blog postsHouse Passes H.R. 401, a Bill to Ban Texting in SpanishMar 31, 2011 7:00 pm12114 views Special to the Web of Language Washington, D.C., April 1, 2011. The House of Representatives passed a bill today to ban text messages in Spanish. The bill, known as the "Text in English Act of 2011" (H.R. 401), amends the Telecommunications Act of 1996 by prohibiting text messages in Spanish. It is sponsored by Rep. Steve King (R., Iowa), and is co-sponsored by thirty-seven other Republican members of the House. The bill would go a long way toward protecting English, which is becoming an endangered language in the United States, Speaker of the House John Boehner told reporters after the bill's passage. The bill bans texting in other languages besides Spanish, but it protects texting in Native American languages such as Navajo and Wampanoag, Boehner said. Democrats opposing the measure pointed out that no one has spoken Wampanoag since the British banned the language in Massachusetts after King Philip's War in the 1760s.Happy birthday OK: the world's most-popular word turns 172Mar 22, 2011 6:30 pm6946 views By rights, OK should not have become the world's most popular word. It was first used as a joke in the Boston Morning Post on March 23, 1839, a shortening of the phrase "oll korrect," itself an incorrect spelling of "all correct." The joke should have run its course, and OK should have been forgotten, just like we forgot the other initialisms appearing in newspapers at the time, such as O.F.M, 'Our First Men,' A.R., 'all right,' O.W., 'oll wright,' K.G., 'know good,' and K.Y., 'know yuse.' Instead, here we are celebrating OK's 172nd birthday, wondering why the word became a lexical universal instead of a one day wonder. Most of the "abracadabraisms" popular among journalists in 1839 are long gone, but OK stuck around. It didn't go viral right away, perhaps because the first virus wouldn't be discovered for another 60 years, but unlike A.R. and K.Y., OK managed to spread beyond comic articles in newspapers, to become a word on almost everybody's lips. For that to happen, we had to forget what OK originally meant, a jokey informal word indicating approval, and then we had to repurpose it to mean almost anything, or in some cases, almost nothing at all.The e-book dilemma: should you rent or own?Mar 10, 2011 11:45 am3420 views Readers of e-books are facing a dilemma: should they rent or own? If you buy an e-book for your Kindle or iPad, chances are you're just renting the book, not purchasing it outright. Readers used to owning books find the idea of book rental strange, but if digital book distributors have their way, owning an e-book is going to be less and less of an option both for individual readers and for libraries. If you read the EULA (end user license agreement) when you buy an e-book, you'll find that Amazon and Apple actually retain the rights to the titles that they sell. The e-book that you download for a fee is DRM (digital-rights-managed, or licensed), e-book jargon for renting, and like any rental, restrictions will apply.Take the National Grammar Day QuizMar 2, 2011 11:00 pm9481 views National Grammar Day rolls around again on March 4. It's a time for rejoicing, when everybody goes out and tells someone else what's wrong with their speech or writing. Wear good sneakers, and be prepared to run away really, really fast. Last year I worried whether anybody cared about National Grammar Day. I mean, I'm not observant, but there are plenty of people who believe there's only one true way to parse a sentence and who can't wait to celebrate this day of obligation by reading the dictionary (yes, there is only one dictionary, and if you're really orthodox you may only read it facing in the direction of Oxford, or maybe if you're American Orthodox, Springfield, Massachusetts), after which you may go out to photograph three public signs with errors in them and then post them on the internet.