Evolving Language

latin LoC Image3
From Library of Congress. Antonio da Rho, O.F.M., Tres Dialogi in Lactantium. (Three dialogues against Lactantius). In Latin. Parchment. Rome. Dedication copy for Pope Eugene IV. ca. 1450

The Oxford English Dictionary, or OED, has a blog about language that I usually find very interesting. I particularly liked this recent entry on how modern speakers change ancient languages. It’s an interesting look at communication between language and how time and technology have changed our perception of many terms and words.

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Most Disliked English Word


Given it is the height of the political season here in the US, I thought this post particularly timely. The Oxford Dictionaries launched a global survey – or vote if you will – for the least liked word in the English language. According to this Guardian article, the word moist was a front runner for the title. It is winning in the US, Australia, and Britain. New Zealand is voting for phlegm and Spain dislikes hello.

Unfortunately, it looks like Oxford Dictionaries had to close down the voting earlier than they planned because of what they termed abuse on their site.

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Tsundoku – Say What Now?

I saw this great article about the Japanese word “tsundoku” meaning “reading pile”. All avid readers likely have the same problem I do where I buy far more books than I can read and so they pile up – unread – around my apartment. Tsundoku excellently describes this and I am going to start using it.

What other non-English words perfectly describe readers or reading phenomenon?

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English “Rules”


As an editor, I am a bit of a “word nerd”. I find the history of words and phrases to be fascinating and can often lose myself in the Oxford English Dictionary’s online database for hours at a time reading about first usages and historical changes to meanings. This Book of the Day article in The Guardian reviewing How English Became English by Simon Horobin gives some good examples of the tidbits on usage that I always find interesting. I’ll definitely be reading How English Became English at some point in the future and recommend the OED database for anyone interested in fun facts about the English language. The database is available through many public and academic libraries.

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Singular They


In January, the American Dialect Society announced that the word of the year is “they” but as a singular pronoun rather than its historic plural usage. As all elementary English students know, they is a plural pronoun in writing and is cause for a lot of red marks on graded papers.

However, English speakers have been using singular they in speech for a long time – with no issues in understanding. It is still very frowned upon in proper writing but some newspapers and magazines had already changed their style guides to reflect this 21st century use. Partly this has to do with just codifying the way we are already using language but the other part is that English has no gender neutral singular pronoun for the third person and singular they addresses that lack.

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