The Economist/Johnson, “Anti-Americanisms”

July 22, 2011

 Since the Beeb’s readers had so little trouble spouting dozens and dozens of "Americanisms" they dislike (the BBC closed comments after 1,295 had arrived), and since such a high proportion seem to be false Americanisms, I propose that this is a common thing, and thus deserves its own noun. We all know what Americanisms are. From here on, Johnson will refer to false Americanisms used to take a cheap but ill-aimed transatlantic shot as "Anti-Americanisms".  (Read the whole article.)  

The Economist/Johnson, “News you can (almost) use”

July 20, 2011

WORD-frequency follows a power-law distribution. Some words (like "man") are very common in English text. Some (like "recidivism") are fairly rare. Two researchers, Aaron Gerow (of Trinity College Dublin) and Mark Keane (of University College Dublin) have found that changes in the frequency distribution reflect stock market movements. Specifically, when stockmarkets climb, journalists’ language (as measured by thousands of articles from the Financial Times, New York Times and BBC) gets less diverse, with certain common nouns and verbs (eg, "rise", "fall", "close" and "gain") becoming more common. In other words, journalists move like a herd as investors do.  (Read the whole article.)

New Books Podcast on You Are What You Speak

July 11, 2011

I had a nice long interview with Cat Davies, of Kent and Cambridge Universities, on the ideas in You Are What You Speak, and what made me want to write the book. The interview is part of the the New Books Network’s excellent podcast series.  Check it out here