases - such as "stepney", which in south Asia is used to mean a spare, as in spare wheel, spare mobile or even, "insultingly, it must be said, a mistress," says Ms Mahal. Its origins aren't in Stepney, east London, but Stepney Street in Llanelli, Wales, where a popular brand of spare tyre was once manufactured
A lengthy compedium of essentialist explanations of various languages:
English is essentially bad Dutch with outrageously pronounced French and Latin vocabulary. --Eugene Holman
Australian English is essentially Cockney without the refinement. -- Öjevind Lâng
Swedish, Norwegian and Danish are actually the same language. It's just that the Norwegians can't spell it, and the Danes can't pronounce it. --Chlewey
Yiddish is essentially the Ebonics of German. --submanifold
Dutch is essentially English spoken whilst stoned, which pretty much explains all the double vowels --Keith Gaughan
French is essentially a language that elides everything that doesn't get out of the way fast enough, and nasalises everything else. --Peter Bleackley
Brazilian is essentially a conlang created by people who wanted to have sex all the time, but still be able to talk about everyday things. --alleszermalmer
Romanian is essentially a Romance language trying really hard to blend in with the Slavic languages around it. --Jesse S. Bangs
Romanian is essentially French pronounced as written. --Christian Thalmann
German and Polish are essentially the same, only there are too many "ß"s in Leftoderian writing, and too many "z"s in Rightoderian. --Andreas Johansson
Breton is essentially Welsh with all the consonants changed to "z". --Thomas Leigh
Welsh is essentially the only language that can have four consecutive L's. --Danny Weir
Star Trek is essentially a religion for secular humanists, and Klingon is its Latin. --Jeffrey Henning
(via bOING bOING)
Veteran English literary/cultural magazine The Spectator looks at Hinglish, the oddly ornate dialect of English used in India, laden with British Army metaphors, cricket terminology and quaintly archaic British slang that hasn't been heard in London since the 1930s:
Like so many good gags, `Official intimation' pops up in P.G. Wodehouse (Heavy Weather, chapter ten), whose books are to be found on every bookshelf of every bookshop in India. It is a safe bet that Wodehouse is the inspiration for many standard Hinglish-isms, viz a `quantum' (never a mere amount), `sans' (as in, he went out `sans' his coat), or, my favourite, `for the nonce'. An Indian acquaintance once playfully suggested that Wodehouse has a place in the elastic pantheon of Hindu gods.
More unappealing in tone is the ubiquity of 'mishap' to describe everything from massacres of peasants in rural India, the unspeakable daily carnage on India's roads, to the 1992 razing of the 16th-century Babri mosque at Ayodhya by allies and members of the present Hindu revivalist government. Newspapers are also guilty of inappropriate levity: 'A mosque in Tamil Nadu was bombed in the wee hours today.'
The Spectator (a somewhat conservative institution, though not in the dogmatic, anti-intellectual way associated with contemporary conservatism) presents Hinglish as a charming, if in places unnerving, phenomenon; progressive psychiatrist Eliot Gelwan, however, regards it as somewhat more sinister, a symptom of the "cultural schizophrenia" of a civilisation broken to the will of Victorian England, and suggests that the Spectator's fondness for it may be an artefact of its "cultural-imperialist attitude".
Renaming French fries to "Freedom fries" is for sissies; why not eliminate all words of French origin from the English language, asks the Christian Science Monitor? (via MeFi) Ðough if we're going to do someþing like ðat, I prefer ðe idea of modernising Old English to bypass ðe Norman influence; ðat way we get ðose doovy þ and ð characters back. (Why should ðe Icelanders have ðem all to ðemselves?)
An interesting piece about the dominance of English, and the efforts made to preserve other languages from its encroachment:
In Hong Kong, by contrast, the new, Chinese masters are promoting Cantonese, to the concern of local business. And in India some people see English as an oppressive legacy of colonialism that should be exterminated. As long ago as 1908 Mohandas Gandhi was arguing that "to give millions a knowledge of English is to enslave them." Ninety years later the struggle was still being fought, with India's defence minister of the day, Mulayam Singh Yadav, vowing that he would not rest "until English is driven out of the country". Others, however, believe that it binds a nation of 800 tongues and dialects together, and connects it to the outside world to boot.
(Psychoceramic speculation: perhaps someone should try something like that in Australia; what's the point of becoming a republic if we still speak the tongue of our colonial oppressors? It may be politically correct to adopt and adapt an Aboriginal language (as has been done with Hebrew and Icelandic) as "Australian"; a committee of fashionable academics, bureaucrats and special-interest groups could be appointed to supervise the development of the language.)
[T]he Icelanders have readily adopted alnaemi for "AIDS", skjar for "video monitor" and toelva for "computer". Why? Partly because the new words are in fact mostly old ones: alnaemi means "vulnerable", skjar is the translucent membrane of amniotic sac that used to be stretched to "glaze" windows, and toelva is formed from the words for "digit" and "prophetess". Familiarity means these words are readily intelligible. But it also helps that Icelanders are intensely proud of both their language and their literature, and the urge to keep them going is strong
[M]ultilingualism, a commonplace among the least educated peoples of Africa, is now the norm among Dutch, Scandinavians and, increasingly, almost everyone else. Native English-speakers, however, are becoming less competent at other languages: only nine students graduated in Arabic from universities in the United States last year, and the British are the most monoglot of all the peoples of the EU . Thus the triumph of English not only destroys the tongues of others; it also isolates native English-speakers from the literature, history and ideas of other peoples. It is, in short, a thoroughly dubious triumph. But then who's for Esperanto? Not the staff of The Economist, that's for sure
The Queen's English: By analysing recordings of the Queen's Christmas speeches, researchers at Macquarie University in Sydney have discovered that her accent has become considerably less "posh" over the past few decades, drifting from the "cut-glass" upper-class English accent that was once de rigeur towards the standard non-upper-class southern-English accent. In particular, her vowels are now similar to those of female BBC announcers. (accompanying RealAudio piece)
Entertaining page of witty one-line explanations of languages: (via RobotWisdom)
The Queen's English is essentially Modern Anglo-Saxon as passed on by generation after generation of stiff necked Norman nobles with their noses in the air.
English is what you get from Normans trying to pick up Saxon girls.
English is essentially an imprecise dialect of Java, without the object orientation.