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Language Headlines (minicast)

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Grant has the latest headlines from the world of language, including the debate over the name of the home of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Is Beijing pronounced bay-JING or bay-ZHING? Also, a recent court decision concerning an offense that’s coming to be known as “talking while Spanish.” And what’s the origin of the phrase the skinny?

Two stories out of the recently ended Olympics:

At MSNBC there’s a dispute over whether the city is Bay-JING or Bay-ZHING.

And at the London Times, Ben Macintyre talks about China’s national effort to eradicate Chinglish, that awkward and sometimes funny mix of English and Chinese that shows up on signs and menus. That means no more corrugated iron beef or government abuse chicken! The Financial Times goes into more detail.

June Casagrande, author of Mortal Syntax: A Hundred and One Language Choices That Will Get You Clobbered by the Grammar Snobs—Even If You’re Right, says in the Burbank Leader that often people ask her to comment on how technology is changing language, what with its acronyms and abbreviated words. She tells them it’s no big deal and to not blame the children. She says, “My message is: Put down the mallet and step away from your kid’s Blackberry.”

In last week’s Ethicist column in the New York Times magazine, Randy Cohen responded to a reader who asked if it was okay if he, as a fourth-grade teacher, tried to correct the regional accents of his students. Cohen replies, “You should not strive to make your students speak like network news anchors.” No doubt that is not the last he’s going to hear about that.

On his Web of Language web site, linguist Dennis Baron writes about an offense that has come to be called “talking while Spanish.” In the case, U.S. district court judge J. Thomas Marten ruled that an English-only policy at St. Anne Catholic School in Wichita, Kansas, violated no laws and that the school could, if it wished, expel children for speaking in Spanish on the playground.

Michael Quinion gives the skinny on the skinny in the 600th issue of his World Wide Words newsletter. The short version of it is that it dates to at least as early as the 1930’s and could maybe possibly perhaps simply have been coined as a way of saying “the naked truth,” with “skin” being the link between the two expressions.

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