May 8, 2013
Remember Story Bud?, the video of Irish slang and colloquialisms I shared here in February? Director Jenny Keogh has filmed a second clip, How’s About Ye?, in the same style, and it’s great fun altogether.
There are on-screen glosses for the phrases, but because the delivery and editing are rapid-fire – and some of the accents are strong – I’ve added Jenny’s transcript below, with a few tweaks.
In related news, Jenny is working on a feature-length film comprising more of these videos along with expert interviews and other footage. She’s holding “Phrase Donor Clinics” around Ireland to collect phrases from the public to use in the film.
Jenny is crowdfunding this on Fund it, an Irish Kickstarter-type website, so if you’d like to support this very worthy project, you can. There’s two weeks left to contribute; pledges from €15 up earn a reward, and if funding falls short, you won’t be charged. You can find out more at JennyKeogh.com and on the Story Bud? Facebook page.
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April 23, 2013
Last month I wrote about the dramatic, grammatic evolution of LOL, referring to two talks on texting by linguist John McWhorter in which he describes LOL’s shift from straightforward initialism (“laughing out loud”) to pragmatic particle marking empathy and shared experience.*
One of McWhorter’s talks was not online at the time, but it appeared yesterday and is well worth watching if you’re interested in texting as a form of communication:
What texting is, despite the fact that it involves the brute mechanics of something that we call writing, is fingered speech. That’s what texting is. Now we can write the way we talk.
McWhorter discusses the differences between speech and writing and how they bleed into one another, and he demonstrates some of texting’s emerging structures and innovations, for instance slash as a “new information marker”.
He also tackles the myth that texting implies a decline in our linguistic abilities (an argument developed in more detail in David Crystal’s book Txtng: The gr8 db8). Says McWhorter:
What we’re seeing is a whole new way of writing that young people are developing, which they’re using alongside their ordinary writing skills – and that means that they’re able to do two things. Increasing evidence is that being bilingual is cognitively beneficial. That’s also true of being bidialectal, and it’s certainly true of being bidialectal in terms of your writing. And so texting actually is evidence of a balancing act that young people are using today – not consciously, of course, but it’s an expansion of their linguistic repertoire.
Here is “Txtng is killing language. JK!!!”:
* My post was since translated into Chinese, if anyone would like to read it that way.
April 15, 2013
From io9 last week, “Every language needs its, like, filler words”:
“Sigh language” is a lovely idea; as typos go it is unusually appealing. Kelly (@potterarchy) on Twitter suggested in jest that io9 may have been referring to this “sigh-off” between actors on the UK TV show Never Mind the Buzzcocks:
A sigh language isn’t even very far-fetched, given that some languages have channels of communication that use whistling and humming. Think of the subtle shades of exasperation, tedium, relief, exhaustion and wistful longing that can be conveyed with a well-shaped sigh.
It seems the sort of thing a science fiction writer might already have described – with neighbouring populations conversing through sniffs, yawns, gurgles, and what have you – but nothing springs to mind.
March 5, 2013
LOL, the poster child of txtspk and internet lingo, began as a handy abbreviation for laughing out loud (and sometimes lots of love). But it has come to symbolise a whole mode of discourse: LOLspeak is a quasi-dialect unto itself, albeit mainly the preserve of unwitting LOLcats.
Some people even say lol offline to indicate amusement without having to go to the trouble of laughing. (I’m sure these people laugh normally, too.) But there’s more to LOL than meets the eye. Anne Curzan writes at Lingua Franca that the meaning of LOL has changed – it often doesn’t mean laughing out loud. You might have noticed this.
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February 27, 2013
Story Bud? is a fun video by Jenny Keogh that’s doing the rounds. It’s a rapid-fire two-minute clip of Dublin slang and colloquial expressions. They’re not all peculiar to Dublin – some are heard around Ireland or in other countries – but they all have currency in Irish English speech and offer a fine flavour of Dublin’s vernacular.
Certain lines may be hard to decipher, especially for non-Irish people. The accents are quite strong, and some of the expressions are strange if you haven’t heard them before. So I’ve typed them out below, with notes, and numbered them for ease of reference. (The video itself also supplies occasional glosses.)
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February 12, 2013
Irish Folk Furniture is a stop-motion documentary, 8½ minutes long, that won an award for animation at the Sundance Film Festival last month. Director Tony Donoghue thought it might be too specialist to appeal widely, but it has charmed its way around the festival circuit. I recommend it warmly.
The film celebrates the tradition and use of farmhouse furniture in Ireland, with 16 items restored to a functional state. This is furniture not usually seen as beautiful – or starring in a film – but whose appeal lies in its very ordinariness and utility, and in the history it amasses over generations of use.
It’s a quiet gem in both form and content: as if Jan Švankmajer had rambled down a boreen in Tipperary. Dressers and flour bins wheel around the countryside while their owners chat away. The film is gently funny, beautifully shot, and features some lovely rural Irish accents and syntax, e.g. done as preterite in “we done a good bit on ’em”.
I wanted to link to the original on Donoghue’s YouTube page, but that video has since been set to private, so here it is from another page:
Edit: I’ve removed the video after seeing a comment on YouTube from Tony Donoghue saying his film was only meant to be online for the two weeks of Sundance, and that its continued online presence may undermine its film festival run.
If it reappears legitimately, I’ll reinstate it here.
January 8, 2013
I’ve been meaning to share this for months, and a tweet today by @OxfordWords has prodded me into action. Late last year the British Council and the OED sponsored an expert panel discussion on the state of the English language, titled ‘Who cares about English?’
The talk is chaired by John Knagg, head of English research at the British Council. He takes questions from the audience and puts them to panel members John Simpson, chief editor of the OED; Prudence Raper, former honorary secretary of the Queen’s English Society; novelist Romesh Gunesekera; and author and critic Henry Hitchings.
Among the topics covered are language regulation and correctness, change and innovation, history, social media, favourite words, and regional and global varieties of English. The speakers offer insight, learning, and humour, and there is some inevitable (and extreme) peeving from the floor.
You can watch part 1 below, or go here for the full video, which lasts a little over an hour. Enjoy!