I like hyphens.

Thousands of hyphens perish as English marches on

By Simon Rabinovitch2 hours, 33 minutes ago

About 16,000 words have succumbed to pressures of the Internet age and lost their hyphens in a new edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

Bumble-bee is now bumblebee, ice-cream is ice cream and pot-belly is pot belly.

And if you’ve got a problem, don’t be such a crybaby (formerly cry-baby).

The hyphen has been squeezed as informal ways of communicating, honed in text messages and emails, spread on Web sites and seep into newspapers and books.

“People are not confident about using hyphens anymore, they’re not really sure what they are for,” said Angus Stevenson, editor of the Shorter OED, the sixth edition of which was published this week.

Another factor in the hyphen’s demise is designers’ distaste for its ungainly horizontal bulk between words.

“Printed writing is very much design-led these days in adverts and Web sites, and people feel that hyphens mess up the look of a nice bit of typography,” he said. “The hyphen is seen as messy looking and old-fashioned.”

The team that compiled the Shorter OED, a two-volume tome despite its name, only committed the grammatical amputations after exhaustive research.

“The whole process of changing the spelling of words in the dictionary is all based on our analysis of evidence of language, it’s not just what we think looks better,” Stevenson said.

Researchers examined a corpus of more than 2 billion words, consisting of full sentences that appeared in newspapers, books, Web sites and blogs from 2000 onwards.

For the most part, the dictionary dropped hyphens from compound nouns, which were unified in a single word (e.g. pigeonhole) or split into two (e.g. test tube).

But hyphens have not lost their place altogether. The Shorter OED editor commended their first-rate service rendered to English in the form of compound adjectives, much like the one in the middle of this sentence.

“There are places where a hyphen is necessary,” Stevenson said. “Because you can certainly start to get real ambiguity.”

Twenty-odd people came to the party, he said. Or was it twenty odd people?

Some of the 16,000 hyphenation changes in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, sixth edition:

Formerly hyphenated words split in two:

fig leaf

hobby horse

ice cream

pin money

pot belly

test tube

water bed

Formerly hyphenated words unified in one:










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I really don’t know what I think of this story from Reuters, out of Germany.  Perplexed certainly, but other than that… I’m just speechless.

Glamorous politician wants law to allow 7-year itch

By Madeline ChambersFri Sep 21, 4:00 AM ET

Bavaria’s most glamorous politician — a flame-haired motorcyclist who helped bring down state premier Edmund Stoiber — has shocked the Catholic state in Germany by suggesting marriage should last just 7 years.

Gabriele Pauli, who poses on her web site in motorcycle leathers, is standing for the leadership of Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU) — sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) — in a vote next week.

She told reporters at the launch of her campaign manifesto on Wednesday she wanted marriage to expire after seven years and accused the CSU, which promotes traditional family values, of nurturing ideals of marriage which are wide of the mark.

“The basic approach is wrong … many marriages last just because people believe they are safe,” she told reporters. “My suggestion is that marriages expire after seven years.”

After that time, couples should either agree to extend their marriage or it should be automatically dissolved, she said.

Fifty-year-old Pauli, twice divorced, is a maverick intent on shaking up her male-dominated and mainly Catholic party which has dominated Bavarian politics since World War Two.

“This is about bringing ideas into the CSU and starting a discussion,” she told German television on Thursday after she had unleashed a wave of criticism from other politicians.

Former foe Stoiber said she did not belong in the CSU and European lawmaker Ingo Freidrich dismissed her views.

“She is diametrically contradicting our Christian, ethical values,” Freidrich said.

Peter Ramsauer, head of the CSU in Germany’s parliament, compared Pauli’s ideas to “the dirt under your fingernails”.

Pauli, who attracted attention earlier this year when she posed for a magazine wearing long black latex gloves, was at the centre of a snooping scandal which eventually led to Stoiber, Bavarian premier for 14 years, saying he would stand down early.

She said his office tried to obtain details about lovers and alcohol consumption to use against her.

The CSU will elect Stoiber’s successor as party head at a conference next week. He will be replaced as state premier in early October.

Viewed as a party rebel, Pauli stands almost no chance of winning next week’s vote. The contest has been fought mainly between Bavarian state economy minister Erwin Huber and German Consumer Minister Horst Seehofer.

The popularity of Seehofer, a 58-year-old married father of three, has suffered from the disclosure that he had been having an affair with a younger woman who recently had his baby.

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Elysium Players

Congratulations to the cast members of the E.P. Family Day One-Act!

Mister Johnson – Joshua Johnson

Stephanie – Blair Bailey

Mary – Hailey Highfill

Janet – Maggie Green

Eric – Doug Weaver

Jeffy – Kevin Curry

Zeke – Kellen Stokes

Janet’s Mom – Kristin Vermilion

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Regions of Dying Languages Named

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, Associated Press WriterTue Sep 18, 2:33 PM ET
When every known speaker of the language Amurdag gets together, there’s still no one to talk to.

Native Australian Charlie Mangulda is the only person alive known to speak that language, one of thousands around the world on the brink of extinction.

From rural Australia to Siberia to Oklahoma, languages that embody the history and traditions of people are dying, researchers said Tuesday.

While there are an estimated 7,000 languages spoken around the world today, one of them dies out about every two weeks, according to linguistic experts struggling to save at least some of them.

Five hotspots where languages are most endangered were listed Tuesday in a briefing by the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages and the National Geographic Society.

In addition to northern Australia, eastern Siberia and Oklahoma and the U.S. Southwest, many native languages are endangered in South America — Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Bolivia — as well as the area including British Columbia, and the states of Washington and Oregon.

Losing languages means losing knowledge, says K. David Harrison, an assistant professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College.

“When we lose a language, we lose centuries of human thinking about time, seasons, sea creatures, reindeer, edible flowers, mathematics, landscapes, myths, music, the unknown and the everyday.”

As many as half of the current languages have never been written down, he estimated.

That means, if the last speaker of many of these vanished tomorrow, the language would be lost because there is no dictionary, no literature, no text of any kind, he said.

Harrison is associate director of the Living Tongues Institute based in Salem, Ore. He and institute director Gregory D.S. Anderson analyzed the top regions for disappearing languages.

Anderson said languages become endangered when a community decides that its language is an impediment. The children may be first to do this, he explained, realizing that other more widely spoken languages are more useful.

The key to getting a language revitalized, he said, is getting a new generation of speakers. He said the institute worked with local communities and tries to help by developing teaching materials and by recording the endangered language.

Harrison said that the 83 most widely spoken languages account for about 80 percent of the world’s population while the 3,500 smallest languages account for just 0.2 percent of the world’s people. Languages are more endangered than plant and animal species, he said.

The hot spots listed at Tuesday’s briefing:

• Northern Australia, 153 languages. The researchers said aboriginal Australia holds some of the world’s most endangered languages, in part because aboriginal groups splintered during conflicts with white settlers. Researchers have documented such small language communities as the three known speakers of Magati Ke, the three Yawuru speakers and the lone speaker of Amurdag.

• Central South America including Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Bolivia — 113 languages. The area has extremely high diversity, very little documentation and several immediate threats. Small and socially less-valued indigenous languages are being knocked out by Spanish or more dominant indigenous languages in most of the region, and by Portuguese in Brazil.

• Northwest Pacific Plateau, including British Columbia in Canada and the states of Washington and Oregon in the U.S., 54 languages. Every language in the American part of this hotspot is endangered or moribund, meaning the youngest speaker is over age 60. An extremely endangered language, with just one speaker, is Siletz Dee-ni, the last of 27 languages once spoken on the Siletz reservation in Oregon.

• Eastern Siberian Russia, China, Japan — 23 languages. Government policies in the region have forced speakers of minority languages to use the national and regional languages and, as a result, some have only a few elderly speakers.

• Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico — 40 languages. Oklahoma has one of the highest densities of indigenous languages in the United States. A moribund language of the area is Yuchi, which may be unrelated to any other language in the world. As of 2005, only five elderly members of the Yuchi tribe were fluent.

The research is funded by the Australian government, U.S. National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society and grants from foundations.


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Food for thought– literally

This article from Yahoo! Food may give you some guidance the next time you need to eat while studying.  Insert “famished college student” for “kid” and you should be fine.

8 Study Snacks That Make Kids Smarter

Posted Mon, Aug 20, 2007, 9:36 pm PDT


Ask any kid, second-grader, or swaggering senior: Studying makes you hungry! Memorizing math formulas? Chips and soda are part of the equation. Digging into Moby Dick? Harpoon a bag of M&Ms.

Actually, the idea’s right on — eating can help the brain focus, if you know which foods to choose. But gee, surprise, candy and chips aren’t among them.

What will help kids who are cracking the books? It depends on what kind of help they need, but it comes down to one of two Cs:

Carbs, healthy ones, for kids who tend to get so freaked about surprise tests or tough teachers that they lose all focus.
Comfort foods for studiers who start out okay but gradually get tense, can’t sleep, wake up exhausted, and then don’t do well.

Of the two, only one needs a little explaining: carbs. The brain needs glucose, or blood sugar, to stay sharp and alert. In fact, the brain is the only organ in the body that uses only glucose for energy. Glucose comes from carbohydrates. But the brain (like the body) does much better with a steady flow of energy, not the quick rush it gets from eating rapidly absorbed carbs like candy and chips. So slowly absorbed carbs — which, gee, more surprises, include whole grains, fruits, and veggies — produce longer lasting mental energy.
What’s more, in addition to supplying the brain with energy, healthy carbs also have a steadying effect, explains Mindy Hermann, RD: They help boost serotonin, a calming brain chemical. And that combo — calm energy — is an ideal mix for many study-stressed kids, especially an hour or two before an exam or chem lab. So what to feed the homework harassed?

A cup of something warm and soothing.
Whether it’s a light soup, warm milk, chamomile tea, or diet hot cocoa (to avoid the sugar hit) is personal preference — all can help kids who’ve gotten tightly wound up to settle down again, says Hermann. Offer these about an hour before bedtime.
Apple slices spread with peanut butter.
The carb-rich fruit will give serotonin a boost, which helps calm raggedy nerves so it’s easier to focus. The peanut butter is filled with healthy fats.
Cheerios or other oat “Os” cereal. A big bowl of these to munch and crunch on can be a great study snack. This whole-grain kid favorite delivers a lot of nutrients as well as slowly absorbed, subtly calming carbs.
Grapes. Like apples, these sweet carbs get serotonin going while their high fiber content slows down sugar absorption — plus fiber itself seems to have stress-soothing abilities. Some kids prefer their grapes frozen for melt-in-the-mouth fun.
Whole-wheat pretzels. They have the same crunch as regular pretzels but loads more fiber and often lots less thirsty-making salt, so studiers aren’t constantly breaking their train of thought by wanting yet another drink.

More than good grades are on the table here, by the way. Kids who get into the habit of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables –aka healthy carbs — are likely to keep it up into adulthood. If they do, their RealAge could be 36 when they’re actually turning 40. Smart.

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Language and Culture

I recently found a quotation that I had written down several years ago because I found it so interesting in its construction, but ultimately it’s commentary on language and culture.  I hope you might also appreciate it.

“The language is gonna have the characteristics of the people that speak it. If the people is inconsistent the language is gonna be inconsistent. If the people is fucking greedy, take shit no matter where they go– the language is gonna take shit no matter where it go. The language is a reflection of the people.”   Marlon Hill, Word Wars


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Welcome back

Today, all new students at Columbia College will participate in the pinning ceremony– a beautiful ceremony that simply welcomes each student into the fold that is 156 years of tradition and education. It’s definitely my favorite moment– inextricably tied with the Ivy Chain ceremony in the spring. Welcome, for the first time, to new students and welcome back to returning students. Monday will be here before we know it.

The following link has given me renewed energy for the new semester. It reminds why I teach what I do– the power of the communication is far-reaching, all consuming, and critical to every thing we hold dear in our lives. I had a student once say, “Why do I have to take a speech class? I mean, everyone knows how to speak, it’s like walking.” Do we really? Do we all really know how to speak? And it’s like walking? Maybe he was right… What happens if you lose the ability to walk? Just like the inability to speak, it is debilitating and life-changing.


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