Six more videos about language

January 25, 2023

The latest in an erratic series. In this set we have punctuation, phonetics, raciolinguistics, gesture, lexicography, and writing advice. Viewing length ranges from 4 minutes to 1 hour 18 minutes.

 

A brief history of the exclamation mark!

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New year’s resolutions for editors and proofreaders

January 12, 2023

To usher in 2023, I’ve compiled 5 new year’s resolutions for editors and proofreaders at the blog of AFEPI Ireland – the Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders and Indexers of Ireland.

I’ve always been wary of making new year’s resolutions, never taking them very seriously. So if you feel similarly, don’t be put off on that account. But I think they can be helpful if framed in a certain way, which I do in the opening paragraph.

Some suggestions are practical, addressing work habits and environment; others focus on our relationship to words and language, since this too is an important part of the work of editing and proofreading. Certain advice also applies to other trades.

It’s a short article, just over 800 words, and you can read it here.


10 more words from Irish English dialect

December 19, 2022

One of my pet linguistic topics is Irish English dialect, which I explored at length in an essay a while back. Here are 10 words, usages, and grammatical features characteristic of English as it’s used in Ireland.

Links point to previous blog posts with more discussion on usage, origins, and so on.

1. Grand is a popular adjective/interjection in Ireland to express modest satisfaction, approval, wellbeing, or simply acknowledgement. It’s handy for understatement and not overdoing one’s enthusiasm, but in certain situations it can be a biteen (see below) ambiguous.

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Swearing like a trooper, a trucker, a sailor and . . . a starling?

December 13, 2022

At Strong Language, the sweary blog about swearing, I have a new post up about the idiom swear like a [X]. After seeing the phrase swear like a trooper (maybe in Beryl Bainbridge’s A Quiet Life), I got to wondering how it arose; a few hours later I had found more [X]s than I’d ever imagined existed.

Some are common, others less so but familiar, and there are many, many obscure variants, plays on the clichés, and predictable/peculiar one-offs. And that’s before we even look at equivalent expressions in other languages, which is where the starling in the post title comes in (Czech, as it happens).

After looking at why trooper and sailor are the usual objects, I dug into the corpus data, which produced some graphs and lists of fun phrases: swearing like a sailor’s parrot, a drunken bushwhacker, a surly barmaid, and a foul-mouthed trooper stubbing their toe on a slang dictionary, for example.

Table showing frequencies of various words in the expression 'swear like a [X]' and equivalents with 'swears', 'cursing', etc., in four language corpora: NOW, iWeb, COCA, and COHA. The figures for four words are as follows. Sailor: 288. 181, 62, 12. Trooper: 87, 74, 4, 14. Trucker: 24, 18, 4, 3. Pirate: 5, 6, 1, 7.

Sample of data on ‘[swear] like a [X]’ in various language corpora

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Blogging, tweeting, and . . . tooting on Mastodon?

November 30, 2022

This is a personal post about social media and blogging, not language, but it does contain a few bilingual puns.

I almost joined Mastodon years ago, but I knew few people using it then, and it didn’t seem worth the trouble. I tend to resist popular time-sinks – like Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok – but I changed my mind about Mastodon.

If you’re there, you can find me at @stancarey@mastodon.ie (more on the address style below).

I used to use Twitter a lot, popping in on work breaks and idle moments. It was a good community and source of information. I even got one of those infamous blue ticks, for my language journalism. But my tolerance for Twitter, and visits to it, dropped steeply years ago, and the recent chaos threatens what remains of its appeal and viability.

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Book spine poem: Return from the Stars

November 21, 2022

It’s almost a year since my last book spine poem. Here’s a new one.

*

Return from the Stars

Return from the Stars,
A portable cosmos –
Island home buried in
The sky, the island of ghosts,
The uninhabitable Earth,
Kindred love, again,
Touching from a distance
Homesick,
The stars my destination.

 

Stack of books against a white background, their spines of various colours and sizes creating a found poem.

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The electrifying moment: Peter Temple on writing

October 31, 2022

Ask me to name my favourite writer in a given genre – science fiction, thriller, horror – and I would usually struggle to whittle it down beyond a shifting shortlist. But ask me my favourite crime writer, and I settle readily on the name Peter Temple (1946–2018).

Why Temple? There’s his style and language, stripped down and surprising; his pitch-perfect dialogue that puts you right into his world; his dark wit and playful metaphors, so satisfying to my Irish tastes; his gloomy, uncompromising stories, with their shards of love and beauty.

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