Language and the General Election 2019

13th December 2019 Well, the votes are cast and results in. And to distract us, here are some observations about language use during the election campaign and in the immediate aftermath. One casualty of the 2019 election may be the political interview. A striking phenomenon in both TV and radio interviews has been the breaking … Continue reading “Language and the General Election 2019”

Three Ways to Escalate an Argument

Recent extraordinary events in the UK parliament have emphasised the importance of language – not just what is said but how it is said. People have recommended being careful about what they say, calming down and ‘dialling back’ the force with which they make their points. So it is worth thinking about what kinds of … Continue reading “Three Ways to Escalate an Argument”

The Unsung Heroes of the Trump-Kim Meeting

It’s an iconic moment. Donald Trump is greeted by Kim Jong-un and together they cross into North Korea. The two men shake hands and exchange speeches expressing appreciation and friendship. They are surrounded by jostling photographers and, less obviously, security details. And, standing discreetly to one side, the two smartly-dressed individuals who make the whole … Continue reading “The Unsung Heroes of the Trump-Kim Meeting”

‘No Outsiders’ protests in Birmingham schools: the issue of “promote”

This post is inspired by the excellent inaugural lecture given by Professor Helen Sauntson in February 2019 at the University of York St John. Prof Sauntson drew our attention to the use of the work ‘promote’ in policy documents relating to Relationships and Sex Education in schools, and linked that to the use of ‘promote’ … Continue reading “‘No Outsiders’ protests in Birmingham schools: the issue of “promote””

Diane Abbott on Question Time

Diane Abbott appeared with four other guests on Question Time (BBC, 17.01.2019), in a programme mostly dedicated to questions about the Brexit process. She afterwards complained (the i, 21 Jan 2019 P17) about Fiona Bruce’s chairing of the discussion, comparing Bruce unfavourably with her predecessor in the role, David Dimbleby, and with the chair of … Continue reading “Diane Abbott on Question Time”

Words of the Year 2018

Every year the major dictionary publishers produce their ‘words of the year’. Some of the words for 2018 were: Oxford Word of the Year 2018: toxic Collins Word of the Year 2018: single-use Merriam-Webster Word of the Year 2018: justice com’s Word of the Year 2018: misinformation Cambridge Dictionary Word of the Year 2018: nomophobia … Continue reading “Words of the Year 2018”

Language for a second referendum

At the time of writing, we don’t know whether there will be a second referendum on the UK leaving / staying in the EU, let alone what the questions in that referendum would be. But the possibility of such a ‘people’s vote’ focuses attention on the issues of language and discourse that have surrounded the … Continue reading “Language for a second referendum”

Talking about the weather

The British love talking about the weather. It’s a stereotype but it’s true. The weather in Britain is constantly changing and season names are a guideline rather than a rule. (A student from a country with a more reliable set of seasons once asked me, in a July of cloud, sun, rain and fluctuating temperatures, … Continue reading “Talking about the weather”

Women’s voices after childbirth: a feminist dilemma

Research reported in various newspapers indicates that women’s voices become temporarily lower in pitch after they have a baby. Here is the beginning of the press release (dated 30 May 2018) that inspired the newspaper articles: “The pitch of new mothers’ voices temporarily drops after they have had their first baby, according to a new … Continue reading “Women’s voices after childbirth: a feminist dilemma”

Stephen Hawking, storyteller

In 1988, like thousands of others, I bought a copy of Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’ (BHT). I stopped understanding it around page 30, but I kept doggedly on to the end, partly in the (vain) hope that I would come to understand it eventually, and partly because, even without that comprehension, the … Continue reading “Stephen Hawking, storyteller”