Every so often, someone in a field such as economics comes up with something that seems to suggest that the language we use can affect how we think and even how we act. I’m not talking about obvious things (such as “How do you get 50 Canadians out of a swimming pool? You say, ‘Everyone please get out of the pool.’”). I mean what if, for instance, our grammar affected how we save for the future? What if our perception of time is conditioned by our language?
And all the linguists roll their eyes and say, “Whorf.” They’ve been down this road before. They reach for the mute button.
But what if both sides are overreacting a bit?
Read my latest article for the BBC:
Can language slow down time?
Every so often, some get-off-my-lawner launches another jeremiad about the demise of English and points the knobbly finger at that interweb text thing the youth do. Are we losing the ability to communicate in basic, decent English? Is this text-speak taking over from talk? Well… no (hell no) and yes (sorta). We’re not losing anything; we’re just adding another variety of English, which I’ve taken the liberty of calling live internet vernacular English. I explain in my latest article for the BBC:
Will we stop talking and just text?
A producer from BBC Radio Solent (in southern England) asked me if I could be interviewed for their morning show. I said sure, when? How about 8:45 am? Hmm… England time or Toronto time? Oh, uh…
Well, anyway, I got up in the middle of the night to take a 3:45 am phone call and talk to Sasha Twining about how to say PyeongChang and a few other things. Here’s the link to the show: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05vswzq My segment starts at about the 17:10 mark and goes for about 5 minutes.
Sorry about the audio quality. We had arranged to use Skype with the phone as a backup but they couldn’t get the Skype to hook up so you’re hearing me on my phone headset.
Oh, also: the link to the show is only valid for 29 days. So listen to it by March 23, 2018, or you’ll be too late!
I’ve published another article on BBC.com. This one is about something that we all have to deal with and many of us participate in: the treatment of “bad grammar” as evidence of intellectual and moral deficiency. I read quite a few “grammar guide” books for this, and there’s a lot more I could have written… but I had to fit it in 1200 words. So it’s not too long to read!
Why all English speakers worry about slipping up
My latest article for the BBC is on Singlish, which is the local multilayered vernacular of Singapore. I’m not a Singlish speaker myself, but I happened to have a couple of good sources and a fair bit of useful research. It’s an interesting study in emergent language change – and social and governmental attitudes towards it. And the article is worth it just for the Singlish-overdubbed video I found of a scene from Frozen!
The language the government tried to suppress
English is descended from Anglo-Saxon, which is descended from Proto-Germanic. French is descended from Latin. Both are descended from Proto-Indo-European. Fine, fine. What about the future? What will be descended from English?
Future? What about the present? English already has descendants! I talk about a few of them in my latest article for the BBC:
How English gave birth to surprising new languages
My latest article for the BBC is a road trip: 60 miles and 2500 years through the history of British place names – including Featherstone, Appleby Magna, the River Tame, and Newton Burgoland. Find out why England has a Great Snoring, a Westley Waterless, and a Shitterton!
Why does Britain have such bizarre place names?
And if you’re inclined to survey the route yourself and perhaps do a little street view to see how it all looks, turn to Google Maps.