blog postsPentagon declares foreign language a weapon. O.K., maggots, drop and give me 50 conjugationsJan 30, 2007 12:21 pm1276 views The Pentagon is seeking Congressional approval to develop its latest secret weapon, foreign languages. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Michael Dominguez testified before a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee last week that language is now a critical war-fighting skill. And the U.S. is way behind in terms of the foreign language arms race.English must be protected from cheap foreign importsJan 28, 2007 11:14 pm1125 views English is a language which enjoys a 94 market share in the United States, but some Americans seem to think that the language is actually in danger. So to prop it up, four states, West Virginia, Kansas, Missouri, and Oregon, want to make English their official language, joining the 28 that already have such a law on their books and putting an end to competition from less-expensive foreign imports like Spanish, Chinese, and Hindi.Semantic State of the UnionJan 24, 2007 12:25 am1164 views President Bush delivered his annual State of the Union address tonight, and what was remarkable about the 5,000 word speech was that it included no new slogans. Thats right, read his lips, No new slogans.National Handwriting Day -- a web-only specialJan 23, 2007 8:39 pm1193 views January 23 today -- is National Handwriting Day. WIMA, the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association, which has sponsored the event for thirty years, wants you to take a break from the rigorous world of electronic communication and write a good, old-fashioned letter, complete with your penned signature, just like John Hancock. In fact WIMA picked Jan. 23 for National Handwriting Day so that it would coincide with Hancocks birthday.Esperanto, the language that promises hope but doesn't deliver, celebrates 120th birthdayJan 20, 2007 8:35 pm1923 views This year marks the 120th birthday of Esperanto, the universal language devised in 1887. But theres no reason to celebrate, so dont buy a gift for the language that promises hope but never delivers. Esperanto was a good idea. It just didnt work.State threatens to close schools violating official language lawJan 18, 2007 10:29 pm1398 views When a state passes an official language law, some people shrug and say, Hey, no big deal, its just a symbol, like declaring the state bird or flower. For some states, having an official language is little more than a patriotic gesture. Its a law thats observed about as much as the state speed limit.Another benefit of bilingualism: it delays dementiaJan 16, 2007 5:30 pm1159 views Researchers at Toronto’s Baycrest Centre for Aging are reporting “that the lifelong use of two languages can help delay the onset of dementia by four years compared to people who are monolingual.” For some time now, researchers have been convinced that being well-educated, having a high-status job, and engaging in mentally-stimulating leisure activities build up a “cognitive reserve,” a stash of brainpower that seems to push back dementia symptoms as we age. Bilingualism can now be added to this list of things promoting mental health. Using more than one language was once thought to be unhealthy. In the 1920s American psychologists regarded bilingualism as a disease, common among immigrants, that led to high rates of poverty, crime, and mental retardation. In their view, two languages took up more space in the brain than one, making less room for really important knowledge.Urban legend: don't end sentence with prepositionJan 4, 2007 9:19 am2513 views Yesterday I commented on a rulebook that told writers to avoid male pronouns in order to produce nonsexist writing. While its certainly sound advice to avoid sexist language in many kinds of writing, that advice can be easily inverted and misread as a ban on sex-specific language.Illinois bans male pronounJan 2, 2007 8:16 pm2634 views The University of Illinois has banned the male pronoun. Starting Jan. 2, 2007, all print and web-based publications, whether for audiences inside oroutside the university, must follow the rules laid out in the style guide published by the universitys Office of Public Affairs. And in the section on nonsexist language, the style guide tells us:It's time to ban the banned words listJan 1, 2007 7:30 pm1834 views The annual list of banned words was published on New Year’s Eve by Lake Superior State University. This year’s no-no’s range from the generic superlative epithet awesome to the latest high-tech prefix, any gadget beginning with i-. The list would put an end to truthiness, a word that so many people find apt that it was honored with word-of-the-year awards two years running. To be banished too are such marketing clichés as ask your doctor (if the latest pill from Merck will cure you) and now playing in theaters (as opposed to “now on iPods everywhere”?). Combined celebrity names like TomKat and Brangelina will henceforth be divorced. Gitmo, the nickname of the American military stockade at Guantanemo Bay, will be summarily executed. And all references to undocumented aliens are to be deported. Lake Superior U. boasts programs in the management of business, wildlife, and fisheries, but its Public Relations Office began a list of words it considers overused, misused, and generally useless – words like boast itself – back in 1975, and it’s fair to say that the school is better known for its efforts to manage English than for its fully-accredited programs in fire science, exercise science, or office administration, names that a skeptical reader might argue were perhaps a tad on the euphemistic side.