Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Media Texts and Language Interventions updated

A year or two ago, I put up a list of links to articles that might be used as style models or sources of inspiration for the A2 writing coursework part of the AQA A (Language Intervention) and AQA B (Media Text) specifications. This has been updated a few times, thanks to links that colleagues and blog/Twitter people have sent me, but I thought it was probably time to add a few more, so here goes.

If you are a teacher reading this, you might also find this useful for the new AQA English Language A level that starts being taught in September 2015, where Paper 2 has a writing task similar to the media text and intervention.

Again, I'd be delighted to add any others if you want to suggest them, either as comments on this blog post or as tweets via @EngLangBlog.

Opinion pieces


Isabelle Kerr on silly new words and why they shouldn't be in the dictionary








David Marsh on arguments about language and The Pedants' Revolt






Feature articles

Rebecca Holman on ‘Menglish’ (gender and language)


Girls are way ahead of the linguistic curve (gender and language innovation)



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Heart in the Right Place, Mouth Not...

Benedict Cumberbatch - a famous actor whose face has been likened to that of an otter  - has apologised for causing offence by his inadvertent use of the term 'coloured' to refer to Black people. In an interview (ironically) about opportunities in acting for non-white actors, he dropped the c-bomb (not that one...) when he said, "I think as far as coloured actors go, it gets really different in the UK, and a lot of my friends have had more opportunities here [in America] than in the UK, and that’s something that needs to change." (from The Guardian).

'Coloured' is a strange word and one that causes a degree of confusion to a lot of people. The Civil Rights movement in the USA was often supported by the organisation NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) but in South Africa 'coloured' was a term used to segregate anyone who wasn't white but who wasn't entirely black.  For a lot of older/middle-aged people in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s 'coloured' was often seen as a less stark term than 'black' . Perhaps 'black' was viewed as too dark? This link to a piece on this blog from 2005 might help contextualise it a little.

Interestingly, this piece by Robert Lane Greene on The Economist's language blog also looks at how attitudes to swearing and taboo language have changed over time, including how racial terms have become a more stigmatised form of language while religious and sexual terms now clause less offence. But what it also shows is that as language changes, not everyone can keep up. The language we are brought up with often gets embedded in our mental vocabularies and is harder to shift from even when we know it's probably less appropriate in the modern day.

So, while Benedict Cumberbatch was obviously talking sense about the representation of black people in acting, he may well have offended a few people through his terminology. Having said that, in a time when racist and xenophobic political organisations are talking up the threat of immigration and multiculturalism, is Cumberbatch's well-intentioned but clumsy phrasing as worth getting upset about as some of the vile online postings by various UKIP and Britain First knuckledraggers?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Help with research

If you are an A level English Language teacher, Ian Cushing & Marcello Giovanelli are interested in hearing about the factors that influence your choice of specification for a piece of research they are carrying out.

You can access the survey here.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Oh man!

While sitting at home, feeling sorry for myself with a bout of man-flu, this article about a curious phenomenon called manterrupting popped up on Twitter. Apparently, manterrupting is when males interrupt women in meetings and/or co-opt (or bropropriate*) their ideas as their own.


It's a man-word like these explained here by Stan Carey on the MacMillan Dictionaries blog and makes use of the man- prefix that has become so productive in recent years. So far we've had...

  • mansplaining: patronising explanations delivered by men to women of things that women probably already know more about (Urban Dictionary definition here)
  • manspreading: sitting on public transport and spreading one's sweaty flannels in order to secure more seat space (Collins Dictionary definition here)
  • manscaping: removing unsightly body hair to make oneself more attractive (Oxford Dictionaries definition here)
  • manslamming:aggressive pavement action involving a man barging into people (often women) who he believes to be in his way (explained and illustrated in The Daily Telegraph)

But what others can you can come up with? A couple of possible ones suggested on Twitter have been:

manterpreting: (a male way of interpreting a woman's words...although when @sooze8968 suggested this I perhaps did my own manterpretation of it).
manter: (pointless chat amongst men possibly making them both late for whatever)

Any more?


*And I'm also doing just that, because Sally Flower at Colchester was the first person to mention some of these this week. Anyway, I can't help it: I'm a man and it's in my genes. 


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Slang archive

Following yesterday's post about other top tips for articles about language, Tony Thorne of King's College London sent this link to a whole range of articles he has gathered on the topic of slang. There's plenty there for anyone studying Language Change and Variation at A2 and lots of good stuff to read. Thanks very much, Tony.

Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 round-up

Just in case you missed them, here are some of my favourite links to articles and stories in the world of language from this year. I've grouped them by broad topic areas linked to the AQA A specification.

If you've got other suggestions or ones that I've obviously missed, please tweet me at @EngLangBlog

Words of the year: Language Change (ENGA3) 
From well jel to mahoosive: new words added to Oxford Dictionaries
Ben Zimmer's word vortex - new words of 2014

Language Change (ENGA3)
Everything is 'awesome' (in the Daily Mail) and done much better here by Lynne Murphy
25 years of LOL
10 slang phrases that sum up their era
War of words: how WW2 shaped language
Looking a bit UKIP: how UKIP has started to become a term of abuse.

Swearing and attitudes to it: Language Discourses (ENGA3)
The sweariest place in Britain?
Coprolalia (or potty mouth syndrome) is one of many excellent (but obviously rude) posts on a new blog dedicated to swearing, Strong Language

Technology and Language: Language and Mode (ENGA1); Language Change (ENGA3)
Why fears about texting are misplaced
Texting improves young people's spelling and grammar

Accents, dialects and varieties: Language Variation (ENGA3)
Dialects from Trinidad to Hawaii shaping the English language
Um or er? Why um is growing

Attitudes to 'good' and 'bad' English: Language Discourses (ENGA3)
Why our language prejudices don't make no sense
A plea for linguistic tolerance
What are the 'correct' rules of English grammar?

Gender and language: Language Variation (ENGA3)
Who interrupts whom in the workplace?
Why young women shouldn't have to talk like young men

Language and Representation (ENGA2)
Why the language of domestic violence matters
Sir and Miss: sexist and depressing

And my least favourite article was (of course) from the Daily Fail and its pathetic coverage of the English A levels (in this terrible article) which prompted this angry blog post.

Thanks for following in 2014

Thanks very much to all of you who have used the blog this year and especially if you've also followed via the @EngLangBlog twitter account or given me top tips for articles and links.

2014 has been a very busy year with work projects, so I've not had as much time to post stuff to the blog. Some of that work will become a bit more obvious in the next year with the new A level English Language specification from AQA starting to be taught in September 2015, something that I've been involved in (along with plenty of other people who actually know what they're doing). In the run-up to the new spec being taught, I'm planning a lot of new material (and to rework older material) to help students and teachers with the new topic areas and approaches, so this should start appearing in April and May.

In the meantime, I'll put together a few round-ups of recent tweets and links before doing a few more ENGA1 and ENGA3-related posts in the Spring and Summer terms. Anyway, all the best for Christmas and the New Year. Peace etc.

Friday, November 21, 2014

emagazine English Language conference 2015

In case you haven't already noticed, emagazine is organising its annual conference for students and teachers of English Language A level and some tickets are still available. It's been such a huge success in previous years that it's now taking place over two days in London. The speakers include some of the best and most knowledgeable experts on language (and a Max from Eastenders-lookalike on the Friday who must have bribed his way onto the bill).

For more details, visit this page and to get tickets go here. See you there (on the Friday, at least).

Technology traumas: language discourses for ENGA3

Just a quick post to flag up this nice clip from the excellent Ben Zimmer talking about technology, language and fears about language change. If you're doing your ENGA4 investigation at the moment (and you blinking well should be if I teach you) this is the sort of thing we'll be spending more time on after Christmas as we start to look in more depth at Language Discourses. Meanwhile, if you're an AQA B teacher, this is the sort of debate that will feature on the new AQA English Language spec that's coming in from September 2015.