Correction: Hub City

In last month’s issue, in the article on New England dialect, we said that Boston was called the Hub or Hub City because Bostonians considered it the hub of the universe. While this may be true in the hearts of Bostonians, it is not the exact origin of the term. The term is from a quotation from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (father of the jurist), who said in the 1858 Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, “Boston Statehouse is the hub of the solar system.”

Slang In Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Part II)

(This is part two of a two-part article. The first installment appeared in last month’s issue.)

Last month, we took a look at Buffy, The Vampire Slayer (BtVS), a popular US television series that uses slang, both real and created, to set the mood and establish the characters. The show follows the exploits of Buffy Summers, the one girl in all the world endowed with the preternatural powers needed to slay vampires and fight the demonic forces of evil. Aided by her friends Willow and Xander, as well as by her “Watcher” Giles, she works to rid the world of evil, starting with her hometown of Sunnydale, California.

In the first part of the article we examined how BtVS used actual slang terms and phrases to good effect. This month, we will look at how the writers use a few derivational rules and patterns to create a wide variety of unique slang terms. We will also examine the speech patterns of a few of the characters to see how the writers and actors use language to establish and shape the characters.

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Word Of The Month: Diplomacy

War is on everyone lips. Will the United States attack Iraq? What is being done to get weapons inspectors back into that country? What is going on at the United Nations Security Council and back in the foreign ministries at capitals around the world? The word of the month for November is:

Diplomacy, n., the conduct of international relations through negotiation, the methods and skills by which this is achieved. From the French diplomatie (pronounced –cie). In English since 1796.

Here we take a look at some of the words associated with diplomacy, what they mean and where they come from.

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Slang In Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Part I)

(This is part one of a two-part article. The second installment will appear in the November issue.)

It is not unusual for movies to use accents and dialects to create mood and a sense of location. Whether it is Meryl Streep adopting a Polish accent in Sophie’s Choice, Joe Pesci playing the out of towner with a New York accent in My Cousin Vinnie, or the entire cast of the Coen brothers’ Fargo setting the location in rural Minnesota, the use of dialect in entertainment is well established. The use of dialect in television, however, is rarer. Sure there is the occasional character from New York who is readily identifiable by his accent and use of youse guys, but other uses are of dialect relatively rare. One show, however, that makes good use of dialect, but not always the dialect of a particular place, is Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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Book Review: Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word

Randall Kennedy has penned an insightful, thought-provoking, and balanced discussion of what he terms (in a gross understatement) “a troublesome word.” Nigger is perhaps the last surviving language taboo in American discourse. It is a word with tremendous social impact. It has been used as a justification for murder, university professors have been stripped of tenure merely for uttering it, and it is the one word that white rap artist Eminem refuses to utter.

Kennedy opens the book with a discussion of the word’s etymology, pointing out that it is from the Latin for black and that initially it was not derogatory. But by the early 19th century nigger had acquired a distinct offensiveness. Not only was it used to denigrate African-Americans, but it also served as social marker for the whites who uttered it; it is not a word used by the polite classes. Kennedy spends much of the first chapter giving examples of the cruelty and oppression delivered upon African-Americans over the centuries by whites using that term.

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