Tagged With language

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Of all the tricky grammar topics, who versus whom ranks right up there: get it wrong, and you risk looking like a rube. Get it right and you risk looking pretentious. Get it wrong in a different way and you risk looking like a pretentious rube. So we at Lifehacker, who want to be both right and non-pretentious (but only sometimes succeed), thought we'd do a little research and break down the whole who/whom thing once and for all.

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As cliché as it is, kids really are like tiny sponges, which for parents, is the coolest and most terrifying thing. The way you respond to situations, including the words that you choose, can help shape their worldview for life. No pressure!

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New parents hear the advice often: You need to talk to your baby! A lot! The book SuperBaby proclaims 30,000 words a day is the magic number for optimal language success. One landmark study found that kids who heard 45 million words by age three later scored the highest in reading and maths. There's even a wearable word counter that you can clip onto your infant's onesie and see via an app whether you're meeting your daily word goals. Basically, a verbal Fitbit.

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The English language is constantly evolving, with new words and phrases spreading among us like an infection - we hear things, then we say those things. The problem is that we don't always bother to wonder if we should. Because of that, the original meaning of some demeaning and hateful expressions get lost in time. Here are some widely used examples.

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Say you're looking up the Möbius strip on Wikipedia and you wonder how it's pronounced. Wikipedia only shows some elaborate pronunciation guide written in the International Phonetic Alphabet. You could start googling it in another tab, but there's an easy way to translate that pronunciation guide into plain English. Just hover over the letters.

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It was confirmed last year, after much internet confusion, that Scar and Mufasa of The Lion King are indeed brothers. I am glad that's settled. Now the only remaining head-scratcher is: Why the heck does Scar have a British accent when no other lion around has one? Was he educated at some British lion boarding school? Watch a whole lot of Brit feline flicks? Most likely, the reason is this: Filmmakers often use foreign accents and non-standard dialects to voice "bad" characters.

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No word receives as much lexical scorn as "irregardless" - I felt a shiver just typing it. But unlike the made-up terms it often gets lumped in with, including "supposably" and "sherbert", irregardless is technically a real word. The Merriam-Webster dictionary says so.

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Though we grumble about it, most native English speakers have just accepted that sometimes the language doesn't make a whole lot of sense, contenting ourselves to memorise an elaborate series of tricks and sayings to help us keep things straight. But it seems one question has been plaguing people for long enough that someone had to research it: why do people add an extra "r" that doesn't exist when pronouncing the word "sherbet"?

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In my six semesters as an English major, this is the best thing I learned: When in doubt, put the best bit of a sentence at the end, the next-best bit at the beginning and the rest in the middle. So in order of bestness, that's 2, then 3, then 1.

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So, you want to learn to speak and write a new language, huh? Not just "hello" and "thank you," but really learn it well enough that you could live in the country of origin? Hope you're ready to commit. If you're a Native English Speaker, these are the languages that will take the most and least time to become proficient in.

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Even if your conversational partner can't hear you laughing or see you smiling, it's important to express your appreciation of a joke or a funny story. The many popular options can be boiled down into two types: The hahaha of simulated laughter, and the lol of metaphorical laughter.

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Every language has its own slang and phrases you should master to sound like a true native speaker. Australian English is no exception.

You may have heard “G’day mate”, “fair dinkum”, and “strewth!” before, but the dialect is much broader than that. Try these next time you speak to an Aussie and you might convince them you’re “true blue”.

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Actor and voice coach Amy Jo Jackson has consulted on productions of Venus in Fur, Henry IV, and the Broadway production of Kinky Boots. An experienced actor herself, whose credits include The Laramie Project, Into the Woods, Twelfth Night, and The Rocky Horror Show, Jackson teaches actors and non-actors how to reduce unwanted accents or gain desired ones. We talked to her about her process, the challenge of increasing intelligibility without devaluing diverse dialects and heritage, and resources outside of personal coaching.