Monday, September 20, 2004

My latest Tribune language column:
Is it "world English," "international English," or "global English"?
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Also see this world English bibliography. More on Spanglish and Japlish. More on the Seoul billboards here and R&J in Elizabethan English here. And, of course,

-From Philip Gourevitch's recent New Yorker piece on Bush's oratory:

Bush’s gift ... is a function of his lack of polish: the clipped nature of his phraseology, the touch of twang, the hard consonants, the nasal vowels, the dropped conjunctions and slurred or swallowed suffixes. ... He is grossly underestimated as an orator by those who presume that good grammar, rigorous logic, and a solid command of the facts are the essential ingredients of political persuasion, and that the absence of these skills indicates a lack of intelligence. Although Bush is no intellectual, and proud of it, he is quick and clever, and, for all his notorious malapropisms, abuses of syntax, and manglings or reinventions of vocabulary, his intelligence is--if not especially literate--acutely verbal. His words, in transcription, might seem mindless, incoherent, or unintentionally hilarious ... but it is pretty plain what he means.

-I was thinking the other day how ironic it is that the word "candidate" contains the word candid. Meanwhile, this play just showed in Bloomington:

In a presidential year when many commentators have deplored the dearth of eloquence in public discourse, one of the most eloquent of presidential candidates, Adlai E. Stevenson (1900-1965), will be the subject of a one-man play opening this summer. The play, "Adlai, Alone," focuses on the language, life and politics of Stevenson, the unsuccessful 1952 and 1956 Democratic opponent of Dwight D. Eisenhower. It is scheduled to open on Sept. 10 at the McLean County Museum of History in Stevenson's hometown, Bloomington, Ill.

-It's not a crime, but this review of The Gutenberg Elegies ends with this sentence: "Above all, what we are doing needs thinking about."

-Digging through the ADS-L archives, I found this attempt to antedate the apple-a-day adage:

_An apple a day keeps the doctor away._ Eating fruit regularly keeps one healthy. First found as a Welsh folk proverb (1866): "Eat an apple on going to bed, And you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread." First attested in the United States in 1913. The proverb is found in varying forms. --Gregory Titelman, RANDOM HOUSE DICTIONARY OF POPULAR PROVERBS AND SAYINGS (1996). 8/3/2000

-My grandma asked me about the origins of the word piggyback, and I didn't know. So she found it online (she's a very wired grandma).

In the old days — and I guess even now — it was common practice for individuals who had to carry a heavy object to invariably place it on their back. This method of carrying things around was called "pick a pack". And `pick a pack' when said quickly became `pickapack'. Parents often carried their children "pickapack" too. But children because they loved animals so much changed "pickapack" to "piggyback". has the origins of dumbbell, which has nothing to do with intelligence.

-This July, the Onion ran an "op-ed" by the Hulk. I haven't seen the movie, but it got me curious about his trademark syntax--familiar from early portrayals of Tarzan and Native Americans--featuring few verbs and articles and little subject-verb agreement. I wonder why these syntactic features came to be associated with "primitive" speakers. I suppose speakers learning English as a 2nd language might use such constructions, but only because their native language lacks articles and uses different endings for plurals. And children's syntax is quite different from this. So why is this syntax considered brutish?

Why No One Want Make Hulk 2? x
The Onion 7/14/04

X2 come out last year. Spider-Man 2 come out last month. Both great sequels to great movies about Hulk friends. Hulk love great action movies about friends! People buy tickets. Make money for theaters, make money for movie company. Movie company make more movies with money. Already, they working on X-Men 3. Hulk movie come out last year. It success. It big popcorn movie with heart. So why no one want make Hulk 2? It make Hulk mad!

-words for deceased relatives in the Bardi language, from Anggarrgoon, via LL:

loomiyoon baawa (child who has lost a parent, = orphan; cf loomi baawa, neglected child)
gambaj(oo) (mother who has lost a child, now used as a swear word by Bardi men who don't know its original meaning)
algooyarr (father who's lost a child)
jilarr (man who has lost a brother, sister or cousin)
miiraj (woman who's lost a brother or sister)
galgarr (widow or widower)

• Previous column and inflections

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