What do you call this implement?

What do you call this implement?

by Mark Gwynn

We asked a question on social media last week about a commonly used kitchen utensil, and were overwhelmed by the response. The utensil in question (pictured) has a broad flat blade and is used for lifting and turning food. We asked ‘what do you call this implement’ and ‘which country do you come from’.

 

The following analysis of the feedback we received demonstrates a number of points:

  • the word spatula is now the most common term for this utensil in Australia and North America
  • there are regional differences in world English designations for this utensil
  • hypernymic words such as lifter and turner are often applied to this utensil
  • it frequently attracts a  thingummy or whatsit type of response, implying its name is not known
  • and it attracts names that suggest it has other uses, real or imaginary, such as bum warmer and fly swatter.

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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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