Samosapedia is probably one of my favourite websites right now.
It’s billed as “the definitive guide to South Asian lingo” and welcomes contributions from users. The site has a great blog (The Daily Chutney) giving context to the words it features. It also gives related words, the root of the word and what region it is used in.
I particularly like the “surprise me” feature, with my favourite so far being Oblibolly:
Oblibolly is a neologism coined by Karmagin. It means the Obligatory Bollywood shot while visiting foren lands. One uses trees, poles, stalactites and stalagmites..yeny objects to make the picture look extra cute and dramatic as if parodying a Bollywood flick.
It is the self-aware and post-modern version of the patel shot. Knowing you are being a tool, gives you full immunity and liberates you from Pateldom.
It may be because I’m a librarian-in-training, but I find the “What Middletown Read” project absolutely fascinating.
The database and search engine are built upon the circulation records of the Muncie (Indiana) Public Library from November 5, 1891 to December 3, 1902. Apart from a gap from May 28, 1892 to November 5, 1894, it documents every book that every library patron borrowed in the 11 year period. From the “What Middletown Read” website:
The project began when Frank Felsenstein, Reed D. Voran Honors Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Ball State University, came across a collection of dusty ledgers that had been uncovered when the present Muncie Public Library, opened with Carnegie funding in 1904, was refurbished in 2003 in anticipation of its centenary. These volumes, pertaining to the old library that was housed in Muncie’s City Building, list all of its patrons, books, and circulation transactions for a period that begins on November 5, 1891 and ends on December 3, 1902, with one interruption (May 28, 1892 to November 5, 1894). Felsenstein enlisted the Center for Middletown Studies and Ball State University Libraries in constructing a searchable digital version of these handwritten records, which are now freely available to the public. This collaboration between Ball State and the Muncie Public Library provides an unprecedented level of detail about reading choices in one American community at the turn of the twentieth century.
The library records give a fascinating insight into what people were reading at the turn of the century – the project’s blog shows the most read book was Louisa May Alcott’s Under the Lilacs, borrowed 478 times by 397 borrowers.
I wonder what people in 2100 will surmise from looking at our library records?
I often struggle with what to say after someone has thanked me. Sometimes I just smile and nod. Other times it’s “no worries” (a hangover from living in Australia). Occasionally I say “no problem”. And then there’s “you’re welcome”.
Whenever I catch myself saying “you’re welcome”, I reflect that it makes me sound very American. In the UK it’s not a commonly used phrase, and I must have picked it up living in the States and conversing with my American friends. One writer thinks it’s passé however, and lists some of the many variants:
Sure thing/sure, you bet/you betcha, you got it, that’s why I’m here (shout-out to James Taylor), my pleasure/the pleasure is mine, don’t mention it, not at all, no biggie, no problem/no problema/no probs, of course!, and the all-time favorite of NPR interviewees, thank YOU! (Source: The Chronicle)
He goes on to say he’s starting the “Non-Verbal You’re Welcome” movement, so perhaps my first instinct to smile and nod is correct after all!
What do you say after someone’s thanked you?
The US and UK have agreed on something – the Word of the Year 2011!
So what’s the word? Squeezed middle.
Americans may be unfamiliar with this term, used by the British Labour Party’s leader Ed Miliband. It describes “those seen as bearing the brunt of government tax burdens while having the least with which to relieve it”. The squeezed middle are in between the rich (able to weather financial downturn) and the poor (who are eligible for government assistance).
Other words that made the US shortlist include:
Arab Spring n.: a series of anti-government uprisings in various countries in North Africa and the Middle East, beginning in Tunisia in December 2010. [After Prague Spring, denoting the 1968 reform movement in Czechoslovakia.]
Fracking n.: the forcing open of fissures in subterranean rocks by introducing liquid at high pressure, especially to extract oil or gas. [Shortened < hydraulic fracturing.]
The 99 percent: the bottom 99% of income earners, regarded collectively.
What’s your word of 2011?
(Source: Oxford University Press)
What language will people speak in the future?
That’s the subject of a chapter from new book “The Language Wars: A History of Proper English” by Farrar, Straus and Girous, extracted at Salon.com. English currently continues to dominate as the lingua franca of business and popular culture and it’s widely used in other industries. It’s also the most popular second language in the world: more people speak English as a second language than there are native speakers.
This has consequences – the authors see the rise of different, local Englishes as being the main challenge facing the language. Native speakers may soon have no advantage as English becomes a standard requirement, as seen from a study published by the British Council:
When polled in 2005, more than 80 per cent of people in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden claimed to be able to speak English. The ﬁgure was around 60 per cent in Finland, 50 per cent in Germany, 30 per cent in France and Italy, and 20 per cent in Spain and Turkey. These ﬁgures can safely be assumed to have increased. They come from a study published in 2006 by the British Council, an organization set up in 1934 and today operating as an “international cultural relations body” in more than a hundred countries. In 1989 its Director General, Sir Richard Francis, stated that “Britain’s real black gold is not North Sea oil, but the English language.”
The full extract is absolutely fascinating – take a look! It’s also a great affirmation for native English speakers learning a second language – your bilingualism will be a great advantage in future years.
A new study has looked into the question of whether our perception of emotions depends on the language we speak.
The researchers concluded that “you don’t need to have words for emotions to understand them”, a conclusion that supports the view of emotions being biological mechanisms. Both anthropological and psycholinguistic researchers were involved in the study, which compared German speakers to speakers of Yucatec Maya, a language spoken in Mexico on the Yucatan peninsula. Yucatec Mayan speakers have no word for disgust, and identified the emotion as anger, whilst German speakers distinguished between the two. A further test involved participants identifying mixed emotions on digitally manipulated faces.
“Our results show that understanding emotional signals is not based on the words you have in your language to describe emotions,” Sauter says. “Instead, our findings support the view that emotions have evolved as a set of basic human mechanisms, with emotion categories like anger and disgust existing regardless of whether we have words for those feelings.” (Source: Science Direct)
What a fascinating study, particularly for language learners. Visual cues are an excellent way of identifying how well your language attempts are being received!
Over at the Economist’s Johnson blog, they’ve been running a highly unscientific but incredibly interesting survey asking British people what Americanisms they use.
Having lived and worked in the States, as well as worked for an American boss in the UK, I can attest to the fact it’s easier to acclimate than hold on to your British pronunciation. My boss took such offence to my use of the word “toilet” (as in “I’m going to the toilet”) that I still use “bathroom” even with my now all-British colleagues.
It seems that Brits living in America are still holding on to some things though, with more using “holiday” than “vacation” and “zed” rather than “zee”. To take a look at some lovely pie charts representing word comparisons, head over to the results blog post.
Time has flown by this month, my apologies for not posting earlier.
This raises an issue for all language learners though – how do you find the time to study?
Some people will have no problem with this, and block out a few hours of their week to sit down and get on with it. If you’re like me though, you’re easily distracted by television, a novel, something on the internet, seeing some friends… the list goes on.
To make progress in your target language, you really need to put the time in. I find that going to a regularly scheduled class helps – knowing every week there’s a set time for the language I’m studying makes me more focussed. I also commute to work by train so try and do my homework then. I’ve downloaded some podcasts in my target language and listen to them in spare moments – when I’m cleaning for example. But I still feel like I could be doing more.
What tips do you have for managing your language study time?