Writing Skills: XKCD is on point about language again.

Here’s a study from this year on kids who use abbreviations while texting, and here’s a summary of previous studies: 

The first study, published in 2008, showed that 11 and 12-year-olds in Britain who used more textisms — whether misspelled words (“ppl,” instead of “people”), grammatically incorrect substitutions (“2” for “to” or “too”), wrong verb forms (“he do” instead of “he does”), or missing punctuation — compared to properly written words tended to have slightly better scores on standardized grammar and writing tests and had better spelling, after controlling for test scores in other subjects and other factors. A 2009 study, conducted by some of the same researchers on 88 kids between 10 and 12 years old, found similar associations between high textism use and slightly better reading ability.

Hovertext from the xkcd comic: I’d like to find a corpus of writing from children in a non-self-selected sample (e.g. handwritten letters to the president from everyone in the same teacher’s 7th grade class every year)—and score the kids today versus the kids 20 years ago on various objective measures of writing quality. I’ve heard the idea that exposure to all this amateur peer practice is hurting us, but I’d bet on the generation that conducts the bulk of their social lives via the written word over the generation that occasionally wrote book reports and letters to grandma once a year, any day.

Homophonophobia, from Magic Coffee Hair.

Another linguistic faux-phobia, which can be found on a variety of t-shirts, is “Polyamory is wrong! It should be multiamory or polyphilia, but combining Greek and Latin roots is just wrong!” 

For reference, there are actually many well-established macaronic or hybrid words in English, including  monolingual, automobile, neuroscience, and television.

Watch on oupacademic.tumblr.com

Are you a potty mouth? You might like this video of Melissa Mohr’s (author of Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing) historical tour of profanities, from ancient Rome and the Bible to modern day. NB. There’s swearing. If you don’t like rude things, best not watch this.

English is known for its vowel reduction. A lot of unstressed syllables are pronounced as a schwa, and even the “u” in nurse, etc, are pronounced as a mid central vowel.
After The Great Vowel Shift, the vowels have moved closer to the center. Low vowels were raised and high vowels were laxed and centralized.
After a century, English wəd prəbələ sənd səmthən lək thəs (and to Cantonese speakers, they probably sound monotone)
[linguistics humour]

xkcd 1383: Magic Words

Hovertext: “And then whisper ‘anapest’ in my ear as you hold me”?

"Story water paper doorway" is a series of trochees (strong-weak)
"Disarm Adele’s giraffe grenade" is a series of iambs (weak-strong)
"Strawberry scorpion poetry" is a series of dactyls (strong-weak-weak)

And then trochees, iambs, dactyls, and anapests (weak-weak-strong) are all types of metrical feet. (The word “anapest” is itself a dactyl though.)