Monthly Archives: July, 2011

Um, I think this will be er, useful

An article on comes out in praise of ‘verbal stumbles’ – the “uhs”, “ums” and “ers” we all use to fill in gaps in our speech. Apparently there is an organisation called Toastmasters International who charge every time one of these fillers is used. And conventional wisdom says using fillers rather than staying silent(…)

Small talk in the UK vs the US

Over at the Macmillan Dictionary Blog, it’s small talk month. The most recent post asks “is small talk different in the US and UK?”, to which the answer is yes! The post is aimed at Brits interacting with Americans. I thought it might be interesting for Americans to get a British perspective on their small(…)

Accent study at UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley is asking incoming freshmen to submit their voices before arrival in a project that has been described as “part linguistic experiment, part social science and part ice-breaker” by the LA Times. Last year the school caused controversy by asking students to send in saliva samples for DNA testing, with concerns raised over privacy.(…)


A portmanteau is a blend of two or more words into one – Chinglish for example. Arnold Zwicky’s blog has a list of some portmanteau words from the last year and a half: 1. jeggings 2. Gleek (“a portmanteau that won the American Dialect Society competition for 2010 Word of the Year in the (new)(…)

Handwriting requirement dropped by Indiana

Indiana has become the latest state to drop the requirement for children to learn joined-up (cursive) handwriting. The new Common Core State Standards Initiative does not require cursive, and around forty states have so far signed up to it. Some states, including Massachusetts and California, have re-included cursive as is allowed by the Standards. Indiana(…)

A history of English in 10 minutes!

It may not sound possible, but the history of English has been encapsulated in 10 short videos totalling 10 minutes. Created by The Open University, the videos span time from Anglo-Saxon English to modern-day Global English. The entire collection of videos is linked here. I particularly like the illustrations used in The Age of the(…)

Crowdsourcing translation

An interesting article from Wired looks at a company who are crowdsourcing translation to provide a better online translation service. Ackuna uses a Facebook app and a pool of multilingual people along with a crowdsourcing model to provide accurate translation that will get more effective the more it’s used. “The process works by breaking text(…)