Grammar Girl's Top 3
Every week I see lots of interesting stories about language, grammar, punctuation, and usage. These were my favorites last week.
3. What Makes Something A 'New' Language? One of last week's honorable mentions was a story about a linguist named Carmel O'Shannessy who had discovered a new language that is spoken by only about 35 young people in a remote village in northern Australia. This week, NPR had a particularly interesting follow-up story investigating what makes something a full-fledged language and not just a dialect, pidgin, or creole.
2. 16 Words That Are Much Older Than They Seem. People often complain about words that sound new. For example, on the Grammar Girl Facebook page last week, a woman asked about the word passed to mean "died" or "passed away." She thought it seemed new, and it annoyed her, but when I researched the topic, I found a steady stream of sentences using passed to mean "died" stretching all the way back to the 1300s. It's not new at all, which is what you often find when you start researching a seemingly new word.
I especially love this list of 16 words because, for most of them, you'd guess that they are new (dude, hipster, friggin, and so on). Plus, it's written by Arika Okrent, who won last year's National Grammar Day haiku contest.
1. 19 Book Cover Clichés. The list is more about art than language, but book lovers will appreciate the hilarity. It's funny because it's true. I was also surprised by how often stock photos seem to get reused. That man walking by the fence really gets around.
- Why Can’t I Buy Your Book in [Name of Non-US Country]? (A lot of people ask me this question. Hat tip to Mary Robinette Kowal.)
- Alphabet Soup: Part I: V and Z (""Practically all English words beginning with the letters v and z are of foreign descent." Hat tip to Copyediting.com.)
- Microsoft Is Teaching Kinect to Understand Sign Language
- Jane Austen Elbows Her Way into the World of Male-Dominated British Banknotes