Category Archives: social context of language

Glass, Bamboo, Curry


I was intrigued by a recent question posted at Quora about whether there is a bamboo ceiling in American corporate culture, parallel to the idea of a glass ceiling, but with reference to the experience of Asians’ efforts to become promoted to … Continue reading

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Word Purge


There is an online post at the British newspaper Guardian reporting on words to be excluded from new editions of dictionaries. The post invites readers to list their own choices for words they’d like removed from the English language. My … Continue reading

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Reading the Signs


If you examine the wording on cautionary road signs, you’ll realize they aren’t wholly consistent.  Yet as native speakers of English (or with working fluency of English) we usually have no trouble interpreting the intended meaning.  The basic semantic task … Continue reading

Posted in Semantics, social context of language, symbols | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Sweet as Sugar


My sister Alexandra reports that her linguist friend once told her that, of the two dozen languages he knew, the word for sugar appears to have the same root in all of them. Here are the terms for sugar in … Continue reading

Posted in etymology, social context of language, word borrowing | 2 Comments

Place Names


It has long been observed that the words for places tend to survive a long time; even when much of the lexicon of a language has otherwise changed or been replaced. Even when one group of people conquers another, the … Continue reading

Posted in names, social context of language | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Among and Amongst


English usage seems to be getting hipper and leaner.  We’ve nearly lost our subjunctive mood (how many American English speakers even recognize this construction on the printed page?)  and whom should certainly be on the List of Endangered Words. (Is … Continue reading

Posted in history of language, language change, social context of language | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

FTW or WTF?


We’ve all gotten used to abbreviations in email, text messages and Twitter. Today at Silicon Alley Insider a list of such abbreviations was compiled and presented. The list is obviously not complete and was not offered as such, and commentators … Continue reading

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