Tag Archives: words

Jim Hawkin’s “Blues”

I recently read Stevenson’s Treasure Island, a story I greatly enjoy as a child. The novel’s pirates speak with a dialect I find puzzling as an adult reader: is it the West Country of the early chapters’ setting (akin to … Continue reading

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Posted in British English | Tagged | 5 Comments

Reformed Views on Spelling Reform

Back in college, I obsessed over English spelling reform. Why deal with silent gh’s, I figured, when things can be so much cleaner? So I started inventing phonetically-precise alphabets, ending up with results like this: Tu bii or not tu … Continue reading

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Posted in Miscellaneous Accents and Dialects | Tagged , | 29 Comments

“Jersey” or “Jersey?”

About a week ago, my wife and I went to a fancy grocery store and splurged on an expensive bottle of half-and-half. As we were putting away our haul, I read the description on the back of the bottle and … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged | 14 Comments

The “Awesome” Trajectory

Regarding the subject of my last post, I was struck this passage from Alice Munro’s story, To Reach Japan: They opened the compartment curtain to get more air, now that there was no danger of the child’s falling out.”Awesome to have … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged | 2 Comments

“Nauseous” (Standard English’s Evolution)

“‘Nauseous‘ doesn’t refer to being sick,” my 9th-grade English teacher told his class. “It refers to something that makes you sick.” He sounded more apologetic than commanding; he didn’t seem to believe this “rule” any more than we did. Yet … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged | 15 Comments

Boston “Brother”

While waiting in Boston’s South Station last week, a man with a thick accent asked for information about the coming bus. After hearing my reply, he said “Thanks, Brother!” (That is, “Bruthah” brʌðə). “Brother,” as commonplace as the word may … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged , | 9 Comments

“Oriental:” Death of a Semi-Slur

While reading yesterday’s paper, I skimmed a news piece about Nina Davuluri, the first Indian-American Miss America winner. Being American, I was puzzled by the journalist’s description of Davuluri as the first “Asian-American” to win. It’s an illogical reaction on … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged , | 32 Comments

Brits “Get Away With It”

I’ve recently been watching Two Fat Ladies, a late-90s cooking show in which two rambunctious women travel the British countryside cooking regional food. One of the program’s perverse joys is its hosts’ sometimes shocking commentary. Take, for instance, Clarissa Dickson Wright‘s opinion … Continue reading

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Posted in British English | Tagged , , | 20 Comments

Dialectal “Bitch” (circa 1898)

I doubt one could pinpoint the moment English-speakers started using the derogatory sense of “bitch” (meaning, roughly, “ill-tempered woman”). Given our awful tendency toward misogynistic coinages, people probably called female humans “bitches” all of five minutes after they started using … Continue reading

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Posted in British English | Tagged | 13 Comments

“You’re Causing a Row”

[Update: I have added a few additional comments about "causing a row" at the end of this post] While watching Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby the other day, I was struck by the climactic scene in which Tom Buchanan barks, “What kind of a … Continue reading

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Posted in American English | Tagged | 7 Comments