Karen Stollznow

Author Archive: Karen Stollznow

Dr. Karen Stollznow is a linguist with a background in history and anthropology, and is the author of the best-selling book God Bless America. Her other titles include Hits & Mrs., Language Myths, Mysteries and Magic and Haunting America. Her forthcoming books include Missed Conceptions and Not What The Doctor Ordered.

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What’s up with Uptalk?

What’s up with Uptalk?

Some speakers make a sentence sound like a question? This is a phenomenon called a High Rising Terminal, but is also known popularly as Upspeak, Uptalk, or Valley Girl speech. Let’s look at the ups and downs of “Uptalk”. The High Rising Terminal (HRT) is a speech pattern in which the speaker ends a phrase […]

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Bad English?

Bad English?

Do you use prepositions to end a sentence with? Do you believe it is wrong to ever split your infinitives? And do you start your sentences with conjunctions? You are not alone. When people find out I’m a linguist they often become extra careful around me. They believe linguists are strict guardians and arbiters of […]

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What part of England are you from?

What part of England are you from?

Recently I was in a Home Depot when a sales assistant overheard my accent and asked, “What part of England are you from?” “…Sydney,” I replied. He looked at me blankly. To an American who isn’t familiar with other English accents, Australian English can easily be confused with British English. If someone hears a person […]

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A False Etymology

A False Etymology

It was just another day in the exciting life of a linguist when someone asked me, “Is fuck an acronym for the phrase ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’?” Sorry, but the the simple answer is “no”. This is a false etymology for the word. This myth has been explained in many places online already but like […]

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Isis: Egyptian Goddess or terrorist organization?

Isis: Egyptian Goddess or terrorist organization?

Of course, it’s both. Isis is the name of the ancient Egyptian goddess but it’s also one of the acronyms of the jihadist extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Isis was originally the goddess of women, health, wisdom and marriage, and the name is an ancient Greek word that comes from the […]

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Did the Australian English accent evolve from “heavy drinking”?

Did the Australian English accent evolve from “heavy drinking”?

The Telegraph UK reports that the “‘Lazy’ Australian accent [was] caused by [the] ‘alcoholic slur’ of heavy-drinking early settlers.” This is not a “new theory“. I’ve heard this one before, and it’s bullshit, mate. Australian English has some unique features. We have a penchant for abbreviating words like football to footy, biscuit to bikkie, documentary to […]

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Baby cries and the Virgin Mary Cheese Sandwich

Baby cries and the Virgin Mary Cheese Sandwich

What do baby cries and the Virgin Mary Cheese Sandwich have in common? My son is almost five months old and he’s not yet sleeping throughout the night. He still wakes us up a few times every night with his crying, which is one of his forms of communication at this age, because he’s hungry […]

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What’s the big idear? Linking and Intrusive “r”
By September 15, 2015 4 Comments Read More →

What’s the big idear? Linking and Intrusive “r”

In my previous post I talked about how American English is rhotic. That is, speakers of American English (well, most of them) pronounce their ‘r’s at the ends of words. I mentioned how Australian English (and New Zealand English, South African and British English) are non-rhotic, although we will pronounce word final /r/ in certain […]

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Do you sound American yet?

Do you sound American yet?

Today is the 11th anniversary of my arrival in the United States. I still recall disembarking the plane back on September 4, 2004, with a dreadful cold, not knowing it was Labor Day, and battling crowds at the airport. The car rental company had even handed out the vehicle they had allocated to me… I […]

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Deciphering Proto-Elamite

Deciphering Proto-Elamite

A few years ago I worked on a project to encode writing systems into Unicode. But how do you encode writing systems that haven’t yet been deciphered, such as Rongorongo? Unfortunately, you have to decipher them first. One of the scripts I researched was the mysterious Proto-Elamite, which is about 80-90% undeciphered, although it appears […]

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