Archive for student posts

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Noah Webster: The Kanye West of Lexicographers

Angelica B

Image: Angelica B.

Noah Webster is undeniably problematic. It’s why once the rights to his famous dictionary were posthumously sold to Merriam, they immediately hired a new linguist to redo the entire etymology, and why he was known as  “a spiteful viper”, “an incurable lunatic” and “unlikeable” by those that knew him (Kendall 7; Kreidler 109). It’s also why, I will argue, that his ideas have been wrongfully dismissed.

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Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

From Fawney to Phoney

Cathlin Berndt

Image by Caio Resende from

Phoney, which today means “Fake, sham, counterfeit; false; insincere” (OED s.v. phoney, sense 1), seems like a pretty straightforward word. However, that is not the case. This word, according to Cohen, has been a debated topic for over 100 years (Cohen 1). Phoney (or phony) is an interesting word. It looks like the word phone but has absolutely nothing to do with phones. There is evidence that the word phoney originated from the word fawney which means “A finger-ring” and is an Irish slang word (OED s.v. fawney, sense 1). The earliest form of fawney is in relation to fawney-rig which was a con game where someone would drop a ring in front of the person they were trying to con. They would then attempt to sell them the ring claiming that it was being sold at a way cheaper value than what it should have been, when in reality, they were making about ten times as much as the ring was worth (OED s.v. fawney, sense 2)

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Monday, April 13th, 2020

The Day the Vikings Came: Old Norse and its Impact on the English Language

Ashley Sharp

Photo by PxHere: Viking wood carving.

The Viking presence within England had a great impact on the English language from the year 800 to the year 1100. This impact can be seen on the lexicon and the loss of inflection. English has had a great number of lexical borrowings from other languages such as French and Latin but often overlooked is the impact of Old Norse on the language. Old Norse has arguably had one of the greatest impacts on English. Being a Germanic language, Old Norse is very similar to Old English. ON is a North Germanic language whereas OE is a West Germanic language that are both within the Proto-Germanic family (Liu D.20). Although many words of both languages are seemingly identical to one another, the inflection and pronunciation of the language differed slightly (Gramley 51). It is most likely that speakers from both would have roughly understood one another.

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Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

Missed and Mist: Linguistic Assimilation and Inflectional Endings

Cara Schwartz

Mist. Source: “Water Mist Png” at

An argument came up this past weekend when my husband asked me if I “missed the plants” over our holidays. Confused, I kept thinking, “of course I couldn’t mist my plants, we weren’t home.” I asked him to repeat himself, and after hearing the same question about mist, a ten-minute conversation followed on the correct pronunciation of missed. Was it supposed to sound the same as mist? Why would they sound the same when missed clearly ends with an <ed>, not a <t>?

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Saturday, April 4th, 2020

“one peso for every Ilonggo word you say”: The Prestige of English in the Philippines

Gabrielle Torres

Fig. 1. Graphic by Nico Villarete,

The nuns would say to us neat little school girls in our neat little school uniforms that only English and Tagalog should be spoken within school property. I was born in Iloilo City, Philippines, where people speak Ilonggo, a language spoken by approximately 9 million people. You’re probably wondering, ‘Why not speak Ilonggo in your school, then? It’s not a dying language and it’s spoken by millions of people, anyway.’ Well, Ilonggo is not a standardized language and most definitely not as prestigious as English. Ilonggo is a funny-sounding language with too many vowels in one word, and if you are unfamiliar with the language, all you can hear are the glottal and velar stops. Still, why do Filipinos perceive English as prestigious? Within the privileged Filipino community, the English language is utilized to create a cultural divide between the highly educated English-speaking Filipinos and the less-privileged non-English-speaking Filipinos. Since English is the language of the elite and the educated in the Philippines, it is also the language of the privileged.

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Wednesday, April 1st, 2020

“Fire and Fury”: Donald Trump’s “Modern Day” Language

Brandon Fick


After midnight (ET) on May 31, 2017, Donald Trump tweeted: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe” (@realDonaldTrump).  The tweet remained on his feed for hours, and even after it was deleted, Trump would not admit it was a misspelling of coverage.  In the immediate aftermath, covfefe went viral as a hashtag, meme, and Google search term.  There has been a multitude of covfefe merchandise, and a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives requiring preservation of a President’s social media activity even used covfefe as its acronym (Wamsley).  This is a prime example of the attention Trump commands.  As President of the United States and with seventy-three million Twitter followers, no other person has had such a platform in the history of English.  His Twitter use is a matter unto itself, but underlying it is the way he speaks on a daily basis, in unscripted remarks, speeches, and interviews.  Trump’s “leadership” is inextricably tied to his language, as whether intentional or not, his vocabulary and syntactic traits resonate with a significant portion of America.

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Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Why is English Germanic and not a Romance Language?

Miguel Dela Pena

Sundberg, Minna. “The Indo-European & Uralic Language Families.” The Guardian, Guardian News & Media, 23 Jan. 2015,

I was told even before this class, but also in an educational setting, that most of the English lexicon has Latin roots, and a few previous classes have discussed how Latin was a high-status language and was used in grammar schools in England, so I was confused why English is considered a Germanic language when Latin is not. After a bit of searching, I found that a good number of people are, too. The following are just some reasons for the classification of English:

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Saturday, March 28th, 2020

What’s in a Name?

Katherine Luneng

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash.

Names have a huge significance in our society particularly, our first names. Names are connected to a large part of some individual’s identity. Has anyone ever mispronounced your name? How did you react or feel when they did that? Do you like all your nicknames? Does your name resemble another name that is in another language? The study of proper names is called onomastics and, there are a lot of unanswered questions. However, it is a large field within linguistics. Due to the size of this field, I can only discuss a small amount about it. Research needs to answer the questions above, because there is a lot of research about last names becoming anglicized but otherwise, not much else about what I want to explore further. We can, for example, observe the linguistic features occurring from French first names becoming anglicized. Anglicization is the phenomenon where one’s name that is originally from a different language, gets modified to sound more English.

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Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

The Linguistic Treasure Trove of Twitter

Olivia Lenferna

When most people think of Twitter, they simply view it as a place where people go to vent their thoughts, opinions and frustrations to the world in 270 characters or less. It is an avenue for celebrities, world leaders, organizations, and different public figures to interact with the world in a safe, controllable and more personal way. Twitter allows people to react simultaneously in live time whether it is to movies, TV shows, sports, world events or disasters. It is also a place full of internet trolls, divisive opinions, rampant debating (educated or otherwise) and spam posts. Whether you’re looking at the light or dark side of Twitter, linguists can find the silver lining.

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Monday, March 23rd, 2020

An Analysis of the Changing Meanings of “Gothic” and “Goth” Throughout History


The word “Gothic” has both a complex history and a variety of meanings. Originally related to a variety of ancient Germanic tribes, the word slowly became a synonym for “barbaric” as time went on. During the early modern period, the term then became retroactively applied to architecture popularized in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, as such architecture was considered “barbaric” by critics. However, through the revival of Gothic architecture in the mid-eighteenth century, as well as through the creation of new “Gothic” forms of media, the term shifted into a more positive connotation, and developed to represent a variety of artistic signifiers, as opposed to any notion of barbarianism.

A depiction of a Gothic warrior from the third century (Nguyen).

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