Starbucks 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, …
Last week I promised to explain why I was recently browsing in a little German grammar book I have owned since 1963.
Here’s the straight truth. I have been invited to lecture on data and theory next March at a conference sponsored by the Institut für Deutsche Sprache (IDS) in Mannheim, Germany. And I’m ashamed. Not because I’ll be lecturing in English — that’s the norm for international academic conferences, so no shame there. And yet I have something to expiate.
This year, for the first time, I am teaching a freshman — oops, first-year — seminar. Right there is the problem. As readers of this blog know, I like to be on top of the latest gender-neutral neologism. For many years, the term freshman has belonged to a class of designations (fireman, policeman, mailman) for which our culture has tried to find gender-neutral alternatives. As my Lingua Franca colleague Anne Curzan noted in 2013, within colleges — arguably one of the most progressive institut…
Are these friends of Dorothy or friends of Dorothy’s?
On Saturday, Flavia Pennetta of Italy defeated her countrywoman, longtime doubles partner, and onetime roommate Roberta Vinci to win the U.S. Open tennis tournament. Her acceptance speech was heartfelt and gracious, but what caught my ear was one sentence, which you can hear at about the 7:58 mark in this YouTube clip:
I could be wrong, but what I think she is saying is, “It’s so nice to play with a friend of my.”
Geoff Pullum looked here for a discussion of useless vocabulary and weakened sentence structure in schoolbooks, but didn’t find it. If not here, then where?
I was recently browsing (I’ll tell you why some other time) in my long-neglected copy of The Basis and Essentials of German by Charles Duff and Richard Freund (Thomas Nelson, London, third edition 1945), and a polemical section in the introduction happened to catch my eye. It was a tirade against the practices of language teachers and examin…
What is going on in Tennessee? First we learn that they tried to ban mothers and fathers before coming to their senses. Now we learn that their flagship university tried to ban he and she—before it came to its senses. What senses are these, and how is it that Tennessee keeps losing them?
This week, we’ll look at he and she. At our first faculty meeting, before I’d learned of the issue in Tennessee, I heard a moment of gender awkwardness when the chair of one of our departments stood up to intr…
Now that summer is yielding to fall in the Northern Hemisphere, and the long days of summer are yielding to the long nights of fall, it’s a good moment to contemplate the distinctive language of certain staples of summer — in particular, ice cream, iced tea, and the ice cream sundae.
Ice cream came first. The Oxford English Dictionary‘s earliest example comes from a 1672 history of the Order of the Garter: “The Soveraign’s Table on the Eve … One Plate of Ice Cream.” Another 17th-century example …
It’s been 17 years since my realization that I was hoarding footnotes. I was using plenty of footnotes in my own academic work: I had been doing that since graduate school. But I was withholding footnotes from undergraduates.
Not that I was actively forbidding undergraduate students from inserting footnotes into their essays. But I wasn’t teaching them how to do it either, which meant that their essays included exactly zero footnotes.
I was teaching a senior seminar at the time of the realizatio…
Anne Curzan is a professor of English at the University of Michigan, where she also holds appointments in linguistics and the School of Education. Her publications include Gender Shifts in the History of English and How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction. She talks about trends in the English language in a weekly segment, "That's What They Say," on Michigan Radio. View her TEDx talk on language here.
William Germano is dean of humanities and social sciences and a professor of English literature at Cooper Union. His most recent books are The Tales of Hoffmann (2013, BFI Film Classics) and a second edition of From Dissertation to Book (2013, University of Chicago Press).
Rose Jacobs is an American freelance journalist and English teacher at the Technical University of Munich. Before moving to Germany, she worked for the Financial Times as a reporter and editor, in New York and London.
Ilan Stavans is a professor of Latin American and Latino culture at Amherst College. His books include Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language and Dictionary Days: A Defining Passion. He is general editor of The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature, the publisher of Restless Books, devoted to contemporary literature from around the world, and co-founder of Great Books Summer Program.