Like many people, I am interested in current affairs. I always need to know the latest news. I enjoy opinions. To give me my daily “fix” I peruse news websites, take part in online discussions and read social media posts. This keeps me informed . . . and profoundly depresses me.
Oh my word
How do you feel about contractions? No, not the muscle movements experienced by women giving birth. I mean contractions such as couldn’t for could not, I’ll for I will, or we’re for we are.
A few weeks ago, we discussed idiolects, the words and phrases you habitually use, and the favourite crutch-phrases and words that hold up the speech of those around us. You also have a familect. Or, more precisely, you take part in not just one familect but several.
You’ll have seen Oor Wullie’s Big Bucket Trail, I hope? The art installations have brightened streets across Scotland. It’s a wonderful idea and helps very good causes. But I might have a word with Wullie, the wee scamp, about his language. His “Jings, crivvens, help ma boab” is a strangled oath, sometimes called a minced oath.
Dear reader, I wish to apologise. Last week in this column, to my acute embarrassment, I made a mistake. I used the plural “phenomena”, but was referring to a singular and should have used “phenomenon”.
A few weeks ago I became involved in the modern phenomena of podcasting. The podcast isn't about language, however, it discusses household tips. Nowadays the young would call them “life hacks”, but I refuse to countenance such a silly neologism.
I found myself in discussion with a friend who shares my enthusiasm for clarity in language, but who holds opposite opinions on what are and are not effective and acceptable ways to communicate.
The Oxford English Dictionary has released a list of new words included on its pages. They do this every three months, and the rate at which words are added is dizzying. This quarter’s tally is 1,400.
Some of you will be Dundonians. There also will be Forfarians among you, and some Arbroathians, and Fifers, and Brechiners. These area-specific titles are demonyms, the word stems from the Ancient Greek word for “people” or “tribe”.
There is a war of words raging across the globe. The opposing forces are, on one side, the entire North American continent, and a battalion of etymology experts at the Oxford University Press (with support from The Oxford English Dictionary). And on the other side . . . me.