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401, 401V, 501V: English-Language Reading Diary

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Group 301-401 (Evening): Many Tongues Called English ...

. . . One Global Language.

This is part 8 of Melvyn Bragg's "Adventure of English" series. Last Wednesday we reached question no. 17 (see questions below video); we hope to finish this program on May 21.



  1. What "artificial" international language does Bragg speak at the beginning of this program?
  2. What did Otto von Bismarck consider the "decisive fact of modern history"? Why might he have said this?
  3. What are the "two Englishes" that Bragg refers to?
  4. what is the historical development out of which these words and phrases emerged? ...
    big business
    executive
    well-heeled
    fat cat
    go-getter
    yes-man
    assembly line
    closed shop
  5. What is the difference between "hôtel" in French and "hotel" in American English? Do you know what the more traditional English word is for a hotel (usually rather small)?
  6. Which is British English, and which is American English? ...
    elevator - lift
    closet - wardrobe
    tub with faucet - bath with tap
    bedclothes - covers
    dressing gown - bathrobe
    nightstand - bedside table
    trash can - wastepaper basket
  7. The film notes that the British obsession with proper English was mostly due to concern with three elements: manners, morals, and what else?
  8. What does Bragg mean when he says that Edwardian English "abhorred flamboyance"? As an example, how did Rupert Brooke's mother change the account of her son leaving Cambridge?
  9. The film notes that the British obsession with proper English was mostly due to concern with three elements: manners, morals, and what else?
  10. How did World War I affect the last of these elements?
  11. Are you familiar with these terms that gained currency in World War I? ...
    barrage
    firepower
    front line
    gas mask
    camouflage
    bonk
    dud
    the balloon goes up
    zero hour
    over the top
    eleventh hour
  12. About this time, the mass migration of Black Americans to Northern cities enhanced English in many ways. Examples:
    hip
    cat
    boogie
    jazz
    jive
    rock 'n roll
    mellow
    groove/groovy
    cool
    bad
  13. This was also a period of massive immigration from Central and Eastern Europe, particularly Germans and Jews. We received ...
    ouch
    hamburger
    frankfurter
    wanderlust
    seminar
    dumb
    poker
    bum
    hold on
    bagels
    lox
    pastrami
    borshch
    nosh

    ... and such examples of Yiddish humor as

    am I hungry
    I'm telling you
    now he tells me
    could I use a drink
    I should worry
  14. The 1920s were often a wild and criminal period, bringing words and phrases such as these into American English:
    gangster
    racketeer
    hatchet man
    goon
    fink
    the rap
    heist
    the can
    hot seat
    hijack
    submachine gun           
    chick
    bimbo
    broad
    babe
    blower
    spill the beans
    taken for a ride
    gimmick
    prankster
    junky
    pusher
    fuzz
    hooch
    micky finn
    to finger
  15. The vocabulary of films also entered English around this time:  
    movies
    close-up
    tear-jerker
    slapstick
    spine-chiller
    cliffhanger
  16. It was said of Winston Churchill that he mobilized the English language and sent it into war. What are some characteristics of Churchill's English usage?
  17. Who really did "invade" Great Britain during World War II and, in so doing, influenced the language with such terms as ...?
    beefburger
    crew cut
    disk jockey
    gizmo
    gobbledygook
    pinup
    GI bride
  18. How did the folklorist Jakob Grimm account for English's strength and vigor? And what contrast did Otto Jesperson make between French and English?
  19. In contrast with the intrinsic qualities of a language (as emphasized by Grimm and Jesperson), David Crystal says that a language's prominence is more a result of what factors?
  20. In postwar Germany, "knowing English gave people an edge...." What is an "edge"?
  21. How many of these words derived from the technology of the "Baby" and its descendants are you familiar with?
    digital
    program
    bit (and byte)
    input
    data
    database
    floppy disk
    hard disk
    download
    mouse
  22. In India, 40 million people speak English at first-language fluency. How many people have at least some acquaintance with English (as of 2003).
  23. What are the three motives expressed by the three young women who are learning English?
  24. What were the two original dominant languages in the European Parliament?
  25. When Bragg, in Germany, says "the smart money is on the import," what does he mean?
  26. "This kind of globalization could become a cemetery for English." What tendency is Bragg referring to? What is good and bad about this sort of English?
  27. Listen to the Singlish conversation. What are some of this dialect's features?
  28. How can you tell if an English-speaker grew up speaking Gaelic? Why do some bilingual (Gaelic and English speakers) speak Gaelic some of the time and English some of the time?
  29. Why do some call centers prefer to locate in Glasgow?
  30. Glaswegian seems to derive from two different streams of English. As a result, there are words that have two distinct pronunciations--one pronunciation is closer to the language of southern England, the other uniquely Glaswegian. We see children demonstrating these differences. Can you give some examples?
  31. What do bilingual students in Bradford, England, mean when they say "kass me" and "awr"? What words are in the borderline area for the Oxford English Dictionary?
  32. What is the rule for deleting words from the OED?
  33. What provision have we made for communicating with intelligent beings beyond earth?

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