To Tweet or Not To Tweet-That Is the Question

Well, its official. “Twitter” has officially joined the English language as a verb, at least according to the Associated Press.

The latest addition of the AP’s Stylebook (the style Bible for most of the press) includes the verb “to Twitter” as acceptable usage. Of course, if you use Twitter, you may be aware that some people say “to tweet” instead of “to twitter.”

Snotty grammar geeks on both sides of the divide often step up to ostentatiously correct each other in blog comments and forums.

Currently, it’s almost impossible to talk about Twitter without sounding foolish to somebody. Nobody disputes that an update posted on Twitter is a tweet, but saying “I just posted a tweet” sounds awkward, so you really do have to take sides.

Has the AP settled the debate? Actually, no… They have also approved the use of “tweet” as a verb, leaving the word choice up to individual writers.

So which is it, to twitter or to tweet? The AP may not be taking sides, but Twitter co-founder Biz Stone did, in an interview with TV show The View, last month. According to Mr. Stone, “to Twitter” is the preferred nomenclature.

In addition to approving the use of “twitter” and “tweet,” the AP Stylebook also has its very own Twitter account. You can keep in touch with them by following @ AP Stylebook. However, they don’t take grammar questions through the Twitter account. If you have additional questions about how to write about Twitter’s products and services, you can use the “Ask the Editor” feature on the AP website.

By the way, a couple of weeks ago, we reported that the English language was about to acquire its one-millionth word, at least according to the publicity-hungry folks at the Global Language Monitor. Oddly enough, the one-millionth word was recently declared to be “Web 2.0.”

English is a Crazy Language

When you speak it every day, you tend to take it for granted, but the English language is actually kind of crazy. In fact, a video reminding us of all the ways in which its sanity could be called into question recently went viral on YouTube. Here it is, for your viewing pleasure:

A few gems from the video (all excerpts from Richard Krogh’s poem “The English Lesson”):

“If you speak of a box, then the plural is ‘boxes.’ But the plural of ‘ox’ should be ‘oxen,’ not ‘oxes.'”

” One is a goose, two are called ‘geese.’ Yet the plural of ‘moose’ should never be ‘meese.'”

“We talk of a brother and also of brethren, but though we say ‘mother,’ we never say ‘methren.'”

“I take it you already know/ Of tough and bough and cough and dough?”

“Watch out for meat and great and threat/ (they rhyme with suite and straight and debt).”

Why is English so weird?

Wikipedia notes that “In general, English spelling does not reflect the sound changes in the pronunciation of the language that have occurred since the late fifteenth century.”

For example, once upon a time, tough, bough, cough, and dough were all pronounced the same. However, the pronunciations naturally shifted over the years. The spelling, on the other hand, did not.

In fact, it seems like the only “spelling reforms” that ever stuck in English were the reforms that had the effect of making things more confusing. Take “debt,” for instance. Originally, it was spelled “dette.” Apparently the “b” crept in there when people began trying to tie it to the Latin word “debitum,” from which it was believed to be descended.

What about the irregular plurals? Many of them go back to the days of Old English. For example, “oxen” and “brethren” come from Old English weak declension, while “geese” is from Old English consonantal declension.

Crazy, isn’t it?

14 Obsolete English Words that Deserve Another Chance 

Languages evolve, and English is no exception. Words come and go over time, and many eventually fall into obscurity. Sometimes, this sad fate befalls even perfectly good words…words that deserve another chance at life.  Enrich your vocabulary with thebeefwittedse 14 obsolete English words that deserve another chance.  Let’s bring them back!


Adjective. Slow-witted; stupid. According to the United Editors Encyclopedia and Dictionary, “beef-witted”
implies “a heavy, ox-like intellect.” Other sources say it’s because back in the day, people believed that eating too much beef would make you dumb. Either way, it’s an excellent insult.

He’s so beef-witted, he asked for a price check at the dollar store!


Noun. The act or condition of being a bore.

I had to skip history class today – the professor has a serious case of boreism. 


Verb. To bicker loudly about nothing.

I wish those two would stop brabbling and just break up already.  


Noun: A braggart, a person with an overly high opinion of himself.

I can’t believe that cockalorum is actually running for office!  Read more

Is English Threatening German?

Is the German language in danger? According to The Guardian, some German linguists think so.  Apparently English, German’s bigger brother, is encroaching on its sibling’s turf.

The problem is especially notable when it comes to technology – English is coining new buzzwords like “follower” and “livestream” and exporting them at an astounding rate, so quickly that the English versions catch on before German translations can gain traction.

The German Language Association, or VDS, has been trying their hardest to play catch up. This month, for example, they suggested that Germans say”Anhänger”instead of “follower”, “Direkt-Datenstrom” instead of “livestream” and “Geselligkeit” instead of “socializing.” Read more

Italian University To Go English-Only

The Politecnico di Milano, an Italian university that’s known throughout the world for its architectural and engineering programs, just made a surprising announcement: starting in 2014, most degree programs will be offered in English only. No Italian.

Why would an Italian school move to an English-only policy? In an interview with the BBC, the school’s rector, Giovanni Azzone, explained that he believed the school had no choice if it wanted to stay competitive worldwide:

“We strongly believe our classes should be international classes – and the only way to have international classes is to use the English language… It’s very important for our students not only to have very good technical skills, but also to work in an international environment.”

The school wants to be able to attract students from the US and the UK, as well as from India and Asian countries where English is a common second language. He continued, “We are very proud of our city and culture, but we acknowledge that the Italian language is an entry barrier for overseas students.”

Learning English as a second language can open up doors, and some of the Italian students interviewed by the BBC approved of the idea because it would give them a chance to improve their English proficiency via immersion, without having to leave the country. Other teachers and students were concerned that the quality of instruction would suffer once everyone had to switch to a foreign language.

Professor Emilio Matricciani, who has started a petition against the decision, explained:

“Speaking Italian to our countrymen is like watching a movie in colour, high definition, very clear pictures. On the contrary, speaking English to them, even with our best effort, is, on the average, like watching a movie in black and white, with very poor definition, with blurred pictures.”

What do you think? Is it right for a public university to adopt another country’s language? If all the degrees are in English, will students who travel there to study be missing out on the chance to experience the local culture?

Photo Credit: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by bibendum84

Old England

Oldest English Words

According to the BBC Reading University researchers have identified some of the oldest English words in the languages history.

‘I’, ‘We’, ‘Two’ and ‘Three’ are among the oldest known words, which could be thousands of years old.

The Researchers have created a computer model, which can analyse the rate of change of words. It can also predict which words will become extinct.

They believe “squeeze”, “guts”, “stick” and “bad” could become obsolete first.

The computer programme is designed to log a timeline showing how modern Indo-European words have changed over time. Students can use the software to look up any date and they can see which words were used at that time.
The researchers using the computer programme found that common words or words with precise meanings were more inclined to be the oldest and most long standing.

Basically, if you were able to go back in time (if you can that’s amazing you should tell someone about that!) Reading University could provide you with a pocket guide to the language of that time. This would enable you to communicate with English speakers throughout the ages.

This amazing piece of software can also travel forward in time and predict how words are likely to change in the future.

Does the T.A.R.D.I.S have this facility the Doctor might find this tool very useful.
Basically these guys have too much time on their hands; if they invented a tool to actually travel in time then I’d be impressed.

Words will change over time, it is inevitable. Kids make up words all the time, some stick, some don’t. New words are added to our dictionary now and again, but I don’t think old ones really disappear or become extinct. They will always be remembered somehow in books or multimedia programmes.

I guess words go out of fashion. It’s all swings and roundabouts really.

Archive of English Accents

English is the third most commonly spoken native language in the world, and if you count people who speak it as a second language, it’s probably the language with the most speakers overall. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone speaks it in the same way – far from it! Even among native English speakers, there are too many local dialects and accents to name. When you throw in people who speak English as a second language, the variation becomes even more extreme.

To help document and catalogue the many different ways in which English is spoken, Steven Weinberger, a linguistics professor George Mason University in the United States, has created the Speech Accent Archive.

According to Voice of America, the archive consists of recordings of people reading the following paragraph, written to include most of the sounds in the English language: Read more

How British Travelers Deal with Language Barriers

It’s not exactly news that most travellers from the UK don’t bother to learn the local languages of the places they visit. A 2011 study by travel agency Sheila’s Wheels found that “51 percent of British travellers said they “rarely” took the time to learn how to say anything in the local language before taking off.”

Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect to become fluent- but memorizing at least some key words and phrases tends to make life easier for you and earns goodwill from the locals.

If you can’t speak a word of the local language, how do you expect to be able to communicate? The results of a new survey from online interpreting firm i-interpret4u show the typical methods many Brits use to communicate across cultures. According to a write-up on Travel Daily News, one-third of respondents reported using one or more of the following methods to communicate:

  • Making hand gestures.
  • Speaking more loudly and slowly. (Note: It’s not that they can’t hear you, it’s that they can’t understand.)
  • Smiling and pretending to understand. Read more

The English Language Goes Social

2009 was the year the English language officially went social, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

First, in November, the Oxford English Dictionary declared “unfriend” to be the “Word of the Year.” Now, Oxford English Press has released a new list of “Words of the Year,” several of which also come from the world of social networking.

According to the Telegraph, the list was compiled by dictionary expert Susie Dent for the Oxford English Press, and it definitely illustrates how much the rise of social networking sites is changing our language. Here’s a quick breakdown of the words that were drawn from social media and the Internet:

  • Tweetup: A gathering, organized via Twitter, where Twitter users meet in real life.
  • Hashtags: A way to track topics and conversations on Twitter by placing the hash sign (#) before the topic of the  post. Hashtags are often used to organize tweetups.
  • Tag cloud- A way to show readers what topics are the most important or most frequently discussed on a blog by arranging the tags in a loose cloud formation, with most frequently used tags larger than the others.
  • Slashdot effect: What happens when a larger, more popular website links to a smaller site, sending a flood of new traffic that causes the smaller site to slow down or crash.

It’s not just the Oxford English Dictionary, either. The Global Language Monitor’s Word of the Year from 2009 was “Twitter.”

In an article on the PC Monitor, Paul Payack, the President of the Global Language Monitor, explained the decision by saying, “In a year dominated by world-shaking political events, a pandemic, the after effects of a financial tsunami and the death of a revered pop icon, the word Twitter stands above all the other words.”


What language does the Internet speak? All languages, of course, but English much more so than others. Per Wikipedia, anywhere from 65 to 85 percent of the content on the World Wide Web today is written in English. That’s great for all of us English speakers, but what about the huge chunk of the world that doesn’t speak English? Their Internet experience is necessarily limited by their language skills. 

Luis von Ahn, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, wants to change that equation by doing nothing less than translating the entire Internet.

Obviously, that’s a staggering prospect considering the sheer amount of content on the web. But according to Fox News, that’s the ambition behind Professor von Ahn’s new language-learning start-up Duolingo. Duolingo offers free language learning to everybody. Since the best way to learn is by doing, language learners on the service are simply assigned a few sentences to translate from the language they’re trying to learn into their native language. Each little snippet of text is from a real website. Duolingo then records the translation, compares it to other people’s translations of the same sentence and determines what the best translation for the sentence probably is. This is similar to the method used by Facebook to translate its website, though of course Duolingo’s project is much more ambitious in scope. Read more