It's hard to imagine the English language without the word cool
as a colloquial description of someone or something first-rate. Over the past half-century of usage, the word has become so omnipresent that it has lost much of its slangy patina. Slang-watcher Connie Eble noted here
that when she asks her students at the University of North Carolina to list items of slang, they don't even think of cool
, since "it's just ordinary vocabulary for them." How did cool
first break through to the mainstream?
Traditional vocabulary instruction holds that students learn new words best when they learn them in context. Our "Teachers at Work" contributor Shannon Reed made the startling classroom discovery that context isn't always key.
Contentini, a UK-based content strategy firm, has analyzed 75 years of British parliamentary debates to determine trends in the political use of language. Key words like stakeholder
have risen in usage, while others like industry
have fallen. Read about it here
On the website Technologizer, Harry McCracken has provided a lovingly detailed history of the term fanboy
, as it traveled from the world of underground comics to become "the tech world's favorite put-down." It got me thinking about the development of the mnemonic aid FANBOYS
, which every English composition teacher knows is an acronym for the coordinating conjunctions for
, and so
Thanks to Chatroulette, the ridiculously popular website that pairs random strangers around the world for webcam conversations, we have a new verb in English: to next
. Two language-related blogs explain what it means.
Stan Carey, a professional editor from Ireland, writes entertainingly about the English language on his blog Sentence First. Here a children's book about weather leads Stan to ponder which English words best describe what happens to air when it is heated by lightning.
Chris Pash, who works for Dow Jones Asia-Pacific, has been using the Factiva news database to track the most overused journalistic expressions. He's come up with a list of the top seven cliches, from "at the end of the day" to "concerned residents." Read all about it here