Become an etymologist for a day—help us with ‘Sam Tick’

by Mark Gwynn

etymology

One of the most unsatisfying aspects of researching and writing a dictionary entry is not being able to determine the origin of a word. The study of a word’s history and origin—its etymology—is just one part of the dictionary-maker’s task. Often the etymology of a word can be readily identified: it may derive from another word, a particular language, or the name of a person, a place, or a product. Take the Australian English word dunny (a toilet) for example. It derives from a British dialect word dunnekin (a privy), and is probably ultimately derived from a combination of dung (faeces) and ken (a house). How do we arrive at this conclusion? Continue reading

The language of LOLspeak: oh hai kittehs!

by Jennifer Oxley*

LOLcatsLOLspeak (where LOL is an acronym for laugh out loud) is a variety of English that can be described as the human interpretation of how cats might speak English if they could. It is a playful interpretation that includes things like deliberate grammatical mistakes, misspellings, and baby talk. LOLspeak is primarily used in a satirical or humorous manner on pictures of cats that are posted on the internet. These pictures, with either LOLspeak or Standard English captions added to them, are known as LOLcats, a popular internet meme. An example of LOLspeak used on a LOLcat image can be seen here in the picture of the kitten and the coin. Continue reading

The Language of Tumblr

by Jennifer Oxley*

In a recent linguistics course I wrote about Tumblr Speak, a variety of English that is spoken on Tumblr. Tumblr is a free online blogging website that allows users to share images and videos and to communicate with other Tumblr users via posts. Each post consists of a combination of three features: a graphic, post text, and tag, with some posts containing only one or two of these things. The following is an example of a Tumblr post containing all three:

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