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Dennis Baron's go-to site for language and technology in the news
Results for "July, 2011"

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  • That ugly Americanism? It may well be British.

    Matthew Engel is a British journalist who doesn't like Americanisms. The Financial Times columnist told BBC listeners that American English is an unstoppable force whose vile, ugly, and pointless new usages are invading England "in battalions." He warned readers of his regular FT column that American imports like truck, apartment, and movies are well on their way to ousting native lorries, flats, and films.

  • Groucho Marx and George Fenniman in the classic TV quiz show, 'You Bet Your Life.' What will happen to quiz shows when the computer makes human memory obsolete?

    Computers remember so you don't have to

    Imagine this scenario: You're on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" and you decide to "phone a friend" for help with that million-dollar question. Only you can't remember the number. You look helplessly into the camera, shrug, and say, "I call him every day, but he's on my contacts so I just click the link, and I guess I never bothered to memorize his number, haha." "That's some expensive haha," says the host, waving his cigar, followed by, "O.K., George, who's our next contestant?" Now a research report in the journal Science suggests that smartphones, along with computers, tablets, and the internet, are weakening our memories. This has implications not just for the future of quiz shows--most of us can't compete against computers on Jeopardy--but also for the way we deal with information: instead of remembering something, we remember how to look it up. Good luck with that when the internet is down.

  • Are laws requiring English signs discriminatory?

    English on business signs? Its the law in New York City. According to the "true name law," passed back in 1933, the name of any store must "be publicly revealed and prominently and legibly displayed in the English language either upon a window . . . or upon a sign conspicuously placed upon the exterior of the building" (General Business Laws, Sec. 9-b, Art. 131).