A Mind @ Play

random thoughts to oil the mind

Tag: English Page 1 of 2

A linguistics professor was addressing his class one day, and made the following remark: “In some languages, like in English, a double negative will make a positive. In some other languages, such as Russian, the double negative will remain a negative. Yet there is no language on the planet in which a double positive becomes a negative.”

A voice from the back of the room popped up, “Yeah, right.”

Daily Links

What If English Were Phonetically Consistent? – Seriously impressive little piece of Thespian skill, almost like going through the English fossil record.

The Rogue Consultant – One man fed up with Brexit has decided to say it loud. One van, 32 countries, 30,000 km, two words.

Auditorium – A playful mix of colour and music all packaged in a little Flash game.

Badger or Bulbasaur – have children lost touch with nature? – Young children are now more capable at identifying Pokémon than real animals.

[Photo by Hans Veth on Unsplash]

On Lady Mondegreen’s Eggcorns

Imperfection is part and parcel of how we communicate, and one of the beautiful things about the evolution of language is how little imperfections can create entirely new constructs, as words and phrases are misheard, misunderstood, misinterpreted and misstated. One of my favourite examples in this regard is the ‘mondegreen’, a term normally used to denote a misheard song lyric, although it originated with a line of poetry:

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl o’ Moray,
And Lady Mondegreen.Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry

The poor victim Lady Mondegreen was in fact Sylvia Wright’s interpretation of hearing the true line: And laid him on the green.

However, aside from causing amusement and consternation, there’s only so much a misheard lyric can contribute to the language. But a word I came across today covers a much broader spectrum for when people mishear words and parse them through their own filters to make sense of the noise: eggcorns. The word itself has a cute origin: when you’re told for the first time that the egg-shaped seed in your hand is an ‘acorn’, thinking you heard ‘eggcorn’ seems a natural enough assumption.

Here’s a great list of some of the more common eggcorns around. It’s particularly interesting when more archaic words end up being given a new lease of life, such as when talking about testing your metal, or transforming the Spanish cucaracha into the more familiar cockroach.

[Image courtesy of Tamara Menzi @ unsplash.com]

Daily Links

Language anxieties: A long decline – A cute article over at the Economist, detailing the eternal fear of the decline of language.

21 Photographers Doing Whatever It Takes to Get the Perfect Shot – Cute collection of some daredevils and proud-free hobbyists pursuing their passion.

Internet slang meets American Sign Language – Looking at the spread of new signs to meet the needs of modern language.

24 Food Puns for the United States – Cute photography project playing wordy puns on the USA.

25 maps that explain the English language – Fascinating little collection of maps in some way detailing the growth, development and spread of the English language, including familial relations and modern day imports. One even offers a comparison of the vocabulary found in rappers’ lyrics alongside the works of Shakespeare or Moby Dick.

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This post is also available in English.

Kleine Randbemerkung. In meiner Zeit als Sprachdozent habe ich oft den Fehler bei den Steigerungsformen gehört, wobei der Deutsche die Präposition ‘als’ durch ein ähnlich klingendes englisches  Wort ersetzt:

Die Grünen sind beliebter als die SPD.

The Green Party is more popular as the SPD.

Jedoch wo man eine andere Komparativform verwendet, ob umgangsprachlich oder als Dialektform, führt dies zu anderen Fehlübersetzungen in dem Englischen:

Es ist schneller mit dem Zug zu fahren wie mit dem Auto.

It’s faster to go by train like with the car.

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