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Words of 2013 round-up

By Alice Northover
Word of the Year season in the English-speaking world has come to a close. Oxford Dictionaries kicked off the annual reflection (and often infuriation) regarding words that were particularly relevant this past year. Here’s a brief round-up of the various words singled out by dictionaries, linguists, and enthusiasts.

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The highest dictionary in the land?

By Dennis Baron
Perhaps the highest-profile cases to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court this term are the two involving the definition of marriage. U.S. v. Windsor challenges the federal definition of marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman” (Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA], 1 USC § 7), and Hollingsworth v. Perry seeks a ruling on the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage which reads, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

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Words of 2012 round-up

By Alice Northover
While most people are getting excited for the start of awards season on Sunday with the Golden Globes, the season has just ended for word nerds. From November through January, the Word(s) of the Year announcements are made. I’ll let you decide who is the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, SAGs, National Film Critics Circle, etc. of the lexicography community. Just remember YOLO — because it appeared on every list.

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The e-reader over your shoulder

By Dennis Baron
A publisher of digital textbooks has announced a utility that will tell instructors whether their students are actually doing the assigned reading. Billed as a way to spot low-performers and turn them around before it’s too late, CourseSmart Analytics measures which pages of their etexts students have read and exactly how long that took.

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Grammar sticklers may have OCD

By Dennis Baron
It used to be we thought that people who went around correcting other people’s grammar were just plain annoying. Now there’s evidence they are actually ill, suffering from a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder/oppositional defiant disorder (OCD/ODD). Researchers are calling it Grammatical Pedantry Syndrome, or GPS.

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Computers read so you don’t have to

By Dennis Baron
Machines can grade essays just as well as human readers. According to the New York Times, a competition sponsored by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation produced software able to match human essay readers grade for grade, and a study of commercially-available automatic grading programs showed that computers assessed essays as accurately as human readers, but a whole lot faster, and cheaper, to boot. But that’s just the start: computers could lead to a reading-free future.

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Learning not to curse in Arizona

By Dennis Baron
The Arizona State Senate is considering a proposal to fire teachers who swear. SB 1467 bans their use of any words that would violate FCC regulations against obscenity, indecency, and profanity on broadcast radio and television. A teacher would be suspended without pay after the first offence, fired after the third. Employers would also have the option of dismissing an instructor at the first curse.

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Alejandrina Cabrera should be on the San Luis city council ballot

By Dennis Barron
For perhaps the first time ever, a candidate was struck from an Arizona ballot for poor English. Judge John Nelson, of the Yuma County Superior Court, ruled that Alejandrina Cabrera cannot run for city council in the border town of San Luis because she doesn’t know enough English to fulfill her duties.

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How to save an endangered language

By Dennis Baron
There are roughly 7,000 languages spoken around the globe today. Five hundred years ago there were twice as many, but the rate of language death is accelerating. With languages disappearing at the rate of one every two weeks, in ninety years half of today’s languages will be gone.

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Occupy Wall Street: Can the revolution be trademarked?

By Dennis Baron
Psst, wanna buy a hot slogan?

“Occupy Wall Street,” the protest that put “occupy” on track to become the 2011 word of the year, could be derailed by a Long Island couple seeking to trademark the movement’s name. The rapidly-spreading Occupy Wall Street protests target the huge gap between rich and poor in America and elsewhere, so on Oct. 18, Robert and Diane Maresca tried to erase their own personal income gap by filing trademark application 85449710 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office so they could start selling Occupy Wall St.™

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Resistance may be futile: Are there alternatives to Global English?

By Dennis Baron
English is a world language. Once an insignificant set of immigrant dialects on an obscure island in the rainswept North Sea, English is now the de facto language of multinational business, of science and technology, and of rock ‘n’ roll. Non-English speakers around the globe seem to be learning English as fast as they can. Plus there are more than three times as many English articles in Wikipedia as there are German, the second-biggest language of the online encyclopedia. When it comes to the global domination of English, resistance may be futile.

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The linguistic impact of 9/11

By Dennis Baron

The terrorist attacks on 9/11 happened ten years ago, and although everybody remembers what they were doing at that flashbulb moment, and many aspects of our lives were changed by those attacks, from traveling to shopping to going online, one thing stands out: the only significant impact that 9/11 has had on the English language is 9/11 itself.

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New words are great for back to school

By Dennis Baron
It’s back to school, and that means it’s time for dictionaries to trot out their annual lists of new words. Dictionary-maker Merriam-Webster released a list of 150 words just added to its New Collegiate Dictionary for 2011, including “cougar,” a middle-aged woman seeking a romantic relationship with a younger man, “boomerang child,” a young adult who returns to live at home for financial reasons, and “social media” — if you don’t know what that means, then you’re still living in the last century.

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That ugly Americanism? It may well be British.

By Dennis Baron
Matthew Engel is a British journalist who doesn’t like Americanisms. The Financial Times columnist told BBC listeners that American English is an unstoppable force whose vile, ugly, and pointless new usages are invading England “in battalions.” He warned readers of his regular FT column that American imports like truck, apartment, and movies are well on their way to ousting native lorries, flats, and films.

Engel’s tirade against the American “faze, hospitalise, heads-up, rookie, listen up” and “park up” got several million page views

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