language

KUOW reporter Deborah Wang asked native Washingtonians if they believe they have an accent. They said no. But they also pronounced "caught" and "cot" the same way -- one of the subtle distinctions of this region's accent.
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

Do Pacific Northwesterners have an accent and what does it sound like? Listener Molly in Tacoma asked that question as part of KUOW's Local Wonder series. 

Molly never thought she had an accent until she moved to Virginia and was told she had one.

Some regional accents are obvious. But many in the Pacific Northwest describe themselves as speaking “standard,” “normal,” or “plain” English. But is that really the case? What do the experts say?

Black Friday in downtown Seattle at Westlake in 2010.
Flickr Photo/John Henderson (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds speaks with linguistics journalist Ben Zimmer about the origins of the shopping phrases "Black Friday,"  "Cyber Monday," and "Super Saturday."

The growing popularity of electronic cigarettes has now sparked the notice of the estimable Oxford Dictionaries, which has chosen "vape" as the word of the year for 2014. The word can be a noun or a verb; it beat out contenders such as "bae" and "normcore."

Noting that e-cigarettes have come a long way since the early 1980s, when the "vape" was first breathed into life, the folks at Oxford Dictionaries say it took awhile for the new market, and the new word, to mature.

In an emergency, the last thing you want to hear is, "I can't understand you." The reality is emergency dispatchers in the Northwest generally speak one language, English. But in our increasingly polyglot society, some people in distress inevitably can't communicate in English.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

When we're searching for the right word to say, or we don't know what to say or how to say something, this happens.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Um - uh...

In Seattle, Scoffing At The Word 'Scofflaw'

Aug 5, 2014
The Boston Globe archives

Sometimes the words we use cause offense we never intended. That’s what happened on Monday at a Seattle City Council meeting, when one word derailed a bill officials say could bring in $21 million in unpaid fines.   

The word: scofflaw.

How Do You Save A Dying Language?

Jul 31, 2014

Ross Reynolds speaks with Devin Naar, an assistant professor at the University of Washington, about his attempts to save Ladino, a dying language spoken by Sephardic Jews. Naar discusses the language's fascinating history, uncertain future and how Ladino helped him uncover secrets about his own family.

Is Latin Making A Comeback In Schools? Caveat Lector

Jun 30, 2014

Look no further than Hollywood this summer to know that new ideas are often just old ones that have been dragged out of the past and dressed up to look fresh.

It happens in journalism too, and education journalism is no exception. Having covered this stuff for a long time now, I'm regularly coming across old stories that simply refuse to die.

As you might have gathered from our blog's title, the Code Switch team is kind of obsessed with the ways we speak to each other. Each week in "Word Watch," we'll dig into language that tells us something about the way race is lived in America today. (Interested in contributing? Holler at this form.)

The Strange Language Of Baseball

Apr 2, 2014
Flickr Photo/Keith-Allison (CC BY-NC-ND)

From 'cup of coffee' to 'Bronx cheer,' Ross Reynolds runs the language bases of baseball with linguist Ben Zimmer.

5 Football Terms Every Seahawks Fan Should Know

Jan 27, 2014
Flickr Photo/Dena Rosko (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Just like learning acronyms at a new workplace, catching on to the Seahawks’ lexicon can be daunting for the uninitiated. Ben Zimmer, linguist and self-described “word nerd,” helps us break down the terms that are flying around as often as a 12th Man flag.

The Shakespearean Lineage Of 'Where The Magic Happens'

Jan 14, 2014

MTV Cribs was the guiltiest of pop-culture pleasures in the early 2000s. The premise was simple. Stars showed off their houses, and the masses got a peek at life behind the mansion gates. Viewers saw "where the magic happened"*, to borrow a recurring phrase used by celebrities as they displayed their bedrooms. And no episode was more magical than when Mariah Carey provided a tour of her penthouse apartment and hopped on her stationary step climber in heels.

Emily Johnson Dickerson died at her home in Ada, Okla., last week. She was the last person alive who spoke only the Chickasaw language.

"This is a sad day for all Chickasaw people because we have lost a cherished member of our Chickasaw family and an unequaled source of knowledge about our language and culture," Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said in a news release. The Chickasaw Nation has about 55,000 members and is based in the southern part of central Oklahoma.

Flickr Photo/etringita (Cc-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman interviews Patricia Kuhl about her new study on the benefits of “parent-ese," or baby talk. Kuhl is a professor and co-director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington.

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