Adopt a word!


Larry over at the Fire Wire found another great site called “Save the Words”. The site is funny , with cute little voices as you run your mouse over the words scattered around the page saying “Me. Pick me!”.  The people at Save the Words would like us all to be aware that words from the English language disappear every day because they are just not used anymore.  So, to save the words, they ask that you adopt a word for a day, use it in your conversation and thus, the word will not disappear.  You can select your own word or they can choose one for you at random.

I wonder though, if you started using these words often enough, would you begin to sound like you just stepped out of a time machine?  I’m thinking that it might start to sounds a bit weird to use words like “sparsile” or “mulomedic” during an office meeting or while you’re out for lunch with the girls.  But, it is a fun concept.

The dictionary

Erin McKean is one of the youngest editors of one of the “big five” in American Dictionaries.  She is striving to reshape the way we look at dictionaries as well as the English language.

If you’ve never heard of it, TED (which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) started out as a conference to bring people from all of these worlds together in order to share their knowledge with each other.  It is an annual conference now which brings together people from all over the world, each one challenged to give the talk of their lives….all in under 18 minutes.  This particular video of Erin McKean is one such talk.  Take your time and enjoy it!

Why would I want to wash my clothes in THAT?!


I was reading a blog this morning about the way products marketed throughout the world can have problems with translation, depending on the language.  For example, this little box of “Barf” above is actually a very popular detergent used in Iran.  To those of us who speak English, we wonder why anyone would call a cleaning product barf, but in Farsi (an Iranian language) the word barf actually translates as “snow”. Apparently, even though the company is aware that this has a negative translation into English, they have decided to keep the name the same.

Urban legends abound when referring to products and translations.  There are many items that have claims about their English translations (or translations into other languages), but many of these are just that….urban legends. To read more about this issue, you can visit this link.

Branding products can be tricky enough, but when language becomes an issue, there can be a whole new set of problems.  Urban legend or actual translation, words will always amuse us.

Buzzwords of 2008

The year is just about over and with it came a slew of words that most of us heard for the first (and maybe the last) time.  Many of the words that were tracked this year were politically based due to the huge interest in the American election in 2008.  Grant Barrett is a lexicographer specializing in slang and new words.  He is the co-host of a public radio program called “A Way With Words” and these are some of the words that he tracked this year:


Greyjing is the name given to Beijing during all of the controversy over the pollution during the summer Olympics.

On another Olympic theme:


Phelpsian refers to anything done with excellence, as in Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps.


AKA Gov. Sarah Palin

And one that I hadn’t really heard of, but find it to be a strange concept (why are people doing this?):


Photobombing is the act of intentionally inserting oneself into the background of someone else’s photograph.

If you’d like to read the rest of the list in the article found in the NY Times, you can visit the link here.

Thanks to Larry over at the Fire Wire for the great idea!

Please stop saying this….

Oxford researchers have compiled a list of phrases used in the English language that are just overused, plain and simple ( I meant to say that!).  After going through newspapers, books, magazines, watching movies and television and viewing any other media, these researchers came up with the list of phrases used most often in the recent past. I must say that one of my least favourite phrases is listed….24/7.  Is yours on the list?

1 – At the end of the day
2 – Fairly unique
3 – I personally
4 – At this moment in time
5 – With all due respect
6 – Absolutely
7 – It’s a nightmare
8 – Shouldn’t of
9 – 24/7
10 – It’s not rocket science

The list appears in a new book, Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare, by Jeremy Butterfield. (From


In Canada, we often hear people speaking French, and along with it comes a few scattered English words.  Maybe there is just no English translation for a word and so the English word is just inserted in regular speech. Is it Frenglish? Call it what you may, but it is just part of our world.  However, Italy is getting tired of its people using a combination of English and Italian, calling it Anglitaliano.

The Dante Alighieri Society asked people for examples of over-used foreign words and “il weekend” emerged as the worst offender.  Other commonly used words are “cool” and “lo stress”.  The society has asked that people stop abusing the beautiful Italian language by inserting English words, and many Italians seem to agree.  They feel that using English words is sometimes faster and often thought to be very chic, but many want to keep the language clean.

You can read more about this controversy here.

Do you think the English language is “clean”?

I don’t understand you!

Flag of Esperanto

“Mi ne komprenas vin” (I don’t understand you)

During an event like the Summer Olympics in Beijing, how do people from so many countries communicate when they don’t speak the same language?  There is an interesting concept that might solve a lot of the world’s communication problems at events such as the Olympics…a universal language called “Esperanto”.

Esperanto is the most widely used “constructed language” in the world.  A constructed language is one that is invented to help people communicate when they are from different nations and speak different languages.  It is an international language.

According to Wikipedia, there are 1000 native Esperanto language speakers in the world.

10 000 people can speak it fluently.

100 000 people  use it quite actively and communicate well.

1 000 000 people understand a large amount of the language passively.

10 000 000 people in the world have studied this language at some point in their lives.

The majority of the people who speak Esperanto learn it through self study.  There are actually many websites online such as Lernu where you can learn the language and “talk” with other people around the world who are interested in Esperanto.  There are also many websites devoted to the use of Esperanto such as:

Did you know that two Roman Catholic Popes have used Esperanto in their multilingual urbi et orbi blessings at Easter and Christmas each year since 1994?

You can visit the Wikipedia site for some great examples of the language  in audio form as well as visual examples.