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Language Headlines (minicast)

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This week’s language headlines include the publication of new slang dictionary, and an entire book devoted to that tiny piece of punctuation, the period, and a tip-off about audio recordings of famous authors whose voices would otherwise be lost.

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Last year British slang lexicographer Jonathon Green struck a deal with the publisher Chambers Harrap to create an exhaustive dictionary of English slang. Now, says the London Telegraph, the first fruit of that relationship has appeared in the form of the Chambers Slang Dictionary.

The main sources of slang, Green says, have remained the same: sex and sexual organs, drinking, and terms of abuse. But, there are always innovations. The Telegraph offers some of them: boilerhouse, modern British rhyming slang for spouse. Jawsing, US teen slang for lying. And, muzzy, an Irish word for a naughty child.

Michael Quinion reviews the dictionary.

In the Paper Cuts blog of the New York Times, Jennifer Scheussler reviews On The Dot by Nicholas and Alexander Humez. It’s an exhaustive look at the period or the dot, that little piece of punctuation that does so much. And I do mean exhaustive. The book is so digressive and sometimes so far afield of its subject matter that you might find yourself flipping to the front to make sure you’re still reading the same book.

In the discussion forum on that page, I discovered the “fini.” This is a new piece of punctuation created by Dave Rosenthal, an assistant managing editor at the Baltimore Sun. The fini is a square instead of a circle.

Dave says, “A period is usually a fine way to end a sentence. But when there’s a forcefulness attached to the words, I worry that the period will roll away. It is, after all, just a tiny black ball.”

Do you want to find out what Virginia Woolf and John Steinbeck sounded like? They’re part of an audio collection from the British Library, called “The Spoken Word: British Writers.” It was discussed and played on NPR’s All Things Considered.

The audio is a rare find, as many recordings of the early days of radio were never saved. Recordings by George Orwell, for example, have yet to be found, even though he worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation.

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