What Role Can Editors Play in the Conscious Language Debate?
Conscious language (also known as inclusive language) is a topic that is gaining a lot of attention on a global scale. Recently, there has been some heated debate over some publishers’ decisions to edit the works of Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie to align with current language standards. These debates highlight the divide that exists […]
But what about plural “they”?
Singular “they” is here to stay, and that’s a good thing. There is no decent reason to require that third-person singular pronouns — and only third-person singular pronouns — always specify gender. “He” has never truly covered men and women equally, though starting in the 1800s some people tried to insist that it did, and […]
The Ongoing Demise of English
English just isn’t spoken as well as it used to be. As people who have to deal every day with the abuses of common users, we will surely all agree with this sentiment: “our unfortunate ears are doomed not only to excruciate in the torments of bad grammar, but to agonize under the torture of […]
Being Intercultural: The Language of Health
Being intercultural is often defined strictly in terms of ethnicity and geography, when really each of us lives a multiplicity of cultural identities on a daily basis. Our interactions at work and with family and friends, our activities, faith, offline and online personas, all have their own overlapping and intersecting sets of beliefs, values and […]
A Whole Nother Thing
As editors, we pay attention to the written form of our language. Its relation to the spoken form is a whole other thing. The spelling is odd, we know. But even our hyphenation doesn’t really break according to pronunciation. Consider the word breaking. Where do you hyphenate it? Break-ing. But where does the syllable break […]
Wasted Words: Quarrelling With Pronouns
Around the time the Great Flood started to recede I was taught to write, “Everyone must remove his shoes.” Funny how boys aren’t bothered by such preferential usage of male gender pronouns. Back then feminism was a feature of the French Revolution and the current usage of politically correct had yet to surface. Mostly the […]
Wasted Words: The Origins of Texting
Is digital discourse destroying the English language along with civilization? Does texting portend doom? Let’s not be so hasty: I often read letters from the past — for example, the 19th-century correspondence of Bertrand Russell’s family.1 These aristocrats (Russell’s grandfather was twice the British prime minister) habitually took shortcuts in their numerous epistles, presumably to […]
What Do Words Really Mean?
How discombobulating words can be! You feel certain about what a word means, but then are challenged by another person’s interpretation. Sometimes the discussion, or even argument, is rooted in changing social situations. For example, what does poverty mean? What did it mean 200 years ago? A dispute about words may also be philosophical: there […]
Wherefore Pleaseth Archaic English?
“O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low.” Are these not beautiful […]
Who Let That Word Into the Dictionary? | Linguistics, Frankly
Every so often, Oxford or Merriam-Webster will release a list of words recently added to one of their dictionaries, and many people become grouchy at what they see as awful — or even fake — intrusions that have somehow been bootlegged into the hallowed halls of the official lexicon. You may even agree that they […]