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The rise of COVID ‘snowclones’ – the mother of all linguistic phrases

The rise of COVID ‘snowclones’ – the mother of all linguistic phrases

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an explosion of new words and phrases in English (for example, ‘covidiot’) and other languages, e.g. ‘Coronaspeck’ in German (to describe lockdown weight gain) that have helped us make sense of a period defined by social confusion and constant change, as well as global stagnation. The scope of language innovation in relation to…

From the ARPANET to today’s Internet

From the ARPANET to today’s Internet

On October 29th, we celebrate the most important invention in human history: the Internet. In 1969, on that day the first Internet transmission ever had succeeded. While the Internet may not have been possible without a million other monumental inventions that came before it, it’s hard to find any other invention with such a monumental impact on mankind, having changed…

Why we have created new language for Coronavirus

Why we have created new language for Coronavirus

From ‘covidiots’ to ‘quarantine and chill’, the pandemic has led to many terms that help people laugh and commiserate. Throughout history, challenging circumstances have given rise to new ways of expressing those challenges. George Eliot, the 19th Century writer who was famously frustrated by rigid gender and lifestyle norms, is credited with the first recorded use of the word ‘frustrating’. More…

How did spoken language start?

How did spoken language start?

This is a great question, but it is such a hard question that in 1866 the Linguistic Society of Paris got sick of people writing about it with nothing more than guesses, and banned articles on the topic. Fortunately, scientific progress in the past 150 years has changed this situation. We don’t have all the answers, but we can make…

Linguists found the world’s “weirdest” languages – and English is one of them

Linguists found the world’s “weirdest” languages – and English is one of them

Is English a “weird” language? Many of us might feel this is true when we’re trying to explain its complex spelling rules, or the meanings of idioms such as “it’s raining cats and dogs” to someone who is learning it. Teaching or learning any language is, however, never an easy task. But what is a “weird” language anyway? As linguists,…

The stunning evolution of humankind in just 17 seconds

The stunning evolution of humankind in just 17 seconds

A short hypnotic video tells the evolution of our species with a dramatic flipbook animation
Time is relative, and there’s even something illusionist about it, and this is especially true when we try to condense the entire history of humanity within a small flipbook. This video does just that. It tells the story of the species: 550 million years of evolution in just a few seconds.

What’s the language of the future?

What’s the language of the future?

As English takes over the world, it’s splintering and changing – and soon, we may not recognise it at all This article is excerpted from the new book, “The Language Wars: A History of Proper English” from Farrar, Straus and Girous. No language has spread as widely as English, and it continues to spread. Internationally the desire to learn it is…