Take Two: Words We Cannot Say…Except When We Can

I am a sucker for an online linguistic survey. Recently, I saw a tweet about this survey,  being done by a PhD student in Helsinki, about attitudes towards offensive language in English. I jumped right on it.

It then got me thinking about this post that I wrote over two years ago (originally published on 10 June 2012). Here it is, with some minor edits, but still with no pictures.

Read, comment, then go take the survey! Continue reading

When words aren’t good enough, we just need a date.

Once again, the same as this day one year ago, I did not plan or expect to be writing anything to mark the anniversary of terrorist attacks. However, an idea had been planted and, without my realizing it until I got home on Monday night, it grew into something bigger that demanded the light.

A few days ago on her Facebook page, an old friend of mine expressed her surprise when she realized the official name that had been assigned to the calendar date of September 11: Patriot Day. Her first instinct was to be annoyed. “WTF is Patriot Day? A sugar coated version of a terrorist attack?” she asked.

She’s not the only one to be either surprised or annoyed at the name change. Continue reading

To all the dialects I’ve loved before: Pittsburgh edition.

Very shortly after returning to the United States after living abroad for five years, I was buying some new eyeglasses. The saleswoman asked me where I was from. I named a town a few miles away.

“No,” she said, “What country are you originally from?”

Without even realizing it, I supposedly sounded ‘foreign’, which amused me because I had just been trying to identify her foreign accent. So I paid closer attention to what exactly I was doing, and that’s when I heard it: subtly changing /th/ sounds to a soft /t/ (voiceless) or /d/ (voiced); saying ‘yah, yah’ instead of ‘yes’;  clipping my diphthongs ever so slightly so they sounded more ‘pure’.

Oh! I was mimicking her. And apparently quite well. Continue reading