Category Archives: Dialects

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Oh, Commas

As the self-appointed watcher of commas, known to some (OK, known to myself) as The Comma Maven, I naturally was concerned when I saw the provisional title of my friend Craig Pittman’s forthcoming book about the weirdness of Florida. The book grew out of the tweets that Pittman (a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times) has been putting out for some time, like this:

 

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And this:

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(Craig is not connected with the person or persons who send out tweets like the following under the handle @_FloridaMan:

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Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi Oi Oi!

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The tiddly oggie is actually of English origin, but it typifies the Australian penchant for diminutives and abbreviations.

I’ve been in Australia for two weeks now, and all I can say is the people here must be extremely busy. Why else would they feel obliged to abbreviate so incredibly many words? I started to write down examples shortly after I arrived, and already my notebook is almost full.

A lot of the abbreviations are diminutives: Tasmania is Tassie, mosquitoes are mossies, politicians are…

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‘Hey’ Now

Hey, if you don’t mind, listen to the first 20 seconds or so of this conversation between National Public Radio’s Ari Shapiro and Gene Demby:

If you didn’t care to listen, or experienced technical difficulties, here’s the exchange in which I’m interested:

Shapiro: Hey Gene.

Demby: Hey Ari.

hank-kingsley

Hank Kingsley of “The Larry Sanders Show”: “Hey now!”

Ari and Gene are partaking of a meaning for hey that’s not recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED defines the word as “A call to attract att…

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Digital ‘DARE’ Update: Half-Price Holiday Special

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Illustration by Ellen Winkler for The Chronicle

OK, word lovers. Here’s the perfect gift for yourself, or any other logophile: A whole year of the complete online Dictionary of American Regional English at your fingertips for only $47.50, half the usual subscription price.

Yes, for that price you can leave the six monumental volumes of DARE reposing majestically on your shelf and access their contents with a few keyboard commands. And there’s much more in the interactive digital version. For a s…

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Let’s Call the Whole Thing ‘Often’

How did Robert Frost pronounce "often"?

How did Robert Frost pronounce often?

I was listening the other day to “Reply All,” a podcast about the Internet, and P.J. Vogt, the reporter/host, had occasion to say the word often. I was pretty confident that I knew how he was going to pronounce it. After all, Vogt is young (I would judge in his early 30s), and speaks with vocal fry, list lilt, uptalk, and, generally, a pronounced Ira Glass-esque lack of slickness.

In other words, I knew he would say off-ten, pronouncing the t.

And he did.

A …

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The Unsuitability of English

paushuize

Utrecht, Holland— My mission in this pleasant central Holland town: giving a keynote address at the 25th anniversary conference of Sense (originally the Society of English-Native-Speaking Editors, now a general professional organization of anglophone editors in the Netherlands) in the palatial surroundings of the beautifully restored 16th-century Paushuize (pictured). Knowing that the editors and translators who belong to Sense are much concerned with …

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American Stars and Hearts

(Image from theverge.com)

(image from theverge.com)

If Twitter users want to respond to a tweet, they have three options: reply to it, retweet it, or mark it with a symbol of approval. Over the past couple of weeks, Twitter has begun changing that symbol from a star to a heart, and the word the symbol represents from “Favorite” to “Like.”

On its blog, the company gave an explanation for the momentous shift:

We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, es…

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So, NPR Voice, Ya Know …

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Ira Glass at Carnegie Hall
(Photo by Brighterorange via Wikimedia Commons)

I was frankly a little disappointed to read Teddy Wayne’s recent New York Times piece “‘NPR Voice’ Has Taken Over the Airwaves.” Not that I’m not obsessed with the way people talk on the programs carried by National Public Radio stations. (If you have any doubt on that point, you can read my extensive reflections on the matter here.) The problem — suggested by the singular in the title — is that there isn’t just one NPR vo…

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The Great Punkin Controversy

tumblr_nus05pehML1tg0kfio1_500Starbucks watchers were taken aback last month when the company made a surprise announcement about its standard-bearing fall beverage. This year, for the first time in its 12-year history, a Pumpkin Spice Latte will contain actual pumpkin, instead of merely spices associated with pumpkin pie.

I will not be able to report on the difference, regrettably. I never tasted the pumpkinless Pumpkin Spice Latte, so vile did it sound to me.

The PSL, as it’s affectionately known, has a cultlike following, …

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Crisis Management and Proper Usage

E.B. White

I learned something frightening yesterday. Just by chance, really. I happened to discover that in the syllabus for a course on crisis management at a noted law school (a sound and well-organized course as far as I could judge) students are informed that 60 percent of their grade will be based on a case study, and “because proper English usage is essential to effective communication, a portion of the final grade will be based upon compliance with the principles outlined in The Elements…