Oh My God! Winston Churchill Received the First Ever Letter Containing “O.M.G.” (1917)

≡ Category: English Language, History |1 Comment

Winston Churchill is one of those preposterously outsized historical figures who seemed to be in the middle of every major event.

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Hear Beowulf Read In the Original Old English: How Many Words Do You Recognize?

≡ Category: English Language, Literature |3 Comments

I was as surprised as most people are when I first heard the ancient language known as Old English. It’s nothing like Shakespeare, nor even Chaucer, who wrote in a late Middle English that sounds strange enough to modern ears.

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The C.I.A.’s “Bestiary of Intelligence Writing” Satirizes Spook Jargon with Maurice Sendak-Style Drawings

≡ Category: Comedy, Creativity, English Language, History |Leave a Comment

Ten years in academia gave me a healthy dislike of clichéd jargon, as well as an appreciation for jokes about it. There are a few, like the academic sentence generator and Ph.D. Comics, that capture a bit of what it’s like to go to school and work in higher ed. Corporate drones, of course, have Office Space and Dilbert.

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One Woman, 17 British Accents

≡ Category: English Language |3 Comments

In April, we featured a tour of 14 British accents in 84 seconds. But as any commenter to that video will tell you, such a selection only scratches the surface of the variety of ways a given Briton could potentially speak English.

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The CIA’s Style Manual & Writer’s Guide: 185 Pages of Tips for Writing Like a Spy

≡ Category: English Language, Politics, Writing |2 Comments

Along with toppling democratically elected governments, funneling money illegally to dubious political groups and producing pornographic movies about heads of state, the Central Intelligence Agency has also been fiendishly good at manipulating language.

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Steven Pinker Uses Theories from Evolutionary Biology to Explain Why Academic Writing is So Bad

≡ Category: Education, English Language, Harvard, Psychology |1 Comment

I don’t know about other disciplines, but academic writing in the humanities has become notorious for its jargon-laden wordiness, tangled constructions, and seemingly deliberate vagary and obscurity.

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The Speech Accent Archive: The English Accents of People Who Speak 341 Different Languages

≡ Category: Archives, English Language |1 Comment

Over the years, I’ve met with several foreign speaking partners. Through conversation, I learn their language — Spanish, Korean, Japanese — and they learn mine — English.

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Do Rappers Have a Bigger Vocabulary Than Shakespeare?: A Data Scientist Maps Out the Answer

≡ Category: English Language, Music |3 Comments

Each year brings us a new list of words that, once hip or subcultural, signal their admission into the mainstream by entering the pages—print or online—of the Oxford English Dictionary or Merriam Webster’s. Many of those come from the world of hip hop.

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A Brief Tour of British Accents: 14 Ways to Speak English in 84 Seconds

≡ Category: English Language |13 Comments

Americans, coming from the enormous and relatively recently settled place we do, tend to have a hard time with accents, struggling to grasp the extent of the variety of regional ways of speech in smaller, older countries, let alone to use them ourselves.

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Opening Sentences From Great Novels, Diagrammed: Lolita, 1984 & More

≡ Category: English Language, Literature |Leave a Comment

I admit it: I still don’t understand sentence diagramming. Though as a middle schooler I dutifully, if grudgingly, submitted to that classic English classroom exercise, the practice didn’t stick, nor did whatever habit of composition it meant to convey.

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