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Language Headlines (minicast)

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The world of politics tops this week’s language headlines, including an explanation of the Bradley effect, and the ongoing debate over bilingual education. Also, what does the word fubsy mean? Grant has the answer and reports about a new favorite blog described as “lolcats for smart people.”

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Ever since it started looking like Barack Obama was more than a long shot for his party’s nomination, pollsters, and pundits have been talking about the “Bradley effect.”

It’s when polls show a black political candidate way out in front. And yet, when the votes are cast, the black candidate barely wins or doesn’t even win at all.

As William Safire writes in the New York Times, the expression comes from Tom Bradley’s loss of the governorship of California in 1982. Then, polls predicted that he would win, but, in fact, he lost by a small margin. Many people felt that Bradley, who was black, lost because hidden racists wouldn’t admit to pollsters their true intentions.

Also in the campaign coverage is an ongoing discussion of bilingual education.

Is it better to teach immigrant children only in English or should we teach them in a language they already know? That’s the premise of a debate on the New York Times Education Watch blog. The presidential candidate’s views come under some scrutiny by a couple of experts, but most interesting are the reader comments.

One wrote, “I am struck by how much the debate about the quantity of English in the classroom quickly devolves from a sensible search for the best strategy, to an ideological war that produces some very silly teaching strategies.”

Speaking of campaigns, ever heard of the word fubsy? Well, British dictionary publisher Collins is threatening to cut that and other archaic words from its dictionaries. It’s mainly a public relations effort, but they’ve succeeded in bringing out the word-lovers to nominate and mull favorite archaic words of their own. Fubsy, by the way, means “short and stout.”

And finally, it’s the latest in a long line of many similar sites, but a new favorite blog is Wordsplosion. There you’ll find photographs of English gone wrong. Like the grocery store sign that says “dairy choices.” And under that it says “cheese and cheese.”

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