The Real Babel Fish?

The Real Babel Fish?

New York-based company Waverly Labs have announced their new invention: The Pilot – the world’s first translation earpiece that translates conversations between people speaking different languages in real time. The company is planning to release versions for English, Spanish, French and Italian, while versions for East Asian, Hindi, Semitic, Arabic, Slavic and African languages will […]

Posted in: Uncategorized
Effect vs. Affect

Effect vs. Affect

I was grading papers recently and several students used the word affect when they meant effect, and vice versa. This is a very common error that I see often and I thought it’s time that I share my tricks for differentiating between the two words. Effect and affect look and sound similar but they behave […]

Posted in: Uncategorized
Make A Name For Yourself

Make A Name For Yourself

Recently, we received a wedding invitation that was addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Baxter”. I’ll have to give the invitation to Mrs. Matthew Baxter when I find her. When I got married in 2012 I decided to keep my last name (or surname, as people call it in Australia, New Zealand and Britain). Why? […]

Posted in: Uncategorized
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 […]

Posted in: Uncategorized
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 […]

Posted in: Uncategorized
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 […]

Posted in: Uncategorized
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 […]

Posted in: Uncategorized
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 […]

Posted in: Uncategorized
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 […]

Posted in: Uncategorized
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 […]

Posted in: Uncategorized